Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Design: In the House

A look at agencies with advertising and design under one roof.
By Warren Berger

As design becomes a more central element of branding, it's created a basic challenge for ad agencies: How do you make design a core part of the agency itself? In recent years, a growing number of agencies have sought to bring design in-house, either by hiring more designers or by acquiring existing design groups. But just bringing design into the house doesn't answer the questions of where it should reside and how it should live once it is there. Should design be a separate department? Should the group work on its own projects? And perhaps most important, how does an agency go about blending design with other, more traditional creative disciplines, such as copywriting and art directing? one spoke with a number of in-house designers at agencies such as TBWAChiatDay, Deutsch, BBDO, Ogilvy, McKinney, and Arnold, to get a sense of how these issues are being handled in this new hybrid environment.

Approaches vary, though it should be said at the outset there is a consensus on at least one point: Design has never been in greater demand at agencies than it is right now.

"It seems like the floodgates opened up this year in terms of every client asking for help with design issues," says Ross Patrick, design director at Deutsch in Los Angeles. Patrick notes that the Deutsch in-house design group was originally created to serve one big client, Mitsubishi, that always needed lots of brochures and other designed materials; as it happened, the Mitsubishi account ended up leaving the agency, but instead of the design group then having less work to do, it suddenly had more� Because right around that time, every Deutsch client started seeking out design help, Patrick says. Something similar was also happening at many other agencies, as a kind of "design awakening" took hold among clients in the past couple of years, no doubt inspired by, among other things, the success of design-driven brands such as Apple and Starbucks.

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