Nurturing the in-house creative spirit

Many in-house teams struggle with maintaining their creative focus—at least some of the time.

Putting a fresh spin on e-communications or figuring out how to enhance the graphics of that all-important proposal can be daunting, especially if creative energy is running low. If you would like help seeing things in a new light and breathing fresh air into the work, here are five ways to fight the creative doldrums:

1. Audit the Work

Conduct an annual audit of the creative team’s work. Look at projects that have been successful and discuss why they work. Evaluate whether your materials support your firm’s vision or whether they look as though someone has shredded the brand guidelines and gone rogue. Figure out what’s good and what can be better. A candid discussion as a marketing team about the quality of the work can provide insights that improve future projects. It can also uncover whether the problem is within your team at all. Perhaps other “forces” are pushing them to create things outside of brand standards. In such cases, you may need to communicate why keeping brand consistency is so important for the firm or take the matter up the chain to garner support for your team.

2. Maintain a Trends File

Keep up with what’s going on around you. Industry trends, new technologies and even competitor work can spark ideas and ignite the creative soul. Bookmark websites and collect collateral—industry-related or not—that are visually unique or have a smart perspective. Encourage your team to do this as well so that everyone can develop aspirational reference points. There are many design and advertising sites that can help break through creative blocks. Some of our favorites are, creativereview.co.uk/, designer-daily.com, creativemornings.com and ted.com.

3. End the Isolation

Creativity often suffers when we work with the same small groups or alone. Organizations such as AIGA, the professional association for design and the American Advertising Federation (AAF) provide networking opportunities that can foster peer review and critique. Consider starting a monthly coffee klatch—virtual or IRL—with other designers, writers and web developers to energize the spirit and act as a sounding board for current issues. You can encourage networking by attending design events, lectures or conferences. Here are a few that we love: sxsw.com, aiga.org/inspiration/aiga-webinars and howdesignlive.com.

4. Encourage Constructive Competition

Collaboration with other design teams can offer real benefits. Allowing your in-house team to participate in projects with outside vendors may stretch resources or feel redundant, but it’s a safe way to test your capabilities while providing new opportunities for collaborative thinking. It can also boost morale by facilitating healthy competition, especially if a common complaint is that all the “good” work gets outsourced. You can also elevate quality by entering projects in competitions specific to in-house designers, such as the GDUSA Inhouse Awards. They can result in much-needed recognition for your team.

5. Get Outside Help

Assess the needs of your creative staff. Maybe they could profit from more formalized training or a collaborative session with your outside creative firm. We’ve hosted Q&A sessions and brand summits with some of our clients’ in-house teams where the topics varied from “how to find great imagery” to “tutorials on creating support graphics.” Some client teams even send work in progress so they can get timely art direction and ensure that items are brand compliant.

Brand experience can be affected at any touch point, from the firm’s website and ads to its white papers and invitations. When your creative staff are performing at their peak, your materials will support your marketing objectives with quality and consistency.

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