Designing in Corporate America

I have worked in corporate America as a graphic designer off and on and can only say that it is more than a challenge. First off, you have to understand that you are indeed in corporate America and that in itself is a challenge. Forget about your job, your duties or any of that, just take a good look around. If you take a good look, you’ll see uniformity, a corporate culture and a healthy dose of fear.

This isn’t the best of environments for creative individuals. And I don’t mean prima dona designers who wear all black all the time and say things like, “I despise all cap italics!” I just mean your run-of-the-mill designer who likes to be creative and have the room to make mistakes, and as tired as the expression is “thinks outside the box”, be a little quirky and have strong opinions about design because they care about it.

Corporate America wants all of that, but wants you to shut up about it, dress like everyone else, hide your quirkiness and stifle your opinions except for the occasional, “I really think it might look better if the logo isn’t so big.” Even though down the road, you know you’ll be saying, “Wow, it really does look good bigger! I don’t know what I was thinking!”

The designer has to walk a very thin line of being creative while at the same time following a strict brand and making everything look the same. There’s a beauty to following a strong brand and making it stand out even when there are strict limitations. Limited use of fonts, colors, imagery, etc. is a creative challenge, but when done right is rewarding (i.e., Apple, Target).

It’s when you have to defend your designs that can get you into trouble. This requires a tremendous amount of diplomacy that could earn you a seat in the U.N., a thorough understanding of corporate culture and who you’re dealing with. What I’ve learned is you have to detach from the design, explain your approach methodically and unemotionally and be willing to let it go. Some fights are just not worth fighting.

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3 thoughts on “Designing in Corporate America

  1. I learned about having to let it go the hard way. It was put up or shut up. That certainly doesn’t make for the best design, but I’ve seen designers lose their jobs because they just couldn’t do it. At some point, you just have to make a decision about how much you can take and the price you’re willing to pay.

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