It’s no secret that corporations send projects to
outside designers. Even companies with in-house
creative departments need to call in reinforcements,
and those designers have to be in sync with house
style. But managing vendors—and maintaining
branding guidelines—can be a burden. It’s a dilemma
that led the Principal Financial Group to
try a little creative problem solving. Principal’s solution:
Inviting a group of external designers to work
inside its Des Moines, Iowa, headquarters.
Zone is a work area
at the headquarters
of the Principal
It’s an offbeat space
where both in-house
and outside Innova
designers can get
their creative juices
flowing. Funky red
mirrors, and portable
tables set the tone.
Making the move
Originally, Principal’s goal was to narrow the roster
of firms the in-house Publishing Services department
worked with. The effort evolved with a firm
called Innova Ideas & Services
. “Innova had all the qualities we
were looking for,” says Chery VanHouweling, manager
of Publishing Services/Document Services.
But Innova is based in Ames—35 miles from
Des Moines—and Principal worried about that distance.
In July 2003 Innova opened a satellite office at
Principal on the same floor with in-house designers.
Innova rents space and furniture from Principal but
remains autonomous. Four designers and a project
manager work on-site.
Division of labor
The arrangement went through a six-month test
period, and those days didn’t pass without ruffled
feathers. Bob Cunningham, a senior document
consultant at Principal, describes that as the “storming”
phase. Meetings were held to address concerns
and define everyone’s role. “It’s not a competition,”
says Dawn Budd, director of design services for
Innova. “We’re not bidding for the same projects.
It took a while for everyone to realize that.”
In fact, who undertakes any one design project
is largely defined by how that piece will be printed.
In-house designers—roughly six people within
Publishing Services—largely work on projects slated
to be produced by Principal’s in-house, digital print
facility. Innova takes on pieces requiring an outside
printer. And as VanHouweling puts it, “They rely on
each other to maintain the brand.”
Happily ever after
Advantages of this unique strategy cut both ways.
Principal gets a creative resource with intimate
brand knowledge. There’s also flexibility in design
costs and quicker turnaround from on-site designers.
Innova handles a sizable chunk of work and
enjoys opportunities to interact daily with a client.
While the two groups largely work on separate
projects, there are opportunities for interaction and
collaboration. Designers get together on a regular
basis to update a live portfolio—a wall display of
current work—that features a mix of projects along
with the rationale for each piece. It’s one of the ways
Principal breaks with the traditional corporate environment
and provides innovative resources for an