Whether creative teams like it or not, some clients will pursue self-service options for services the team provides. Sometimes it's great--we don't want to be creating flyers for the Thanksgiving Potluck or Mary's retirement party. Though other times it scares the hell out of us...e.g., a "DIY" video hosted on the external website (yes, this really happened). Unfortunately (and sometimes, fortunately) advances in technology are making it easier for our clients to take pictures, record video, create brochures, and even stand up microsites. Our colleagues in Accounting, IT and Legal don't face this same DIY challenge even though every employee has Excel, a computer and the ability to read contracts; maybe it's because design is considered more subjective, or maybe it's because what we do is considered more creative and fun than the other functional areas...

Regardless of why, how do we create an environment where self-service is kosher AND our corporate brands are protected? If you work at an organization in which your clients are required to use you (as almost 1/3 of in-house teams do), this may be less of a challenge. For the rest of us, it's about communication, guardrails, and templates.

It's imperative that your organization understands the mission of your team. That includes an understanding of your team's core services, including those services that you outsource but project manage and/or art direct. It also includes a clear definition of the services you do not provide or support. For example, if you have a video team do you support recording internal meetings? For the CEO, you probably do--though maybe this is not advertised, but if the IT department has an all-hands meeting, is recording that meeting within the scope of your team's services? And if so, how much follow-on work as far as editing and adding of graphics is within scope? What about PowerPoint--are there specific executives or external facing communications for which you will create projects in PowerPoint? Creating a clear scope of services may be the first step for your team. Be sure to involve several team members so that you can be comprehensive and cover all functions of the department's offerings.

Your clients have many tools on their desktops, phones and/or home computers--especially those with Macs at home--that support the creation of DIY creative. Once you have identified what services you do and don't provide, it's in the best interest of your company's brand to publish guidelines for internal and external communications that are created without your team's support. Some considerations include:

  • Which materials require the logo? And what design requirements must be considered with the logo? (0.25" of clear space around the logo, no placing the logo on colored backgrounds, etc.)
  • How will you know who created the materials if you need to follow up with them? Will some sort of identifier be required?
  • Copyright and/or other disclaimer requirements
  • Image restrictions/cautions (i.e., you can't pull an image from a Google search and then send to an external audience)
  • When to check with the creative team (if distribution is greater than 500 external people, if printing is required, etc.)

While our team members are not typically PowerPoint or Word experts, they do understand design concepts and tools. In addition, they typically have a natural curiosity that lends itself to figuring things out. In both PPT and Word, color palettes can be preset. In PPT, master pages can be set up to include the logo, default fonts and footers for a copyright or other required language. Word allows you to set up Paragraph Styles (in no way are they as simple or powerful as InDesign's, but at least it's a start). Setting up templates for internal presentations, one-page flyers, corporate letterhead and other regular needs will go a long way in protecting the brand and providing something of a safety net to your colleagues.

Some clients of Cella have set up self-service labs where clients can check out cameras and video cameras for approved uses. Others allow editing through InCopy at the self-serve stations in their studio space.

While some clients want nothing to do with self-service design options, others are already doing it--with or without our support. It's in the best interest of our #1 client (the brand) that we take a hard look at what is happening and identify the best role for our teams in the changing landscape.