(or How to Prepare for your Rebrand Conversation)

Scrambled head illustration by weareinhouse.com

Whenever I first meet a potential branding client, I come with a warning, not a pitch. I’ll say “branding is an inherently strategic intervention.” Many just nod it along, wanting to move onto the logistics (which we do go into, don’t get us wrong). This is understandable; the term ‘strategy’ has been defanged and smoothed over by everyday use.

In practice, a branding process will mean we’ll poke our head in much further in than just the look and feel. It means leaders will need to answer questions that may reveal inconsistencies…

This month we feature a guest post by In-House co-founder Lope Gutierrez-Ruiz, in conversation with studio partners Michu Benaim Steiner and Alexander Wright. Conversations have been edited and re-organized for brevity.

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As creative professionals’ careers mature, so do the perspectives of its practitioners. This evolution is not just due to a change of role, or because of the rapid changes in what skills are considered valuable — though these are both part of it. For this conversation, I’m interested in the changes that come from experience and not from circumstance; what shapes the practices and idiosyncrasies of…

Or how micromanagement sets creatives up for failure

On the first Monday of every month, I sit down for one-on-one hybrid evaluation/check-ins with each member of the studio. As you might expect, some of my colleagues were wary that this was a way to add scrutiny, and balked at the prospect of being put under a microscope each month.

If you believe some of the lore, then you know that creatives are notoriously ‘tough to manage’, resist supervision and rules and demand autonomy.

Despite the early resistance, the monthly meetings have been a big success. But what makes this story worth telling is that our monthly meetings have…

With International Women’s Day nearing, we began to dread the thrum and hype of banal ‘you-go-girl’ hearts and tone deaf congratulations to women for being ‘strong mothers’ or ‘loving wives’, the chocolates and gifts and flowers as if International Women’s Day were somehow a bizarro ‘female appreciation day’ with its own meal-deal at [insert chain restaurant of your choice].

Like many Latin American women, I was riveted by the events taking place in Argentina last year: the near victory for decriminalizing abortion sent an electric current throughout the continent. The issue touched every stratum of civil society: access to abortion…


What rush projects teach us about building trust.

We made some fantastic stuff in 2018. So as I closed the office for the year, I did a year end review. I have my giant spreadsheet-o-data and I’m feeling very John Nash-like connecting dots, running regressions and stuff when I spot a heretical little pattern. Turns out that some of our best work last year came from rush projects.

As in “we have three weeks to create a full brand” rush projects.

Frankly, I was kind of stunned. How was that even possible? As I soul searched, I decided to dive back into our spreadsheet. …

Three founders share why they decided to close their companies

Over the past month or so, two client companies decided to stop working on their young ventures. They decided to do it while actively working on these companies’ ongoing concerns.

This may not seem like a big deal. But I’ve started a few companies. Some are still happily up and running. Others have officially closed for a variety of reasons. But then there are some in-betweens. Zombies. An idea that became a project, registered as a corporation, then lost steam so it lies there, dormant until it’s not so difficult to let it go.

That the two companies are closing…


What Clients Buy when they Buy Design

I went to speak at a class recently when, exhausted from a long string of intense projects, I went rogue. Instead of launching into the standard mix of entrepreneurial autobiography / encouraging advice, I went straight to the Q&A, AMA style: “I run a creative studio, what do you want to know?”

Something weird happened: from basic creative disagreement to managing profitability, the answer to every single question was process.

  • “What do you do when a client doesn’t like your work?” Process
  • “Where do your clients come from?” Process
  • “How do you know how much to bill / how long…

5 Recently Collected Stories from the Branding Trenches

Patterns by my awesome team at In-House Int’l

The ability to pick up on detail and nuance is great for building relationships; everyone appreciates being heard. In work relationships, active listening is a trust machine partly because the picking up on detail signals that you care.

When it comes to the world at large, the bombardment of stimulus is enough to pull most of us into autopilot mode. So I started keeping notes of interesting things and stories, then stringing them together and pouring the lessons from one into the next (or what happens when you let down your guard and pay attention to stuff).

Think of it…

How to get legendary work in a jiffy without paying more

Seriously. Let’s.

You’ve just received the proposal you requested for a project. Before signing off, you want make sure the timeline works, the price is right, and all your bases are covered. You reply with some questions, and some gentle probing to see whether you might keep to the lower end of the price range, get a little more for your money, or finish it a little faster.

Most times, we go into explanation mode: this is why “x” takes this long and so on. We quickly try to find a setup that works for everyone. …

Michu Benaim Steiner

Creative Chief at @InHouseIntl, CEO @twik, formerly of @citymatter and @gophermagazine. Stuff and things.

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