Harry Williams

Setting up shop: How to build internal design and innovation teams

Never have people been more influential to a business’s success. To remain competitive in this reality, savvy leaders are building design capability within their business so that they can rely less on external partners to deliver people-centric innovation to market.  

Drawing on our experience, we’ve honed three approaches to helping clients develop their design potential, which we detail in a new report, “Design from within: How to build internal resource to design and innovate.”  

Here, we’ll explore the first of those three approaches: Setting up shop. 

What’s in it for the client? 

For “Setting up shop”, we work alongside our client to build their new design studio or innovation hub – powered by their own people, processes and technology. It’s a sure-fire way to establish and nurture in-house design and innovation capability, brilliantly positioning the client to create products and services their customers love and come to rely upon. 

Professionals trained in design craft and design methodologies are equipped to enable organizations to build products and services that are both physically beautiful and emotionally compelling. These designers are empathetic and curious about what makes people tick: how they make their decisions, and what could improve their lives.  

 We often find that clients already have talented people like this in their ranks, so (if they’re willing) we’d lift them from their existing roles and place them in the studio or hub, alongside Fjord designers who could complete the team. Over the full term of the engagement, recruitment would play a role in building the organization’s own design capability. 

 (You can read about our work with Commerzbank, which followed this approach, in our case study.) 

Market influencers 

We all know that the world we inhabit is becoming increasingly dominated by digital technology, and its agility raises our expectations of the services we rely on and the speed at which they’re delivered. The dominant goal in all three Design from Within approaches is to set organizations on a path toward becoming Living Businesses that are able to respond quickly and intelligently as the market around them shifts.  

 Living Business is a huge topic in itself, but one feature it’s important to mention here is culture, which is a crucial factor to how organizations respond to a rapidly evolving market and rising customer expectations.  


An innovation hub or design studio boasts a culture of limitless creativity, of diversity, and a receptive attitude to change. We’re firm advocates of establishing a physical space and a visual identity that sets the studio or hub apart from its parent company. Everything about the design team’s working life should actively liberate them to think differently – true innovation and creativity are fueled by unusual spaces and by being free from the rules and regulation common to large businesses.  

Once a studio or hub is established, and is putting out inspiring, creative work, it will pique the interest of colleagues who interact with or work adjacently to it. When those people poke around, they’ll see the clear benefits of the hub’s operational style, and its inquisitive, positive culture will start to influence the wider organization.  

The full report gives more detail on each of the three approaches, their unique features and benefits. The other two approaches are Design Bootcamp and Taking Fjord Within. 

Design bootcamp 

This is when we run a brief, intense and immersive engagement, working together with the client through a design process. 

Taking Fjord within 

This is when we set up a Fjord-led design studio within a client’s organization, taking full responsibility for all the client’s design and digital requirements.  

Harry Williams

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