In-house Design Luminaries — Peter Howman, KPMG

9 months ago by

This series profiles the best and brightest designers in Aotearoa’s in-house design studios, this week we spoke with Peter Howman, from KPMG a global leader in financial services.

Can you describe the creative path you took to get where you’re at now?

I have been messing around making things since pre-school, and haven’t really stopped.

I’ve always been curious to learn about how things work, which took me to study Industrial Design at Massey in Wellington.

  • Worked in signage for almost 2 years – developing large scale artwork, display products and exhibition stands. In this role I had exposure to many brands, and found there was a substantial gap between those with good brand assets and those without. Being a designer in the manufacturing process gave me a huge insight into the role of design in scaled production.
  • Went on an OE to the UK for 2 years, ended up working in the Information and Communications Team for a newly formed Housing Association. Looking back now, I guess I was a customer advocate, working on everything from their branding and communicating change, to handling complaints (which was a great way to link back to communication requirements and operational improvements). We did a lot in a few months to unlock some huge government funding to improve the housing assets for residents.
  • Moved back to Wellington, worked at Beca as an inhouse designer in the Marketing team for almost 9 years. The rest of the team was based in Auckland.
  • Moved to KPMG in 2015, working as an inhouse designer for almost 5 years.

I’ve been a remote resource in a large business for over a decade, but never really felt remote, as being in the office and sitting close to other KPMG colleagues (many of them are key stakeholders) and being well connected to my team through technology – particularly using skype, presenting screens remotely and video conferencing.

Where are you based and what shape does the KPMG creative team take?

I’m based in Wellington, with the rest of the team in Auckland. Three designers (including me), a creative lead and our fantastic team co-ordinator.

What does a typical day at KPMG look like for you and what do you enjoy most about working there?

A typical day for me starts at 8am and finishes at 2:30pm. KPMG has a fantastic flexible working policy that has allowed me to reduce my hours so I can pick my daughter up after school. In a typical day I might work on a proposal, maybe develop some marketing material, maybe some material for an event, some client support, or help colleagues to test a solution.

I enjoy the variety of work, and the hugely diverse group of people – there is a large range of people backgrounds and perspectives – the most. As well as a great work/life balance.

What are you working on right now?

Currently I’m creating a presentation for a client with our Deal Advisory team (the third phase in a larger programme of work), some marketing material for our Enterprise team to showcase our Business School, and preparing assets to align with a new go-to market strategy.

How much of your work is internal (supporting your colleagues) vs external (public) focused?

My main focus is to support my colleagues and clients. Most of the work I do is client focussed, proposals for clients, deliverables, communication or developing solutions.

Do you ever suffer brand fatigue working with the same visual language and or messaging if not how do you keep things interesting and diverse?

Being a global brand, the KPMG brand is very well defined. However there is a lot of flexibility, particularly around the right imagery, messaging and content – I enjoy the personal challenge to create the best design within the required restrictions.

There are also opportunities to work with client brands through the work we do at KPMG which keeps things interesting and diverse.

Does KPMG use your in house studio exclusively or do you collaborate with external design studios from time to time?

Our In house studio is used exclusively, with external agencies used from time to time.

Are you working on Mac or PC and if Mac do you face any challenges working in a predominantly PC based environment?

I have a fantastic Windows laptop which helps me work flexibly. It really allows me to move freely around the office and I have access to all the KPMG tools and systems. Having the same tools and systems as the rest of the business really allows me to adapt quickly to keep up to speed with the evolution of any new processes, tools or business changes.

What tools do your creative team use for digital asset management, project planning and productivity?

We use ServiceNow – for new requests and tracking jobs. A job folder system for files, and have built (and keep evolving) our library of templates and tools.

Do you have any other advice for designers who aspire to follow a similar path as yours?

As an inhouse designer, I enjoy the opportunity to develop relationships with my customers and clients to work towards being a trusted creative advisor for each and every project. A while ago I wrote down some principles I wanted to work by at all times:

  • Know the objective/s
  • Ask the right questions, listen
  • Work towards ‘fit for purpose’
  • Distinguish sense from nonsense
  • Accept change as inevitable
  • Be prepared and positive
  • Do what you said you would do
  • Add value
  • Admit mistakes
  • Say it simply
  • Be calm
  • Smile

Ultimately I would suggest to anyone looking to work as an inhouse designer – to focus on the value you can bring to the client, understand the value of time and develop great relationships with customers and clients.


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