Case | HBS Case Collection | June 2008 (Revised July 2008)

Kit Hinrichs at Pentagram (A)

by Linda A. Hill and Emily Stecker

Abstract

This case focuses on Kit Hinrichs, a 65-year-old partner at Pentagram, a privately owned multidisciplinary design firm. One of the world's most prestigious design firms, Pentagram was founded by five designers from different disciplines in London in the 1970s. By 2008, Pentagram remained small, with less than 30 partners, each a veritable star in his or her own right. Pentagram had two founding principles, the first of which was equality. The equality principle meant that leadership was evenly distributed; partners with seniority had no greater formal authority than newer partners, and the only formal leadership role was a chairman position, which, after being held with a founder for 30 years, was rotated every two years. Further, Pentagram had no corporate office; each partner was expected to manage his or her own financial, marketing, and human resource functions. Pentagram's second principle was generosity. All partners were equal shareholders in the firm. Pentagram branched out to New York in the early 1980s, and in the late 1980s, Hinrichs established a San Francisco location. This case traces Hinrichs as he builds Pentagram's San Francisco office, and it also details the evolution of Pentagram itself. In addition, this case offers a thick description of Hinrichs and his team working with a client. This case can be used in business and executive education courses on professional service firms, leading a creative organization, and the role of design in business. It should also be used by schools of design.

Keywords: Arts; Business Offices; Customer Relationship Management; Design; Leadership; Personal Development and Career; Groups and Teams; Creativity; Service Industry; San Francisco;

Citation:

Hill, Linda A., and Emily Stecker. "Kit Hinrichs at Pentagram (A)." Harvard Business School Case 408-127, June 2008. (Revised July 2008.)