Whats it like at an in-house design job?

Most of the topics on this show revolve around designers who are working in an agency or as a freelancer. This time, I want to flip that around and talk about what it’s like to work in an in house design role.

Before getting into an in-house role, I had spent about three years working in a studio, and about six years working as a freelancer. 

On day one, it was hard to ignore the difference in pace. Unlike the rush of an agency, there’s more planning and scheduling. There isn’t as many surprises. I also had to adapt to being the only creative. For some, it may be a downside. I’m not sure that it was for me. But it is a challenge when I don’t have other designers that I can bounce ideas off of at a moments notice.

That said, in-house design has allowed me to have more creative control in the work that I’m doing. A lot of my work is public facing, including things like advertisements or collateral. As long as I’m able to stick up for what I’m doing and make sure that it’s going along with the marketing message, I don’t get much pushback on the final product.

Another wonderful thing about working in house is scheduling.

In an agency, you’re often subjected to what I call fire drill” work. A project comes in, everyone is excited, but the client has a short deadline. You dont’ get much time to sit down and think things out.

On the flip side, in-house allows more time to do just that! Recurring projects can be exciting to work on — I get multiple chances to refine how something looks based on how it performed the year before. I don’t have to start from square one every year, either.

It’s fun dissecting how things worked last time and create new iterations. I’d compare it to doing a very long A/B test. At the least, it’s a challenge finding new and more effective ways to get someone’s attention without doing the same thing over and over again.

Another bonus that many people point out, is that you only work with one brand and effectively, one client. This is something I miss from the agency world. It was one of the larger hurdles I had to clear when I made the switch. However, I can’t say I’ve missed the variety like I thought I would.

I appreciate being able to stay focused on one brand. It’s helped me learn a lot more about brand design and brand management. On top of that, I’ve learned more about marketing as well!

Email newsletters has been one of the big things in that department. They were typically something I ignored as a freelancer. In-house, I’ve had to deal with it, as it plays a role in what we do.

It’s been exciting to learn new skills that aren’t necessarily design related. Learning more about the ecosystem in which designers work is beneficial, especially as I see how my design impacts everything. 

If you work in an agency, it’s likely you’ve daydreamed about what life is like on the other side. For me, it’s a decision I’m happy I made. But, I know this can be the case of the grass being greener on the other side.”

The biggest impact on whether or not an in-house role is right for you will depend on who and what you’re working for. Sometimes, it’s worth the leap — other times, its worth sticking with an agency, studio or as a freelance designer.

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