4 points for my 4 years as an in-house designer
I’ve mentioned my first working experience in aprevious post. When I was still in college, I worked as an in-house designer for a tourism company for about 4 years. I was the only designer in the marketing department, and I was responsible for the visual communication of several restaurants, hotels, and resorts.
Over the years, I came to realize that in-house designers have a somewhat bad reputation because of their corporate association. It’s a position not very desirable for most junior designers when they leave college. But I would argue that, for me, being an in-house designer was a great experience that helped me grow as a professional and made me a better designer. And, even tho I no longer work as an in-house designer, I would like to share a couple of reasons why you may want to consider choosing this career path and why it shouldn’t be overlooked.
#1 New Perspective & Priorities
When working as an in-house designer, there’s a high chance that you will work closely, if not sitting next to, your “client” (a.k.a. the people asking you for stuff). Although this may sound extremely uncomfortable, and at times it can be, you will also get a better insight from the clients’ perspective. You will understand how their workflow works, their deadlines and the reasoning behind their feedback. You will find out about the company’s operation and the relationships between departments and how they work. You are literally in the middle of the action.
You will gain not only a new perspective but a work sensibility that some email exchange simply can’t cover. You will learn how the corporate world works, and you will adapt accordingly. You will figure out how to approach your managers, how to ask for a complete brief and feedback. Your presentation skills will vastly improve, since you will always need to show your design, no matter how big or small it is.
And with adaptation, comes change and a new set of priorities. The way you use to work in college or a creative agency might need to change when joining a more corporate environment. Make no mistake, this is not about you forgetting your design principles, you are there because you have them. Just because it seems like you are the only one at the company that cares about kerning, doesn’t mean it’s not important. But with that said, maybe good kerning is not the selling point when presenting a new flyer to your boss.
#2 It’s a humble experience
If your first job straight out of college is as an in-house designer, there is a possibility that you are going to crash with this new culture. It will look like a new reality, and feel like you have been thrown into the wolf’s mouth.
After living intensely in the design and creative world in college, you will quickly realize that your job is not going to allow you to do that anymore. In college, Design is your focus and everything else is secondary. However, Design is not going to be the priority in the environment you work in, in fact, you will probably be the only one that has that priority (if you are the only designer). But over time, you will realize that the world you created may be actually quite small. Once again, this is not me saying to abandon your creative world, but rather to expand it. You are in this new environment, see this as an opportunity to learn from it.
#3 More freedom than you think
I feel that this is the most criticism I hear about working in a corporation. Now, just because you work as an in-house designer, doesn’t mean that you don’t get to be creative. But in reality, when you are the only designer on the team you simply don’t have the creative barriers you may find in an agency.
Most of the time, I would just get the campaign copy and maybe a couple of images, and then I could go crazy with any design I wanted (within reasoning). Keep in mind that your design still needs to get approved, but as I mentioned before, you and your colleagues have different priorities. If you can show that your design can sell the product, that’s all they need. You are there because the company needs a designer and so, they should be open to your ideas and creative work.
But with all this freedom there is also a lot of responsibility, and being the only representant of design can be quite stressful. Every creative decision and action it’s ours to take. And it can be quite challenging not having anyone on the team that you can brainstorm design ideas with.
#4 Brand Investment
Being an in-house designer most of the time means that you are a generalist. Which means you will get the chance to work with a lot of different projects. Whatever your company needs, you will probably have to do it. And these projects may vary between something massive like a brand redesign to a normal PowerPoint template. But no matter the size of the projects, by the end, all of them are going to be your responsibility.
At an agency you work on a project and then pass it to someone else, only to then never see the sight of it ever again. When you are an in-house designer, this simply doesn’t happen. You will be in charge of all the projects you work with, and you will be able to follow them until delivery. You will be fully invested in your projects and the company’s brand, and eventually, you will learn every aspect of what it means to be a designer.