The In-house Advantage
Secrets to Establishing a Successful In-house Design Career
In-house designers experience a lot of pressure, both within and outside their departments. They often must deliver quality results on demand, communicate their value to upper management and build rapport with other teams in the organization. Despite these obstacles, it's becoming a popular job. In fact, according to a recent article in Graphic Design:usa, "There are more practicing in-house designers than agency and design firm designers, and the segment continues to grow." Whether you're already a member of an in-house design team or are interested in pursuing the position, these strategies will help you achieve an enjoyable and fruitful career:
Fuel your think tank. Maintaining enthusiasm and staying fresh in a setting that may not always be conducive to creativity presents perennial challenges. Inspiration days, conference attendance, building a library of trade periodicals and books, and the determination to push the limits on every project, all can go a long way toward keeping the creative sparks flying.
Spread the word. Creating a department intranet site, displaying framed samples of your best work, organizing an open house and developing promotional brochures all are great ways to raise awareness for your team. Getting rid of the "art department" moniker and finding a more appropriate name -- creative services or corporate graphics, for example -- also will help you gain respect and more projects.
Streamline SOPs (standard operating procedures). When you're working in a busy department, there is no substitute to having a common, logical organizational system to help avoid breakdowns and mistakes. Establish a set process for incoming work as well as a "go-to" person for every project so information and project files are available at a moment's notice.
Keep your door open. Make it clear to the entire company that you are accessible. This can help build bridges between your team and other departments as long as you're truly welcoming when someone knocks. While you want to be responsive, don't succumb to unrealistic deadlines. Setting attainable goals can help non-creatives understand how long design and production schedules can take.
Rally the troops. The sales and marketing teams are usually the two main pressure points of a creative department. Make it a point to regularly meet with both groups to discuss active assignments, future projects and new ideas. These constant, face-to-face gatherings generate fresh perspectives and increased interest, as well as build rapport between teams.
Play nice. Taking an adversarial stance with outside agencies is the fastest way to lose credibility with upper management. If the decision has already been made to make an outside firm the lead, assist your out-of-house peers and share in some of the glory.
Reprinted from permission from The Creative Group, a specialized staffing service placing advertising, marketing, creative and web professionals with a variety of firms. More information can be found at
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