In-house Issues: It’s Not About Design


What makes the value you bring to your company as an in-house designer unique is not the design you provide – that’s a given. Your clients can get good design from dozens of sources outside of your group – agencies, design firms, freelancers, crowdsourcing, outsourcing, offshoring, even their admins (though that wouldn’t be good design).


There are other benefits you bring to the corporate party that distinguish you from those other options and if you don’t focus on getting really good at providing those value-adds you risk becoming irrelevant to your clients and upper management.

Cost savings

Your department is a non-profit entity. You only want to cover your overhead. There are no dividends you pay to shareholders and no internal bonuses for the principals of your group. You don’t mark up out of pocket expenses and the fees of all your subcontractors are pass-throughs.

If you’re really doing your job you should be constantly looking for ways to make your team more cost efficient and looking for ways to save money with your marketing services vendors. Can you consolidate paper purchases, stock imagery usage and printing services? Have you worked with Procurement to assist them with deciphering complicated agency, printing or new media vendors’ invoices? How about helping create appropriate vendor contracts?

Customer service

All marketing services providers will jump through hoops for your clients but you can support your clients in ways they cannot. In addition to standard customer relationship best business practices which you already provide (right?) you can assist new hire clients by showing them the ropes. Help them understand your business and the ins and outs of how design contributes to it. Even seasoned clients can get tangled up in routing and review processes and procedures so help them navigate that particular bureaucratic beast. You can even provide service for your customers by helping them interact with outside agencies and design firms. Not only do you create goodwill for you and your team, you get to see what your competition is up to.

You and your team also work right next door to your clients so you have insights into their communication styles and marketing priorities that an outside vendor never could. Use those insights to anticipate your clients’ needs and proactively act on those insights.

Institutional knowledge

No outside agency or freelancer will ever understand your company’s brand and marketing priorities like you do. Leverage that fact. Keep an eye on your brand book and suggest updates as you see your business grow and change. Conduct marketing material audits and support those who are struggling with maintaining your brand.

Branding legal and regulatory issues

This is one area where agencies consistently stumble and fall. As much as your company may try to streamline and simplify routing and approvals and the policies and codes associated with this process, more often than not, the procedures are complex and confusing. Because you’re on the inside, know the players and participate in the process on a daily basis you know how to prep designs to avoid frustrating and costly multiple revisions. Apply this expertise consistently and you’ll consistently be perceived as invaluable to your company.

None of the areas just discussed are creative, innovative or rewarding in the same way executing a killer design is. But they are critical to your company’s and your success.

More Resources on Client Relationships

One thought on “In-house Issues: It’s Not About Design

  1. Cecill3

    Hi Andy, at a conference I went to recently I heard you talking about the importance of a design team to be a stand-along rather than being part of a marketing or communications department. There might be an opportunity in the company I work for to suggest such thing. Can you please guide me to where I can find out more on that subject? I know the advantages for my team but I need to learn more about the advantages to corporate if I’m going to try to sell the idea to them. Any help will be greatly appreciated!