The Upside of In-House Design: 11 Perks to Consider

It’s no secret that corporate creatives are fast becoming a well-respected segment of the design community. Why? Because many companies are now recognizing the benefits of having a strong internal creative team and are leveraging those talents for profit, growth and success. And the in-house designer is the superstar leading that effort, working on a wide variety of project types and intersecting with a broad range of people ultimately leading to more challenges, opportunity, career growth, and a boatload of perks. So many that ten was not enough for this list. Like Nigel from Spinal Tap I’m cranking it up to 11! So here’s my list, The Upside of In-House. If you’d like to add to the list, please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.

  1. More Flavors: As an in-house designer, you have the opportunity to work on a wide range of project types and interact with more people than you would on the outside. You may find yourself developing collateral for a product launch, product concepts for the marketing group, POP or advertising for sales promotion, motion graphics for plasma screens, brochures, booklets, newsletters, stationery, detail sheets, logo designs, mock-ups and displays. And you’ll have contact with people from not only marketing and sales, but from all the administrative departments that support a corporation: Benefits, HR, finance, IT, public affairs and travel — to name a few. This exposure will give you more experience in dealing with different types of people and job functions. And the more you learn about how your company works, the more work you’ll get from your company.
  2. Work/Life Programs = Life. Flexible working hours, relocation assistance, lactation program, adoption assistance, matching grants, wellness programs, tuition reimbursement, scholarship and student loan programs, employee development, mortgage programs. These are just some of the perks that many companies offer their employees. Work/life programs and other benefits assist employees in meeting the challenges of balancing family life and a career. Life management has become a huge part of this portfolio, which provides individual and family counseling and other programs designed to help employees get the most out of their work, family and daily life. So stop worrying. You’ll have peace of mind knowing there’s support available when you need a lifeline, which will in turn free up that much needed space in your head so you can brainstorm and create a masterpiece.
  3. Food for Thought. If you work for a small company, your on-site lunch options are probably limited to the vending machine down the hall. But, if you work for a large corporation like I do, chances are there is a café managed by a Sodexho and subsidized by your company, which means good eats that won’t break your budget. Our café is conveniently located and offers an amazing assortment of meals for breakfast and lunch and even take-out. Want some French toast with bacon? A personal gourmet pizza? Don’t mind if I do. Or maybe some fresh greens with grilled veggies? Mmmm. That grilled salmon looks good. Soup? Grilled Chicken? Do you want fries with that? How about eggplant on a tomato wrap? For here or to-go? The choices are endless. I’m getting hungry just writing about it. Cafés also give you the opportunity to relax, socialize and connect with your peers, which can give you an edge up on the outside competition. And believe me, you’ll never have to worry about being a starving artist!
  4. Stress Busters. Need to work off a few pounds? Get in shape? Relieve some stress? Let’s face it, as in-house creatives who are constantly pressured to deliver design magic daily and often at an unrelenting pace, we have the “stress” thing covered. Many companies have on-site health and fitness centers, which can be a nice addition to your daily routine. Membership costs are usually very affordable and you can’t beat the convenience factor. At my company, the health & fitness center offers a wide variety of specialty programs throughout the month with classes in yoga, stretching and aerobics to get your heart rate up and give you the opportunity to work off that Philly cheese steak sandwich you had for lunch.
  5. Do You Know Where Your Children Are? These days, on-site child care is an invaluable resource for the working mom or dad who wants the comfort of knowing that one’s children are being well cared for. Organizations such as Bright Horizons Family Solutions that manage on-site child care for larger corporations offer individualized, personalized care and provide active, developmentally appropriate learning for children 6 weeks old to 5 years old. Part-time, back-up care and summer camp also  are available. Many employees walk over to the center and spend lunch time with their kids. It’s a great way to stay grounded during the hectic work week and know that their kids are in good hands. And if you really do need time away from your kids, at least you know where they are.
  6. Money. That’s What I Want!Steady paycheck. Merit increases. 401K. Bonuses. Performance incentive programs. Stock options. Long-term incentive awards. Product discounts. Need I say more?
  7. It’s Getting Better All The Time Many companies have internal training programs that allow employees to brush up on technical and people skills. Look for ways to learn and expand your knowledge base — whether it’s beefing up PowerPoint skills or becoming a better writer. Beyond the basic training class, your company may also have management or leadership training. These team-building retreats give you the tools for improving your effectiveness in leading others — showing how leadership behavior can positively impact collaboration, initiative and staff development — and fostering a climate of learning, performance and pride.
  8. I’m Outta Here! Need a vacation? A few days, maybe a week or two? Don’t sweat it. One of the best things about being in-house and on salary is all the paid vacation days you accrue over your tenure. So what are you waiting for? Get out of the office, shed your corporate skin, feed your soul and nourish your spirit. And get paid well too! Many of my friends who are freelance designers can’t afford to take a day off, even if they’re sick, because when they don’t show up, they don’t get a paycheck. Well, on the inside, employees are encouraged to take advantage of personal time so they can recharge their batteries and be more productive, creative and, well, better employees. Let’s face it. Everybody needs a tune-up now and then — physically, mentally, spiritually, at work, at home, in relationships — and a week spent at the beach may be just what you need.
  9. Let’s Win One for the Team! We’re all on the same team. Fighting the same fight. With shared values, a common purpose and mutual dedication. And we have everything to gain. Our performance is directly connected to the company’s well-being and hopefully our efforts will help contribute to the company’s bottom line. If the company does well in the marketplace we in turn will reap some financial rewards. Sure, working for the same brand can sometimes lead to burn-out but in-house design teams have the competitive advantage of consistent branding and the opportunity to develop relationships with their in-house clients, which can lead to successful long-term business partnerships. As an in-house designer, you possess the historical and institutional knowledge of your company and are privy to proprietary information that outside agencies don’t have access to. And you have access to more resources and business groups than an outside agency and the opportunity to establish and maintain mutually valuable strategic relationships with internal stakeholders. Marketing, sales, public affairs, employee benefits and meeting planning are all under the same roof. Use this to your advantage. You have the opportunity to manage your career and grow with the company.
  10. I Feel Good! What else is more important? Your paycheck, I’m sure. But good medical coverage is worth more. It’s essential not only for yourself but for your family. And most companies offer many plans to help address your healthcare and family security needs, including several medical options, a prescription drug plan, a vision plan, a dental plan, healthcare spending accounts and a variety of insurance options. When I broke my foot last year, I was unable to drive and was homebound for 4 weeks on medical leave. I had peace of mind knowing that my health benefits covered the expense. With escalating healthcare insurance costs and the ongoing uncertainty about health reform, find a company that will help you stay healthy so you can take care of your company.
  11. How Am I Doin’? In addition to the design awards that you and your team are winning (you are, aren’t you?), many corporations sponsor a variety of internal programs designed to recognize outstanding individual and/or team performance. This validation can boost morale, fuel your team’s creative energy and keep them motivated to continue doing great work. And the added attention will give your department the exposure it deserves and enhances your credibility and standing within the organization. You may even notice a gradual perception shift in how your peers view your department. Great Work + Recognition = Respect. And if you’re lucky, sometimes these honors come with a monetary award or gift certificate attached. Even more incentive to do great work.
Read Arnowitz’s inside look at the CIA’s in-house design department in HOW’s July 2012 issue