When it comes to finding the design expertise that your company needs, using your existing internal resources or hiring an in-house dedicated design or marketing specialist can feel like the ‘responsible’ choice. On its face, you have someone on the premises who you can directly oversee and who is well-versed in the company’s values. But once you start to dig deeper, it becomes clear that, for many companies, the opposite is true.
Hiring in-house can in fact end up being a costly, inflexible choice and one that ultimately results in a lower quality of design. Indeed, as the world of work has evolved, even those benefits that once seemed unique to hiring in-house have increasingly become replicable through alternative, more flexible arrangements.
Here’s why it might pay not to pay for an in-house designer.
No one assumes that an in-house designer comes for free. Creative skills are in short supply and, according to GlassDoor, even the average US basic salary for a graphic designer is now about $50,000.
But it can be easy to overlook some of the other, less obvious costs associated with hiring in, particularly for companies who don't have a pre-existing design department. They may need to purchase graphic design hardware or software, for example, and – as with any other employees – designers will need ongoing training and support to ensure their skills develop and remain up-to-date. And that is before you factor in the usual employee overheads like benefits, healthcare, etc.
What’s more, with unemployment at record lows, the fight for talent has never been more competitive. That means that finding the right designer for your business can take time and cost even more than it otherwise might. Research suggests that the average time to fill vacancies for design and creative roles in the US and Canada is around 50 days. Depending on your design needs or the industry you’re in, this very well may be time that you simply don’t have.
Of course, it’s not just about finding the right person, but retaining, motivating, and developing them, too.
Perhaps even moreso than employees in other roles, designers – as creative individuals – thrive on variety and the opportunity to express themselves.
This means that if you want the best designers to dedicate themselves exclusively to your business’ work, it will come at a price, in terms of the salary they will expect. But it also means that if a designer receives a sporadic and/or repetitive flow of work, they may quickly become disillusioned and demotivated. Even if this doesn’t cause them to leave your business altogether, it can still impact the quality of their day-to-day work.
It’s often said that creatives are a breed apart. That’s not to say that a designer can’t be integrated into an organisation that consists predominantly of scientists, accountants, or bankers. But finding a designer who is able to adapt to that environment, while ensuring that they feel included, can still be a tricky task.
And even if you are able to fully ‘embed’ a designer in your company and its values, the fact remains that they are just one individual. They will have their own style and if they’re not being exposed to and challenged by other designers, they may be less likely to evolve that style or try new ideas. ‘Knowing the company’ is one thing, repetition is another.
While some aspects of a company’s business may remain largely constant throughout the year, it is unlikely that design will be.
Invariably, needs will fluctuate. That is often particularly the case with small and medium-sized businesses, who are also least able to absorb such fluctuations.
The risk, evidently, is that an in-house designer may end up with periods where they have too little work - which not only costs you, but, as we’ve said, can equally leave them feeling demotivated - or too much, posing a risk for non-delivery, reduced quality, or burnout.
Indeed, both under-engagement and over-work are a frequent cause of resignations, meaning that you could soon find yourself having to go through the hiring process again.
In principle, of course, it might be possible to allocate some of the designer’s time to other ‘non-design’ responsibilities within the business. But that’s not without risk either. It could mean trying to fit square pegs into round holes or finding that your designer’s capacity for the design work that they were originally hired for has become ever-more squeezed, making demand peaks even harder to manage.
And it’s not just demand that can change over time. While the basic principles of good design remain consistent, trends and technologies do evolve. If you want your business to remain at the cutting edge, you need to ensure that your designers are plugged into those developments. While this is not an impossible task, it doesn’t come for free, whether it be through costs of training or new hardware/software.
So far, what we’ve discussed assumes that hiring-in design capability means hiring just one person.
But think about the average design project and you wil soon realize that very few involve just one design or creative element. In practice, alongside the ‘pure’ graphic design elements, you may need someone to edit images, write copy, or develop a webpage.
Unless you are lucky enough to find the ‘holy grail’ of a designer skilled in all such roles, the chances are that one person can’t do it all. Again, you might be able to find some of those skills among your existing workers. But even if you do, you’ll still need someone to bring those people together and ensure they collaborate effectively – and project management is a whole new skill in itself.
By now, you may be asking yourself, ‘Okay, I get the problems, but what’s the answer?’
Well, the good news is that there is another way.
By partnering with Superside, you can ensure quality design that reflects your business’ philosophy and leaves you in control, eliminating the risks to your bottom line from sporadic demand or recruitment and retention costs.
We sat down with Bill Macaitis, former Slack CMO, to chat about what it takes to success with ad design. Hear his tips and more in this Q&A style interview!