Is your marketing or product team bottle-necked by design work not being completed on budget and on time? As a marketer myself, I've faced numerous challenges with getting design done well and at scale, particularly when it is for time sensitive campaigns and programs.
In my time at Superside, I've happened to chat with and interview hundreds of scale-ups and enterprise teams and have heard the same thing over and over:
So on and so forth. You're probably now wondering whether you should keep design in-house, opt for an agency or do a combination of the two? We've got you covered with our analysis.
The good news is that if you're currently facing any of these dilemmas, then you already know that design matters—that's half the battle won. But the design outcome itself is almost as important as how the work gets done. We’ve all been there—you need design and you need it fast. But don’t just make a decision based on what you need right now, think to the future! Think about scalability, efficiency and of course budget.
Many organizations face the dilemma of deciding on whether to hire designers in house or sending their design needs to a creative agency. It can feel like a big decision and it should because it will have a significant impact on your brand, website, campaigns, product, really anything design touches.
So, when it comes to your design investments, where should it be spent: internally or externally? A mix of both, perhaps?
In this post we'll be covering:
Read on to determine which decision makes the most sense for your business.
Spoiler alert: there is no "one size fits all" choice. Often companies will use a combination of models. But, the outline should help you better understand what the best option is for your organization.
Below we compare these two popular models by looking at the pros, cons, examples and more.
In many cases, hiring an in house designer can feel like the “responsible” choice. You’re hiring designers who will, over time, know your brand inside and out and play a big role in evolving the brand as the company grows. They'll become someone you can tap on the shoulder for design advice, and maybe even have a seat at the table during big business decisions.
TIP: An important consideration when hiring internally is to know where and how your design team/or designer will fit within your organization’s structure.
When deciding on your design team structure, here are three options to get you started: centralized, cross-functional/embedded, and flexible. There is no right, wrong, or best way of structuring your design team— it all depends on your company’s needs.
Microsoft believes that employees know the brand best.
Wealthsimple designers have a high-sense of ownership.
Insurance startup Lemonade prefers in house vs agency.
As companies start to scale their design efforts, a popular option for many is to work with an agency to get outsourced designs. Whether a company's internal team doesn’t have the time or skill set required to get the job done, they want a fresh perspective, or they would rather have their internal design team spend time on other projects, there are many reasons why companies should bring on a creative agency.
But, when it comes to hiring a creative agency, there are many types to consider.
Creative agencies work on creative strategies to help clients achieve their goals. They typically focus on four key areas:
Ultimately, creative agencies are a more generalized name that can be applied to companies who focus on one area, or a full-service agency that does it all.
Much like their name, advertising agencies focus a lot on raising awareness for a client’s brand and product through advertisements. Some common services that these agencies provide include:
From digital billboards in Times Square to flyers in your local newspaper, if it’s an avenue for advertising, they’re likely doing it.
Just as advertising agencies laser-focus on advertisements, design agencies do the same with design. They focus on the look of your brand, products and services. In other words, they work to catch your audience’s attention through great creative. Services that design agencies provide include:
Let’s walk through the range and types of creative agencies you can choose from:
Full-stack creative agencies:
Small and niche creative agencies:
High-end creative agencies:
Of course, don’t forget to look at other external design resources should you choose to outsource your design needs.
There are very few companies that offer an alternative approach to in-house designers and agencies (or working with freelancers, who are hard to find and manage). One of those leading companies is Superside. A Y-combinator startup that has helped hundreds of scales-ups and enterprise teams like Twitch, PUMA, Zoho, Cisco etc scale their design output—taking on everyday production design work to large-scale strategic design solutions.
Trusted by 3,000+ businesses, Superside makes design frictionless and delightful, by combining top designers and creative project managers from all over the world, with purpose-built tech and the rigour of DesignOps.
By handling the design process end-to-end—from managing design feedback to picking the right people to do the job—the process becomes much more smooth and efficient.
Based in Palo Alto California and a 100% remote, Superside has 150 employees working across 57 countries and 19 timezones that allows them to be always-on and deliver good design, at lightning fast speeds.
We believe that innovative teams and companies care about design and understand it to be an important part of their growth strategy. We also strive to consistently "explode the triangle" by delivering all all 3 fronts: price-quality-speed. We understand the pitfalls of agencies, in house designers and even markplaces. Our goal is provide a service that simply cannot be beat.
A wide range of businesses and industries work with us to get design done at scale. From companies with multiple design departments, to no design team at all, we work with our customers to create the best solution for their design needs.
Meet Marc Vitulli, VP of Marketing at S&S Activewear. At S&S they’ve traditionally hired internally, but Vitulli knew that in order to scale, they needed outside design help. Their design team of three was overwhelmed with work, and they needed a solution to help remove their bottleneck while bringing some expertise and inspiration to the team.
What he didn’t want to do, though, was rush into signing up with a traditional agency. He was looking for something different — something that was flexible, elastic and could scale up or down with their team's needs. He wanted to "explode the triangle" by finding a company that delivered on all 3 fronts: price-quality-speed. He already understood the pitfalls of agencies, in house designers and even marketplaces, and wondered if there was a better way.
“Honestly, I was looking for agencies for about six months,” says Vitulli. “Traditional type agencies, email design agencies and so on. Superside popped up one late night, and it just seemed to be the exact model that we were looking for. Someone who could help us scale and bring a lot of professional talent, too.”
Starting with two designs per month to help support their brand work, the S&S team now submits 10+ on average. From email and landing page design, to social media graphics and catalogue refreshers, to motion design and even a brand refresh, working with Superside has allowed their team to get a wide range of design support that would not otherwise be possible.
“From messaging and imagery to actual campaigns, some of our brands needed a revamp. When you look at the same thing all the time, it’s easy to run out of ways to make it look exciting and fresh. But then I’d give it to you guys [Superside] and it just gets this breath of fresh life. It shows our team, ‘Oh, I can do that with a brand that I typically thought didn't have that much potential,’” says Nicci Knouse, graphic and web design manager at S&S. Working with Superside has given her designers the time to really explore their creativity, versus rushing through something to keep up with the demand.
You can read the full S&S Activewear case study here.
While every team has its own unique set of needs, it’s important that you take the time to evaluate what option is best for you: hiring in house designers, outsourcing to an agency, or working with Superside. We've put together a chart to help showcase the main differences.
If possible, investigate all options before you make a final decision. You never know what will work until you try it.
If you’d like to learn more about how your team can keep up with the fast-changing world of creativity and design, book a call and we’ll find a solution that works best for you.
Hint: great creative is will be the name of the game. The Apple iOS 14 update doesn't need to be all doom and gloom for advertisers—we've got tips for success!
Whether you're refreshing an existing brand or starting from scratch, you need a branding package. We cover what a brand package includes, plus premium add-ons.