Building an In-house Design Team

New York State Bar Association

'Four key questions to consider' published by the New York State Bar Association on its Thrive blog. ?The Thrive blog focuses on Practice Management issues for law firms of all sizes. 
-Written by Janet Odgis, Creative Director of Odgis + Co.

When marketing professionals prepare their budgets, they review the options: assemble an in-house design team or contract with external consultants. When is building a design team the right move for your business or firm?

1. Are your design needs mostly internal, or outward-facing?
In-house designers are a great boon for internal communications -- they know the organization as well as anyone. But, if you want to sell ideas and offerings to the outside world, it's often smarter to go with a fresh perspective. That person, in getting to know the business, may be closer to the marketplace and the target audience.

2. Are you prepared to manage an on-site team of designers?
Managing a team of designers -- a group that is outside your core competency -- is quite different from overseeing other practitioners. Designers often have workflows, interests and schedules that may not jive with your overall business (at least, at first). Make sure your company has the infrastructure, management and right philosophy to integrate, nurture and educate your designers.

3. Do your company's design needs require cross-discipline innovation and outside-the-box thinking?
Often, in-house designers get caught up in the internal politics and debates of the business. And their design perspectives can become narrow, after working exclusively for one brand. If your business really needs to shake things up, look to an outside agency.

4. Will you be able to get the maximum value out of an in-house employee?
Workflows can be very inconsistent, especially in design. Before you hire an in-house designer, make sure they'll be plugged in to a steady -- and, ideally, varied -- amount of work. No creatively driven designer wants to put together the same weekly newsletter ad infinitum.

Based on these quick questions, you've now clarified your expectations and estimated the activity level of the design professionals. Making this base explicit will help the creativity, development, execution and timetables of projects run more smoothly, whether in-house designers or consultants join your team.