The In-House Designer

~ 29 July 2008 ~

An Event Apart Chicago is just a few months away, and I’ll have the privilege of speaking on a brand new topic, “The In-House Designer”:

The fundamental principles of design remain constant irrespective of organization size, technical discipline, and the like. Yet within larger organizations, the dynamics of applying these principles, the ability to produce quality output, and overall job satisfaction are a challenge at times. Learn how to hone your technical skills, and, more importantly, your soft skills, to effectively grapple with the politics and red tape that are common to larger organizations—or, for that matter, to client services work.

In my mind, this is a subject that’s long overdue for being addressed in conferences, and I’m excited to take a shot at addressing it.

But I’d like your help. What are the issues common to “larger organizations”? I’d be willing to bet the majority of you reading this work at companies larger than most agencies and startups and therefore have experience and an understanding of the challenges I speak of above.

So, help me start a list of things I may address in the presentation. I’ll start:

  • Uninspiring workspaces
  • Passionless employees
  • An abundance of paperwork needed for anything and everything
  • Legacy methodologies (e.g. waterfall software development)

What can you add?

 

89  Comments

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1   Art Lawry ~ 29 July 2008

From personal experience:

As your skill-set grows, your “free” time shrinks (“free” time can be considered time for code maintenance, pet projects, innovation, or simply deadline-unconstrained time).

Lack of a clearly defined role/expanding job requirements (designer, developer, graphic designer, that guy who makes signs for the office parties, no I can’t fix your computer, try IT, etc).

Hope this helps!


2   Swenke ~ 29 July 2008

I find that I spend the majority of my time trying to sell an idea or ideas to the internal team rather than working directly with the client to find that new and exciting idea we both can be inspired by.


3   patrick foster ~ 29 July 2008

Meetings. Incessant, irrelevant meetings made up of a lot of time convincing people not in your approval chain to buy off on projects.


4   David Barrett ~ 29 July 2008

One of the huge issues in working in a big company are politics.

I worked as a contractor in a multinational web company and, as layoffs loomed, people started to get very territorial, defending their team and the work done by them and (annoyingly) attacking other teams for problems they themselves caused.

But even without the layoffs, intra-team communication was a real problem. Our team would often have no idea what other teams were doing, and there was never a sense that the US and Irish teams (I was a member of one of the Irish teams) we were all part of the same effort.

Everything had to be politically correct too. Strong opinions seemed to be frowned upon. Politics!


5   Anonymous ~ 29 July 2008

- You’re creativity and output can get stale
- Competing with outside design agencies
- Constantly selling yourself and abilities to Marketing
- Taking on multiple job roles due to reorgs and downsizing
- Our Web team is stuck within IT department…and theus there is little knowledge of design process from other IT team members who aren’t connected to design and up to date web development
- Good resources to tap into…hard to find good contractors


6   Brendan Cullen ~ 29 July 2008

This relates to politics, but in my experience in the corporate world, the pressure to design for the boss/marketing dept/sales dept/supervisor/etc. instead of the customer.

Unrealistic expectations/deadlines/requests was another (not too different from the agency world). And of course the always present committeecide. There are almost always too many cooks in the kitchen


7   Larry ~ 29 July 2008

Would love to hear your opinions on getting coworkers/other teams to take your work and authority scope seriously instead of them ignoring you/your team and doing their own thing.


8   Stephen Capp ~ 29 July 2008

I would add education: let the masses know what you can bring to the table. I recently gave a presentation to a group of Project Managers & Business Analysts here at my company because I found I was getting to work on fewer and fewer projects. We implement a lot of MS products and do some custom development to bridge the gaps.

As a company, we had shifted from designing the solution to building it and then decorating it at the end. You know - “Can you clean this up a bit? The users are complaining about the usability.” OY!

Anyhow, I’m trying to educate my peers and get the word out about the value design adds to the things they build. Like most designers, I’m always looking for ways to make things better either functionally or aesthetically. People need to know what you can do for them so when they encounter a problem on a project they know who can help them solve it.


9   Marc ~ 29 July 2008

1) CEO deciding to have an outside contractor create the company’s new website, without letting his highly effective and much-touted internal web team have any feedback on it (yep).

2) Abusive management (usually happens in smaller companies if anywhere). Examples include temper tantrums, highly restrictive policies (be to work 10 minutes early, not 5, not 2), spying on employees…(like literally crouching behind their cubicle, peeking over, lol)

3) Temptation to move into an area you suck at, given the opportunity (hey, your resume says you do a little Java programming as a hobby…why not try your hand at software development? You make $10K extra there).

4) Tendency to become part of the hive mind, sharing the same inside jokes, laughing at the same (Dilbert) comics, wearing similar clothes, focusing on being so appropriate that you wonder if you can still be considered creative. This usually happens in biased teams, like one designer to 15 developers and PMs.


10   Dave ~ 29 July 2008

1. The rumor mill (are our offices moving to New York?, what’s going on in Accounting? who will be the new boss of that department?) is larger in a big company. And there are more co-workers to hit you with it every day.

2. The “Year-End-Review” process … is long, tedious, multi-layered, and built for jobs that don’t have the constant amount of feedback that designers get … it’s fairly useless for us. We’re told if we’re doing a good or bad job more than once a year.

3. The promotion tree. Larger companies don’t know how to promote creatives. The longer you’re a designer, the better a designer you are. But the only paths are into management … meaning you do less creative work and more banal work (outside the creative process).

4. Learning the ways of the corporation can be as important as learning your craft. If you want something to happen (a photoshoot or approval from a dept) there are often a lot of hoops to jump through.

5. Less team-work, more “me”-work.


11   Jason Armstrong ~ 29 July 2008

Older, outdated hardware and software.

Having to submit a request to have software installed on your computer by an Administrator.

Dealing with older/outdated in-house software solutions (CMS).


12   Jimena ~ 29 July 2008

Hight staff turnover. People is constantly entering and leaving the company so if you stay you have the feeling that you don’t know anyone.
The team is always different and you lose time explaining the same thing to new people again and again.


13   ~ 29 July 2008

In a word: politics. I previously worked at a large music industry company and sometimes just trying to get 2 departments to work together was a nightmare.

In my particular situation, we had 3 departments trying to coordinate. 2 were well established and our new team (despite exceeding expectations) was treated as hostiles. Nevermind that if we had all gotten along it would have been better for all parties involved in the long run.

There’s so much more…but I digress. Politics…ICK.


14   Mike Busch ~ 29 July 2008

Design is rooted in solving problems for the end user, and too often I find myself many steps removed from the user I’m designing for. In this environment experimentation/innovation simply take too long, and instead I’m forced to go with proven solutions to avoid the time hangups. So, although I’m rolling out high quality work, it lacks that intangible qualities that come from experimentation.


15   Keanen ~ 29 July 2008

I agree with the meetings comment.

How about co-workers with no skills that are there “just for the ride”? I guess that goes under passionless employees.

Another one could be upper management that is so far removed from the actual process and doesn’t have any idea what it takes (time, resources, etc.) to produce a good website and yet sets the deadlines.

You don’t have as much freedom to express your own ideas in a larger organization… at least not without convincing 3 different committees and submitting several forms/documents. Even if you do that, your own ideas could get squashed by another manager in another department who has seniority and doesn’t like or fully grasp your idea (or just doesn’t like you or your department for that matter).

A positive note, however, would be the benefits that you get at a larger organization. The pay, the health insurance, retirement (401k), more time off, more people to take over your responsibilities when you are out are some examples. You also generally get better hardware to work with and budgets are bigger for lunches, employee trainings, etc.

Generally, larger organizations are more stable. However, layoffs happen and when they do sometimes upper management can make misinformed decisions about who gets laid off.

On a personal level, because each employee can become so specialized in one particular skillet, it can reduce your marketability if you need to find another job unless it is with another large organization that needs that exact skillset.

You also have to rely on others to do their job well. For example, you can’t just copy your latest changes out to the server. You have to have them released by the release manager to testing, then staging, then - 3 months later - finally out to the production servers. I understand there is good reason for this but it is something you don’t worry about as much with smaller organizations.

Good luck.


16   curtismchale ~ 29 July 2008

How to help the company truly move from waterfall methodology to an agile process. Where I work they think the idea is great but end up taking weeks to get back with little decisions regarding anything and then the day of approval they revamp the layout….


17   Sheri Bigelow ~ 29 July 2008

Lack of clear communication. Or, lack of a desire to communicate. I have run into a lot of decision makers who just don’t seem to care about the issues until they become a problem.


18   Ben ~ 29 July 2008

1) Trust and role issues
Useful websites surf-controlled, lack of knowledge concerning other’s roles in the organization, sometimes 2-3 people independently working on something that would have been better if only one had been assigned, and also people not trusting you as an expert on design.
2) Politics - everything I have seen has been expressed by previous commentators.
3) Committees, meetings, approval chains - all lead to design by committee approaches, less effective use of time, and long approval processes’ that cause communication and logistical problems.
4) Ultimately a lot of these problems revolve around communication issues. The larger the team, the more time and effort is needed to communicate effectively. Failure to utilize modern technology can help exacerbated these communication issues.
5) CYA attitude.
Associated with politics. Basically no one is willing to risk failure. Policies are put into place to discourage risk and failure. This leads to staid, unimaginative leadership and a work environment that subtly or overtly discourages creativity and excellence (other then excellence at obeying orders).


19   jkiel ~ 29 July 2008

Too many times, I’ve seen creative work given to outside vendors, rather than using the expertise of staff members. Apparently there’s a mindset that outside sources are more creative, even if they don’t fully understand the … limitations? capabilities? effectiveness? of the internet.

There’s also a grave lack of funds for professional development (and many of these opportunities are very expensive) for web/IT professionals in higher ed. We all try to keep up as best as we can, but some technologies just require specialized training.


20   Susanna K. ~ 29 July 2008

1. Mediocrity is accepted. Design work is bastardized by other groups (programmers, HR, etc.) who don’t care about logo standards or good interface design. Or, the designer gets left out of the loop on projects that could’ve benefited from some professional design work.

2. No peers. If you’re the only in-house designer, you run the risk of working in an echo chamber with no other creatives to bounce ideas off of.


21   Trace Meek ~ 29 July 2008

Great topic!

  1. Dependence upon—and huge investment in—proprietary third-party software systems (e.g., CMSs, wikis) that were developed heedless of the standards we design in (I’ve had to style font tags that I couldn’t get rid of in the code).
  2. Too many meetings.
  3. Too much email.

I’ve dealt with this latter issue by setting aside long swaths of time during which I don’t check email. Maybe check it on the hour. Sometimes it’s the only way to get any work done. My manager will IM me if she needs me right away.

Aside from the drawbacks mentioned above, working for a large company can be a positive situation.


22   Joe ~ 29 July 2008

-Same day requests
Eccentric CEO: “OK, drop what you’re doing. This is your new top priority!…”
Eccentric CEO the next day: “Why haven’t you completed the task that used to be your top priority?”

-Lack of urgency
Someone comes up with a great idea. Designer starts to explore concepts, and presents to “the team”. Someone says It’s not “2.0” enough and no one else has an opinion. The project stalls and 6 months later someone looks around and says “Hey, whatever happened to…”

-Big Picture - Too much vs. not enough
Some designers want to manage, plan, oversee, and debate. Others just want to design. Where’s the balance? Some times I prefer to keep my head down and bang out requests. Other times, I like to be proactive. Good designers need to be able to do both.

-Unclear roles/process
I work for a startup and the nature of that model is that everything is an experiment. How can a designer apply the streamlined creative process used in agency-land to the all-hands on deck mentality of a small business without excluding “the team”?


23   Joe ~ 29 July 2008

-Same day requests
Eccentric CEO: “OK, drop what you’re doing. This is your new top priority!…”
Eccentric CEO the next day: “Why haven’t you completed the task that used to be your top priority?”

-Lack of urgency
Someone comes up with a great idea. Designer starts to explore concepts, and presents to “the team”. Someone says It’s not “2.0” enough and no one else has an opinion. The project stalls and 6 months later someone looks around and says “Hey, whatever happened to…”

-Big Picture - Too much vs. not enough
Some designers want to manage, plan, oversee, and debate. Others just want to design. Where’s the balance? Some times I prefer to keep my head down and bang out requests. Other times, I like to be proactive. Good designers need to be able to do both.

-Unclear roles/process
I work for a startup and the nature of that model is that everything is an experiment. How can a designer apply the streamlined creative process used in agency-land to the all-hands on deck mentality of a small business without excluding “the team”?


24   Anonymous ~ 29 July 2008

1) Not having sufficient tools.
2) Not having sufficient time.
3) Working with several departments who know nothing about the limitations of the above two points.
4) Inability to make a live update without approval down the chain.


25   Justin Lilly ~ 29 July 2008

Designing for your boss/review process/CEO/etc instead of who you should be designing for: The user/customer.

Plain and simple.


26   Jim Ramsey ~ 29 July 2008

I worked as a contractor at a large biotech company and I found that the large bureaucracy created an environment where any change just seemed like too much trouble. Trying to get buy-in from the IT department (or whoever was a stakeholder) required endless meetings and it just made the whole process seem futile.


27   Steve ~ 29 July 2008

The big problems I see rest mostly with content and bureaucracy.

Trying to figure out who is supposed to supply you with what text or copy or image is an impossible task;
- Why doesn’t Marketing have it?
- Sales has their own internal lingo for everything that can’t be displayed to our customers.
- This has to be approved before you can use it. You might have it in a month or so.

Generally speaking, you end up falling pretty low on the operational priority list.

Bureaucracy rears its ugly head every time you affect a process. Simply, if you try to make something more usable, you will uncover dark procedural corners that no one wants to see. Have a web form? Sales contact form? Where do you send it? Sales territory? Why is that info entered manually?

Nightmare. Period. And you will be hard pressed to find anyone to go to bat for you when the going gets tough.

I would go on but I’m getting depressed.


28   Tor Løvskogen ~ 29 July 2008

It’s safe. If things don’t go your way for a time, you don’t suffer for it. You don’t have to get into the finacial part of running a business, you can spend more time doing design related work.


29   Tuttle ~ 29 July 2008

The biggest issue I deal with everyday is not being able to have direct contact with the client. Info flows from Sales Contact>Account executive>Design Director>me. And by the time the project gets to me the focus has been completely obscured by other opinions and ideas.


30   Jon ~ 29 July 2008

We discussed this at SXSW in 2007 and the audio of the panel is available. Perhaps you can find inspiration in the discussion and improve upon the content.


31   tyrone ~ 29 July 2008

I would think you would define some positive issues as well as all negative, as you are suggesting. Surely you could highlight some assets.


32   Stephanie Leary ~ 29 July 2008

Comments 3, 6, 10, 11, and 25 reflect my experience to a scary degree.

I would add: An absolute and unwavering devotion to the idea that the IA should reflect the org chart. (Which, BTW, will be redone every six months when a new VP is brought in, and can you please just move everything around to reflect the new structure and make all the old links still work? On IIS? You need buy a third-party add-on for that? But the whole point of having a website is to reduce our costs! What are we paying you for? &c.)


33   Steve ~ 29 July 2008

Managers - specifically getting a manager who “knows a bit about design” to trust that your ideas will work. Recently I was asked to change a design to my manager’s wishes, at a later meeting he then changed back to a similar idea to my original one. User testing is tomorrow, I’ll let you know how badly it goes…


34   Ben ~ 29 July 2008

Positives to in-house design:

1) If only one or part of a small team, you get to work on a wide variety of projects, meaning you get to explore a wide variety of design disciplines and mediums. For instance I get to do everything from front-end web design to video editing to page-layout design.

2) Benefits - Health and Life Insurance, paid time-off, vacation, and sick pay, paid training. Support staff to help you figure out all the above.

3) Working with a wide and diverse group of people with varying talents and skills.

4) Sometimes clients/bosses/or even the organization actually trust your expertise and good design decisions are executed. This makes it all worth it, to see good design “working”.

5) Working for a non-profit: the ability to work on projects that fundamentally matter to people and society, not just selling the next great thing to consumers or businesses. Although there’s nothing wrong with selling the next great thing, it just isn’t as fulfilling to me.

6) Some degree of separation between you and the client. Meaning you don’t have to respond right away and so you can provide a measured and thought-out response to their perhaps knee-jerk responses. However, as noted on the downsides/problems, you don’t want this degree of separation to get too far - definitely need a fine balance.


35   Anon ~ 29 July 2008

In-house department heads who don’t know anything about design, tell you that *you* are stupid for sticking around so long, and then stab you in the back to prove their point. Was set up this way and had the common sense to resign. Trumped up charges of missing deadlines, being difficult and not caring about the project. All because “someone” didn’t get the photo they took on the cover of the project. Department head almost blew a gasket lying so hard to upper management. Was worth it to leave.

However: Trying to find work after being in-house? Tough. Agencies/boutiques/firms don’t talk to you. “Ewww! They were in-house. They don’t know anything except — blank —.” Even though you won awards and can design better than most agency types. Are they’re scared of us. ?!? What’s the hang up?

Sad to say for all the security of being in-house, if you lose it, you’re fighting an uphill battle against the “cool kids” at the agencies and firms. God help us.


36   Robin ~ 29 July 2008

fear of open-source software solutions


37   Andrew ~ 29 July 2008

As Art Director for a company with 80,000+ employees, I find that we have stopped marketing our products.

We pick a few pieces of collateral for a specific product and then push it out the door. There’s no marketing push, no large product launch. It’s as if we’ve become a production team rather than an in-house design team. This can be extremely frustrating if you come from a creative background. This could partially be related to my second issue.

Second issue is the sheer volume of work we have to complete with such a small staff. We produce between 3,000-5,000 pieces of collateral with about 50 people every year.

Third issue is keeping track of all this work. We’ve spent an enormous amount of money on developing an application in house to track all of our jobs. (using Sharepoint) We scrapped it at the beginning of this year, and I researched an over the counter package that we’re implementing next month.

Fourth issue is due to the size of our company, it’s extremely difficult to add vendors for use in developing unique print materials. Hard to try different photographers, illustrators, etc. So, this limits the amount of experimentation you can do.

Lastly, Cameron touched on a few things that are also issues for us. Uninspiring workspaces, & Passionless employees. Passionless employees is a huge issue. I also find large companies are more willing to put up with clashing personalities, where in a small firm, those people would have been let go a long time ago.


38   Brian ~ 29 July 2008

I work at UNLV, and therefore these might be more aligned with educational structures rather than corporate structures, but I feel a number of frustrations.

Your boss doesn’t get it:
My boss simply doesn’t understand the technology we’re working with (he kept trying to figure telling us to use AJAX with our Flash App), and is almost the archetype of the manager who just wants to see “cool” stuff regardless of its usefulness.

Timelines:
In Higher-ed, the time lines on projects is uncool (1-2 years for some simple projects).

Hierarchy/Idea Origination:
Things must be done through the “proper channels.”

Committee Death:
Probably been dealt with before, but for my first project (which is in committee stasis right now) my design has to be vetted by one committee for approval, then had to go to it’s super-committee (where it’s currently at), then go to a usability committee to come back to the super-committee to come back to the original committee to come back to me. I wish I was joking about this.

Overall, I love the idea of working in a library as a web designer. I *should be* responsible for bringing to life some really cool historical documents from Southern Nevada (yeah, maybe not so cool to you, but I’m a boom town/wild west nerd as well).

I guess the overriding question: How do you retain passion when everything you do is either marginalized, subjected to pedantic scrutiny (I can handle good criticism), or given a minimum 1-year timeline (of which you will be doing mostly waiting).

Thanks!


39   John ~ 29 July 2008

~ The proof is in the numbers. Get web analytics on your side. Prove to the CEO that purple buttons don’t convert better than green buttons.

~ The business stakeholders are advocates, but they do not represent their customers needs. Get the customers voice on your side.

~ Get real with scope creep. Adding features for the sake of being different is costly and typically doesn’t help the user. You really don’t have to reinvent features that already work well in the market.

~ Get real with requirements documentation. Most of us don’t have government jobs and don’t need a 50 page document telling us what features are needed for an email form.

~ Agile or a hybrid of agile works because the whole team is accountable and everyone is working together in real-time. People can’t hide behind process and other bureaucracy.


40   Cameron Moll ~ 29 July 2008

Lots of great suggestions so far. Some notable ones:

Dave (#10):

The promotion tree. Larger companies don’t know how to promote creatives. The longer you’re a designer, the better a designer you are. But the only paths are into management … meaning you do less creative work and more banal work (outside the creative process).

Mike Busch:

Design is rooted in solving problems for the end user, and too often I find myself many steps removed from the user I’m designing for.

Joe (#22):

Some designers want to manage, plan, oversee, and debate. Others just want to design. Where’s the balance? Some times I prefer to keep my head down and bang out requests. Other times, I like to be proactive. Good designers need to be able to do both.

Anon (#35):

However: Trying to find work after being in-house? Tough. Agencies/boutiques/firms don’t talk to you. “Ewww! They were in-house. They don’t know anything except — blank —.” Even though you won awards and can design better than most agency types. Are they’re scared of us. ?!? What’s the hang up?

Brian (#38):

I guess the overriding question: How do you retain passion when everything you do is either marginalized, subjected to pedantic scrutiny (I can handle good criticism), or given a minimum 1-year timeline (of which you will be doing mostly waiting).

41   Tiff Fehr ~ 29 July 2008

I’m so glad you posed this topic for your session at AEA CHI. And this is a great thread. I’d like to offer another side to the current set of comments, though. As an in-house designer, I fully agree with the problems cited so far: questionable management, ingrained habits, anti-web developers, lack of web awareness in general, no user-centeredness, no customer-centeredness, lack of education opportunities, badly defined roles, etc etc. All very, very true. We come to the web standards movement to find solace and support from real peers, if our in-house jobs offer none.

However, I’ve come to realize there is a second set of issues for in-house designers/developers which I think it would make a good counter-point in your talk. There is a serious flaw within the web-standard community in that some professionals take a superior attitude toward anyone with non-standard code or dated-or-even-bad design trying to participate in a discussion. On some threads, god help you if you cite a problem you’ve had with markup (legitimately seeking help or making a valid point) and your example has a single flaw in it.

I’m biased because I’m the Prod. Mgr for Digital Web, but one of our recent articles—”Smart CSS Ain’t Always Sexy CSS” by Martin Ringlein—brought out that attitude very clearly in the rabid comments (as well as a weird meta-twist arguing censorship and denigration when I tried to civilize it). We pretend to be professional by measuring of a designer/developer based on the work they cite, but almost instantly we drop any empathy about the type of project it is and how that might shape the work far more than the developer/designer. We shouldn’t be judging the work, but the process a designer/developers follows. It’s professionally and intellectually lazy to make assumptions about people’s skills from the work cited, particularly when we all know better.

I’d point fingers at freelancers or startup workers with the luxury of writing brand new code, but I know I’ve taken a superior attitude toward other in-house devs while fully knowing it was wrong, and offered no sincere help. The heart of the web standards movement was to self- and group-educate people about web standards. Well, at some point it evolved into a policing role for some, and those just joining the movement can encounter some truly lousy judgments in their direction. The idea of a perfectly semantic, structure/design-separated site for every solution is an ideal, not a reality that’s commonplace today. We’re a long way from the right to be judgmental, and I think in-house teams get more flak than empathy.


42   Gregg ~ 29 July 2008

Lately I have been finding the overeager ladder climbers to be especially annoying. People inserting themselves at the end of your project or chiming in on something they have no knowledge about really ruins the motivation.

I’m sure going to miss not seeing this presentation. The list at the end of your post hits every single main issue I’ve had so far at my company.


43   Pete ~ 29 July 2008

Like above, I’d have to agree that internal politics and communication, maintenance of legacy code or systems, and lack the of direction/leadership from management are the biggest day to day issues by far. However there are others I’ve encountered, particularly with external companies and contractors that haven’t been mentioned.

I’ve found, sometimes, external companies who are brought in and don’t take the time to understand how the business really operates, and go on to suggest/encourage/build something that the organisation is not prepared to properly buy into the concept, e.g. the actual ongoing operational ‘cost’ of having a blog/wiki. Generally, you end up being seen as the bad guy, because you’ve got to talk the business ‘down from the ledge’.

Then, there are the times external companies and contractors assume they will automatically be getting a on-going support agreement after project completion, and/or providing no documentation in an effort to force the organisation to have to come back to them for changes, updates, etc. (I’ve found advertising agencies particularly bad at this.)

There are also those external companies and contractors who bemoan a historical organisational decision for no reason whatsoever, e.g. “You should have gone with Red Hat instead of Debian” (particularly when they knew about it up front).

And the one that grates me most of all, an (almost) elitist attitude by external companies and contractors that they know how to code/design/develop better than my team, because we don’t work in an agency environment, e.g. Me: “Dude, this doesn’t validate and you should be using ‘s for headings”, External:”No, it’s perfectly fine the way it is”.

One more thing, forgetting your coworkers are your customers, and need to be treated like customers while you are working together on a project.


44   Karl ~ 30 July 2008

I was going to write loads, but I’ve tried so hard over the last 4 years to effect change in my company with no success that I told my (administrative) team leader (we have no web team) that they’ve killed my passion and career prospects due to their 20th century attitude. After 8 years in this game I should be a lot further forward tbh and I’m now seeking a new career path - outside of the web.

My advice: identify the danger signs, try to effect change but don’t leave it too late to get out!


45   Ben Spencer ~ 30 July 2008

Apart from the endless paper work and politics, my biggest issue was the complete lack of respect for my role (I was an in-house web designer for a large Plc).

It was basically an “if you don’t fee-earn, then we don’t really need you” sort of attitude. I was considered admin support to a large number of people.

Trying to educate these people on your role is just as frustrating. It was very, very hard to keep motivated.


46   Ollie Kavanagh ~ 30 July 2008

Well I am going through all the items you describe above on a daily basis. My main issues are:

1. Lack of direction from management

2. Lack of innovation. Do the company leaders actually follow what is happening on the web?

3. Ideas that myself and the development team had 6-9 months ago have now surfaced as great ideas thought of by management.

4. Your Design gets stale because you end up re-designing the same thing over and over again as no-one can make a decision and it takes 6 months to get anywhere near coding stage. I hate the design I end up with as I have worked on it so long.

5. Every decision is made by the sales team, when did they ever have an impartial decision on design or understanding web technologies?

“Too many times, I’ve seen creative work given to outside vendors, rather than using the expertise of staff members. Apparently there’s a mindset that outside sources are more creative, even if they don’t fully understand the … limitations? capabilities? effectiveness? of the internet.”

This has happened so much in our organisation and wasted so much money. There is just so much politics in large organisations it really pushes down creativity.


47   Gafroninja ~ 30 July 2008

Your boss(The Managing Director) is the client from hell… why? Well in a web agency or working as a freelancer you have milestones where the client signs off on. Meaning if they want anything changed they have to pay for it. But when you are working in-house the client(md) has free reign at any time at any point. On many many occasions the md has come randomly and wanted something changed no questions asked. “I want red text on a blue background” he says… If you question him he will tell you “you’re wrong” and demand that it’s done.


48   Matthew ~ 30 July 2008

How about:

- Useless Meetings….Way too many useless meetings that I feel are a waste of time.

- Being 1-3 versions behind on every piece of software/technology you work with.

- Change control processess are like pulling teeth.

- Being a developer who can design and watching all other developers around you butcher screens and UI to no end.

- Having no in-house designers/standards (technically, sometimes they’re not needed for the business model to work let’s be honest).

- Developers responsible for writing help documents (this one is hilarious).

- Negative attitudes by far are the worst though. “can’t” is overused when people get uncomfortable and want to push off a task.


49   Andrew ~ 30 July 2008

Clearly most of this has been said, but just in case you’re looking for a majority vote:

1) Politics: Dealing with people who don’t understand the creative. My favorite response from a Managing Director when discussing the idea of grouping all creatives into an agency-like structure in order to improve creativity: “Hey, I need to be creative too. Customer service demands creativity! You don’t see all the Managing Directors trying to sit by each other, do you?” No. No, I don’t. Clearly I have no idea what I’m talking about.

2) Shifting priorities: I have seven projects on my plate right now. My website redesign has been put on hold for a year now while countless other jobs have been submitted and fulfilled. Now that things have settled a bit, everyone is wondering why the site isn’t finished.

3) Limited Promotional Opportunities: I’m at the top of my game at my company. When I requested to be promoted to an Art Director position (80% of my work is AD), I was turned down. The response, “That position doesn’t exist in this company.”



50   Justin Viger ~ 30 July 2008

I agree that a big issue is not having a clearly defined role or specific job title.


51   Steve Rose ~ 30 July 2008

This is a great topic. I love hearing the responses and it becomes rather obvious that many have an axe to grind with how corporate entities utilize designers.

In my situation, the company I worked for (a few thousand employees) was recently acquired by an extremely large and blue company (380 thousand employees). I am a right-brained designer lost in a sea of left-brained engineers, salespeople, and executives.

However, after spending a year at the self-pity party, I have begun to see many opportunities and positives for a designer like myself working for a corporate monster:

1) Infrastucture. They’ve got tons of it. No more creating business plans and attending meetings where I beg on my hands and knees for budget or investment in SCORM-compliant systems.

2) Identity. I disagree with many above who say that they have lost their identity or their their job title is not clearly defined. On the contrary, my role is now more well-defined than it ever was before. You have to carve out your niche — this is the corporate world, you can’t sit and wait for someone to hand feed you. Use HR and get you and your teams in a position so that their skills are noted and your jobs are classified correctly.

3) Brand. In my situation, the brand is clearly defined, however beyond the definition we are given a good amount of rope to push our creativity. Maybe the situation is different in your corporation. If it is, now is the time to sit down in one of your many meetings and educate others on the importance of having a strong brand. You’re going to have to sell others on the idea, but in my experience C-level executives don’t need a lot of selling when it comes to branding and corporate messaging. They drive the mandates and compliance, you just have to establish the brand.

4) Meetings. Actually, I hate meetings. I just threw this in to say I agree with all of you.

5) Constituents. Yes, the design team typically gets the short end of the stick when it comes to decisions. However, rather than retreat and take pot shots at other groups’ ability to sniff out good design, work with them. Sales probably gets more face time with customers than any other group within your company. What can they tell you about the customer’s needs? Work with them on providing a solution that customers crave and then you can push your creativity.

I think there are a lot of frustrations waiting for the designer who joins a large company, especially if they don’t have a lot of experience dealing with left-brained decision makers. However, it is a learning experience (maybe the thing you learn will be to never join a large company!) and you have to learn how to fight, carve out territory, and collaborate with other groups in such a way that you fulfill the project requirements (most important) and maintain your artistic sanity. Its a battle — sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. That’s just the way it is.


52   ~ ~ 30 July 2008

People have little respect and lots of fear of those who are young but make lots of waves. Navigating through longer-tenured parties while keeping your own integrity is a topic not to be taken lightly.

See http://brucefwebster.com/2008/04/11/the-wetware-crisis-the-dead-sea-effect/


53   croatoan ~ 30 July 2008

Having your experience and expertise devalued in favor of external consultants. At a former job we had a fundraising form that was “designed” by the IT staff, so it looked completely different from the rest of the site. I said for years that the design of the form should match the site, and coded a redesigned form, but was ignored. Then they hired a consultant that said the same thing and they were amazed at how insightful they were.

At my current job, our senior management had a consultant add a widget to our home page without involving the web team or the designers, and the widget didn’t match our color palette, typography, or editorial standards despite the standards being posted on the web site.


54   Stephanie ~ 30 July 2008

What a great response to this post. I guess everyone is happy to complain :) I don’t have time to read all the other comments so some of this might be a repeat:

We’re attempting to maintain a design and standards that were developed before I was hired. It leaves us with very little creative outlet and we often find ourselves dealing with ‘clients’ who want their department to look unique or stand out. Everyone wants to be different while we’re trying to keep a standard look, feel, and interaction for the site.

Political and organizational lines frequently interfear with what we think would be the best IA for sections of the site. We usually lose those arguments because we depend on the departments themselves to maintain the site.

There are other groups within the organization who have servers and domain names and there is not a clear division of work between our groups. Occasionally one group will build something only to discover that another group has already finished it, and only for them to discover they don’t have permission to launch it and it can’t be migrated because it was built using different standards.

Our publishing community mostly works off the side of their desks. None of them have the training necessary to understand IA and writing for the web and their superiors won’t give them money or time for further training. Some sites go years without being updated and we don’t have a mandate to create content ourselves.

Our department also used to have high turn over because the pay is not as good as in industry. It’s mostly stabilized now as everyone we’ve hired has been trapped by mortgages.

Because we don’t cross charge people treat our services like they’re free. We have clients that will get us to do 2 weeks of work and then change their minds and cancel projects or will spend another 6 months getting content or final approvals to us.


55   Mark Priestap ~ 30 July 2008

Hm… I’d like to see this presentation. ;)


56   susan lyons ~ 30 July 2008

Great topic Cameron, and certainly getting a lot of really interesting feedback.

I myself am lucky to work for a non-profit with fantastic and progressive leadership. We have a few key individuals who (forgive the phrase) “get-it” in terms of technology, it’s benefits to our mission and our constituents, etc.

But unfortunately we seem to be experiencing something that Tiff touches upon. Developing and maintaining “semantic” and/or “accessible” code is becoming a luxury more than commonplace. The amount of work vs the amount of folks we have on staff to create/maintain that work is out of sync.

There are those boundary-blending tasks that seem to get lost first. “ALT” tags for images - critical, we know - but created by who? Designer, writer, or coder? in our case, sadly….. tragically, none of the above.

Browser and cross-platform compatibility is bogging us down tremendously.

And now I’m noticing - and I’m not sure if it’s good or bad - but in our acceptance and practice of rapid-prototyping, design is getting the slight of hand. Meaning ultimately that usability is at risk of suffering or even being ignored.

Ultimnately the “it’s gotta work” is becoming more imporatnt than “it’s gotta look good”. I know, I know, design/usability/ “looking good” I get it.

But when deadlines are looming and timelines need to be telescoped down, the last thing crunched is functional-testing and QA, the first thing is design. This is real-world stuff. Lines need to be drawn. And our new phrase, sadly is “we’ll address that (design details) in phase 2”.

But will the next project kick in before phase 2 happens. Stay tuned.

Much luck with your presentation!
I praise our leadership when I say -someone from our staff may be waving to your from the audience!


57   Anindya ~ 31 July 2008

In big organization (with bigger team size) you have to grow horizontally, not vertically. That means, to grow, you have to always accept the change in your role (in fact, you have to target that only). Means, you start with designing layouts and end up doing budgeting, project review in Excel. It’s a problem as at the core of the heart you are a designer and want to do that always, at the same time, to earn more, you have to focus on the natural growth path.

Another problem is, you have to learn accepting average quality work. Many might not agree, but in bigger organizations, you have to accept average quality work. Because the focus shifts to doing volume work, generating more revenue and profit growth rather than quality!


58   Bob Sampson ~ 31 July 2008

Gotta ++ the “outside design” problem, especially when you have inhouse talent. But the problem I see at my workplace is that a moajority of the outside designers I’ve seen used on our projects are:
1) Most of the time amateurish and uninspired in their designs.
2) Don’t follow branding. Nothing like having an eternal company design for a large client of yours and ignore branding. We’re talking billion $ companies here, ignoring branding should be a big no-no.
3) External designers don’t design websites at all, but somehow get these contracts. Have had a lot of clients using ad companies to design thieir websites. These ad companies might do wonderful brochures and magazine ads, but know diddily sh!t about web UI, usability, etc.

What you might want to write about, is how, ad the internal UI guy, can you convince your mamagers that the external work isn’t up to par, and in some cases are horrendous.


59   Maria ~ 31 July 2008

Hello! I would like to share a great design experience with you guys: one of my favourite design brands, DesignCode just launched their web store. I just received a Flamp Noir sent to me and it’s wonderful. Check out their collection of objects and lamps: www.store.designcode.es


60   Jonathan Stark ~ 31 July 2008

I’m not a designer, but I have worked for giant corporations. The thing that immediately stuck me about most of these comments is that they are not specific to design jobs.

Office politics, overbearing bosses, inept management, outside consultants, boring meetings, skill-set stagnation, etc… These statements could have just as easily been made by an accountant as a creative.

I’d be very interested in the uniquely design related issues facing employees of a large corporation.

Great topic CM. Can’t wait to see the result ;-)


61   Another Anon ~ 31 July 2008

Another…

Pay difference: Designers “in house” get from 35-75k on average + benefits. But upper management is happy to pay from 125k-2M for a web site from an outside “consultant.” And if it doesn’t work right the first time, will gladly pay a monthly fee… 5-20k to “fix”/update said site.

Its a racket.

Also some prices for: Brochures/direct mail pieces — min. 3k. Annual reports — min. 6k.

So fellow designers — set your prices high. You may find you’re in demand. Everyone else is jumping off the bridge. Why not join them?


62   Mathew Patterson ~ 01 August 2008

Fantastic Cameron, it truly is time this topic was raised. I personally come from a series of inhouse design roles, and after I attended the first @Media in London I realised there was a lot of us out there.

That’s why I started Designers Inhouse, a list to help isolated designers keep in touch, discuss frustrations and opportunities.

I’ve posted on the list about your questions, we should be able to come up with some good suggestions for you.


63   Ron Domingue ~ 02 August 2008

Probably already mentioned in some form or the other:

1. Constant project changes without an ability to “tax” the client properly for the time.

2. Breaking the monotony of working with the same clients and products over
and over again.

3. A myopic view of marketing and a lack of corporate agility.


64   En ~ 02 August 2008

this all sounds very familiar.

Working in-house for a large company for 7 years almost killed my passion and will to work in this field at all.

“the inmates are running the asylum” was a common thing. the c++/java types were by far in majority and killing all usability, SEO, accesability, design, grids, branding and webstandards with their very smart but never functioning and never finished and undocumented “new features that we hacked together while you were playing with crayons”.

After which sales ask you to “make it look nice and put some moving flashy things on the site, you know, a bit like we saw on that new coca cola commercial on tv. We have $0 budget and you will have to do it in your lunchtime as it a non-billable activity”.

Also you have to make a hd video and lip synch it, produce a brochure with hi-res colour pictures, a product demo with big 3d animations. Lucky creative you, we will supply you with a pentium2 with 512 mb ram running windows vista and a screen that can not be calibrated. “What do you mean, you need to purchase software/fonts/licences to do this? Can’t you download something illegally of the web?”

Promotion? More salary? Learn c++ or become a manager. They are doing all the work.

Now working part freelance and parttime for an NGO and creativity flows and I love my job to no end again. I keep wondering why I did not leave earlier. Freedom never tasted so good.

Keep up the fight all you in-house-designers!


65   Albert Lo ~ 04 August 2008

These point might have been touched upon.

Having work in both sides of a creative agency and in large corporate companies as an in-house designer. I think the main issue you will get is without dobut the “red tape” and office politics and the bullshit. I think the larger the organization the more red tape you get to get anything done, countless amount of processes or in some cases…none.

People think they know design and tell you how to design something.

Pointless meetings and in some cases meetings about meetings can chew away a good chunk of the day.

You will most certainly get micromanaging at some point. Designs by committee from account managers, marketing, 3rd party agencies etc, you will also have to keep everyone happy with designs even though people have their own opinions…which I assume some of you are all too familiar with.

If your in a small department, you might not get any creative exploration beacuse people in your department dont understand and see it as not working, so in time designs get rushed and not innovative because people around you who have been there for years are reluctant to change and challenge anything from above ie marketing and branding.

People get so “on brand” they get scared of new designs and pushing brand guides…which I might add are just guides, not rules.

Other issues include new job positions that have opended up which dont allow you to move up but can allow you to move sideways. Appreciation always goes to the business owners and never to desigers because they see them as secondary and taken for granted.

Having been in this position and speaking of experience, I am now hanging up my time as a In-House designer and hope to go it alone as a freelancer.
Wish me luck!


66   frankiejr ~ 05 August 2008

Performance reviews based on paper trails.

A friend of mine is going through this now: she does incredible work, always busting her butt trying to grow, learn, and contribute as much as possible. Unfortunately the people that do her reviews don’t actually work with her. They judge her completely on how she reports time and what that paper trail shows. So if she’s put on a lot of internal projects her billable hours total will say she was unproductive.

Which of course means zero raise, regardless of how hard she works and how much she contributes.


67   Melanie ~ 05 August 2008

For me, knowing that I can’t fire a client (and knowing that they know that I can’t fire them) is the most stressful aspect, and the only thing that makes me miss freelancing.


68   Megan ~ 06 August 2008

As a designer working within a large university, I encounter problems with:

Politics - this is a big one. A particular link needs to be prominent on the home page because the VP said so. This group needs more attention because they are one of the President’s priorities, things like that.

Slow Moving - it often takes a long to get things done. Some individuals within the organization are really, really resistant to change.

Decentralization - this may be something that’s unique to higher ed. Some units will do whatever they feel like with their websites which results in a really confusing user experience. Due to the above two problems, nobody is willing/able to do anything about it.

There are also a lot of people working on websites who may not have a lot to do with each other or even know each other.

Monotony - I think this is a big one for a designer. You’re always working on variations of the same brand identity. Everything you do is in the same set of colours, fonts, etc. I often worry that I’m limiting myself as a designer by staying in this position.


69   Justin Dickinson ~ 06 August 2008

The biggest problem I deal with day to day is that as much as I argue and fight and yell and push for a certain design choice I’ve made to be approved, the decision is ultimately in the hands of the board or the president or whomever. Now, this person has the best intentions but they have no design background and are not qualified to make the decision. I can usually get them to listen, but personal bias is personal bias and we know how easy it is to start designing for yourself (or in this case, themselves) and not the end customer.

The dynamic of an agency is different in that you’re respected a lot more since you were hired as a third party to complete this goal. They don’t see you every day and everything about the interaction suggest you know what you’re talking about. I wish it was this way as an in-house designer, but alas it is not always.


70   denitu ~ 08 August 2008

In response to 60:

I’d be very interested in the uniquely design related issues facing employees of a large corporation.

I’d like to raise skills development as one specific area here.

The lack of understanding top-down in how to develop in-house web designers - and problems with the designers themselves in communicating ‘up’ what they can really do and how they can add value in appropriate language - seems to push designers to find support in online communities. The real peers providing ideas, advice and support are not in the office, in the same organisation or timezone.

The low understanding of what in-house designers do and the skills required has a knock-on effect on the approach to training courses. There is an assumption that an individual can attend a few days training on Photoshop and Dreamweaver, for example, returning fully-equipped to create a website end-to-end.

In my view, designers can’t always lay this at the feet of HR and management (‘they just don’t understand me’). If opting to work in-house for a large organisation - with the benefits and security this brings - then designers may need to sacrifice some attitude and learn how to communicate what they do in terms that traditional organisational departments understand.


71   Joellyn ~ 08 August 2008

Wow. People love to hate in-house departments. It could be all that negativity floating around that results in the problem of “passionless employees”. It is extremely hard to find good employees to work in-house.

A lot of complaints listed here, but only a few great suggestions for improving those problems. This is what I’ve learned:

1) Why are there politics? One word- egos. People get caught up in themselves. If you want to be successful in house, stay humble, and don’t get power hungry. It’s funny. The less you try to prove yourself, the more respect you get.

2) If you can, set up your design department to “bill” services to other departments. This is the best way to get them to understand your value (as compared to outside vendors). At the very least, track your hours and make sure you understand amount of time each task/project takes.

3) In-house departments can lose passion and creativity because they get overwhelmed with maintenance work and production. If you can, hire good production staff that like that regular work, and then BE GREAT TIME MANAGERS. Good workflow organization will save your bacon.

4) Recognize the value of what you can learn beyond design. Creativity isn’t just about looks, it is about problem solving. Learn about the big picture of the business you are involved in and how your individual decisions affect the whole of the company. This will help you keep your projects in perspective.

5) Find out who your key stakeholders are (not necessarily your boss- who can move your projects forward?) and MAKE THEM YOUR FRIENDS. Tick them off and your life will be hell. Be a good collaborator and you will have a lot of fun. (Again, lose the ego!)

Great thread- thanks!


72   Rob Cornelius ~ 12 August 2008

I lasted 3 months at my last job for the following reasons.

  1. Politics. Managers fighting tooth and nail over time and resources. When the third manager of the day came up to me to tell me his or her project was highest priority I gave up for the day.
  2. Dumb processes. Spend all week writing a specification that meets the “quality guidelines” and then spend 1 hour on Friday afternoon writing some god awful non standards compliant code (see below) to implement the beautifully crafted specification.
  3. Legacy systems and “in house” systems. They had a CMS for their website they built themselves. Well half a CMS. It could get data out of the DB but no one ever wrote any code to get data into it. So editing text on a screen required a mysql admin tool.
  4. Being “repurposed”. I was suddenly told with no consultation that I was not going to be a php front end developer I was going to be a back end grails developer. I had never heard of grails before that moment.
  5. Irrational fears and prejudices of co-workers. “We dont use version 8 of product X which is the industry standard because version 2 had a bug that annoyed me 9 years ago”. Or just “Programming language/environment/framework XYZ is crap and I won’t discuss it or even share my reasons”
  6. You will use this software to do your job despite you have no experience in it and other alternatives being freely available
  7. Corporate anal attitude over information. You couldn’t just view information on their “portal” you had to sign up. Signing up involved sending almost everything apart from your bank details and children’s names to the company who would then “process your application in less than a week” and allow you to see their precious data on where their office was located.
  8. Marketing have no idea. Nuff said

For more information see any dilbert cartoon


73   SimonMc ~ 14 August 2008

Working to ancient branding rules that are not up for discussion limiting the level of creative input. Finding out that an outside agency has pitched a new concept which also relaunches the brand and it gets accepted.


74   BigBan ~ 16 August 2008

Oh, Thanks! Really amazing. keep working!


75   Spencer Fry ~ 16 August 2008

I’m interested in:

1. Politics around the office.

2. How much should the designer be managing the project / taking cues from others?

3. Maintaining composure while being scrutinized.


76   rebecca smith ~ 16 August 2008

I work inhouse and have never thought of it as being less creative. I work for the museum/gallery sector, so the work involved is always interesting - I never have a project I don’t like as I love the material I am working with. Working within constraints helps focus and there are always opportunities to challenge this. You get to know the workings of the organisation and the subject matter really well, so each new project is highly developed.


77   rebecca smith ~ 16 August 2008

I work inhouse and have never thought of it as being less creative. I work for the museum/gallery sector, so the work involved is always interesting - I never have a project I don’t like as I love the material I am working with. Working within constraints helps focus and there are always opportunities to challenge this. You get to know the workings of the organisation and the subject matter really well, so each new project is highly developed.


78   Jeremy Ricketts ~ 20 August 2008

Too much email.

Way way way too much email.

An inordinate amount of why-do-you-CC-everyone-in-the-department, marked-as-urgent, weekly newsletter, software generated, life sucking, I’m-going-on-vacation, ‘sorry-for-the-spam’, email.


79   Ellie ~ 27 August 2008

I work at a prestigious higher ed institution.

= New director taking all design work for oneself, then bringing you in for ‘pieces’

= The ‘player/coach’ mentality that doesn’t work

= Too many directors!

= Multiple web teams on campus with one not knowing what the other is doing

= Being pigeon-holed into supporting the CMS and the code that goes with it but not getting new larger design projects so skills get stale (I couldn’t remember a simple trick in Photoshop today because it’s been so long)

= The only ‘designer’ in the office

= Lack of central responsibility in the org for the web - branding, content, you name it.

= Depts. on campus buying awful web systems (job search, ecommerce) and THEN asking the web team for help!

= Lack of trust among directors for us peon coders so that working from home/remotely isn’t an option!

I could go on! In fact, what am I doing here?!


80   Meredith ~ 30 August 2008

This is belated, but I felt compelled to comment. I’m an agency temp at Microsoft, but I work on internal MS designs (and have had other in-house web design jobs). It’s always the same class of B.S. on every team, despite how good the team is or how well they all sync, and despite how big or small the company is.

  • Legacy code: Echoed by any above, like legacy methodology, it’s tough to present new ideas for new (read: standardized) code when managers think they are married to the previously-working code from yesteryear. The reason so many Microsoft web sites don’t standardize is this reason alone; sites get built with 1996-era technologies and it’s hard to change the mind of an 800-lb. corporate gorilla.
  • Tight deadlines & too many meetings: With so many teams’ hands in the pot of one project, it’s hard to actually get any progressive work done when you’re stuck in meetings all the time. You have to talk to legal, to marketing, to the instructional designer, to the writers, etc. before you can get going — and you almost always get interrupted just when you’re about to start.
  • What’s priority? What’s your job? And how to you find out? When you have 8 managers seemingly spread across campus, few who you know only via e-mail, how do you know which project gets priority? How do you find out your SLA? How do you communicate your SLA to the managers you don’t see everyday? The logistics of it all can be confusing as it is without ambiguity thrown into your daily processes. Learning how to say ‘no’ to your internal clients is tricksy business that requires great tact, and learning how to manage your time requires lots of trial and error.

81   graphic art ~ 01 September 2008

Arrogant boss, unpleasant working atmosphere, lots of paperowrks…hmm I cant think of something right now but I guess the one I listed are my major concerns.


82   Ben ~ 02 September 2008

CFO’s, who’s name just so happens to be ‘Dick’ (not kidding), who never understood the value of his creative employees. He’d slam down any suggestion I made.


83   sinema izle ~ 12 September 2008

Having been in this position and speaking of experience, I am now hanging up my time as a In-House designer and hope to go it alone as a freelancer.
Wish me luck!


84   Kevin Potis ~ 15 October 2008

A lot of good, insightful comments.

I’m a firm believer that in order to be valued, you have to ADD value. And that takes real effort on our part.

My department has struggled with these same issues. Unrealistic deadlines, lack of client respect, poor project direction—the list goes on. But I’ve noticed when we genuinely listen to the client’s request AND truly hear their “need” and then solve to that need—magic happens.

It’s when breakthroughs happen. When genuine progress, both in the work and in almost all cases the relationship is made. But it takes a lot of work on our part. We have give of ourselves fully to every project. We have to earn our keep, if you will. And physically, mentally and emotionally show our value—particularly in an in-house environment. It’s not fair, but that’s the reality. Agencies, in most cases, are perceived as experts from the outside—and in some cases they are. But in most cases, they’re not. We are or at least we should be.

And when you demonstrate your value in a meaningful way, enough times, a number of these issues begin to take care of themselves.

Best of luck in-housers!


85   Seth ~ 13 November 2008

I lasted about a year as an inhouse designer, got stabbed in the back by a manager, and fired a month after a 20% raise (I was underpaid to begin with).

Pretty much everything that’s been mentioned before was something that I went through and it was by far the worst design job I ever had.

Coming from a high-end agency background, it’s almost impossible to translate that into concepts in-house people can understand unless they have an agency background too. No one really understood project management, organization, or process and had no idea how long it takes to turn out truly great work.

They’d just see the end product of some outside project and ask why we weren’t doing that without bothering to understand the effort that goes into that kind of work.

The day I got fired I slept better than I had in months. I’m back to agency life which has its own issues but I’ll take them over in-house work any day of the week.


86   chat ~ 05 December 2008

Having been in this position and speaking of experience, I am now hanging up my time as a In-House designer and hope to go it alone as a freelancer.
Wish me luck!


87   Basında Bugün ~ 06 December 2008

1) Not having sufficient tools.
2) Not having sufficient time.
3) Working with several departments who know nothing about the limitations of the above two points.
4) Inability to make a live update without approval down the chain.


88   Kochmesser ~ 08 December 2008

I think there is no better way than a freelancer!


89   Laptop ~ 15 December 2008

For me, knowing that I can’t fire a client (and knowing that they know that I can’t fire them) is the most stressful aspect, and the only thing that makes me miss freelancing.




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