There’s never been a better time for design and marketing professionals to consider going in-house. A new research paper, 5 Trends Every In-House Designer Should Know, indicates that in-house teams will expand and exert more influence on creative efforts in the next three to five years. The report also sheds light on the inner workings of corporate design departments and highlights trends any creative professional can take advantage of in the coming years.
The research was co-developed by The Creative Group (TCG) and AIGA, the professional association for design. It is part of INitiative, a program developed to help in-house creatives make a greater impact at their companies, evolve professionally and connect with a broader network of peers. For the study, TCG and AIGA surveyed more than 400 AIGA members, all of whom work in-house, and conducted interviews with thought leaders with extensive corporate work experience.
- 61% of in-house creatives expect their company’s budget for creative services to increase in the next three to five years; only 10 per cent anticipate budget declines.
- 55% of respondents predict the size of their team will grow over the same time period versus 6 per cent who think it will shrink.
- 61% of in-house creatives believe they’ll have more influence on their company’s business decisions in the next three to five years.
- 52% of in-house professionals said the greatest challenge for their team is managing heavier workloads.
- 58% of respondents expect to rely more on help from freelancers and agencies in the coming three to five years.
- 29% of in-house creatives expect to stay in their current role, half of respondents anticipate moving to another corporate job or agency, pursuing freelance work or leaving the industry entirely, making retention a key priority for employers.
Why are corporate creative and marketing careers gaining appeal? In part, design is enjoying a higher perceived value to business, and companies are placing greater emphasis on branding and creative execution. Organisations also recognise the unique value proposition in-house teams can provide: When asked to name the greatest single benefit of utilising these resources over external agencies, 57% of respondents cited deep knowledge of the company’s brand and product or service offerings.
As the number of corporate initiatives rises, particularly in the digital realm, in-house professionals say managing heavier workloads is their biggest challenge. Savvy employers understand when to call in reinforcements — and this opens new opportunities for creative freelancers and agencies who seek to partner with corporate teams.
“Managers should always be looking for ways to keep their employees engaged and enthusiastic. This includes keeping a close eye on burnout potential and knowing who to call to quickly access freelance talent to help during busy times and keep creativity at its peak,” said Donna Farrugia, executive director of The Creative Group. “Planning fun team-building activities may seem like a simple solution, but it can relieve stress and build employee camaraderie.”
While the in-house professionals surveyed predict they’ll play a greater role in their company’s business decisions, they still feel they’re battling a lack of respect from internal clients. Corporate design leaders say that their teams must take responsibility for bridging that “respect gap.”
“The value of the creative mind is being promoted in progressive business and strategy circles,” said Richard Grefé, executive director of AIGA. “To become what they want to be, in-house creatives must steep their own work in an understanding — and the vernacular — of corporate strategy.”
“To chart a positive in-house career path, creative professionals should focus not just on their work, but also on the results it generates and the value it brings to the company,” added Farrugia. “Creatives should gather as much data as possible on the outcomes of major projects. Did a new packaging design result in higher sales, for example? Did a website refresh lead to more orders? Create a compelling story about how your team solves business problems — and tell that story throughout the organisation.”
As the economy strengthens, companies must make an effort to retain top performers or risk losing them. Half of in-house creatives surveyed anticipate changing jobs, whether to another firm or agency, or to pursue freelance work or a different industry. To avoid losing key players, employers must show them they are valued and create opportunities for continued growth.
“In addition to the perks and benefits a company can provide, offering various career paths for creative professionals can go a long way toward retaining top performers,” said Farrugia. “Expose employees to different leaders of the company and encourage them to volunteer for cross-departmental projects to help broaden their skill sets and build their professional networks.”