Hiring an in-house designer

Management considerations

Hiring an in-house designer

Thoughts
Arthur Shulsky
a small studio
By 
February 7, 2024

There comes a moment in all growing organizations where the debate begins to rage internally around hiring a role vs contracting one out to a service provider. A lot of arguments get weighed when making this decision; cost to hire, turnover problems, culture fit, and scale goals. While all valid, there are other considerations that may not be discussed when the crucial point of making a decision looms over you and your team. Here are some rarely considered reasons to question hiring a designer in-house compared to approaching a professional services provider, all with very real world implications to your business.

The unskilled vs skilled manager

It is common human instinct to get defensive at the comment that one may be unskilled in a certain capacity but it is the elevated professional who can clearly draw lines around one's own skill sets within their organizations competencies.

There is strength in vulnerability and one place this is so often miscalculated is in admitting that a skilled person requires other skilled people to become the most productive contributor to any team.

A great analogy would be a quarterback playing for a football team and taking offensive coaching tips from a veteran lineman. There are going to be plenty of parallel strengths to be shared in both roles but ultimately you can not replace the expert guidance of a veteran quarterback. A team looking to win is going to acknowledge their lacking managerial wisdom and move to correct it, a losing team is going to expect their quarterback to carry the team with the tools available.

In all of my years working with skilled professionals, rarely do I see this analogy so commonly represented within the roll-out and management of a designer within an organization. Companies usually get to a place where they need to hire a full-time or a solo freelance designer but ultimately this decision leads to a minefield of hidden problems that may take months to uncover.

A good example of a crucial mistake an unskilled design manager often makes is in regards to setting timelines and limiting creative expression within the process. So often professionals not accustomed to creative problem solving approach all problems with a deadline mentality. “Problem A needs solving by March 3rd so that we can ensure Problem B doesn’t impact Goal C”. Standard common management logic, while not flawed in practice, simply fails to leverage the true gifts of why a creative problem solver has been assigned to the team. The real approach here is to allow the designer to ideate, iterate, and experiment with paths to a goal without the walls of logical restriction impeding creativity.

The gift that a creative designer brings to the table is in driving forward unconventional thinking as the primary component of the solution. If problem B just always seems to exist in your workflows, it sometimes takes unconventional wisdom to break tradition and elevate the organization. If your manager is pushing your creative talent to fit within a box of their own logical assertions, you can be assured that your designer will simply become an extension of their manager's strengths and weaknesses.

Emergent technologies and best practices

Probably not since the advent of the printing press has there been more disruption present within an industry since November of 2022. Generative AI is clearly a tool for the elevation of organizations across the board but where does design fit within that framework? If you are tracking the decisions made by executive leaders across the country, I am sure you would be of the opinion that the disruption is existing within the design space itself. A one step at a time thinker would be confident in making this bet, but in reality the person thinking four steps out should be considering alternative long term impacts from this emergent technology.

Today the immediate impact is management leveraging low grade technology to replace medium to high grade talent in order to save a few dollars this quarter. Ultimately that is a game played by those accepting obsolescence faster than they may be able to stop the momentum of the backlash of such short sighted decisions.

One consistency since the advent of this technology into our marketplaces has been people of poor aesthetic value taking hold of easy solutioned design renderings.

This has caused a flood of low skill, poor value, and oftentimes cringe worthy design systems to carry forward their brand. I can not tell you how often I see the accountant turned designer with the help of generative AI put out a blog article that just sends shivers of yikes up my spine. There seems to be a renaissance of poor aesthetic choices across the internet these days, and very quickly the would haves are turning into the have nots.

The best solution to this overall deluge of poor creative choices across industries in 2024 is to avoid the trap of minimizing cost and maximizing your personal perceived creative ‘capabilities’. The best solution is to remain vulnerable, invest capital in creative professionals who are in sync with the emergent technologies and can perform in an area you must willingly defer control for the sake of professional standards that elevate your brand.

Hiring to test vs hiring into an existing system

This last one is often the most easily missed piece of the hiring process when bringing on any design employee or solo freelancer. Oftentimes management may have a clear focus on the brand and creative direction that an organization must pursue in order to keep consensus towards the brand image. This is a correct approach and should be prioritized.

The problem with this oftentimes sound logic is when making the hiring decision itself. When we interview people professionally, we often are looking at character and merit first. This means that we can slot a solid professional into a role we need filled without the concern for poor performance or problematic behaviors. But when hiring a designer you are not just hiring a professional placeholder for a role, you are hiring a human with trained preconceived notions towards their artistic skills. If you’ve ever been creative, then you know that the nuances of creative expression are so wildly chaotic that not considering such aspects when hiring is sure destruction for your creative consensus.

That is often why service providers that specialize in creative talent are such a valuable asset to your organization. You know that you have a team of creative professionals who can bob and weave to the needs of your organization's brand in a collective unison rarely experienced by organizations with just one design employee or solo freelancer.

Almost every time we approach a new project at a small studio, we start with aligning impressions with inspiration. The creative who raises their hand and says “This style is bringing me joy” is oftentimes the person we tag to take point on the creative process. We have managers who are creatives and skilled in the best practices of design systems. Furthermore, we have internally prioritized the challenge that keeping up with emerging technologies has brought to the table, all while not sacrificing the quality of output our clients have become accustomed to.

whats-in-a-name

What's in a name?

The first word of your story

Read the Article
whats-in-a-name

What's in a name?

The first word of your story

the-founders-dilemma

The Founder's Dilemma

The secret weapon most startup founders forget.

Read the Article
the-founders-dilemma

The Founder's Dilemma

The secret weapon most startup founders forget.

love-you

Love You!

Beyond the Work

Read the Article
love-you

Love You!

Beyond the Work

hiring-an-in-house-designer

Hiring an in-house designer

Management considerations

Read the Article
hiring-an-in-house-designer

Hiring an in-house designer

Management considerations

play-know-grow

Play. Know. Grow.

How we served the world the sporting life partner for people of colour.

Read the Article
play-know-grow

Play. Know. Grow.

How we served the world the sporting life partner for people of colour.

the-creative-operating-system

The Creative Operating System

The path to becoming one of none

Read the Article
the-creative-operating-system

The Creative Operating System

The path to becoming one of none

stay-peachy

Stay Peachy!

How the mood of the world, is captured in color.

Read the Article
stay-peachy

Stay Peachy!

How the mood of the world, is captured in color.

find-your-vibe

Find your Vibe!

Refreshing Identity Architecture to empower more partners

Read the Article
find-your-vibe

Find your Vibe!

Refreshing Identity Architecture to empower more partners

to-the-clouds

To the Clouds

Building with Sky-High Ambition

Read the Article
to-the-clouds

To the Clouds

Building with Sky-High Ambition

the-creative-assist

The Creative Assist

Trusting in others to win

Read the Article
the-creative-assist

The Creative Assist

Trusting in others to win

design-systems-matter

Design Systems Matter

The investment that improves efficiency and drives scalability

Read the Article
design-systems-matter

Design Systems Matter

The investment that improves efficiency and drives scalability

built-on-trust

Built on Trust

The intentional character trait that fuels legacies

Read the Article
built-on-trust

Built on Trust

The intentional character trait that fuels legacies

diversity-the-winning-mix

Diversity: The Winning Mix

How diverse perspectives deliver sustained innovation

Read the Article
diversity-the-winning-mix

Diversity: The Winning Mix

How diverse perspectives deliver sustained innovation

small-on-ai

Small on AI

Our standard of best practice on Generative AI

Read the Article
small-on-ai

Small on AI

Our standard of best practice on Generative AI

identity-over-data

Identity over Data

In a world obsessed with data, the most distinctive advantage comes from a deeper understanding of people.

Read the Article
identity-over-data

Identity over Data

In a world obsessed with data, the most distinctive advantage comes from a deeper understanding of people.

empathy-the-competitive-advantage

Empathy: The Competitive Advantage

Connecting with people for business impact

Read the Article
empathy-the-competitive-advantage

Empathy: The Competitive Advantage

Connecting with people for business impact

branding-on-purpose

Branding on Purpose

Building to mean more to consumers

Read the Article
branding-on-purpose

Branding on Purpose

Building to mean more to consumers

roi-by-design

ROI by Design

Building for growth, loyalty, and longevity!

Read the Article
roi-by-design

ROI by Design

Building for growth, loyalty, and longevity!

shaping-the-future-land-of-cleveland

Shaping the Future(LAND) of Cleveland

Helping Cleveland's Premiere Art & Tech Conference Thrive

Read the Article
shaping-the-future-land-of-cleveland

Shaping the Future(LAND) of Cleveland

Helping Cleveland's Premiere Art & Tech Conference Thrive

harmony-the-design-story

Harmony: The Design Story

The sum of our minds and gifts

Read the Article
harmony-the-design-story

Harmony: The Design Story

The sum of our minds and gifts

take-a-breather

Take a Breather

Because sometimes all you really need is to take a break

Read the Article
take-a-breather

Take a Breather

Because sometimes all you really need is to take a break

the-competitive-mindset

The Competitive Mindset

Bringing a competitive gaming mindset to business

Read the Article
the-competitive-mindset

The Competitive Mindset

Bringing a competitive gaming mindset to business

your-design-partner

Your Design Partner

Every brand deserves a partner who understands its rhythm

Read the Article
your-design-partner

Your Design Partner

Every brand deserves a partner who understands its rhythm

anyone-can-be-a-mentor

Anyone Can Be A Mentor!

Using mentorship to springboard others around you.

Read the Article
anyone-can-be-a-mentor

Anyone Can Be A Mentor!

Using mentorship to springboard others around you.

remote-collaboration

Remote Collaboration

How we build within to influence the world through design

Read the Article
remote-collaboration

Remote Collaboration

How we build within to influence the world through design

howl

A Whole New World to Social Commerce

Facilitating collaboration between brands and creators.

Read the Article
howl

A Whole New World to Social Commerce

Facilitating collaboration between brands and creators.

active-listening

Active Listening

Why we listen twice to speak once.

Read the Article
active-listening

Active Listening

Why we listen twice to speak once.

a-love-letter-to-design

A Love Letter to Design

If you think about it, designers are pretty much athletes

Read the Article
a-love-letter-to-design

A Love Letter to Design

If you think about it, designers are pretty much athletes

creative-checkup

Creative+Checkup

Our 2023 Summer Interns built something with the mission of empowering fellow creatives

Read the Article
creative-checkup

Creative+Checkup

Our 2023 Summer Interns built something with the mission of empowering fellow creatives

accessible-design

Accessible Design

It matters more than you know, so do it right!

Read the Article
accessible-design

Accessible Design

It matters more than you know, so do it right!

type-isnt-so-scary

Type Design isn't so Scary

The overwhelmingly beautiful process of creating a custom typeface

Read the Article
type-isnt-so-scary

Type Design isn't so Scary

The overwhelmingly beautiful process of creating a custom typeface

cyxtera2

Connecting Worlds of Data

Reflecting a seamless experience of the marriage between our physical space and digital portal.

Read the Article
cyxtera2

Connecting Worlds of Data

Reflecting a seamless experience of the marriage between our physical space and digital portal.

killer-folios

Killer Folios

Your portfolio is a secret weapon for success...

Read the Article
killer-folios

Killer Folios

Your portfolio is a secret weapon for success...

i-saved-it

I Saved it

The never ending quest for design assets...

Read the Article
i-saved-it

I Saved it

The never ending quest for design assets...

designed-to-lead

Designed to Lead

Why designers belong where critical business decisions are being made...

Read the Article
designed-to-lead

Designed to Lead

Why designers belong where critical business decisions are being made...

bring-peace

Bring Peace

Coming together to intentionally build the future...

Read the Article
bring-peace

Bring Peace

Coming together to intentionally build the future...

creative-fluency

Creative Fluency

How we combine the superpowers of Gen-Zs and millennials

Read the Article
creative-fluency

Creative Fluency

How we combine the superpowers of Gen-Zs and millennials

designers-are-scary-interviewing

Designers are Scary! Interviewing

A recap of the second edition of our amazing event, Designers are Scary!

Read the Article
designers-are-scary-interviewing

Designers are Scary! Interviewing

A recap of the second edition of our amazing event, Designers are Scary!

my-creative-marathon

My Creative Marathon

5 Marathon Training Lessons That Apply to Your Craft

Read the Article
my-creative-marathon

My Creative Marathon

5 Marathon Training Lessons That Apply to Your Craft

vulnerable-brilliance

Vulnerable Brilliance

Cultivating creativity and innovation for the long-term

Read the Article
vulnerable-brilliance

Vulnerable Brilliance

Cultivating creativity and innovation for the long-term

think-mobile

Think Mobile

Designing for the ultimate mobile experience? essential tips to keep in mind.

Read the Article
think-mobile

Think Mobile

Designing for the ultimate mobile experience? essential tips to keep in mind.

design-for-good

Design For Good

Design goes beyond looking good or being trendy...

Read the Article
design-for-good

Design For Good

Design goes beyond looking good or being trendy...

peridot

Explore the Adventurer within

Bridging the gap between the virtual and physical world, one adorable pet at a time.

Read the Article
peridot

Explore the Adventurer within

Bridging the gap between the virtual and physical world, one adorable pet at a time.

just-my-type

Just My Type

How typography helps you pass the vibe check

Read the Article
just-my-type

Just My Type

How typography helps you pass the vibe check

the-value-of-celebrating

The Value of Celebrating

Let’s do some high-fiving once in a while!

Read the Article
the-value-of-celebrating

The Value of Celebrating

Let’s do some high-fiving once in a while!

jbw2023

wunderbread

One week, one brilliant build to help you pass the daily vibe check.

Read the Article
jbw2023

wunderbread

One week, one brilliant build to help you pass the daily vibe check.

das-recap

Designers Are Scary! Recap

We hosted the first event in a free series designed to even the odds.

Read the Article
das-recap

Designers Are Scary! Recap

We hosted the first event in a free series designed to even the odds.

2023-internship

Hiring Summer Interns!

Want to spend your summer with a small studio?

Read the Article
2023-internship

Hiring Summer Interns!

Want to spend your summer with a small studio?

serendipity

Serendipity!

Most celebrated discoveries are happy accidents.

Read the Article
serendipity

Serendipity!

Most celebrated discoveries are happy accidents.

creativity-is-remixing

Creativity is Remixing

Every design is a remix of the past, present, and future.

Read the Article
creativity-is-remixing

Creativity is Remixing

Every design is a remix of the past, present, and future.

chokehold-of-9-5

The Chokehold of the 9-5

It's enough to drive you crazy if you let it!

Read the Article
chokehold-of-9-5

The Chokehold of the 9-5

It's enough to drive you crazy if you let it!

4-lessons-designers-can-learn-from-drag-queens

4 Lessons Designers Can Learn from Drag Queens

Let the music play!

Read the Article
4-lessons-designers-can-learn-from-drag-queens

4 Lessons Designers Can Learn from Drag Queens

Let the music play!

we-are-hiring

We're Hiring!

Hello, is it you we’re looking for?

Read the Article
we-are-hiring

We're Hiring!

Hello, is it you we’re looking for?

side-affects

Which Side Affects You?

An entry point for expanding our understanding of the Roe v. Wade overturn and its impact on fundamental human rights.

Read the Article
side-affects

Which Side Affects You?

An entry point for expanding our understanding of the Roe v. Wade overturn and its impact on fundamental human rights.

pet-department

Meet The Pet Department

Meet the four-legged members of the Pet Department!

Read the Article
pet-department

Meet The Pet Department

Meet the four-legged members of the Pet Department!

squrl

A Tendency for Tangents, Turned Studio Tool

An ever growing discovery engine to hold all the incredible creations we come across as a virtual studio.

Read the Article
squrl

A Tendency for Tangents, Turned Studio Tool

An ever growing discovery engine to hold all the incredible creations we come across as a virtual studio.

studio-office-hours

Studio Office Hours

Taking a look at our daily collaboration sessions

Read the Article
studio-office-hours

Studio Office Hours

Taking a look at our daily collaboration sessions

studio-retreat-2022-bring-peace

Studio Retreat 2022Bring Peace

a small studio’s first retreat! Together we reflected on what it means to bring peace.

Read the Article
studio-retreat-2022-bring-peace

Studio Retreat 2022Bring Peace

a small studio’s first retreat! Together we reflected on what it means to bring peace.

what-goes-into-building-a-design-studio

What Goes Into Building A Design Studio?

What are the key building blocks of a small studio?

Read the Article
what-goes-into-building-a-design-studio

What Goes Into Building A Design Studio?

What are the key building blocks of a small studio?

creatorplus

The Future of Storytelling

A first-of-its-kind movie experience that brings you closer to the creators than ever before.

Read the Article
creatorplus

The Future of Storytelling

A first-of-its-kind movie experience that brings you closer to the creators than ever before.

cyxtera

Taking Data Centers Digital

Making data centers more accessible and actionable for remote managers and digital natives.

Read the Article
cyxtera

Taking Data Centers Digital

Making data centers more accessible and actionable for remote managers and digital natives.

dose

Building DOSE in 5 Days

Amidst one of the largest political awakenings, we paused all normal business operations to build DOSE.

Read the Article
dose

Building DOSE in 5 Days

Amidst one of the largest political awakenings, we paused all normal business operations to build DOSE.

sparkthink

Putting the Spark Back in Consulting

An ecosystem of online tools designed to amplify the process of discovery.

Read the Article
sparkthink

Putting the Spark Back in Consulting

An ecosystem of online tools designed to amplify the process of discovery.

shearshare

Connecting the Beauty Industry

Connecting salon & barbershop owners with all beauty professionals.

Read the Article
shearshare

Connecting the Beauty Industry

Connecting salon & barbershop owners with all beauty professionals.

fizzbuzz

Turning Dreamers Into Doers

An online, after-school, technology program designed to catalyze your growth.

Read the Article
fizzbuzz

Turning Dreamers Into Doers

An online, after-school, technology program designed to catalyze your growth.

our-remote-office-guide

Our Remote Office

We’ve been operating as a Remote studio since 2020 and this is what we've found works.

Read the Article
our-remote-office-guide

Our Remote Office

We’ve been operating as a Remote studio since 2020 and this is what we've found works.

how-about-efficiency-being-about-something-other-than-revenue

A Switch That Flicked

The long story of a small realization.

Read the Article
how-about-efficiency-being-about-something-other-than-revenue

A Switch That Flicked

The long story of a small realization.

what-our-week-looks-like

What Our Weeks Look Like

Always adapting, and always a work in-progress.

Read the Article
what-our-week-looks-like

What Our Weeks Look Like

Always adapting, and always a work in-progress.

my-productivity-playlists

My “Productivity” Playlists

We all have different methods for tapping into our productivity.

Read the Article
my-productivity-playlists

My “Productivity” Playlists

We all have different methods for tapping into our productivity.

why-we-should-always-define-the-words-we-use

Why We Should Always Define the Words We Use

When I first came to a small studio, it felt like I was learning to speak a new language.

Read the Article
why-we-should-always-define-the-words-we-use

Why We Should Always Define the Words We Use

When I first came to a small studio, it felt like I was learning to speak a new language.

how-to-work-with-us

How To Work With Us

Never business as usual.

Read the Article
how-to-work-with-us

How To Work With Us

Never business as usual.

who-is-a-small-studio

Who is a small studio?

We’re a collection of creatives using our gifts to bring peace to people’s lives.

Read the Article
who-is-a-small-studio

Who is a small studio?

We’re a collection of creatives using our gifts to bring peace to people’s lives.

first-impressions

First Impressions

I first came across a small studio the night of December 25th, 2020.

Read the Article
first-impressions

First Impressions

I first came across a small studio the night of December 25th, 2020.

our-newest-sr-designer-jane

Our Newest Sr. Designer, Jane!

Promoting Jane!

Read the Article
our-newest-sr-designer-jane

Our Newest Sr. Designer, Jane!

Promoting Jane!

mari-tautimes

More Than Family Business

A reimagined brand focused on lifting women higher in life and business.

Read the Article
mari-tautimes

More Than Family Business

A reimagined brand focused on lifting women higher in life and business.

welcome-sarah

Welcome Sarah!

We Hired Sarah!

Read the Article
welcome-sarah

Welcome Sarah!

We Hired Sarah!

asu

A Bridge to Sustainable, Impactful Action

Building a digital experience for the passionate team behind sustainability solutions that have a global impact.

Read the Article
asu

A Bridge to Sustainable, Impactful Action

Building a digital experience for the passionate team behind sustainability solutions that have a global impact.

tayne-experiment

Leading By Experiment

The only influencer platform that leads by experiment with extra-ordinary experiences.

Read the Article
tayne-experiment

Leading By Experiment

The only influencer platform that leads by experiment with extra-ordinary experiences.

webflow-virtual-world-tour

Webflow Virtual World Tour

Following the launch of our project DOSE, John gave a talk at the Webflow World Virtual World Tour.

Read the Article
webflow-virtual-world-tour

Webflow Virtual World Tour

Following the launch of our project DOSE, John gave a talk at the Webflow World Virtual World Tour.

dose-showcased-by-webflow

DOSE Showcased by Webflow

Webflow shared the project with their audience of nearly 100,000 Twitter followers.

Read the Article
dose-showcased-by-webflow

DOSE Showcased by Webflow

Webflow shared the project with their audience of nearly 100,000 Twitter followers.

salt-athletic

When Fashion Meets Hygienic Innovation

Bringing fresh style and innovation to the soccer community, with love.

Read the Article
salt-athletic

When Fashion Meets Hygienic Innovation

Bringing fresh style and innovation to the soccer community, with love.

ypos

A Landing Pad for Young Professionals

An engaged community of young professionals deserves a vibrant flag to wave.

Read the Article
ypos

A Landing Pad for Young Professionals

An engaged community of young professionals deserves a vibrant flag to wave.

voyce-threads

Standing for What You Believe In

Start meaningful conversations by showing off what’s on your feet.

Read the Article
voyce-threads

Standing for What You Believe In

Start meaningful conversations by showing off what’s on your feet.

Let’s talk strategy.

Schedule a call with our Identity Architect and see if it makes sense to work together.