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In-house designers vs Agency: Pros, Cons & Recommendations

A designer is a creative individual that develops a company’s image, they play a vital role in how the public perceives a business or brand.  And because of this, they can make or break a business.

If you are about to add a designer to your business, you can hire an in-house designer or approach a design agency.

In this post, we will get into the nitty-gritty of designers. We will talk about in-house designers. And we will pit them against designers from a design agency.

This way, you can understand which is the better option for you.

In-house designers

An in-house designer works exclusively for your business. When on duty, they will manage the branding activities of your business.

This section will discuss the pros and cons of hiring an in-house designer.

Pros of in-house designers

More connected to the team and company culture

In-house designers work for your company, which means like any employee they have a sense of belonging. Not only does this give them time to understand the company culture and core values, but it also allows them to be part of the team.

Understanding the core values of a company is helpful for designers as it will give them the ability to create a brand image that accurately represents the business. Having someone permanent also means that the branding will be cohesive and consistent.

Greater sense of ownership

An in-house designer is not a freelancer. They are not working on a one-time project, instead they are dedicated to helping your business on a longer term basis.

Due to this, it is likely that there will be an increased sense of ownership and a high-level of focus.

And with this degree of concentration comes the knowledge that their creations directly impact a product, service, or company.

In-depth understanding of customers and brand

Ensuring everyone that works with or for your business has a good understanding of your customers is essential, and this extends to designers.

Designers who know your brand and inside and out can create designers that speak to your target audience. Designs that show an understanding of consumer needs are likely to improve customer retention.

Cons of in-house designers

Limited knowledge and capabilities

Most companies require different designers to satisfy a specific design. It’s impossible for one person to be an expert in all areas and this can limit the possibilities.

A drawback of having an in-house designer is that you only have access to the professional you have hired, rather than a group of experienced designers as you would find at an agency.

Design needs fluctuate throughout the year

Companies have design needs that can be challenging to meet. This  type of fluctuation is a drawback for both the company and the designer.

For the company it can be hard to hire someone knowing their employee journey at your company will be quite short. Consequently, it affects retention and can cause your designer to look for other opportunities.

A fast turnaround in designers is not ideal for any business as it can negatively impact employee morale and comes with lots of time consuming processes, such as exit interviews.

Hiring is time-consuming

Image source

Hiring takes time. According to Statista,  it can take up to 41 days.

Its time-consuming nature is a drawback because it can cause a company to invest too much time. And it’s time that they can invest in other operational areas instead.

Agency designers

An agency designer works for a design agency. They help the clients of an agency with visual communication.

In this section, we will discuss the pros and cons of hiring agency designers.

Pros of agency designers

Varied knowledge and capabilities

If you hire a designer from a design agency, you can access a pool of vetted and talented designers. It gives your business an advantage because you can always expect high-quality work.

For example, you want to hire a sketch artist to create caricature-like illustrations for a product. What you should do is go to a design agency. This way, it can hook you up with the best sketch artist in its lineup.

Fresh perspective

It’s easy to follow the daily routine of your business. On one hand, it can reward you with consistent value. On another hand, it sets you up for an unexciting and repetitive way of doing things.

If you outsource your design needs from an agency, you open your door to a new person — someone who sees matters differently. With this person on your team, you can approach things differently. You may even begin seeing a better way of handling your operations.

Flexibility throughout the year

Hiring a design agency means your design needs can change throughout the year. But, you can still expect quality work delivered to you.

A benefit of this? It allows you to focus on the design needs of your company — and not on giving a designer something to do.Cons of agency designers

Cons of agency designers


Working with agency designers can be costly, though. It’s reasonable considering they still have to allocate a project fee to a design agency. Besides, accessing a talent base is not cheap.

The cost of design agencies can be a drawback for businesses working on a tight budget.

Lack of understanding of customers and brand values

Agencies have less understanding of the customers and brand values of business because they are not actively involved in all business processes. They may have a pivotal role in the way a business is perceived but they often lack a deeper understanding of the target market and customers.

Slow turnaround in work

A design agency, especially an established agency, may have many clients.

It may prioritize the projects of other businesses depending on its availability, a first-come-first-serve basis, and other factors. This could mean that the turnaround on work is much slower than that of an in-house designer.

The time it takes to complete work has an overall impact on the business so this is something to keep in mind when working with agencies.

Questions to ask to help you decide between an in-house and an agency designer

What is the business goal for hiring a designer?

Determine what you want to achieve in hiring a designer. It’s the most vital question you can ask on this subject. It helps draw your attention to the unique value that an in-house or agency designer can bring.

The unique value that an in-house designer can bring is they can coordinate and collaborate more effectively with everyone else in your business. They are also in a better position where you can help them develop a good understanding of your brand. And they can use it as the basis for the work you assign them moving forward.

Meanwhile, the unique value that an agency design team can give you is that you can count on it to provide you with an expert in a specific field. If you want someone to work on a 3D design catalog, an agency can recommend the ideal specialist.

How much work does the business anticipate having for a designer over the next year?

If your business will assign consistent work to a designer from now until the upcoming year, the better option is an in-house designer.

You can keep them busy with constant work, and you can have peace of mind knowing that someone is on call to work on your projects.

Meanwhile, if your business is not about to assign design-related projects over the next year, the ideal choice is an agency designer. Because they work for an agency (and not for your business), you have no obligation to provide them with work.

What are the primary decision-making factors for your business?

Many businesses consider these decision-making factors: quality, speed, and flexibility.

If you choose an in-house designer, they can only excel at two factors: quality and speed. They can provide quality work at a fast turnaround time. They may not be as flexible as an agency designer, though.

Meanwhile, if you go with an agency designer, you can also rely on them to deliver quality work. And like an in-house designer, they can only excel at two factors for you: quality and flexibility. They can make themselves available for your project.

Can you communicate effectively and easily with the designer?

Communicating with an in-house designer is more effective. It's also easy compared to talking to an agency designer.

With an in-house designer, you will have no problems reaching them to raise concerns about your project. If you want to revise their work, you can bring it to their immediate attention.

You cannot say the same about agency designers, though. Because they do not work in the work setting you provided, you may not reach them with ease. If you want them to rectify issues with a project, you will need to approach the agency first. Then, the agency will be the one to reach out to them.


Working with an in-house designer or one from an agency comes with advantages and disadvantages. This professional can create work that will have a direct influence on your brand directly.

Your next move is up to you and your design needs. Refer to the discussions above to make a well-informed decision.

Pics.io Team
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