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January 21, 2013

Your place or mine? The pros and cons of hiring an in-house designer

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While most professional sporting clubs understand the need to market themselves and interact with their audience far more than ever, the current economic climate is forcing them all to analyse not only the best ways to do this, but also the most cost-effective solutions.

We’re all smart enough these days to know that in the tough times you should promote yourself more, not less. So what do you do when the accountants and department heads tell you the marketing budget has been slashed (again!) this year?

Certainly the transition to using digital media over traditional printing for sales and marketing collateral and campaigns is an obvious cost saving method, both from a production and distribution point of view. However, for many organisations, this may not equate to huge savings, or even be a viable proposition at this stage.

So it’s not surprising that a growing trend over the past few years has been for sporting organisations to establish their own creative departments in-house. While the factors behind a move such as this are valid, sometimes the reasoning for doing so, and the outcomes can be flawed.

While it’s easy to make the figures stack up if your organisation is spending around $100,000 or more with their creative agencies, the costs associated with putting on a designer, on paper (where most accounting is done!), are significantly cheaper than this, so it’s a no-brainer, right?

However, when you analyse the real hourly rate of an in-house designer costs you – salary plus superannuation, hardware and software and other expenses divided by the actual time spent on creative execution (ie. not including time spent in meetings, admin, downtime, personal and annual leave) – the difference between that and what you might pay a creative agency isn’t as great as the theory suggests.

The hourly rate comes down if you hire a junior designer but obviously the amount and quality of work they can produce also reduces.

Couple this with the fact that most in-house designers get so inundated with requests from the various departments within an organisation, that they are unable to complete everything thrown at them within the required timeframes. The result usually being a dramatic decline in the quality of work being produced, or the need for an external creative agency for overflow work, or both!

Now the fact may be that the financial benefits are not the only reason an organisation would look at having their own creative department or designer. Especially with the increased amount of digital avenues available today, there is tremendous scope and opportunities to produce and deliver marketing material to your audience on a consistent basis.

The ability to turn around artwork quickly and even on the fly if necessary, is no doubt easier to facilitate if you have a designer sitting in the same office, who is employed to work exclusively for your brand.

However, as mentioned previously, an in-house designer can become so overwhelmed with quick jobs from various departments, that they still struggle to meet most deadlines, and also have no time to dedicate to the bigger projects. Not to mention they get sick and occasionally have to take leave they are entitled to! And nowadays there’s no such thing as an off-season in sport.

Creative agencies have a team of designers and production people (not just one designer) that should understand their client’s brand and that they can call on to not only get projects completed when they are required, but to also help with the overall direction and strategy of the organisation’s marketing and communication.

Experience also shows that creatives often become stale and find it difficult to “break the mould” and come up with new ideas and different styles after a period of time of working on the same brand day in, day out.

If the client isn’t satisfied with the personality or work being produced by a particular designer at an agency, they can be substituted or replaced, or given a range of diverse concepts from different designers to consider.

Another consideration that most people outside of the creative industry aren’t aware of is that every designer has particular strengths and weaknesses, so while your in-house guru may be great at laying out your Annual Yearbook, they may struggle when it comes to designing the simplest logo for your Kids’ Club, or have no idea how to construct an effective EDM template.

It is vitally important to establish what your organisation wishes to achieve by having an in-house designer and what they envisage that person being responsible for creating. As while there certainly are benefits in having your creative department onsite and part of the team, the key to it being a successful venture is to be aware of their limitations and not to throw the baby out with the bathwater – keep your creative agency close by for support.

There are several ways to go about it, if that’s the road your organisation wishes to take, and you just may find that those running your creative agency know a little about the process…


One Comment


  1. glenncritchley

    Great article Paul.



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