Guest Feature: In-House vs. Agency: The Smart Choice on Your Next Design Hire

Amrita Mathur

November 28, 2022

Guest Feature: In-House vs. Agency: The Smart Choice on Your Next Design Hire

The Juice is excited to share another piece in our guest feature series with, "In-House vs. Agency: The Smart Choice on Your Next Design Hire" from Superside. We will continue to share some of our favorite pieces of content from modern day brands. Stay tuned! 🧃

Choosing to Hire Design In House vs Agency: The Smart Choice

Overworked designers lead to design bottlenecks, poor morale and reduced quality.

Whether you're a marketer or a creative director, the solution is often hiring.

The question is should you hire in-house or use an agency?

In my time at Superside, after chatting and interviewing hundreds of creatives and marketers at scale-ups and enterprise teams, here's what I repeatedly hear:

  1. My in-house design team is overwhelmed. They're stuck in tactical design work, and I want them to focus on strategic, big-picture projects.
  2. My experience in hiring and retaining designers is slow and difficult. It takes time to find someone who aligns with the values you seek, more so if looking for someone with a full stack of design capabilities.
  3. I'm finding it cumbersome to find and manage pools of freelancers to add overflow capacity. It takes too much time and effort.
  4. I'm tired of the current agency solution.  Slow turnarounds, poor project management, and it's still so expensive.
  5. I’m stuck in chaos and unpredictability. Design planning and prioritization are overshadowing the actual work. Shouldn't there be a better way?

Sound familiar?

The good news: You already know that design matters. And, more importantly, the C-suite believes in the ROI of design and that you can afford to invest in more design resources.

The not-so-good news: If you're in this position, you know the design output is almost as important as how the work gets done. So, you’re weighing your options— hiring a design agency or an in-house designer (or maybe a freelancer, but the extra admin work and unreliability can be a pain (there is another option, we'll get there).

My advice: Instead of falling into the trap of what you need now, focus on your future.

Think about scalability, efficiency and affordablity.

Whatever or whoever you hire will significantly impact your brand, website, campaigns, product—and anything design touches.

An Extension of Your Design Team

Superside hires the top 1% of global design talent to staff your dedicated team so you can scale design with your company's ambitious growth.

What to consider when deciding between agency or in-house design resources

What are the Main Differences Between In-House vs. Agency Design Models?

An in-house design team knows your brand inside and out. They're part of the company culture and can make quick decisions when a fast turnaround is needed. They're a cost on payroll, may not offer all the capabilities you need and can't scale as you grow (at least not without hiring more people).

An agency takes the time to learn your brand to make recommendations. They're often expensive, with slower turnaround times, and, depending on the agency type, may not offer the full suite of services you require.

Spoiler alert: Often companies will use a combination of models. But, this outline should help you better understand the best option for your organization.

Option 1: Hiring In-House Designers


In many cases, hiring an in-house designer can feel like the "responsible” choice.

You're hiring designers who will, over time, know your brand inside and out and help to evolve it as your company grows. They'll become someone you can quickly tap for design advice and maybe (ideally) have a seat at the table, helping to guide significant business decisions.

Want to Build a High-Impact Design Team?

We interviewed five world-class creative directors to give you actionable frameworks to drive strategic thinking.

The pros of hiring in-house designers: Brand familiarity, accessibility, control and focus

The cons of hiring in-house designers: Capabilities, recruiting and retention

Why insurance startup Lemonade prefers in-house vs agency

For us, having people coming in day in and day out, working the problems, understanding what we’re trying to build, which is a lovable brand, is the right way to build the brand. Working with an agency is a much more transactional business. It’s usually time-based. You cut corners because there’s a certain budget, and you have to make due with what you have. In many cases, you get average work because [agencies] make due with what [they] have, and I don’t think that’s right for us.

Nuno Ferrerira, former head of Creative Marketing at Lemonade (source)

In-house design teams are great for:

Option 2: Hiring Design Agencies


As companies start to scale their design efforts, a popular option for many is to work with an agency to get outsourced designs, because:

The pros of hiring an agency: Quality, expertise and perspectives

The cons of hiring an agency: Speed, cost and inefficiencies

Why some companies choose agencies:

Option 3: The Agency Alternative—Superside

Superside is a creative-as-a-subscription (CaaS) service helping scale-ups and enterprise companies break through design bottlenecks, develop design systems, and ramp up design production.

You get a dedicated team, not a single designer, that includes world-class designers and a project manager to deliver high-quality creative assets quickly and cost-effectively.

Superside uses a DesignOps platform where you and your team can collaborate with your creative project manager and easily submit briefs, provide feedback and store your creative assets—stuff agencies don't really do outside the boardroom.

Trusted by brands like Meta, Google, Amazon and Shopify, Superside makes design frictionless and hassle-free, letting you unleash your creative capacity. We've delivered more than 50,000 projects, with 99.3% delivered on schedule.

Our process is smoother and more efficient because we handle the design process end-to-end—from managing design feedback to picking the right talent to do the job.

Superside has 700+ employees working across 57+ countries and 19+ time zones, giving you global perspectives and always-on design support.

We believe that innovative teams and companies care about design and understand it to be an essential part of their growth strategy. We also strive to consistently "explode the triangle" by delivering all three fronts: price, quality and speed.

The benefits of Superside:

Honestly, I was looking for agencies for about six months. Everything including traditional type agencies, email design agencies, and so on. Superside popped up one late night, and it just seemed to be the exact model that we were looking for. Someone who could help us scale and bring a lot of professional talent, too.

-Marc Vitulli, VP of Marketing at S&S Activewear

Read the S&S Activewear case study for more

Questions to ask yourself when deciding between in-house vs. agency:

  1. What are you trying to achieve in hiring for design? Is it leveling up your brand? You can hire a brand designer, but what about updating all your marketing collateral and touchpoints, from pitch decks to social ads? Rebranding doesn't stop after a brand guide. Or maybe you want high-quality assets reliably delivered with speed? A freelancer takes vacations; a design team provides backups. Do you need help to drive your creative vision? Nail down your why and goals before hiring a design agency or internally. With clear objectives, you can find the right partner to achieve your goals.
  2. Do you need industry relevance? While a local agency is convenient, they may be missing the big picture and valuable insights from working across multiple industries on a global scale. Look for a design solution with intimate knowledge of your industry and experience working with a company of your size.
  3. What matters more to your organization? Is it growing your internal design talent and having creative be close to your core functions? Or getting quality creative work done by folks who service clients for a living? Are you planning to grow—how will hiring an in-house designer scale? Do you need to hire a graphic designer, motion designer, or illustrator? What does your company look like in 5 years? Can your internal design team keep pace with the ever-changing landscape of design needs, especially in the ad space?
  4. What does their own content look like? While you can spend time on their portfolio, they'll only showcase their best. Spend some time on their social media channels and their blog, and attend an event or two—are all the marketing touchpoints aligned?
  5. Who are your primary decision-makers? Price, quality, speed, flexibility? Each option has its own strengths. Whatever you value most, make sure they can deliver on their promises.

If possible, investigate all possibilities before you make a final decision. You never know what will work until you try it.

If you'd like to learn more about how your team can keep up with the fast-changing world of creativity and design, book a call, and we’ll find a solution that works best for you

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