10 Tips for Succeeding as an In-House Designer

As part of a panel discussion hosted by RGD, design leaders Tina MacKenzie RGD (City of Mississauga), Kelly Nicoll (PwC Canada), Dianne Semark (MEC) and Wendy Millard RGD (Empire Life) shared insights and advice on the unique challenges and opportunities facing in-house creative teams. 

Top 10 In-House Insights 
  1. Be passionate about the work you're doing. "As an in-house designer, you should take advantage of the opportunity to really love what you do. We get the chance to work with a company we believe in and really get to know and connect with our audience on a personal level. That passion filters into our work." Dianne Semark 
  2. Be an expert on the company you work for. "It's important to recognize that, compared to external agencies, we know the organization best. We know how to navigate the executive levels. We know the stories and the goals within the organization, which allows us to be nimble problem-solvers." Tina Mackenzie RGD 
  3. Do more with less. "We don't have the whole broad world of visual expression available to us, which means we need to focus our design projects on experiences and stories. We have the unique opportunity, and benefit, of getting to work within a strong brand standard." Kelly Nicoll 
  4. Showcase what you have to offer. "We have to prove ourselves. It's our job to keep fighting to show how our resources as an in-house team are as capable, if not more, than what you can find externally." Wendy Millard RGD 
  5. ...Both within the company and externally. "Entering work into design competitions provides an opportunity for more people to see the great work that we're doing. It helps generate interest among potential employees and helps validate your team's position at the table for more strategic work within an organization." Tina Mackenzie RGD
  6. Leverage your access to achieve better results. "A collaborative process where our client is on the floor below us means that we can talk to them about the issues we're facing and try to problem solve together." Dianne Semark 
  7. Create a team with diverse skills. "Developing a roster of talent that includes writing, creative, video and marketing makes it possible to stay on top of the branding and the brand story within the larger communications goals of the company. Integrating these skill sets into the in-house team is something to work toward." Tina Mackenzie RGD 
  8. Recognize the value of a strong brand, and know how to work within it. "When hiring, I look for an in-house sensibility; someone who has worked closely with a single client for an extended period of time and can show that they enjoy working within a strong brand. Someone who has an appreciation for the story-driven aspects of design will be the best fit." Kelly Nicoll
  9. Be an equal contributor to the company's goals. "We use the word business partner rather than internal client. To collaborate best, we have to be on the same level." Wendy Millard RGD  
  10. Don't underestimate the importance of relationship-building. "The more respect and trust the creative team can build with the rest of the company, the more chance our team will have to be accepted as a partner and a co-business creator." Kelly Nicoll  
To watch the full panel discussion, visit the Members Only section
Attend RGD's next webinar panel discussion on in-house design on September 15. Register here.
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