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The Secrets of Success from In-house Experts

The Secrets of Success from In-house Experts

Our London office recently hosted the fifth event in the ‘Good To Great’ series. The event, in association with Make Your Words Work, showcased how in-house design teams are structured and the work they are producing. We featured amazing speakers from Savills, Wellcome Trust, NSPCC, London Transport Museum and The Discovery Channel, each talking about how they run their in-house teams and giving advice on how you can take yours from good to great.


Despite all the teams at the event being structured differently, there was one thing they all agreed on - freelancers! In-house design teams can be small and have limited resources, so it makes sense to hire freelancers to help share the workload. Your team is expected to work on all projects for the client, whether that is a big campaign or an internal comms newsletter, and it can be difficult to allocate tasks. As Marianne Dear, from Wellcome Trust, reminds us - not everybody is good at everything. So, why not hire a freelance Motion Designer or Infographic Expert for a specific project. Or outsource some of your smaller jobs, leaving your team to work on the more fun campaigns. Sau-Fun Mo from London Transport Museum takes this one step further and works almost solely with freelancers. Her in-house team is made up of only two full time permanent members of staff, and she hires freelancers on a project by project basis as and when she needs them. This allows her to build up a pool of freelance Talent that she can call on, and means that all her projects have a fresh and original feel. Her regular freelancers all have systems knowledge and brand understanding, so no training is needed and there is a mixture of experience levels available, so it is easy to scale up or down as needed for the specific project. This can also be a more cost effective way of working, depending on the full time packages your company offers.


Along with Excel, timesheets is one of the dirtiest words in an in-house studio. However, many teams use them as a great way of tracking work and time spent on a project. It can be a hardsell for your team, especially if they have come from an agency background and were very pleased to never have to complete one again! However, as Sau-Fun points out, timesheets are not about controlling your designers and more about managing your client’s demands. They can be used for an end of project report or to estimate for future jobs, and they are an easy way of showing your client exactly how much time was spent on individual aspects of the project. They provide you with evidence to take to a client that shows if their amends have caused delays. They are also a great way of tracking what resources are missing from your team. By measuring how much time is spent on different jobs, you can see where any skills gaps are. If your team spends a large proportion of their time on one aspect of their role, then you could look into hiring additional Talent to cover that area.

Studio Management

Joanne Du Plessis gave a fantastic talk on how best to manage your in-house studio. She spoke about the importance of having a process, but also striking a balance so that your team feel they have the freedom to be creative. Having a solid and basic process is best. It is important to allow flexibility, but set parameters in order to give your studio focus. She also stressed that it’s essential to understand the different approaches of creative and corporate within your team. Corporates tend to be very singular and process driven, whereas the creatives in your team will have different methods for every section of their work. They will need more time to consider options and try ideas, meaning that it is imperative to ensure all briefs come in with plenty of lead time if you are expecting exceptional results. The creative program suite is also very different from corporate applications, and this requires constant upskilling. It is important to make sure your designers have access to training where needed. This will also help with progression in their role and keep them engaged in their work. Another way to do this is creative days out. This could be a talk or seminar or even a city tour. Exploring outside stimulus is a great way to get your team feeling creatively refreshed and inspire new ideas. The internal environment of your studio can be just as influential though. Try to create a workplace that is open and encourages debate, discussion and expression. Having a collaborative team will ensure that all work is to the highest standard, always have at least two designers on each project so they can bounce ideas.

Over the course of the evening, we heard from in-house teams of all different shapes and sizes and the message was clear -  there is no correct way to structure your team, it is all about finding a formula that works for you. We have experience working with all of the different team structures, so whatever your team needs in the way of Talent we are here to help, even if just for some hiring advice.

If your in-house team is already great then our Inhouse Rockstars Awards is your chance to show it! We’ll be recognising the best in-house talent and celebrating the fantastic work you’re doing. Stay tuned for more information, and in the meantime register your interest at

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