Deciding whether to employ a design team or hire a product design agency for your next project is not an easy decision.  The company making the decision will have to assess themselves honestly and choose the direction that best suits their brand, product, and current circumstances.

An in-house design team are seen as brand professionals, weathered with company experience and laden with knowledge of the standards and needs specific to their industry.

In-house teams cut the fuss, frills and exhaustion (not to mention the cost) of dealing with an external Design Agency. Having said that, in-house teams can get tunnel-visioned on designs, and often lack the breadth of resources and diversity of angles that an external team can bring to a design.  Below I will outline the benefits and risks of each group.

 

The In-House Design Team

Benefits

It’s a quick turn around: Countless hours are spent studying customer needs and desires for a product, not to mention the hours spent redrafting and adjusting the design over the process of getting it to a prototype. An in-house design team are already specialised in your company’s business and user goals, and know exactly what product user experience you’re after. An in-house team is onsite and on-demand. They work tirelessly for your company full-time.

It’s a great investment in your brand: A good design team is an investment of both time and education with the end result of a brand and product master. Employees such as these live, breath and dream the brand they are representing, they know the brand inside-and-out and can seamlessly incorporate that brand identity into the products they create. Companies are willing to invest this time and money into these employees as they rely on product masters and know they will be around for a few years.

 

Risks

A company’s culture can sometimes box a design team in: An in-house design team, like all other employees, are subjected to office norms, routines, company goals and everyday office culture. This is not a bad thing- but it can be limiting when a company’s culture mandates a certain amount of red tape to projects, or insists on certain procedures and expectations of its employees. Very quickly, red tape and office politics can get in the way of the design process, and can affect the efficiency and creative potential of the team.

The financial risk of becoming tunnel visioned: It is not uncommon for in-house designers to become so immersed in the projects they work on, that they fixate on trivial details that draw their focus away from the project. In order to regain a fresh perspective, many designers seek opinions from outside sources. Although, when you have already hired an in-house team, seeking a new perspective can mean paying double for the one project. This is one of the biggest reasons companies invest in external Design Agencies from the start.

Speaking of paying double: the cost of hiring a designer to work in-house does not stop at their salary. The essential software, hardware, office space, and any other resources needed to accomplish their task can add up. In the design world, when your average 3D printer is at least $30,000 + maintenance, it makes no sense to acquire these resources for one project. Your average design firm have these resources at the ready.

 

The Design Agency

Design Agencies typically have people who specialize in all aspects of the design process, be it project management, concept development, user experience, user interface, engineering, a design agency will be able to cover all aspects of the project.

Benefits

Clarity and diversity of thought: While in-house teams work within the parameters of company brand ideals, external design teams are at an arms length of this. It is their job to approach the design concept from multiple angles, even if it means challenging the scope of the project. Although they may not be instant brand/product professionals they have the training to learn quickly and can often have the resources, skills and drive to dig deeper than the company’s own staff.

Quality assurance: Never look at the project fee as a one-man hiring charge. Your project receives the attention of a team of qualified designers with knowledge and expertise covering all stages of the design process. You also have access to a wide range of resources, which would otherwise be extremely expensive to acquire.

Remember that design agencies are driven prestige through enhancing portfolio recognition and winning awards. This happens by executing quality after quality. Therefore, it is in no good design agency’s interest to produce poor quality.

 

Risks

R&D will take more time, effort and money: Although the agency may be able to “dig deeper” they accomplish this through a lengthy research stage of the project. Within this stage the agency is able to get up to speed with their client’s business and gain insights into the project. When time is money and where knowledge is very niche, contracting out a design team can be a long and expensive process. Assuring quality is peace of mind.

 

However…

A quick turn-around is good for business: so the quicker the project is finished and signed off by the client, the faster the business can be paid so more work can be acquired. Experience and resources means R&D can be done right, done smart, and done quickly. Looking for an agency with a good track record is a must when going down this path.

 

Final Thoughts

When it comes to design, you get what you pay for. Be it in-house, a design agency, a freelancer, or an intern. When starting a project think sustainably, think of it as an investment, and make a decision based on the brand and direction of your company and its product.

If you are interested in seeing how B.Product can help you with your next project contact us now.