Confessions of an In-House Convert
This or That?
When I was studying graphic design in undergrad, we had a lot of conversations about career paths. One of the big questions we asked ourselves was whether we would prefer a job in-house or at an agency. Finding a job anywhere was the ultimate goal, but both scenarios came with their own pros and cons.
Agency Design vs. In-House Design
In school, most of the work we studied came from agency portfolios, so many of us dreamt of an agency role working on a team of talented creatives for a range of clients. However, these environments had reputations for being competitive with poor work-life balance. By contrast, the general perception of in-house design was that it would be easier to find a job after college, but the position would be less glamorous, working for one company with fewer creative peers and less project variety.
An Agency Baby
My hope was to work in the storied agency world, learning from industry vets and tackling all of the design media I could, from branding to print to digital to strategy. After graduation, I was fortunate to find that opportunity in a Richmond studio and at a few others since. In all, I’ve worked at four small creative agencies in Central Virginia, and thought the agency world would be my forever home—until I unexpectedly lost my job during COVID.
In-House Myths Busted
My luck began to change when an agency friend introduced me to Paigelee Chancellor, Nest Realty’s incredible Director of Design and Brand Strategy, who happened to be hiring. Since joining the HQ team, I’ve been pleasantly and consistently surprised by how wrong I was about in-house work. I’m now fortunate to design alongside a group of creative and strategic minds larger than any agency I’ve been at. While I specialize in all-things-digital, I still have ample opportunities to dabble in print, branding, and strategy.
If anything, working at the headquarters of a national franchise is more creatively stimulating than previous jobs I’ve held. One reason for this is the scalability of our design solutions. Questions the design team might ask ourselves include: How will this template be used by an agent? How will the deliverable be received by someone on their mailing list? How will it further both of their goals? How will it benefit the brokerage at the regional level? And how will we elevate Nest Realty’s national brand on the whole?
Another major trepidation about in-house work was the idea of serving one client, with one brand, on repeat projects year-after-year. I now see the benefits of this arrangement. For one, selling design services is a non-issue, and we never run out of projects in the pipeline. Lots of (often repeat) projects means we can better anticipate future needs, work to continually improve our process, and, ultimately, deliver a superior product.
Changing My Tune
Unlike agency designers, who spend a good chunk of time finding, educating, and appeasing one-off clients, we have the opportunity to build upon our brand season after season, investing years into improved design literacy and brand adoption across the entire Nest network. What’s more, we’re always encouraged to submit new ideas and contribute to the greater vision. Since being a part of this team, I’ve found that for the right person and the right company, in-house design can be an incredible fit. And at Nest, I feel right at home.