It depends. Different types of businesses have different needs. A large or medium-sized business can probably afford to keep an in-house designer on hand to produce all their visuals, and it would make sense. Small businesses and those with no design competencies may find it makes more financial sense to get the services of a digital design company.
When businesses reach a certain size and scale, they will often need to create a lot of visual assets for print and web. This is even truer if they have a marketing strategy that is heavily centered around social media or video.
Smaller businesses, on the other hand, may not be able to justify having a designer or design team completely in-house for several reasons. It’s almost inevitable that people working in smaller businesses will have to wear multiple hats. While this has plenty of advantages for both employees and employers, this can be a detriment to the mastery of the design disciplines creative workers are hired for.
Even without taking a business’s size into account, a designer working in an agency will tend to be focused on tasks directly related to design compared to most in-house designers. Unless the company is involved with some aspects of design production themselves, their in-house creatives will usually work on fewer projects that will allow them to make full use of their capabilities.
Generally, you shouldn’t rely on an in-house designer if more than one of the following applies to you:
Your business is not design-centric
While all brands can benefit from good design and visuals, some businesses just need it more. Fashion and tech-related businesses, for instance, will need well-designed assets more often than law firms or accountants.
You only have a small number of employees
We already touched on this earlier. Smaller companies will tend to put designers in roles that are not directly related to design. This can be unfair to them if they intend to specialize in their field, and you may not be able to completely use their skills if they are constantly being made to do unrelated work.
You don’t have the budget to equip or pay them properly
If you can’t afford to pay for a full-time designer, your best option will be to take the services of a design agency. With a full-time in-house designer, you will have to ensure that you have the means to give them all the tools they need to help you succeed. Design companies, on the other hand, already have the necessary tools on hand, so you can get them started almost immediately.
You only need a low volume of assets
If you run a B2B business, for instance, you may need a much lower volume of images, videos, and print compared to a business that primarily does B2C. In these cases, it may not make a lot of financial sense early on to hire a full-time designer.
These situations shouldn’t be the only way to determine if an in-house designer will be right for your business. If you’re in doubt, though, there are always plenty of digital design agencies that could provide you with the assets you need when you need them.