Design subscriptions vs in-house designers: which is better?

Design subscriptions vs in-house designers: which is better?

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5 min read
Design subscriptions vs in-house designers: which is better?

Every successful business requires a strong brand built upon perfect design, which demands an effective creative process. It differentiates you from competitors and communicates who you are to clients on sight alone. 

From creating a captivating web design and website development to eye-catching graphic design and social media ads, businesses rely heavily on effective design to capture the attention of their target audience. 

In fact, according to Forrester, in a paper commissioned by Adobe, they found that 41% of design-forward businesses obtain a more significant market share, and over half report a more loyal customer base! 

However, when it comes to obtaining high-quality creative assets, two main options are available nowadays: design subscriptions and in-house designers.

Each approach has its merits and drawbacks. Deciding which one is better is a complex and pivotal consideration for the creative vision of your business.

In this blog, we'll dive into the differences and advantages of each and help you discover which is best for your business. 

The benefits of design subscriptions

Design subscriptions have gained significant popularity in recent years due to their convenience and affordability. With subscriptions, businesses can access various design services for a fixed monthly fee. 

What to expect when partnering with a design agency

Services from a subscription-based design agency often include graphic design, website design, branding, and more. One of the critical benefits of subscriptions is the flexibility they offer while having full access to professional designers.

You can work with design teams to handle multiple requests and fulfill needs as complex as web development or as simple (but vital) as logo design.

Businesses can quickly scale their basic graphic design needs up or down, depending on their requirements. This makes design subscriptions particularly useful for startups, small businesses, or businesses with fluctuating design needs.

Design subscription platforms typically have a curated team of graphic designers who specialize in various design areas. 

Unsplash+ In collaboration with Andrej Lišakov

This means businesses can tap into diverse design expertise, ensuring high-quality and professional results. Additionally, design subscription services often provide a fast turnaround time, allowing businesses to meet their design needs efficiently.

The flexibility factor of creative design services

Let's delve deeper into the flexibility aspect of subscriptions. Imagine you are a startup that has just launched its website. Initially, you may only require a few design assets to establish your brand identity.

However, as your business grows and evolves, you must revamp your website, create new marketing materials, or design engaging social media graphics.

With subscription design services, you can adapt to these changing needs without the hassle of negotiating new contracts or searching for an individual graphic designer.

Design subscriptions offer cost-effective solutions for businesses, including pricing plans. Hiring a full-time in-house designer can be expensive, especially for small businesses or startups with limited budgets.

Additional benefits to professional design services

Outsourcing graphic design projects to a freelance designer can be time-consuming and unpredictable. Subscription-based design services provide a middle ground, offering access to an experienced, dedicated team at a fraction of the cost of hiring a full-time employee.

This allows businesses to allocate their resources more efficiently and invest in other areas of their operations.

Furthermore, subscription service platforms often provide additional benefits to their subscribers. These can include access to design resources, such as stock photos, templates, and fonts, saving businesses time and money.

Some platforms also offer project management tools, allowing businesses to collaborate seamlessly with designers and keep track of a design project in one centralized location. These added features enhance the overall user experience and streamline the design process for businesses and their creative teams.

To sum it up, a design subscription service offers a range of benefits for businesses looking for a convenient and cost-effective solution to a design project. The flexibility, access to talented designers, and additional platform features make the subscription model attractive for startups, small businesses, and those with fluctuating design needs.

By subscribing to a design service, businesses can focus on their core operations while leaving their design requirements in the hands of professionals.

The advantages of in-house designers

While design subscriptions offer convenience and flexibility, there are unique advantages to having an in-house design team. An in-house team refers to having dedicated design teams on the payroll. They are an employee of the company.

One of the main benefits of in-house designers is the level of control and customization they provide. By having designers on-site, businesses can closely collaborate with them, ensuring that their vision and brand identity are accurately reflected in the designs.

In-house design teams also deeply understand the company's values, culture, and target audience, which can result in more cohesive and impactful designs.

What to expect from in-house design teams

In-house design teams offer greater availability and responsiveness, especially for urgent requirements. With an internal design team working exclusively for the company, there is no need to wait for design submissions or revisions from external sources.

This can significantly expedite the creative process and enable businesses to quickly adapt to changing market trends or time-sensitive campaigns. Having internal designers also allows for seamless integration and communication with other departments, fostering a collaborative work environment.

Having an internal designer or team grants the opportunity for continuous improvement and growth. In-house designers have the advantage of being immersed in the company's day-to-day operations, allowing them to stay up-to-date with the latest industry trends and techniques.

They can attend company meetings, interact with different teams, and gain valuable insights into the company's goals and objectives. This firsthand knowledge enables in-house teams to create designs that are not only visually appealing but also aligned with the company's overall strategy.

In-house design teams and long-term relationships

In-house designers can build long-term relationships with the company's stakeholders. By working closely with various departments, such as marketing, sales, and product development, in-house teams can understand their specific needs and tailor their designs accordingly.

This level of collaboration fosters trust and ensures that the designs produced are aesthetically pleasing and effective in achieving the desired outcomes. They can also work hand-in-hand with marketing teams without needing a go-between.

Via Unsplash+ In collaboration with Andrej Lišakov

So, while design subscriptions offer convenience, having an in-house design team offers businesses unique advantages. The level of control, customization, availability, and responsiveness provided by in-house teams can greatly enhance the design process and enable businesses to adapt quickly to market demands.

Additionally, the opportunity for continuous improvement and building long-term relationships with stakeholders further solidifies the value of having an in-house design team.

Comparing and contrasting: Design subscriptions vs an in-house designer

Let's lay out the critical differences between these design services so you can choose which is right for your specific needs.

Counting the cost: Which is the most cost-effective solution?

One of the critical factors in deciding between design subscriptions and in-house designers is the cost. When it comes to graphic design, getting subscriptions typically offers a fixed monthly fee, providing predictable and manageable expenses.

This can be particularly beneficial for businesses with limited budgets, as it eliminates the need for upfront investments or ongoing salary expenses. Additionally, subscriptions often provide access to a wide range of design services, making them a cost-effective option for businesses that require diverse design outputs.

On the other hand, a dedicated design team involves more significant financial commitments typically reserved for enterprise companies. Businesses must consider the costs of hiring, onboarding, and retaining a dedicated designer or design team.

Be sure to factor in salaries, benefits, and equipment expenses, which are ongoing costs that must be factored into the budget.

While having an in-house design team can be more costly, it offers exclusive access to dedicated designers who can focus solely on the company's design needs, potentially resulting in more tailored and bespoke designs.

Flexibility and scalability: Design subscriptions

Another advantage of outsourcing graphic design over in-house designers is flexibility and scalability. Businesses can easily adjust their subscription plan based on their changing design requests.

Whether it's increasing design output during a product launch, packaging design, presentation design, or scaling back during a slower period, design subscriptions allow you to adapt quickly without hiring or downsizing staff. This level of agility can be particularly valuable for businesses in industries with seasonal demand or rapidly changing market conditions.

Scalability is also a key consideration. As businesses grow, their design requirements might evolve and expand.

Design subscription services often offer tiered plans catering to different design needs. This scalability means businesses can seamlessly upgrade their subscription to access more extensive design services or additional design deliverables, such as a motion designer for animations or video editing.

As a result, design subscriptions enable an optimal user experience by scaling their design capabilities in line with the growth trajectory.

Quality and consistency: In-house designers

In-house design teams have a clear advantage when ensuring top-notch design quality and consistency.

By working closely with the company's brand guidelines and design standards, in-house teams can consistently produce designs that align with the corporate identity and vision. This familiarity with the company's branding ensures a cohesive and unified visual presence across all design assets.

Furthermore, an in-house design team has a deeper understanding of the company's target audience and industry.

They will likely be more familiar with the industry's design trends, brand identity design, and competitors, enabling them to create designs that stand out and resonate with the target audience.

This intimate knowledge can result in designs that effectively convey the company's message and capture the intended audience's attention.

Turnaround and workload management

When meeting tight deadlines and managing workload effectively, both design subscriptions and in-house designers have their strengths.

Subscription-based design services often pride themselves on their fast turnaround times (like same-day turnaround), as they have a pool of designers who can quickly jump on new projects. This can be advantageous for businesses that require rapid design outputs or have tight project timelines.

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

On the other hand, in-house designers offer more control over the design process. This allows for more efficient workflow management and easier prioritization of projects.

In-house teams can align tasks with other departments, ensuring smooth collaboration and minimizing potential bottlenecks. Furthermore, being physically present within the company allows a designated designer to quickly adapt to changing priorities or respond to last-minute design requests.

Collaborative workflow: Design subscriptions vs in-house designers

Collaboration plays a crucial role in design systems, and the degree to which businesses can collaborate effectively can impact the quality and success of the final designs. Design subscriptions and in-house designers have different collaborative workflows.

A design service typically involves a more transactional workflow, where businesses submit design briefs, provide feedback, and receive the final designs.

While some platforms offer communication channels, the level of interaction with the designers may be limited. This streamlined approach can benefit businesses that prefer a hands-off approach or require minimal involvement in the design process.

In contrast, in-house teams offer a more integrated and collaborative workflow. They can closely work with various departments, allowing for ongoing communication, brainstorming sessions, and iterative design processes.

This collaborative environment often leads to designs that better align with the company's goals and stakeholders' input. However, it is essential to note that effective collaboration relies on clear communication channels and efficient project management, regardless of whether the designers are in-house or external.

Long-term vs short-term commitment: Design subscriptions

Another crucial aspect is the commitment involved in design subscriptions versus in-house designers. Design subscriptions' flexibility allows businesses to engage in short-term contracts or opt for month-to-month subscriptions.

This level of adaptability allows businesses to evaluate the effectiveness of design services without a long-term commitment, as they can cancel anytime.

It also offers the flexibility to adjust or discontinue the subscription if the design needs to change or if the services do not meet expectations. Subscription services thrive off of customer satisfaction.

On the other hand, hiring in-house designers requires a long-term commitment. Businesses must carefully consider their ongoing design needs and forecast the future demand for design services.

Hiring and training in-house designers can be lengthy, and terminating the employment relationship can result in additional costs and potential disruption to the design workflow.

Making the right choice for your business: Summing up the factors to consider

Choosing between design subscriptions and in-house designers is not a one-size-fits-all decision. Various factors need to be considered to make an informed choice that aligns with the unique needs and goals of the business. Some of the critical factors to consider include:

  • Scalability requirements
  • Nature and frequency of design needs
  • Budget and financial resources available
  • Level of control and collaboration desired
  • The need for customization and brand alignment
  • Long-term design strategy and forecasted growth

By evaluating these factors and conducting a thorough analysis of the specific design requirements, businesses can make a decision that optimizes their design capabilities and supports their overall business objectives.

Conclusion: Choosing a dedicated design team for your graphic design needs

Design subscriptions and in-house designers each have their own advantages and disadvantages. The decision of which option is better depends on the unique needs and circumstances of the business.

Design subscriptions offer convenience, affordability, and scalability, making them ideal for businesses with fluctuating design needs. On the other hand, in-house designers provide greater control, customization, and brand alignment, enabling companies to maintain a cohesive and consistent visual identity.

By carefully evaluating cost, flexibility, collaboration requirements, and long-term commitments, businesses can make an informed choice that maximizes their design capabilities and supports their overall growth and success.

Whether leveraging the flexibility of design subscriptions or harnessing the expertise of in-house designers, investing in effective design services is crucial for businesses to stand out in the visually-driven minds of customers.

Design your brand success with REEL UNLIMITED

Choosing the right design solution is crucial for your business's success.

Are you looking for:

  • Unlimited graphic design?
  • Unlimited revisions?
  • Unlimited design requests?

If you're looking for the perfect blend of quality, affordability, and scalability, Reel Unlimited is your answer.

Book a call to get a demo, try our 5-day risk-free trial, and cancel anytime if we aren't the perfect fit.

Say goodbye to the unpredictability of freelancers and the high costs of design agencies. Our unlimited graphic design subscription offers you everything you need, from logos and custom illustrations to websites and web design, all at a flat monthly rate with no hidden fees.

Buy an unlimited design subscription now and experience the Reel Unlimited difference—where captivating design meets incredible value.

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