Olivia M Design


Ad Agencies vs In-House

If you go looking for blogs & articles about being a designer, almost everything you find is about freelancing. How to work for yourself. How to manage a business. But not all designers want to be freelancers, and I found it hard finding information about what’s it’s like to work for an agency or in-house. And what do those terms even mean?

Ad Agencies

Let's start with agencies. Ad agencies are companies that have multiple clients and they handle all the marketing and creative advertising for those clients. For example, I work at an agency and one of our clients is Georgia Aquarium, so we design their billboards, logos, print, and digital ads. Another one of our clients is a hotel management company, so for them I design a lot of logos and branding for new hotels and restaurants. Different agencies focus on different aspects of marketing and creative.


Working in-house means that you work for one company doing their marketing and creative. Coca-Cola, for example, has an in-house creative and marketing team that does their stuff for them. Some companies have an in-house team and an agency to do different things.

The main difference between working at an agency and working in-house is the variety of the work. If you work at an agency, you’re going to get to work on a lot of different accounts. You might be designing a logo for one company, a flyer for another, and concepting for a third all in one day. It definitely keeps things exciting!

Not that working in-house is boring! I did it for almost a year and a half and I loved it. Luckily I worked at a place that had a lot going on and I had a lot of creative freedom. But if companies have strict brand guidelines and everything has to be done a certain way, things start to feel cookie cutter and you don’t feel like you’re actually being creative. So do your research on the company or agency beforehand to make sure that the work will be fulfilling!

Team Dynamics

Another thing to consider is the team dynamic. At agencies, there’s usually art directors, designers, copywriters, account managers, and creative directors to name a few. Everyone works really closely together and you’re never really doing anything by yourself. In-house it may not be that way. There may not be a full “creative team,” just a person or a few people in charge of creative. That’s another important thing to find out. I turned down a job once because I was going to be the entire creative team, and that’s not the environment I wanted to work in. But some companies have full in-house creative teams!

So basically, do your research and ask a lot of questions at interviews! I always try to get a lot of the questions out of the way over email, things that may determine whether or not I even want to work there. That way you don’t waste time going to interviews and having to sit there for an hour knowing you for sure don’t want to work there. Done that, not worth it!