The In-house Design Dream Team

By Paul Flaharty, executive director of the marketing and creative practice at global talent solutions firm Robert Half, which connects professionals with companies hiring in marketing, creative, digital, advertising and public relations. His primary responsibility is to develop and oversee the growth strategy for the company’s marketing and creative contract talent solutions teams across the United States. 


First and foremost, huge congratulations to the winners of GDUSA’s 59th Annual In-house Design Awards. The talent and ideas on display were no less than brilliant, crafted by some of the brightest minds in the industry.

In light of these achievements, I wanted to explore what makes a successful in-house design team. Who are the key players? What do they do? What kind of team alchemy must they generate to snag these coveted awards? So without further ado, here’s what I learned about the heavy hitters you might find on an all-star design team.

  1. The Creative Director

Just as an orchestra conductor can make a tuba sound good with a cello, the creative director unites the disparate elements of the project into a harmonious whole. Drawing from deep wells of inspiration and experience, they manage, mediate, guide, mentor and even dive into the nitty gritty themselves to make the design dream a reality.

The best creative directors are jacks of all trades. They’re superb marketers and advertisers, as well as managers and designers. They could perform these roles independently, but since they can’t be everywhere at once, they use their knowledge and motivational skills to draw out high performance from those around them. Creative directors are also actively involved in the hiring and development of staff.

They need business sense, too. Creative directors don’t just bring a vision to life. They also deliver it within budget, on time and aligned with the broader goals of the organization that requested the product. They ferret out ideas, analyze them, turn them into practical plans and ensure each milestone is met. Meanwhile, they connect and coordinate with other teams whose skills are needed on the project, especially IT.

In a nutshell, it is uncertain how any design team survives without a first-rate creative director.

  1. The Graphic Designer

A graphic designer’s art should linger in your mind after you’ve forgotten where you saw it. They’re visual specialists, conjuring up unique illustrations and images that represent the brand, personality and goals of their company or client. Cleverly creating memorable visuals is only one aspect of their role, though. Graphic designers also tend to be people-people and ace communicators, as they’re expected to collaborate with other creatives to develop concepts before pitching them to clients.

These artists need to have a firm grasp of different software, including but not limited to Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign. They should also have a deep understanding of composition, color, typography and photography, and a sense of how these aspects of their trade are evolving across the industry. In some cases, they may use physical and digital tools to develop brand identity, marketing or packaging concepts. In short, graphic designers fashion those compelling first impressions that organizations are proud to stand behind.

  1. The Web Designer

Nowadays, a company doesn’t really exist if it doesn’t have a digital display window to showcase its wares and services. During the COVID-19 era of lockdowns and social distancing, many companies wouldn’t have survived without the skills of a web designer pulling them into the digital light. Web designers are responsible for creating one-stop information hubs while honoring client and stakeholder parameters and preferences. So, they need to understand their client as well as their craft.

Knowledge of programming languages and tools, such as JavaScript, CSS, Illustrator or GIMP, is fundamental. Web designers put together websites with the user experience in mind, including visuals, functionality, information access and cohesion between pages and types of devices. They combine media and text to present a captivating and accessible online presence and coordinate with marketing teams to incorporate relevant statistics and analytics. From preparing templates and test pages to working out last-minute kinks before a site goes live, the web designer is involved in every step of the product journey.

  1. The Copywriter

Copywriters are usually the storytellers behind whatever text you see or hear in a variety of media formats: websites, e-books, scripts, blog and social media posts, ads and so on. They weave words into ideas to convince, inform or express, and they meet deadlines with SEO in mind. Often working under time pressure, copywriters need to be more organized than you’d expect an artist to be and just as self-critical. They tailor their language to their audience while adhering to the organization’s style guide. Their thoughts become your thoughts.

  1. The Project Manager

Project managers share many skills and responsibilities with creative directors, with a tighter focus on the budget and delivery schedule. They coordinate and supervise team members, nurture relationships with clients, and communicate goals, pain points and triumphs to everyone who needs to hear about them. Unlike some creative team members, most project managers are happiest out of the limelight and embrace the role of a practical facilitator who keeps things running smoothly. A good project manager misses no opportunity to grumble about the budget while always finding (no one quite knows how) the resources necessary to get the job done.

  1. The Production Artist

If graphic designers conceptualize, production artists execute. They take ideas and perfect them practically, ensuring visual i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed. Text will line up on a webpage when production artists have finished their work. Visuals will be cohesive across all media types — billboards, banners, emails, posts, prints, etc. They work closely with creative directors and graphic designers to achieve creative goals and meet deadlines. They are the perfectly balanced creative and practical gurus of any company squad.


If your organization is looking to put together a winning design team, why not let Robert Half do the heavy lifting? We’re experts at finding the right talent to expand your inhouse team.