I am working as an in-house graphic designer under the marketing team. I am not sure if the culture in my company is the norm in other companies.

There are only 2 graphic designers in the print area. We outsource our main launch model photos, and product photos to another small agency.

Here are some things that worry me:

  1. We don't have an art director. The marketing director is our art director. (I think that's not too bad)


  1. The lead designer always shows lots of options for marketing teammates to judge and to choose from. I have noticed how the marketing team has become controlling on the design outcome.

  2. The lead designer shows options to the marketing team, for example "the difference between 60% opacity or 68% opacity", "the difference between font size 12.75 and 12.5", and other very detailed design decisions.

  3. The lead designer will make things perfect even though other projects are due. What I have learned from other companies is that you do your best by how much time you have in a project. However, the lead designer will spend so much time to create her prefect design. I am not like that. If there is a deadline, and I would like to finish on time rather than extend the timeline.

Is all of this healthy for a designer?

How many options should we show to our team? Is what my company does the norm?

  • 1
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is a rant disguised as a question. I.E. "This sucks.. right?" But yes.. it does sound like it's not the best environment.
    – Scott
    Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 18:40
  • Sorry Scott. It might be a bit complain. However, I am trying to figure out if it is normal or not. I have been freelance for one year and I feel like your work is really depend on how much you get pay and timeline. It's kind different than getting yearly salary. However, thanks for the help! Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 18:49
  • 2
    Well, 50% of being an in-house designer is swallowing things you don't like. And 50% of freelancing is learning to live when you can't depend on a regular check.
    – Scott
    Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 18:54
  • That will be my quote of the day! :) Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 19:49

2 Answers 2


I worked in-house in a setting where I was the only graphic designer and I answered to the marketing director. Here are a few things I learned that are of relevance:

  1. It's a designer's job to be creative. It's your job to nitpick the tiny details, to obsess about stuff that, if done well, no one will even notice. That's why they bring designers on board, because marketing people don't care about Arial vs. Helvetica or opacity or anything like that. It's your job to care, so definitely sweat the details, form strong opinions, and defend/justify your work.
  2. People like have input and choices. People don't like being told "this is how it's going to be" unless they're blown away by your greatness. Also, design is done in support of something, so you're helping to realize someone's vision, and they may want to be involved in that. Besides, design is fun! So, it's empowering to be part of the process. Perhaps your lead lets people in on minor decisions because of that. Besides, if they're deciding between 12 and 12.75pt font size, they're not questioning the font's color, family, or leading, which your lead might really want to not be altered in critique.
  3. Too many choices can backfire. Some people don't get design or don't care about it, so they hate when the designer is dragging his feet over stuff that doesn't matter to them. This obviously requires learning how to read people.
  4. There are a lot of reasons why nitpicking happens. Sometimes when I'm in a position where I'm comparing between 60% and 68% opacity with someone, it's because someone said 60 and I think 68 is better, or because I can't decide and I want to offload the work. In the former case, I would often do what I was told and then, time permitting, do what I thought was best and let my boss decide. In the latter case, I found that I needed to make some decisions on my own before showing my work to anyone, so that I didn't run afoul of point 3.
  5. "Bad design never killed anyone." I don't believe that's true in all cases, but most times it is. Sometimes you get overruled and you have to execute designs that you think are bad in a certain way. It's okay. Form opinions and defend them passionately, but if you get overruled by a superior, do what they want, and tactfully remind them later whose call it was if someone balks at your work (which didn't really happen in my case that I can recall).

In short, perfectionism is okay if you can get away with extending deadlines, and it's also okay to finish an imperfect job and move on, as long as the people who pay you are happy with your work. There are a lot of reasons why your lead would be so detailed. Perhaps you should ask why!

  • The lead designer is making me feel like I am doing imperfect job since I have less designer experience. All the other place would focus more a deadline and moving on. I guess I just don't get use to this type of culture. Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 18:02

I think everything you've written is a matter of corporate culture.

Every company has a different structure, different positions, different hierarchy, different deadlines, budgets, priorities, personalities.

Maybe at your company Marketing is in charge of design, where in your major competitor WidgetCo there's a dedicated Art department and Marketing has only two people who share a desk.

Maybe your lead designer is accustomed to having a CEO who involved himself in font-size details, so she assumes every company is the same. Maybe she's found out that every decision she makes is criticized and changed, so she's given up making decisions and has turned it over to the group. She's decided that she can't be blamed for a decision she didn't make. Maybe the CMO has a thing about "getting buy-in from key stakeholders" or is a "thumbprint person" (he has to feel like he's left his mark on everything or he hasn't done his job).

Maybe your company's Marketing department feels that a great delayed project is better than a mediocre one on time, and the CEO agrees.

While I may agree that any of those processes is a problem, these are the processes of your current office. Either try to influence people to change the processes, or leave.

  • You are correct. I wish I could leave, but got bills to pay and lead designer only getting pay around 35000. Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 17:58

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