Improving Collaboration with In-House Creative Teams

Each year, The Creative Group staffing agency teams up with AIGA, the professional association for design, to find out what trends will impact creative teams in the coming years. This year, they surveyed more than 800 in-house design professionals and creative veterans from leading organizations to uncover some of the challenges that affect in-house creative teams. One area of questioning focused on the challenges of collaborating with colleagues from other departments.

Issues Affecting Collaboration

When in-house creative professionals were asked to share the biggest challenge when collaborating with colleagues in other departments, here are some their responses: “Lack of understanding of what we do and our processes.”

“Getting others to think of us as strategic partners versus pixel pushers who merely make things look good.”

“Communicating with teams composed of technical and nontechnical people.”

“Identifying the right decision makers for projects.”

“Delays in feedback and approvals.”

“Finding time to discuss plans and come up with meaningful solutions at the outset of an initiative.”

“Managing deadline and budget expectations.”

Fostering a Collaborative Corporate Culture

“Most work today requires cross-departmental collaboration, and creative teams need to take an active role in working through challenges like bridging communication gaps and juggling competing priorities,” said Diane Domeyer, executive director of The Creative Group. “Managers should set the stage for successful group interactions, but employees at all levels can take steps to break down organizational silos.”

While many barriers to effective teamwork exist, companies are making strides in developing more collaborative cultures.

  • Twenty-eight percent of in-house creative professionals surveyed said they are tapped for input at the initial stages of a project all the time.
  • In the next two years, 31 percent of respondents expect they will always be involved in kickoffs and interact more frequently with cross-departmental peers.
  • During the next 12 months, 48 percent of in-house professionals anticipate collaborating more frequently with public relations/corporate communications departments. Another 36 percent foresee closer partnering with information technology groups.

To help organizations foster greater teamwork, The Creative Group and AIGA have published a new report, “Collaboration in the Workplace: How to Overcome 7 Common Challenges.”


The report, available at, provides tips from creative leaders on building stronger and more efficient cross-departmental relationships.

About The Creative Group

The Creative Group (TCG) specializes in placing a range of highly skilled interactive, design, marketing, advertising and public relations professionals with a variety of firms on a project, contract-to-hire and full-time basis.

About AIGA

Founded in 1914, AIGA remains the oldest and largest professional membership organization for design. AIGA defines global standards and ethical practices, guides design education, inspires designers and the public, enhances professional development, and makes powerful tools and resources accessible to all.

TCG GRAPH Collaboration Infographic


In-House Creative Teams Are Growing in Size and Status

A new research paper, “5 Trends Every In-House Designer Should Know,” indicates that over the next 3 to 5 years, in-house design and marketing teams will expand and exert more influence on creative efforts.

The report also sheds light on the inner workings of corporate design departments and highlights trends any creative professional can take advantage of in the coming years.

The research was co-developed by The Creative Group (TCG) and AIGA, the professional association for design. It is part of INitiative, a program developed to help in-house creatives make a greater impact at their companies, evolve professionally and connect with a broader network of peers.

For the study, TCG and AIGA surveyed more than 400 AIGA members, all of whom work in-house. The study team also interviewed thought leaders who have extensive corporate work experience.

Key Findings

  • Six in 10 (61 percent) in-house creatives expect their company’s budget for creative services to increase in the next three to five years; only 10 percent anticipate budget declines. In addition, 55 percent of respondents predict the size of their team will grow over the same time period versus 6 percent who think it will shrink.
  • Sixty-one percent of in-house creatives believe they’ll have more influence on their company’s business decisions in the next three to five years.
  • More than half (52 percent) of in-house professionals said the greatest challenge for their team is managing heavier workloads, and 58 percent of respondents expect to rely more on help from freelancers and agencies in the coming three to five years.
  • While 29 percent of in-house creatives expect to stay in their current role, half of respondents anticipate moving to another corporate job or agency, pursuing freelance work or leaving the industry entirely. This trend will make retaining good employees a key priority for employers.

In-House Creative Teams on the Rise

Why are corporate creative and marketing careers gaining appeal? In part, design is enjoying a higher perceived value to business, and companies are placing greater emphasis on branding and creative execution.

Organizations also recognize the unique value proposition in-house teams can provide: When asked to name the greatest single benefit of utilizing these resources over external agencies, a majority (57 percent) of respondents cited deep knowledge of the company’s brand and product or service offerings.

Heavier Workloads Challenge Teams

As the number of corporate initiatives rises, particularly in the digital realm, in-house professionals say managing heavier workloads is their biggest challenge. Savvy employers understand when to call in reinforcements — and this opens new opportunities for creative freelancers and agencies who seek to partner with corporate teams.
“Managers should always be looking for ways to keep their employees engaged and enthusiastic. This includes keeping a close eye on burnout potential and knowing who to call to quickly access freelance talent to help during busy times and keep creativity at its peak,” said Donna Farrugia, executive director of The Creative Group. “Planning fun team-building activities may seem like a simple solution, but it can relieve stress and build employee camaraderie.”

Strategy Translates to Greater Respect

While the in-house professionals surveyed predict they’ll play a greater role in their company’s business decisions, they still feel they’re battling a lack of respect from internal clients. Corporate design leaders say that their teams must take responsibility for bridging that “respect gap.”

“The value of the creative mind is being promoted in progressive business and strategy circles,” said Richard Grefe, executive director of AIGA. “To become what they want to be, in-house creatives must steep their own work in an understanding — and the vernacular — of corporate strategy.”

“To chart a positive in-house career path, creative professionals should focus not just on their work, but also on the results it generates and the value it brings to the company,” added Farrugia. “Creatives should gather as much data as possible on the outcomes of major projects. Did a new packaging design result in higher sales, for example? Did a website refresh lead to more orders? Create a compelling story about how your team solves business problems — and tell that story throughout the organization.”

Creative Teams Need Nurturing

As the economy strengthens, companies must make an effort to retain top performers or risk losing them. Half of in-house creatives surveyed anticipate changing jobs, whether to another firm or agency, or to pursue freelance work or a different industry. To avoid losing key players, employers must show them they are valued and create opportunities for continued growth.

“In addition to the perks and benefits a company can provide, offering various career paths for creative professionals can go a long way toward retaining top performers,” said Farrugia. “Expose employees to different leaders of the company and encourage them to volunteer for cross-departmental projects to help broaden their skill sets and build their professional networks.”

To download a complimentary copy of 5 Trends Every In-House Designer Should Know, watch interviews with thought leaders or learn more about the research project, visit:

The Creative Group (TCG) specializes in placing a range of highly skilled interactive, design, marketing, advertising and public relations professionals with a variety of firms on a project and full-time basis.

AIGA is the professional association for design, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing design as a professional craft, strategic tool and vital cultural force.


5 Trends Every In-House Designer Should Know

About The Creative Group

About AIGA