Should my company bring our design work in house and hire a graphic designer?

Answered by Debra Thompson, President of TG & Associates

Having been a print buyer for several years now, it's becoming more obvious that the cost of creating art work for printing is rising. Since we do so much printing, my company is thinking of bringing the design work in house and hiring our own graphic artist. What do you think of this idea?

You have reason to be concerned about such a move. I believe there are a number of considerations that impact this decision. Of course it primarily requires a commitment on the part of your management to support this approach by recognizing that the cost of having your own capability involves much more than just the salary of the new employee. Here are some things to think about before making this move:

  1. A recent article in BUSINESS 2.0 highlighted one of the major concerns about desk top publishing. It is now one of the top 10 positions expected to be in increased demand over the next decade and the situation is aggravated by the lack of new people entering the work force with the correct technical skills and abilities. I know from my experience in assisting business owners doing hiring across the country, that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find qualified and available people for this discipline.

  2. Since it will be a high-demand skill that will be in short supply, you can expect to pay a premium in salary to get qualified personnel and you can expect high turnover as other companies compete to seek out this talent. It will be necessary to step up your efforts at employee retention should your company decide to take this step. This means satisfying all of the expectations from employees who are seeking the "employer of choice," with not only salary, but benefits and job flexibility.

  3. The tools for desktop publishing are changing rapidly and becoming more complex. This means management must commitment to maintaining the cutting edge in hardware and software so that your graphic design projects remain competitive in the marketplace. You will still have the continuing goal to make your printed materials "stand out in the crowd" and so you must also maintain the support structure and tools for this "art". Of course this also means continued training and participation in technical seminars to keep abreast of the emerging and rapidly changing technology.

  4. Graphic design is an art and it requires a special talent and personality to fit that role. You may find people who claim to have the requisite familiarity with the software tools of graphic design. When I assist in the hiring process, I recommend three things in the way of evaluating the competency of candidates. First, I recommend taking the Wonderlic© Personnel Test to determine how smart they really are. For the desktop publisher, I recommend a minimum score of 25 in this 50 question 12 minute timed test. Second, I recommend a personality profile evaluation to understand the person's characteristics. I use a web-based tool based on the easy to understand and apply DISC methodology. From our benchmarking efforts, I look for candidates with high S-C characteristics because they tend to be steady, detail oriented and creative. Third, I recommend putting all candidates through the paces. Bring them in for a few hours to actually work with the equipment and demonstrate their ability to create the type of product you want. There are also tools such as , which feature pre-employment testing specifically targeted for these software tools. They can help you evaluate all candidates and very quickly test their capabilities and need for training.

So while it may be tempting to make this move, please consider the "costs" before you do this. If you believe the price for your graphic design work from your supplier is out of line, talk with him or her about your needs and see if they can find an approach that will provide you lower price design solutions or perhaps move to a different printed product that may be available at a lower cost, thereby offsetting the design costs. There is a growing need for increased communication between printers and their customers so that needs and expectations are fully understood. The printer and customer can then seek out mutually satisfactory printing solutions.

Good luck in your decision making,


Debra Thompson is President of TG & Associates, specializing in Human Resources for the Graphics Industries. She is the 2003 Recipient of the PrintImage International Industry Award of Distinction. Visit for FREE Tip Sheets on Managing and Motivating people. If you are thinking of hiring a desk top publisher, check out Debra's Hiring Tool Kit for Desk Top Publishing. She can also provide you support to make your hire successful. Debra can be reached at 877-842-7762 (toll free) or
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