Dear MANMAN: Should I Work for a Corporate Design Firm?
March 24, 2017
I'm getting ready to graduate with my design degree and have been offered a full-time position at a large design firm. My friends say I'll be selling out if I work for a big corporation. What's your opinion in working corporate vs nonprofit or boutique agency?
Ah, I remember those days. Everyone thinks that the only way to "be true to design" is to work for a hip (usually teeny tiny) agency or a nonprofit, where you can further a social cause with your design. And before I worked at a larger firm, I felt the same way. I thought of corporate jobs as soul-sucking, meaningless work that would stifle my creativity.
However, now that I've ACTUALLY worked for large corporate firms (and small boutique agencies, nonprofits, individuals and small businesses), I can honestly say that's not true. In fact, without my years of experience with big firms around town, I wouldn't be as successful in my freelance career now (which enables me to give back more than I've ever been able to).
Here's why I'm grateful for my time in the corporate world:
Most corporate jobs mean a wide variety of clients and projects. One week you might be working on labels for Anheuser-Busch beer and the next, you're working on an installation for a local arts organization. Each client has different ideas about what good design looks like for their brand, and your talented clients and coworkers will challenge you to improve your breadth of skills in ways you never thought of.
Doing corporate work will also challenge you to increase your speed. The bigger the brand, the tighter the timeline. And typically, the higher the expectation for kick-ass creative. To deliver on time, you'll learn how to get faster and faster at inspiring yourself, coming up with ideas and executing them fabulously.
Like in any job, you will meet a lot of great people. However, in the corporate world, coworkers become clients, and clients become coworkers at surprising speed. If you've formed good relationships (you're friendly and deliver great work on time and consistently), you'll benefit from these career shifts in many ways.
Finally, yeah, it sucks to get up early every morning and get into the office by 9am...but doing this every day for several years builds stamina and determination. Even if you work for yourself someday, you will sometimes have to drag yourself to an early-morning meeting...or crank out mind-blowing ad concepts overnight after being in an all-day brainstorm. And you'll know that you can handle it!
Lots of ppl hate on corporate work and big design firms, especially when you're in college, but there's a ton of value there. Most corporate firms actually started out as small boutique firms, and grew over the years. And do you know why? Because they were phenomenal designers. And they delivered excellent, thought-provoking creative work to their clients. They've been doing what you want to do for many years and have figured out a lot of shit along the way (way more than what we even covered here). Why not learn from their knowledge and experience?
I challenge you to try it. Lmk how it goes!
P.S. If YOU have a question, send it my way! I'd love to hear from you, and we keep all inquisitors anonymous (so no need to worry about ur boss finding out)! :)