In-House Designers

If you design any document, from an advertisement to a magazine, you are an in-house designer. The term “in-house” means that you do design work for your employer – or yourself – instead of sending the projects to an outside firm. The last decade has seen the number of in-house designers skyrocket, while resources of quality are rare.

Sometimes it seems as if executives think a secretary or sales representative, armed with a computer and laser printer, can easily match the documents created by a local print shop or media consultant. At the very least, an acceptable publication should be possible. The software companies, hyping easy to use publishing software and automated design templates, make it even harder on in-house publishers. We hope to make your life a bit easier.

We assume you are not employed as a design artist, of course. This book is about and for business. In-house designers come in all forms: the home-based business owner, the administrator asked to produce a newsletter, or a full-fledged corporate communications director. These pages contain tips and tricks to make in-house publications look as good as or better than your current documents.

This Book Won’t Make You an Expert…

You will not be transformed magically into an artist by reading these pages. No one book can cover the materials design a student absorbs during his or her formal education. Instead, plan to get a few pointers on producing excellent documents with minimal art background.

After a few readings, this book may be cast aside to be used only as a reference. This book is structured to serve as a reference. Chapters cover entire processes, not just portions of projects.

…But It Might Pique Your Interest

Tips and trivia appear in boxes throughout this book. We set them apart just to attract your attention!

Design is a passion of ours, of course, so we hope to intrigue you enough to encourage further exploration. Throughout this book we’ve placed little marginalia (tips and trivia) about publishing and design. The history of printing is fascinating. While it is nice to look at a painting in a museum, the works of these artists are viewed daily by millions of people.

Additional books and magazines are also mentioned throughout these pages. If you want to really delve into newsletter production or computer imaging, our suggested readings offer you a starting point.

Saving Money and, Maybe, Time

Companies turn to in-house design and publishing to save money. Commercial print shops and designers charge a premium for their services – as they rightfully should. We can state this since we think we are worth a lot. Since their time is money, it makes sense to use these experts only when truly necessary. Technology is simply not advanced enough yet for everyone to match the quality of the experts without training.

It’s Your Money

In-house design is not cheap, and it takes time.

Designing your own publications can save money – if you are properly prepared. With relatively few tools, almost any office can create, print, and distribute newsletters, flyers, and book-length documents. The cost of a computer and high-end word processing software is minimal, compared to what was needed in the past. A good computer system can generally be purchased for $2000 and a word processor is often included. The question is whether or not you will save $2000. Add in the price of high-end software, and you have to save much more to justify in-house design.

Time is Money, Too

Your time is worth money. A consultant or full-service print shop might be a better resource than you think.

You should calculate what your time is worth versus an outside consultant’s charges. First, evaluate how much you can earn during the time required to prepare a document. Remember, everything takes longer than an estimate. Now, consider the quality of the work and the return on investment. If you spend eight hours producing a catalog no one keeps, the eight hours were quite costly.

Most good designers charge at least $40 per hour, though $50 to $100 is the likely rate for an excellent local designer. Nationally known artists can charge rates rivaling lawyers. Professional designers work with greater efficiency, so subtract a few hours before you calculate charges.

You might find the best approach is to collect the content for a document, enter it into a computer, and take the resulting data files to a professional. At least then you are not paying for “grunt” work.

Designs on Success

We hope you find your journey in in-house design exciting – but not too stressful. Take your time reading this book, since many of the concepts and terms may be new to you. You might find that it helps to have a pile of magazines, business cards, newsletters, and other documents handy while you read. Then, when a design theory is discussed, you can verify that good looking documents apply the theory.


  • This book is for in-house designers with other responsibilities.
  • Other books and magazines focus on technical aspects of design.
  • In-house design is not necessarily less expensive than sending work to professionals.


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Writer: C. S. Wyatt
Updated: 08-Mar-2017
Editor: S. D. Schnelbach