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Where You Fit Just Might Surprise You
By: Tom Roarty
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There was a time when my ambition was focused on the corporate side of the creative mind. College had instilled the idea that working for a top-ranked creative department should be the ambition of all designers. Although it has been some years since I graduated, I still hold on to many of the principles I have learned. However, the idea that working for a massive agency has suddenly become less appealing as I start to look back at my past accomplishments and realize I would rather help contribute on many levels to a company's success then to just have a supporting role in a non-progressive environment.
Quite recently I started my new position as a creative for digital and print in a small established agency in downtown New York. By small agency I am talking an office of under 10 employees, which is a quite the contrast from my last three positions, which had staff numbered in the thousands each. Although I expected a bit more of a transition period or learning curve, I feel as if I am in a very comfortable and familiar place minus the distractions that come from corporate surroundings.
For many creatives, I'm sure the deduction of office politics is a very welcomed change. The fact that the approval chain has been cut from 5+ people on average, down to generally two people, frees up a lot more time for doing what we do best and were actually hired for: Designing. But just because I feel I've found an ideal situation for me, will a smaller agency be right for you? Well, let’s look at the pros and cons of both environments.
In my experience, larger agencies will deal with a lot of pre-existing branded clients. So usually there is little doubt as to a campaign's direction. There is a much bigger support staff and lots of prep time, and by lots of prep time I'm referring to days and sometimes even weeks. However, in boutique agencies, things tend to move faster; in many cases there is the ability to be in on the development stages of a company's branding and what I feel is the most appealing aspect of working at a smaller agency: the feeling of ownership over a project.
I want to be in on that first client call, graphically interpret what is being asked for, and take responsibility for the end result. In bigger companies, this usually doesn't happen, which confuses and dilutes one's responsibilities at the time of a completed project. In a smaller company, there is nowhere to hide. Either you make the right choices and contribute to both the future of the agency you represent, and yourself, or you face consequences for not meeting a client's expectations. Is that a nerve-wracking thought? Possibly. But it does give you a much quicker taste of what Senior Management at larger agencies are faced with at every meeting they attend, while still allowing you to be creative, something they usually don’t get the chance to do!
In the end, the type of environment you pick to work in is your choice. Both have their advantages, but right now, I feel as if I am in a great position to learn every aspect of a business, which may be something you might want to consider when charting out your next move along your creative career path!

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