I work with a lot of different startups and their in-house design position run the gamut as far as freedom and how much control designers are given. Some companies put designers at the head table, some have to follow everyone else's orders.
The focus of being part of a product team is a huuuuge plus over agency work. Working between multiple clients, their cultures and various quirks becomes taxing. You end up burning a lot of time adapting instead of just humming along with a culture you already jive with.
- "The focus of a product team..."
Work at an agency when you're young and build your portfolio / get all the bad ideas out / enjoy the parties when you can stay up all night. Then settle in in-house when you are ready to appreciate the depth. I think that's what a lot of folks I know did, and we all turned out pretty well.
Depending on the age of the company and the space they are working in, there is a ton of creative freedom to defining a style and brand. For example, designers at early stage companies have complete control to define every bit of design, where as designers at larger companies like Square may be asked to work within the current brands style guidelines.
Sure, or they could be hired to completely overhaul the brand and start from scratch, but that's such a small percentage of companies. But, I do feel like change happens at a steady pace, rather than a complete "rebrand" or reworking of something.
I think what I meant to get at is that the biggest challenge is not always working with the current style. For many designers the biggest challenge for in house design is defining a style worth being proud of.
whoa, thanks for sharing my article!