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In The House with Tumblr and Pinterest

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As a creative, chances are the decision between working at an agency or in-house has come up at least once in your career. While most creatives have advocated for #agencylife due to the proposed breadth and depth of work experience, there’s been a recent boom in the growth of in-house creative teams.

What? That’s right, being an “in-house” is no longer a dirty word. That was the topic of discussion at #hyperlinkedsfny, a new AIGA NY talk our team attended.

Each month #hyperlinkedsfny explores how New York- and San Francisco-based creatives shape design and technology. As the first in the series, Scott Tong, Brand and Product Manager at Pinterest, and Zack Sultan, Creative Director of Tumblr, took the stage to share their experience working in-house.

Scott Tong has no ordinary resume. With his six-year career at IDEO, the founding of IFTTT, and now leading brand and product management at Pinterest, Scott has a wealth of experience at both large and small agencies and startups. With that said, Scott had a lot to share on the creative realities of both environments.

From his time in an agency, Scott learned the importance of being a “T-shaped” person. “It’s not all about the work,” said Scott. He shared that it was about taking the time to “develop your personal breadth and depth of skill”, by taking advantage of your co-workers’ expertise and your opportunities to thrive.

In regards to working in-house, Scott narrowed all of his perspective to one point: “The great thing about working in-house is the decisions you make affect an audience you care about”. At Pinterest, the teams’ decisions affect millions of users in an instant. While some would shy away at the responsibility, Scott implies that having the ability to be involved with the users (by listening to, or addressing, feedback and by refining and improving their Product) is what consistently fuels his love for the digital product.

Zach Sultan humorously shared the start of his design career by working as the only designer for Jewish culture magazine Heeb. He had the opportunity to experiment and strengthen his creative passion in a totally different way than his time at marketing agencies. After Heeb‘s end in print, Zach turned to a webzine side project that captured Tumblr’s attention.

In a few days, Zach had joined David Karp and the rest of the beginning Tumblr Staff as one of two designers. Completely committed to the startup and its growth, Zach defined what it means to be “Tumblry” after so many years, defining it is as “finding the hilarity in something completely weird.”

Zach shared that while he loves creative directing and innovating with an in-house team, he misses the adrenaline of working with an agency to fight for, and then land, a pitch. “It’s a catharsis” said Zach, implying that it “could draw him back to being a part of agency life.”

After Scott and Zach shared their takes on the creative realities between working in-house and at an agency, they revealed two points of advice for the audience:

  1. To take time to reflect, and to recall whether or not the drive that fueled your career’s passion has increased or decreased at your current position
  2. Love your side projects

Luckily at The Charles, we are more than just a digital creative agency. We go beyond the chop and shop of producing and delivering beautiful work. We develop and maintain brand partnerships with our team that is ultimately driven to inspire. Our relationship will Ellen Tracy takes us beyond the original task of web design to being a part of the social-integrated #sheishyphenated contest. Wittnauer enabled us to be a huge part of their social media campaign. Even our own website is something we constantly refine and improve to create a better experience for our audience. Our side projects, 10kate and Artifacts, are also a point of pride for our team and work as a way to keep up community engagement.

Let this enjoyable talk by both creatives remind you that while we all have different perspectives and preferences towards our creative environment, we can all stand sure on one belief — “there’s no better time to be a designer than now.”