Designers working in Marketing department

Hi all. I was hoping for some advice on the following query. any thoughts or input would be superb!

I joined my current employer a few years ago, as the fifth Product Designer in a Product Design department with a Director of NPD. I’m now one of two remaining staff, who, due to internal restructuring, have been incorporated into the Marketing department.

Now, the above doesn’t worry me massively. We’re down to a number of designers that as far as I’m concerned couldn’t be reduced any further.

I’m still “relatively” ( :wink: ) young, and while I’m comfortable in my abilities I’m a firm believer in constant learning and bettering yourself. However, the staff I report into have no experience of Product Design, so I’m concerned the current setup is going to limit my ability to move on, in terms of responsibilities, authority and financially.

I was recently denied a pay review, which eventually went ahead after involving HR, and me agreeing to a lower raise than I’d hoped, and I think deserved. I believe I’m being far more efficient and diligent in my design process than my predecessor, who was getting paid over 10% more than I am.

The levels of communication with our FE office is poor, with even simple, yet vital questions going unanswered. Again, I’ve tried to discuss this with my senior colleagues and immediate boss, but again, due to their lack of understanding can’t understand why my questions need answering.

I love my current job, projects and immediate colleagues, but do not go to work for free, so am understandably frustrated at getting paid less than my current position was advertised at, despite fulfilling all the criteria. The lack of communication is also causing additional workload, costing money, and limiting my/our ability to design products that fully fulfil their opportunity.

Hopefully this will kick off some engaging discussion!

Sounds very frustrating!

When you say reporting into marketing, is it a brand marketing department, or more of a product marketing / product line management?

So, you like the projects, but not the factory relationships, reporting structure, or pay? Seems like more ticks in the con column than the pro column?

I feel for you - but this might be a great opportunity. During my corporate experience our staff saw reporting structures change several times. There was no doubt that a change from an ID focused department to a Marketing-led department was detrimental to our goals as designers and complicated the politics, but some of the best corporations are marketing led (if they sell products in North America) and so while the day-to-day goals and working knowledge might differ from design group to marketing group, the end goals are the same - the best product possible at the best cost possible catering to as many quality retailers as possible.

The challenge you face right now might be to better connect with the marketing folks - figure out how to speak to their concerns while voicing your own - if you can put the two together in constructive arguments it can be a win-win. Once you start to show your value in the context of their daily challenges & goals, you’ll be able to start sowing the seeds toward a raise or better cost-of-living increases along the way. And, while it might seem sacrilege, consider that extra workload as opportunity to prove your worth.

I started in consultancies (2 years), moved to corporate (12 years) and then started my own gig (6 years now) - and I can confidently advise that the politics never go away, they just change shape :wink:


And if I may add onto GWN’s comment about this being an opportunity, it is, but don’t compare yourself to a peer who was getting 10% more. This is your chance to step up and compare yourself to your previous NPD superior. That is where the non-NPD types will see value. Being efficient and diligent are anti-ups. You need to show leadership skills to advance. Especially now due to the restructuring.

I’ve seen similar scenarios, and while I’ve never been in your exact situation, I did have to re-allocate 2 of our design staff to Marketing a few years back, basically because I was so tired of dealing with some of the same issues that you’ve outlined. The two designers that moved over were working on marketing projects 70%-90% of their time so in the end it made more sense for them to move anyways. Though they were both very talented and my team took a hit in the short term, I was able to replace them with designers with skills more relevant to our team’s objectives. But similarly to you, the two designers that moved over liked the work, but are dealing with similar problems.

I don’t know what the dynamics are like in your office, but if your colleagues don’t have answers to your questions or don’t know whey they’re relevant, that’s a red flag to me that they don’t understand design. This might be an opportunity for you to advocate for design and educate them while elevating yourself, but then again it could turn into a turf battle and blow up in your face, and that’s no fun.

Something that might be very telling is to gauge your marketing colleague’s impressions of the previous NPD, designers, and the old design team up against your impression. If their impressions are mostly negative then I would bet that they’re glad to have absorbed the responsibility and decision making authority, and to that I say good luck getting any of that back. If their impressions were positive then I would say that you should try to capitalize on it and try to rebuild that into something new within marketing, but more suited to their needs.

In the meantime though, if you’re unsatisfied then move on.

Hi all, apologies for the delay in coming back to this, thanks for your input.

@yo, the team I work alongside are Product Managers, however, my boss (and responsible for reviews etc) is brand management centred, with a background in FMCG.

@gwn, of course, our aims are the same. The issue is trying to gain support for my needs as a designer. The staff I’ve been appealing to seem to be in a polite, tactful battle with one-another, and do not tackle the often simple problems in-hand.

@iab, great point. I’ll remember that!

Since my first post, my immediate boss has given his notice to resign, and the (yet another!) restructure will suit myself and my colleague far better. We’re now reporting into a newly formed position, Director of NPD and Quality. I get on well with the member of staff, and who’s background is in manufacturing and quality so will identify with our needs.

That’s not to say I won’t take into account the above, great input all round.