Building an Effective in-House Creative Team Structure

Design is driving up the bottom line for businesses around the world, it isn’t just a nice-to-have. Companies that invested in good design had 32% more revenue and 56% more total returns to shareholders, according to a 2018 report from consulting giant McKinsey. But, investing in design goes beyond logos and brand colors. Great design comes from great design teams. Making sure your design team members are prepared for success may be the first step toward growing your business.

Whether your design team specializes in graphic design, motion graphics, product design, or something similar, this post will outline which design team structure to choose for which occasion and their advantages. It also discusses how to develop a design strategy culture, how DesignOps can help, and how to enhance your design team.

How Are Creative Teams Structured?

Types of creative team structures

Determining the team structure that works best for your creative team is crucial for its success. The five most typical types of organizational structures for the design department are listed below:


In a traditional or centralized creative team structure, one or a small number of people are frequently in charge of making decisions. In this hierarchy-based structure, designers collaborate and present their work to a team manager. Designers’ interactions with other department members are constrained by this hierarchy style. This structure allows for one or two managers to supervise every team member and give final approval to every project. Typically, this results in a clear team vision and clearly defined roles for the members of the creative department.


A cross-functional team, also referred to as an embedded creative team, is part of the same organizational structure as a centralized team. However, in the course of daily work, each design team for a project includes members from a number of departments, including the creative department, engineering, product management, or other relevant departments. The cross-functional team typically consists of five to seven individuals from various fields who collaborate on a single project. This structure has the advantage of making it possible for designers to interact with people from various other organizational departments.


As the project requires, the project manager may be able to add more members of the design department thanks to flexible team structures. These divisions work in an on-demand manner, allocating designers as needed, allowing each specialist to work on multiple projects at once. To prevent a single specialist from being overworked, this type of structure may benefit from regular review and monitoring. The ability it gives project managers to utilize the highly specialized skills of team members on various projects is a significant benefit of this structure.

Pod system

The pod system creates compact, inclusive teams that collaborate on projects. For instance, the design division might consist of four distinct pods or teams, each of which includes a project manager, an SEO expert, a public relations expert, a copywriter, and a designer. As they establish a streamlined procedure for cooperating in the small pod, these small teams can gain a deep understanding of a project or customer.


A combination of two or more different organizational structures makes up the matrix organizational structure. In a matrix model, marketing, sales, and customer service teams typically report to different managers. Then, additional project managers oversee personnel working on project teams across various departments.

What is a creative team structure?

A creative team structure describes the hierarchy of the department’s individual designers and clarifies each one’s duties. In a creative department, there are numerous positions, and not every company has a single employee assigned to each duty. The following are some examples of job titles in a creative agency:

Depending on the size of the organization, the creative team structure diagram may change. For instance, in a small business, the department might only consist of two or three individuals who work on designs for the entire business. They may take on multiple responsibilities, such as those of a copywriter and a copyeditor or a graphic and web designer. The creative team may be a complicated department with dozens of highly skilled designers in larger companies. The organizational preferences of the company, such as how decentralized or cross-functional the company decides they want the structure of the creative team to be, may also affect the department structure.

How to build a creative team structure

The following actions will assist you in creating a solid structure for your organization’s creative team:

1. Consider the size of the organization

A cross-functional team where each member fills several important roles may be advantageous for smaller organizations. A diverse internal design department can be produced by hiring individuals with design leadership abilities. As the organization and creative department expand, this small, capable team can lay the groundwork for a strong, cohesive foundation.

Depending on the style and culture of the organization, a more centralized or a pod structure may be the most effective for larger businesses. Employees may not need to perform multiple roles because larger organizations can hire more specialists. The centralized structure might prove to be the most rational, streamlined format for very complex organizations.

2. Focus on employee growth and development

Team leaders can enhance performance and pinpoint development areas by holding regular feedback meetings with the team. It’s critical that the creative team have access to resources and opportunities for professional development. Providing development opportunities can also improve morale and employee satisfaction.

3. Provide access to high-quality tools and technology

Design and collaboration tools are necessary for most design departments. These tools can speed up design procedures and facilitate more efficient teamwork and documentation throughout the entire organization. Effective programs and technological resources can help businesses save money and improve employee productivity.

4. Fill any skill or knowledge gaps the team may have

Project managers may be able to see how staff members can perform cross-functional roles as the creative team structure becomes clearer. At this stage of team development, it is also simpler to identify skill gaps on the team, allowing the department’s skill sets to be completed.


What does a creative team look like?

In the marketing and advertising industry, creative teams are in charge of creating original, visually appealing content that supports a more comprehensive marketing strategy. They deliberately sculpt a brand’s appearance, tone, and personality to resonate with their target market and differentiate themselves from rivals.

What does a creative design team do?

A creative team’s primary objective is to plan and carry out marketing campaigns that persuade a target audience to purchase a company’s goods or services. The group is also in charge of developing a unified brand identity for the business through its messaging, look, and voice.

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