I've been working as an in-house designer for over a year now and I still consider myself new to it. Over the past year I've listened to people talk about how in-house teams can improve by being more like agencies. I'm sure there is some truth in that, but it's also true in reverse. Agencies can learn a lot from in-house teams.
I was trying to explain to an (agency) friend of mine why projects seem to take longer with in-house design teams and it struck me that in some cases the imperative, time pressured nature of agency work simply doesn't exsist for in-house teams. I came to the conclusion this doesn't exsist because in-house designers are faced with inevitable truth that the client will never leave. The brand you work on today, will still be there tomorrow. Don't mistake this for complacency. In simple terms in-house designers play a longer game.
For a designer working in an agency, each new project is chance to create a good impression on the client. It's an opportunity to 'show off' your skills and hopefully impress enough to get another project. Much like a date, it's about knitting together the best impression possible through brief encounters. In-house designers, on the other hand, don't have the same pressure of winning the desired client over, that part is already done. Instead they are challenged with sustaining interest and continually invigorating the relationship, like a marriage.
So here's my theory:
Designing for an agency is like dating and being an in-house designer is like being married.
Right now. I'm happily married.