Working in Design: Start Ups vs Corporate

Shark in a little pond vs Goldfish in the sea

Having worked professionally in design for a few years, I feel there are contrasting experiences a designer can have depending on the size and position of the company they work in.

In my personal experience, working within a startup is one of the most exciting and exhilarating experiences I’ve ever had. The company in question are leading a cutting edge smart-flooring startup that invented and patented solutions that generate electricity from pedestrian footsteps.

Now i know what your thinking… Flooring!? How can that be interesting?

… (pause for effect)

Well it is.

The flooring market will be worth $331.78 Billion by 2020! So get busy making floors!

Although the vision of ‘saving the world’ was the primary idea, in turn they created a niché market for themselves in experiential marketing and PR.

It turns out blue-chip clients (Coca-Cola, Shell etc) love opportunities to brand themselves as ‘Eco-friendly’ and sustaining the environment. With this manifesto in mind, the company were taken all over the world in order to work with a variety of impressive clients and brands.

As an intern I was provided with some of the most valuable and incredible experiences. This included travelling, connecting with amazing people, working with some huge companies and most importantly driving my passion for design.

Being such a large part of a small team was an overwhelming feeling and gave me opportunities to grow and develop my skills. However it had to come to an end; the final year of university called.

If your interested in eco-friendly tech and smart cities be sure to look them up!

After graduating university I took a job in a much larger corporate company. Yes, there was a larger financial incentive but it seemed the feeling of importance and relevance disappeared. The excitement of possessing more responsibility seemed to vanish. ‘Sink or swim’ became ‘sink or someone else will swim’.

However I feel experience in a corporate environment is imperative. I received great support with training, management and the equipment resources were plentiful!

Nobody likes to have to torrent software packages!

The work seems to take far longer and I am allowed to go at a comfortable pace. Regardless of the vast meetings and sign off points, the long process resulted in the loss of innovation and in turn creativity.

All in all, having the security of a big company behind you is a great feeling but for me personally, it lacks something that I crave.


I prefer a crazy and fun working environment. I need to be kept on my toes at all points of the day. Even if it means being pushed mentally and in some cases physically.

For example, I once had to miss a flight back to the UK because a project I was a part of in Cannes went wrong, leaving me to sit on a beach with my laptop creating mock results to give to paying clients.

I miss going up against the big corporate companies in pitches and winning.

I miss being completely dedicated to projects that I’m working on where I don’t have to drag myself out of bed.

If my hearts not in it then neither is my head.

It’s hard to compare these contrasting environments with such little experience in either but I can already see myself building a hunger for a much more energetic and dynamic work environment. Whether this be in freelancing or working for more small startups.

But who am I? These are just my thoughts.

Who knows maybe I’ll change!

Happy Designing.