Ask DN: Where would you rather work, in a small or big company?

over 8 years ago from , Crafting Products

Would you rather be a designer in a small company of 10-20 people, or in a big company of 500+ people?

(The big one is obviously a mature startup such as Facebook/Twitter but the small one could also be pretty solid but just a small one)

The way I see it: Small companies are great for easily shaping things and experiencing different types of projects since most of the time the design team is quite small or just doesn't exist.

Big companies are great for doing a dedicated design position where you'd be working with a product manager and having insights from marketing, support and data teams. Dent making is harder but the effect of your design is bigger because of a likely big userbase. And there's also the more money for buying design assets.

Which would you choose and why?


  • Joe Crupi, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

    I've worked at small and large agencies and my tip would be to try to spend time in both.

    Each offer different ways to develop your career.

    6 points
  • Pendar YousefiPendar Yousefi, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

    I worked for several small startups (max. twenty people) for a few years, before moving to a large company (tens of thousands). I went from being the only designer in the company, to one of twenty+ designers on a single product team.

    Some of the things you potentially give up are: influence, speed at which you see your work launched, and pace at which you learn new things.

    Some of the things you potentially gain are: getting to focus on -and potentially specialize in- a single area, learning how to work within large teams, and having more resources to draw upon.

    It's a hard choice. You can have a lot of fun working at a startup, and produce a greater body of work for the same time you'd spend in a large company. You'll also enjoy more influence, that could potentially have a significant impact on your overall work satisfaction.

    On the other hand, there are some things - specially people skills - that you can only learn by working for a larger company. Also if the company is one that is well-known, you will notice a difference in how you are regarded by outsiders. This is perhaps a sad thing about human nature - because YOU know that your skills haven't changed - but simply being associated with a big company can make you more visible and more highly regarded.

    5 points
  • Nick de JardineNick de Jardine, over 8 years ago

    Small, you learn more and have a bigger voice.

    3 points
  • Jonathan YapJonathan Yap, over 8 years ago

    Well, I went from Big - Small/Grew to Med/Acquired - Big/Acquired/Acquired/Acquired - Small. Pretty interesting in each of them and different experiences.

    Big will have the capacity to tackle really hard problems and the resources to too. Most of the time, you'll be dealing with trying to get those resources allocated to fixing the right problem instead, lots of red tape. Definitely a more comfortable day to day, and more space to explore conceptually in my experience.

    Small ones are usually pretty frantic and exciting. Lots of opportunity and never enough time and resources to tackle the problems you wanted to. You'll need to be quicker and sharper on your day to day because there are usually so many things going on.

    I'm so far enjoying my time in a smaller company because its a better challenge that suit me well. Like Joe said, try both before you settle down. You'll have to ask yourself, what do you enjoy doing more?

    1 point
  • Adham DannawayAdham Dannaway, over 8 years ago

    Definitely small as you get to be more involved in more aspects of a project, you get more say in the business and I've found that there is generally a warmer atmosphere in the office too. Smaller companies have less red tape too and things generally get done a lot faster than in larger companies.

    1 point
  • Mike DennyMike Denny, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

    My first few years working professionally were with small startups with fewer than 10 employees. I was exposed to every detail of digital product work. I learned a ton, especially about my own strengths and weaknesses.

    Last year I joined a large organization (~250) inside an even larger company (~30k). But my team, the folks I work with every day, is still small, like 10ish. So it still feels nimble, and many hats are still worn, but the pace is more relaxed. Except when it isn't haha.

    I'm not really sure how I'd like working on a larger functional team... To be one of 10+ designers for a single product, supported by dozens of engineers. Anyone able to comment about what that's like?

    1 point
  • Conlin "Wuz" DurbinConlin "Wuz" Durbin, over 8 years ago

    I have little experience with this, but from what I do have, I can honestly say I love small companies. The culture and closeness really gets me, especially being from a small town. I think having close working relationships with your co-workers and bosses is really important for productivity and happiness.

    0 points
  • Oz Pinhas, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

    Thanks guys for the thoughtful replies!

    There obviously isn't a correct answer for this but I wonder if your choice is affected by your age or past experiences.

    How long have you worked in small startups before joining a big one, or vice versa? And what's triggered the change?

    Also, is working in big companies like getting married, in a sense you'd probably want to work there for a long time since it's solid and you could have a career or move between different departments?

    (I'm asking all of this because I'm trying to decide between these 2 places I really wanna work in and can't seem to make a decision)

    0 points
  • Michael LoomesMichael Loomes, over 8 years ago

    I spent 2 years in an extremely large organisation (10,000+) and just felt like a cog in the system. No one really cared if you did exceptional work, or no work at all.

    That said, it depends on your team as well. In those 2 years, I had a year where I had a really tight team, and apart from the relatively mundane work, it was pretty good. People seemed to care, and wanted to get to know you more and you felt like you had responsibilities that were actually necessary. But then I was in two other teams where no one gave a damn who you were, nor seem to care what work you actually did.

    It really depends on the person, and the situation. But I know that I am aiming to work in a really small company next. Small to the stage that I know everyone there fairly well

    0 points
  • Diego LafuenteDiego Lafuente, over 8 years ago

    I spend time doing side-projects while working on a Big Co. I didn't disliked this option. Same reward experience as working on a startup with the difference I get x2 the wage :).

    0 points
  • Ryan Hicks, over 8 years ago

    small to mid

    0 points
  • Mitch De CastroMitch De Castro, over 8 years ago

    Probably a big company.

    I know I'd be risking irrelevancy but I like structure.

    And the higher salaries are certainly a plus. ;)

    0 points
    • Andreas Ubbe Dall, over 8 years ago

      Larger company doesn't necessarily mean higher salary.

      5 points
    • Oz Pinhas, over 8 years ago

      Speaking from experience, small startup actually will fight for people with pretty high compensations because they usually want a assemble a top notch team, where big companies would be like "geez you should be happy to work here, take this and shut up" :)

      1 point
      • Mitch De CastroMitch De Castro, over 8 years ago

        Hmm, didn't know that. I guess it could also depend how much the company values design or just how valuable the company is, in general (i.e. facebook, google, etc.)

        But, thanks for the input!

        0 points