Design Dialogue: John Warfel
Our next meet-up takes us to the Flying M, where I sat down with John Warfel, graphic designer manager at Scentsy, to chat In-House design. Our chapter gets a lot of questions regarding In-House from our student group, so I was excited to sit down with a pro in this field.

What began as a small husband and wife entrepreneurial venture in a 40-foot metal box, has now turned into a continually growing international business. Scentsy, a candle-warmer company, has developed its brand, team and product line over the years, recently kicking off another successful year in a newly designed headquarters in Meridian, Idaho.  Read more about Scenty’s humble beginnings and great success on their blog…

John is the graphic design manager at Scentsy, managing a staff of nine graphic designers that share a floor with Scenty’s web, video, social media and copywriting teams. With a head count of about 50 at the moment, the Scentsy design crew collectively develops and works for three different brands: Scentsy, Velata and Grace Adele. On top of these brands, their work spans to 12 different languages, as the company gets ready to launch in Mexico, Australia, France, Spain, and Poland.

In-House vs. Agency Life

 “Working with one brand consistently let’s you develop a deeper understanding of a brand and its needs and that is a cool process to watch, as the brand evolves over time.”

Working In-house has its perks and challenges, as John spoke to the difference of being an In-House designer over working in an agency. With Scentsy, the workflow and creative process is very similar to an agency; starting with a kick-off meeting, they create a brief, as design and copywriting teams work together to compose drafts of all the different moving parts. Comps are created that go through rounds of approval until final art is approved and executed. After all that, there is a lot of production work. Very much like the agency flow.

John mentions that one of the tougher factors of In-House is that the client is always in the building, which can add a few extra steps into the design process at times. This can also lead to tight deadlines and a lot of revisions. While repetition does become a factor with In-House, Scentsy keeps things exciting with three different brands that change depending on the product line and season, adding a lot of variety to their work flow. “In-House design is the same as a lot of my other jobs, you just have to ride the elevator with the boss occasionally,” chuckles John.

With a beautiful new campus located in Meridian, the Scentsy staff stays inspired with a personal gym, game room, an impressive cafeteria catering to a healthy menu and a Disney-like strip of indoor store fronts lined with antique lamps and lights to add to the Scentsy experience.

Working with the Bosses

“Do you feel like your voices are heard enough?” I asked, wondering about constraints one might have working under such a large organization. John mentions that Heidi and Orville are pretty open to hearing new ideas and that their design team presents new ideas regularly, including research to keep them updated on the latest trends.

The Numbers

Our student’s were curious about In-House wages and how that scale broke down. “It varies, even across agencies”, says John, as he gave some general ballpark figures so we could get the idea.

Production designers can start around $25,0000/year.

Graphic Designers around $30,000 and up.

Senior Designers around $50,000 and up.

It all depends on experience and the value your employer places on design. You also have to consider benefits and bonuses in your salary computation as well as overtime (for hourly employees), especially during catalog season. “Our In-House benefits/bonuses are good, so that is nice. In-House places vary depending on the place and the person but there is a nice sense of stability with working such a developed, growing brand, which brings a sense of security.”

Staying Inspired

John mentions that he and his team do a lot of research and find interesting ideas to share and apply to Scentsy. They share fun links, drawings and blogs and the team has to dodge John’s Nerf gun attacks as he patrols the designers with his weapon of choice, all in good fun. Having had the pleasure to have met several of Scenty’s creatives, I have to stay they are a very motivated and creative bunch with talents ranging from photography, video and music.

John also does a lot of sketching on his free time with beautiful illustrations and a T-shirt line he recently developed that centers around wheat, yes, the bread. Check it out here…

Warfel Wisdom

“You can’t rely on your job to be your only creative outlet” After a student asked how you keep from being bored. “There are long weeks at times, but that’s a job.”

“Do as little of work outside of work as possible. Got to have other outlets. Get away from the screen.”

For our students looking to apply to In-House design jobs, John lists a few tips for the interview.

1) You have to know how to arm wrestle. Given. ;P

2) Talk intelligently about your pieces when going through work. Practice before hand to make sure you know your stuff.

3) Don’t be nervous, they want to get to know you.

4) Be a good communicator.

5) Bring copies of your resume.

6) Send cool Thank You’s afterwards, it makes a big impression.

As John wrapped up our interview by showing me the guts of his beautiful sketchbook, it was nice to see how he stays inspired outside the office. Agency life and the In-House design worlds do have a lot in common and each require a certain individual to thrive in them. Scentsy’s In-house design team has brought together a great group of people and if that area interests you, don’t be shy to shoot out an e-mail for an informational interview to learn more.

By Amela Subasic
Published January 17, 2014
AIGA encourages thoughtful, responsible discourse. Please add comments judiciously, and refrain from maligning any individual, institution or body of work. Read our policy on commenting.