So You Wanna Be a Creative Director?
Climbing the corporate / creative ladder is a rewarding experience. Everyone appreciates recognition and the rewards that come along with added responsibility — including a sense of freedom. It’s an astonishing feeling to be rewarded for your talent and hard work.
That said, the reward for success isn’t always doing more of what you love to do. You have made it to this point in your career based on your creative accolades, loyalty to the agency, and successes along the way. In the role of Creative Director (CD), you’ll learn to love other aspects of a creative career, mainly the “business side” of an agency. Your role is an opportunity sharpen your skills beyond simply the creative set.
Depending on the agency and definition of the role, you may have more face time with clients and be involved in strategic planning for accounts and campaigns. You may be charged with financial reporting, forecasting, and even managing a budget for a creative group. Being involved in these conversations are a chance to learn more about the creative business and how an agency runs.
Five pieces of advice for future Creative Directors:
1. Prepare for exponential growth. The most fruitful growth will be in the area of leadership. As a CD, you may be charged with management of a creative group. A CD must be a great listener, but also able to offer advice and direction. Finding fulfillment in this role includes inspiring a team of people to be their best.
2. Learn to spot the future potential. Hiring an employee can be the most difficult decision. You will learn to develop your own set of instincts for who is a proper fit. A good portfolio and strong skill set are prerequisite — a sense of personality and perception of motivation are qualities that separate the competition.
3. Know when to part ways. Firing is even more grueling than hiring. Terminating a team member can be the hardest part of the job. Your best defense for the personal hardships you’ll feel is to ensure you’ve given them a fair shot and communicated the expectations with them.
4. Open your mind. Make a crucial mind shift to look beyond the way you would solve the creative problem. After all, there is no “right” answer, only the best possible solution. The superior approach could be typographic, illustrative, or a copy-driven concept. Forget personal creative experiences and skill set and support the team philosophy — it’s best for the common creative good.
5. Trust your gut. You will be required to make challenging decisions. To complicate matters, they may also be completely subjective. As creative beings, we are emotional by nature, making it difficult to make a decision about the work that gets killed before presentation. It’s your role to choose the best work to put in front of client eyeballs.
Enjoy your role, Creative Director. You have been given a meaningful role that can be gratifying and offer a great sense of achievement. Accept your role with the right mindset and you’ll exceed your expectations.