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Job Description: Creative Director

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Design guru. Master mediator. Highly skilled multitasker and delegator. A good Creative Director is all these things and more. They are the calm head on top of the creative shoulders that bring focus and identity to a company.

Job description, Salary and Benefits

Creative directors oversee the creative team, which includes art directors, copywriters, and designers, to ensure the success of a product, guiding it through from conception to completion.

Depending on industry focus and the company’s needs, the Creative Director’s role may shift. And while some creative directors take on a purely managerial role, others keep one foot in the trenches, helping to generate the big ideas.

Most importantly, the success of a campaign almost always correlates with the economic success of the product, making Creative Directors vital to the industry.

Daily tasks may include:

  • Managing the creative process from conception to completion. They will also be expected to manage and cultivate the career development of other team members
  • Meeting with and determining the client’s creative needs
  • Meeting with clients and sharing their needs with the rest of the team
  • Brainstorming alongside the creative team and coming up with different innovative ways in which to convey the client’s desired message
  • Developing those campaigns - storyboarding and translating ideas whilst negotiating with clients to achieve something that matches their vision and yours
  • Convincingly pitching the team’s ideas to the client
  • Initiating the process to begin the project once a client accepts a proposal
  • Overseeing every step of the creative process
  • Ensuring client satisfaction with the final creative product

Salary often depends on the location and size of an agency, and salaries range from £40,000 to well over six figures. However, highly experienced Creative Directors should expect to make around £100,000.

A creative director should have:

  • Extensive knowledge of graphic design and relevant software
  • Familiarity with film-making techniques
  • Video editing, copywriting and HTML skills
  • Excellent communication (written and verbal) and confident presentation skills
  • A keen awareness of current trends in advertising and graphic design
  • A braod and successful career in the creative industries with proven results

What is the work like?

At the root of it, Creative Directors are responsible for conceptualising and executing campaigns.  

Creative director input is required for a wide variety of activities, including:

  • Working with the brand team to produce new ideas for company branding, promotional campaigns, and marketing communications
  • Evaluating trends, assess new data and keep up-to-date with the latest marketing techniques
  • Assisting clients in resolving issues by responding to questions in a timely and professional manner
  • Creating and implementing tailored marketing plans based on individual client requirements
  • Directing brainstorming meetings and creative sessions
  • Shaping brand standards and creating procedures to ensure all products are brand appropriate
  • Supervising the department's daily workflow, assigning project workload, and monitoring deadlines and budgets
  • Developing exceptional and well-crafted copy that meet clients’ requirements

Creative directors are uniquely talented at using their expertise and guidance to ensure creative teams work like a well-oiled machine, consistently cranking out genius deliverables, meeting deadlines and landing coveted work from desirable clients.

The best creative departments have a person who knows the ins and outs of every creative element of the business. That same person is also able to manage a slew of diverse creative visionaries and their various projects without breaking a sweat. This is the Creative Director and this is a job that demands experience, patience and passion.

Hours and environment

When overseeing a creative team, the Creative Director must be able to work in a fast-paced environment and handle the duties of overseeing and assisting each member of the creative team. Creative Directors maintain a typical full-time schedule with regular office hours of 9 to 6. However, they are also expected to attend evening functions and launches as well as work longer hours as project deadlines approach

Creative Directors spend a lot of time away from their office at meetings. A willingness to travel is assumed and they will be a frequent presence at networking events, industry trade shows and exhibitions.

Salary and Benefits

These figures are only a guide for creative director jobs, as actual rates of pay may vary, depending on the employer and where people live.

  • Salaries for creative director may start at around £40,000 a year
  • With experience, earnings may rise to above £80,000 a year
  • Senior creative may earn up to or even over £100,000 a year

Salary often depends on the location and size of an agency, and salaries range from  Larger cities such as London, Bristol, and Manchester tend to house the most successful creative agencies and Creative Directors in the UK. 

As far as benefits are concerned, there is the opportunity to work on new and innovative projects almost every other day and there is no need to be suited and booted in a creative job, so even at a high level you probably won’t be required to dress formally.

Skills and Personal Qualities

There are certain skills that many creative have in order to accomplish their responsibilities. These include:-

  • First and foremost creative directors must be good at creating concepts for others to work on
  • The ability to fully commit to their strong ideas, as well as take the blame when a campaign does not go as planned
  • Leadership skills in order to hire, develop and oversee their creative team. Excellent interpersonal skills are also a must. They need a clear creative vision while remaining open to others’ ideas
  • In the business world, Creative Directors exercise flexibility, as travel and overtime are often required more times than not
  • They need to be able to pitch ideas to clients or directors and also explain their ideas to members of their creative team
  • As the business world comes to rely on technology more and more, technical fluency is highly valued

Interests

It is important for creative directors to have an interest in:-

  • The creative industries
  • Current affairs
  • Global and industry-wide trends

Getting in

Top candidates have a strong understanding of industry trends and creative tools, such as Adobe Creative Suite. Experience performing or managing a range of creative positions, such as graphic designer, art director and copywriter, is important. 

Entry for young people

Creative director jobs are, by definition, roles that require a certain level of seniority. As such, it's a role that is rarely, if ever, attained by recent graduates.

Entry for adults

Expert knowledge of the business side of design is a major plus. The best creative directors have elevated soft skills that enable them to inspire creativity and work well with different personality types, all while juggling various projects. Ultimately, it may take a lot of work to break into creative direction. Identify the companies you most want to learn from and apply there. Then try your hand at a little bit of everything and work your way up the ranks when you’ve found your niche.

Training

Typically a bachelor’s degree and a significant amount of experience are the most common requirements for Creative Directors. Indeed, experience is a key prerequisite for a Creative Director position. We’re not talking about a year or two in the industry — creative director job descriptions typically ask for at least five to ten years of experience.

Getting on

Continuing professional development is important, especially keeping up to date with technological changes. Follow industry trends by reading the trade press. Most agencies offer training on the job but there are many other providers of development schemes.

The IPA offer the MBA-level IPA Excellence Diploma, which is aimed at those with three to five years of experience in the industry who want to develop a broader understanding of how brands work and create value for clients. The IPA also offers a range of short courses and seminars for experienced staff.

Design and Art Direction (D&AD) offers continuing professional development schemes. You can also showcase your work to gain industry status and foster networking opportunities at the annual CIM Marketing Excellence Awards.

Further Reading

Creative Direction in a Digital World by Adam Harrell - Creative Direction in a Digital World provides designers with the tools they need to craft compelling digital experiences across screens, devices and platforms. Readers will learn how to take a multi-disciplinary approach to digital creative direction that will help them uncover target audience insights, concept more creative campaigns, change consumer behaviour, and create more user-friendly digital experiences. 

The Eye: How the World's Most Influential Creative Directors Develop Their Vision by Nathan Williams - They’re often behind the scenes, letting their work take centre stage. But now Nathan Williams, founder and creative director of Kinfolk magazine and author of The Kinfolk TableThe Kinfolk Home, and The Kinfolk Entrepreneur—with over 250,000 copies in print combined—brings more than 90 of the most iconic and influential creative directors into the spotlight.

Book of Ideas - A journal of creative direction and graphic design by Radim Malinic - Book of Ideas is just that: an outpouring of what one creative director and designer has discovered from many years working in the strange and endlessly fascinating world of the creative industry.

This is Service Design Thinking by Marc Stickdorn - Service design is a bit of a buzzword these days and has gained a lot of interest from various fields. This book, assembled to describe and illustrate the emerging field of service design, was brought together using exactly the same co-creative and user-centred approaches you can read and learn about inside.

Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder - A handbook for visionaries, game changers, and challengers striving to defy outmoded business models and design tomorrow's enterprises. Co-created by 470 "Business Model Canvas" practitioners from 45 countries, the book features a beautiful, highly visual, 4-color design that takes powerful strategic ideas and tools, and makes them easy to implement in your organization.

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