Industry professionals reveal keys to being a successful creative director
14/04/17
Some things you can only learn through years of experience. Lucky for you, five seasoned creative directors have revealed what those things are. Read on for a peek inside the minds of industry experts and insight on how to succeed in design. 

 

Contributors:

Scott Christie RGD, Partner, BLVD Agency

Robin Honey RGD, Cheif Creative Officer, Arcane

Michael MacVicar, Head of Creative and Design, Capital One 

Barry Quinn RGD, Chief Creative Officer, Juniper Park / TBWA

Jennifer Weaymouth RGD, Creative Director, Weaymouth Creative

 

Listen. 

"Good work always starts with listening. Don't get wrapped up in the end product - start with a creative brief, ask the client important questions, understand who the audience is. If you're not reflecting on the end product and the end user, you're not doing your job properly." Robin Honey RGD

 

"Get to know your customer, understand them. This is more important now than it has ever been, because of digital channels and user experience design. You need to understand their needs, wants and desires and how you can have an emotional and rational impact through your design." Michael MacVicar

 

Experiment.

"When faced with an overwhelming number of choices, my advice is to do what you love. Go with your passion. Don't worry about failing - early in your career is the time to try a bunch of different things and see what you like." Michael MacVicar

 

"Design evolves, culture advances. The work we do changes year to year, more now than ever before. Culture is always changing, tech disrupts everything, and you have to go out of your way to keep up." Barry Quinn RGD 

 

Do something different.

"Look around, review the market and then break from it. Do something that isn't already happening." Scott Christie RGD

 

"New work warrants the effort of creating three concepts. One idea skinned three different ways won't cut it. You need to show that you're a strategic thinker and that you have taken the time to work through three different ways to tackle the problem." Michael MacVicar

 

"We need to feed our creative spirit and avoid burnout. We've all stared at the blank page, waiting for the magic to happen, and it will. I recommend giving yourself down time to recharge your batteries - get outside, explore your city, get away from computer, break routine, travel, shift your perspective and you may find solutions in unexpected places." Jennifer Weaymouth RGD

 

Prioritize ideas over trends.

"Styles come and go but you'll always have a long career if you stay with an idea." Scott Christie RGD

 

"Designers have a good sense of aesthetics, what is cool and current and how to make it look 'the best', but it's important for your work to have context. Your idea should address what the client is asking for and what the audience is going to expect at the end of the day." Robin Honey RGD 

 

"Concept is king. Without a concept, you have nothing but a pretty picture. A killer concept means everything will feed off of your big idea, make perfect strategic sense and can be easily rationalized. Basing a brand identity on a trendy typeface or designing an ad campaign on a new photography style you've fallen in love with rather than choosing for strategic reasons lacks substance and has no story to tell. It will have no longevity and will become dated before it even hits the street. Creative ideas are often chosen for subjective reasons rather than objective ones, so it's important for your ideas to come from strong design thinking and a solid creative rationale." Jennifer Weaymouth RGD 

 

Sell your work (and yourself).  

"Control the conversation. Show what needs to be shown to guide the client to an informed decision at the end." Scott Christie RGD

 

"Always gather ammunition before presenting an idea. Outline the key requirements of the ask, reference the research you've done, show mood boards and make sure to have sign-off to use as insurance against misunderstandings down the line." Robin Honey RGD

 

"Lean in to your inexperience. The very fact that someone new to the industry is not jaded, doesn't know the rules, and actually uses things like Tinder and Snapchat is unbelievably valuable. Inexperienced is the one thing creative directors cannot be. The only time machine that I know of is to hire young staff." Barry Quinn RGD

 

"Sell yourself, show off your design thinking skills. Be prepared, rationalize your ideas and put in the time to craft and execute your creative concepts. Make the effort, push yourself, and give each project the time it needs for the creative thinking it deserves. You'll definitely be rewarded for it." Jennifer Weaymouth RGD 

 

Be as prepared as you can.

"Set up your client presentation like a legal case: Understand the competitive space, understand the audience, gather your facts, prepare your arguments and then move on to the work. Don't make the mistake of showing the design and assuming the client will understand your thinking. Before you show it, review what you've been tasked to do so that they're mentally prepared and have a frame of reference." Robin Honey RGD 

 

"For every job you tackle, you need to know what the business and creative objectives are and make sure your strategies are reinforcing and supporting those goals." Michael MacVicar

 

"Be accountable for your work. Take ownership, be responsible, do your homework, research, read the brief, review your own work. Don't be afraid to ask questions. It's not acceptable to make excuses or play the blame game. Taking accountability will earn you respect as a designer and gain trust from your creative director and other team members. Understand every aspect of your project before you begin, from strategic objectives to budget parameters to brand vision and all of the specs that you're given." Jennifer Weaymouth RGD

 

Accept help and support from people with experience. 

"Don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it. It's much wiser to ask for help than to panic on the day of a presentation and risk letting down your team, or worse, losing a client. Build time for internal reviews along the way with your creative director." Jennifer Weaymouth RGD  

 

"A good creative director can make your career. If you're the athlete going to the olympics, the creative director is the coach. They're the person who can push you, tell you to bend or strive a little more. Their job is to make you better than you are. If you find yourself working for a creative director who kills your spirit, move on." Barry Quinn RGD

 

Work hard and keep working hard.

"Gain experience, stay current, build a network, support and encourage others, lead, project business intelligence, enhance projects and talk about ideas. To be a creative director takes guts, confidence and energy." Scott Christie RGD 

 

"Great is hard. It's not even an expected outcome, it's a huge amount of work." Barry Quinn RGD

 

"Focus on what goes right and do more of it. If you have a good idea, people will come to it." Robin Honey RGD

 

"We all know that working hard will help you succeed. It's also important to do a lot of work. Be open to trying a bunch of different things. Getting a breadth of experience will give you the confidence and the skills to be a good creative director, because it's our job to elevate the work that the team produces, make sure it's good quality and make sure it's effective. The more knowledgable you are about a bunch of different things, the more you'll be able to help." Michael MacVicar   

 

"No problem or situation is too difficult for creativity to solve. Optimism is infectious and it is fundamental to a successful creative environment. You have to believe that something will come from nothing." Jennifer Weaymouth RGD