So you want to be a creative director? It’s a great position to set your sights on, and a natural goal for any type-A designer. More and more people and companies are realizing that presentation is everything – and a good creative director is the gatekeeper to any company’s branding efforts.
They oversee the image and presentation of people, brands, companies, and businesses. You’d expect to find them in more creative industries, like advertising, web design, and media – but you can actually find them just about everywhere. Even in industries that aren’t considered to be very creative, like manufacturing, finance, and real estate.
Many people start out as designers and set their sights on one day becoming a creative director of a successful company or agency. So how can you start laying the foundation in your career to obtain this position?
Learn, Learn, and then Learn Some More
Let’s face it – you aren’t the first designer who has decided to become a creative director. But there are already thousands of creative directors out there, in all types of businesses and industries. Those people made it, but how?
This is where the whole “learning” principle comes in. Find successful creative directors out there – especially ones that are in the industry you’re interested in. Follow them on Twitter, Facebook, read their blogs. Become familiar with what they do, the image they project, and how they present themselves.
The more you know about what the best creative directors do, the more you can pattern yourself and project that same image – the image and presentation that companies are looking for.
Understand the Path
Remember that the path to becoming a creative director isn’t always the clearest or the simplest. Creative directors come from all types of backgrounds and industries, from print design, to web media, to branding and everything in-between. However, most share a common thread.
Creative directors have degrees in – you guessed it – something creative, from digital art to web design. They have experience in the creative fields, and usually more than just a year or two. Most companies want someone who has anywhere from 5 to 10 years of creative experience. Lastly (and most certainly not least), you’ve got to be more than just the best creative professional out there. You have to be able to lead – to create an environment where ideas can sprout, grow, and evolve. You need to be able to direct this environment – thus the “Director” part of the title.
If you understand what’s involved in the career path towards this position, you can identify your strengths and weaknesses early. You may want to earn more experience in different industries, or even go back to school for a year or two. It’s as the old saying goes “forewarned is forearmed”.
It’s all about the Presentation
Remember the cardinal rule of marketing – it’s all about the presentation. You want to get noticed – to be recognized by companies and people as being the best person for the job. That means showcasing your work and your skills. Create an online portfolio, show off what you’ve done. Network with companies, people, and agencies – use social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.
Stay objective – and reflect on your image often. Change the way you think, especially when faced with challenges or when working on projects. The more you can show people that you can approach problems with a variety of creative solutions, the closer you’ll be to the path toward your goal.
‘Patience is a virtue’ – we’ve all heard this adage, but in this case, it’s not just a virtue, it’s essential. The path to becoming a creative director isn’t a short one. It takes time, and it happens slowly. Patience will allow you to take your time, look carefully for the best positions with the best companies, and not lose heart. If you develop yourself as a creative expert, the opportunities will come.
Learn to Oversee
Creative directors are more than just the best creative professionals out there, they’re in charge of other creatives. They know how to manage, oversee, direct and create. Learn how to keep tabs on your projects, manage as many projects as you can, and really show that you not only know how to be the best creative, but how to direct that creative energy.
Being a creative director is about combining the best elements of creativity with project and people management. Directors need to know how to not just direct their own creative energy, but the creative juices of others around them accomplish the client’s goals. You don’t need to be a creative director to start learning how to direct or manage – you can do that now.
Consider outsourcing your next freelance project to another freelancer whom you trust. This is simple enough to do, just get a quote for the job from your subcontractor, mark it up by 25%, and take that quote to your client. This puts you in the creative director’s chair. You get to brief your designer, give notes, and direct the project from start to finish. While you will be giving up a substantial portion of the overall project fee, you are gaining valuable experience in overseeing and directing another designer. And the more opportunities you take advantage of to hone the “director” part of that title – managing projects, people, and processes – the better off you’ll be.
Love What You Do
The is the last point, and one of the most important points I can make. Loving what you do is something you can’t force or fake – and it’s essential. When you meet someone who’s passionate about their job, their hobby, their cause – whatever it is, people can tell. Their eyes light up, they get excited, and it’s obvious they do what they do because they love it.
As a creative professional looking to become a creative director, this is all the more important. Passion is infectious. It rubs off on others, and it stimulates environments. When you love what you do, you’ll be passionate about it. You’ll enjoy the road towards becoming a creative director, however long it takes. And you’ll enjoy the destination that much more once you get there.
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