For those interested in directing the creative process, like myself, what are some tips, resources or books that can be helpful for becoming a great creative director?
@Joe Donaldson "There is a fundamental problem in the vertical hierarchy that our industry employs. Either through seniority or simply wanting to climb the ladder, everyone seems to want to be a creative director. I can't tell you how many mediocre creative directors I've worked with that were promoted just because that meant progress and in a way, validated their efforts. A creative director isn't inherently better than a design, animator or technical director. It's just a different piece of the same pie."
That is gold. I feel the same way. I would warn anyone looking to get into CD work, honestly there is a layer of politics involved at times, and you can leave feeling that the work comes 2nd or you are balancing peoples egos, or dealing with some BS that always feels secondary to the work but for some reason is number one to someone cutting a check (or some other nonsense that has nothing to do with the project or task at hand). Also the idea of CD's who rise via hierarchy is BS, and with that brings a long a bunch of weirdness.
The best CD's are collaborative ones. I also think CD's that have a clear vision are great to work with. There is a diff btw being a Director and CD thou often is vague and changes, but I'd say both roles benefit from clarity of vision. Vision and having a goal just go such a long way. Everyone makes mistakes, but a CD who can't make up his mind due to his own lack of vision is seriously the worst thing that plagues the biz in my opinion. I think it's chill to change shit and have a change of heart and all that stuff as long as it's in support of the vision, but often times you do feel like some peeps are just finding it as they go.
So I think as a CD, having that vision and being able to share it and let others run with it, is def key. Surround yourself with the peeps you love to work with (if you can) and trust. Try your best to be true to a vision (if you can). Learning your own limits and how to be honest and delegate that is key too. As a CD if you suck at AE or Design but are amazing at writing, then supplement those weakness. I think being honest of your own skill set goes a long way at finding ways to mold the gig.
Now something I personally feel CD's should do and is mega cheesy and hard to do but you gotta try in my opinion is listen to people you work with, and really find out what it is they really want to be doing. I felt I got the best work done when I could hone in on what a persons passion is, and direct them on a gig towards that. Now that's not always possible, but in my experience you would def find that if you can align someone to their best self on a gig, they'll not only work harder, and care more, but the team in general will feel better and there will be a glow that sort of happens, and a confidence that rolls with that.
Then last thing is CD's and creating a culture. Some shops have a culture, some don't. Some CD's just work project to project, others have some control of the studio overall. If you end up as a CD that can guide the culture it goes a long way. Building a healthy, fun, engaging, and powerful culture that values good work, and has a drive and focus and is able to see trends emerging goes a long way.
I guess take what I'm saying with a grain of salt, everyone kind of has their own style too and way of doing something, so you gotta follow your gut as well.
Just wanted to add one thought here to all the great things that everyone has already pointed out. One thing which may be obvious to most but is something I think is important to consider is that Directing a team of 1-4 people is very different from directing a team of 10-15. Joe pointed out the great thing about being honest with yourself and knowing why you got into this line of work to begin with. With a large team you will naturally be less hands on and your responsibilities will change. By working with smaller teams I've found I get to be more hands on and hold on to some of the things I love to do. Those jobs can also be more limiting ( i.e tighter budgets, can only do so much etc.) but I try to choose the types of jobs that fit right with me and what I'm looking for. Granted if you're staff at a place you don't really get to control how big the job is you're leading. But it is possible to be a hands-on director too if that's what you want. You just need to be realistic about where you're at....and ultimately what YOU want.
I couldn't have asked for a more profound answer. Thanks a million Joe; everyone's answers on this blog post has changed a lot to my perspective. I've always felt a great urge (and passion) to lead the creative process and be able to come up with thoughtful ideas for how each element in a project can be stringed together to convey a message. I'm still learning if this feeling/ability is supposed to lead me into a creative director's role (or any director for that matter) or a designer/animator. I've just admired the thoughtfulness behind my favorite creative directors and leaped into the role, acknowledging that it's something I'll learn as I also enhance my design/animation skills; but to define practically what it means in the context of my life has been shaky. I'll take things slower and continue to keep my ears and eyes open.
Thanks a million!
Patience, both with people and yourself/career.
A big part of being a creative director is coming up with ideas and then passing them off to other people to make them better. You have to trust people enough to give them your babies and allow them enough space so that they feel ownership over them too. You have to have the confidence to know who the right person is for the job and nine times out of ten, it isn't you.
There is a fundamental problem in the vertical hierarchy that our industry employs. Either through seniority or simply wanting to climb the ladder, everyone seems to want to be a creative director. I can't tell you how many mediocre creative directors I've worked with that were promoted just because that meant progress and in a way, validated their efforts. A creative director isn't inherently better than a design, animator or technical director. It's just a different piece of the same pie.
At this point, the term creative director is kind of a buzz word.
The reality is that the day to day of most creative directors is phone calls, writing, EMAILS! and some photoshop if you're lucky. It's great if that is what you want, but you don't want to find yourself filling that role if it isn't something you are fundamentally drawn to. Trust me, the pay isn't "that" good to justify doing something you're not happy with.
It's great to have high aspirations but take things slow, be nice, do good work and you will fill the role you are meant to fill.
Very valuable information Haik. Haha all good, I completely understood where you're coming from.
I think it starts with empathy and selflessness. Remember what it was like to be a designer? What would you want your CD to do for you?
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to go from a relatively junior designer to leading a team of about ~10 designers in the span of 5-6 years, and I feel like the quick transition made it really easy for me to remember what I WOULD'VE wanted in a leader.
And really it's about caring and loving and being considerate for your crew. I think an honest personal relationship is almost a prerequisite—to be able to reach a comfort level where criticisms become FUEL and INSPIRATION rather than downers.
Also one simple thing: positive reinforcement. Creativity can be crippled by fear—creating an environment where everyone feels super comfortable allowing themselves to be vulnerable is huge.
I think as a leader, showing your vulnerability goes a long way. It can ease fear and turn crit sessions from daunting to downright inspiring.
Inspiration is also a huge one for me—whether its by studio atmosphere, a culture of expressing love for design BEYOND the office, etc.....
It's sort of like foreplay—you don't wanna just ask your team to start designing, you have to get them in the mood. (terribly sorry for the sexual parallel here but I think it's pretty fitting)
Greg, much appreciated man! I'm really trying to understand it more as I felt like I'm vaguely walking in that direction without the proper perspective. Thanks guys, keep em coming!
I second Mr. Savage’s suggestion—find a great CD to work with and learn from. A good mentor is priceless.
I’d also make sure you understand what creative direction is (and isn’t). This is a great article on the topic:
And, at the risk of shamelessly promoting my own writing, there’s also this:
Downloaded it and started reading. Thanks Daniel!
Working for a good one is probably the best way to learn.
Maybe read that book how to win friends and influence people. The title is cringe worthy but since most of CDing is dealing with people thats a good place to start.