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What Does a Creative Director Do?

April 13, 2023
min read
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What makes for a great Creative Director? I know what you’re thinking: “Their creative direction abilities, duh.”

Not so fast. 

Creative Directors do a lot more than the name implies. They are so much more than project managers or Art Directors, so much more than the organizers of their client’s creative vision. We love ADs and PMs. They make the world go ‘round, but CDs fulfill a crucial role for any creative services team.

They are the captains who navigate their clients’ most pressing creative challenges. They are mentors who lead their creative teams while teaching them all there is to know about effectively navigating the creative process. 

The interesting thing about them is that they can come from so many different backgrounds and expertise, and you don’t need to have a fancy fine arts degree to become one. If you do have a BFA, though, it can accelerate the process toward becoming a high-performing Creative Director.

If you want to learn more about the Creative Director job description and exactly what goes into their day-to-day work, then you’ve come to the right place. 

In this blog, we’re going to take a deeper look at the ins and outs of being a Creative Director. Do you have what it takes?

Creative Director Role & Responsibilities

A Creative Director sits in a chair, studying a clipboard. Next to her are interlocking puzzle pieces, signifying that she is maintaining a cohesive environment.

What exactly do these masters of the muses, bringers of bold and beautiful ideas do in their day-to-day role?

As a Creative Director, you’re in charge of the creative vision of the company that you are working with and bringing the team’s ideas to life while guiding them in the right direction. Creative Directors are most heavily involved at the start and end of a project. Depending on the team structure, they can also serve as the project manager or Art Director throughout the middle phases of a project.

Think of a Creative Director as a butterfly chaser who catches and examines all of the team’s ideas in their large net, but only keeps the best ones. What exactly does this look like in their day-to-day life? Let’s break it down.

You’re in charge of brainstorming and developing creative concepts, then bringing the approved ideas to your team of Creatives to bring those ideas to life. It’s up to you to guide and develop your team so that they are at their absolute best. You’re the conductor of the creative orchestra and the team is your symphony. 

While leading a team of Creatives, you also need to be a master of communication. A CD also establishes budgets and timelines, and any changes will have to be communicated to both your team and your client so that everyone is always on the same page. 

Must-Have Skills for Creative Directors

Believe it or not, you don’t have to have a fancy degree to become a Creative Director, as long as your professional experience and years of experience aligns with the role. In order to thrive in this position, you need to have a handy satchel of natural qualities and proven experience.

Project management: First and foremost, you need to be a meticulous project manager because you will be overseeing a variety of projects at once. One of the most important skills that you can have is being really organized and detail-oriented. 

Doer: This takes us straight into our next skill. If you are someone who doesn’t like to keep track of things or would rather go where the wind takes you, being a Creative Director might not be the best career for you. 

Creative Directors have to be adept at maintaining timelines and budgets, and at getting things done. This ties back into the mentorship point as well. We all know that Creatives can be a mercurial lot, so keeping your creative team excited, engaged, and helping them grow is job #1 for a CD.

Deadlines are mission-critical in the world of creativity, and you need to be able to motivate your team to stay on schedule and deliver work on time. They won’t do this unless you lead by example. 

Communication: One of the most important skills that you can have as a Creative Director is stellar communication abilities. This doesn’t mean that an introvert wouldn’t excel in this role, it just means that you are able to effectively communicate project needs and get your point across to both your client and your creative team. Poor communication leads to poor outcomes. 

Managerial and leadership skills: Management and diplomacy are two skills that are always abundant in great Creative Directors. Think about it: Creatives can sometimes be, well, a bit sensitive about their work and feedback isn’t always taken the way that you intend. This is why you have to be diplomatic and leave your ego at the door. 

You need to be able to give feedback without crushing anyone’s spirit, and encourage your team to take risks and push the boundaries while staying true to the client’s brand. 

Required Experience for Creative Directors

A Creative Director working with a giant compass. She is surrounded by project management tools like books and a schedule.

Earlier in the piece, we mentioned that you don’t need to have a fancy degree to fulfill your dream of becoming the next Beyoncé of the Creative Director world. This doesn’t mean that an emerging graphic designer with one year of experience can land the job either. Let’s dive into the experience that you absolutely need to have in order to become a Creative Director.

Although you don’t need that degree, you do need to have at least ten years of marketing or creative experience in any given field. That might sound like a whole lot of time, but the Creative Director role is a senior-level one in the design industry, and you’ll want the experience to back you. This is not a job for the faint of heart, and you definitely want to be sure that you have a solid foundation to back it up.

The good news is that the experience doesn’t have to be in a specific area. For example, if you’ve worked in advertising agencies creating print and digital design for a number of years, you could be a great fit for a Creative Director who specializes in advertising campaigns. 

If you have a ton of experience managing a team of video game designers or designing video games yourself, you could specialize in motion graphics and animation. 

Let’s go way out into left field for a second. What if you were an art history teacher for many years? Yes, you could also be a great candidate for a career as a Creative Director because those teaching skills easily translate into mentoring and guiding Creatives.

Not to mention the fact that in order to be a teacher, you have to have great communication and organizational skills.

The key is really to have a deep understanding of the creative process and be able to lead a team. 

<div class="c-blog_comp-cta cc-component-2"><div class="c-blog_comp-cta-left"><div class="c-blog_comp-cta-left-wrap"><img src="" loading="lazy" alt="" class="c-blog_comp-cta-left-img"></div></div><div class="c-blog_comp-cta-right cc-dark"><div class="c-blog_comp-content"><div class="c-text-wrapper cc-mb-32"><div class="c-title-4 cc-bold"><strong>Grow with a community that is exclusively inclusive!</strong></div></div><div class="c-text-wrapper"><div class="c-text-2">Get inspiration from creative directors and level up from emerging creative to Chief of Design by collaborating on projects.<br><br></div></div></div><div class="c-blog_comp-wrapper"><a href="" target="_blank" class="c-button w-button"><strong>Discover Your Growth Path</strong></a></div></div></div>

How Do I Become a Creative Director?

If you are a Creative who really wants to move up to the next level, you have a much better chance if you are well-rounded in multiple disciplines. This means that you should be comfortable working in a variety of mediums, whether that’s graphic design, social media, video production, copywriting, or fine arts. 

That’s why, at Designity, we have an automated growth track system that empowers Creatives to grow as far and as fast as they want. From straight out of design school all the way to a Head of Design (or even a Chief Design Officer), Designity’s tech-enabled design platform is helping Creatives of every caliber grow and earn more money.

Do you have what it takes to become a Creative Director? Apply for the job of your dreams, today. Not ready for the CD role? Apply to be a Creative with Designity and discover the creative community you’ve been looking for. Looking to compare Designity to other Creative Director jobs? No problem. Check out Jooble’s listing of remote Creative Director jobs to get a sense of the options you have!

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Sara, a Designity content writer.
About the author:
Kat Calejo
Senior content writer- Designity
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