Blog > Creative Directors > Creative Directors vs. Project Managers: What's the Difference?

How to Find Your Next Creative Leader

April 11, 2023
min read
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Do you know the difference between a Creative Director and a Project Manager?

If you don’t, it’s all good; neither do most people. These are two job titles that get tossed around all the time when it comes to project planning, and sometimes they’re even used interchangeably. But are they really the same thing?


Believe it or not, even though these two roles require someone with project management skills and other soft skills like communication, time management, and adaptability, they are way more different than you might realize. 

So, if you’re looking to hire a special someone to oversee that upcoming marketing project you’ve got on the schedule but you’re not sure who you should be looking for, then we’re here to help.

In this blog, we’ll be explaining the difference between Creative Directors and Project Managers, what they do, and which one your business would benefit from the most.

What is a Creative Director?

Before we do that, though, it’s best if you know exactly what each of these people does for a living.

Let’s start with Creative Directors.

A Creative Director is the captain who navigates those creative waters with you. They do some of the things that art directors do but their duties are much more extensive. Your typical Creative Director has a degree in design or fine arts and a decade or more years of experience in graphic design or some type of creative field. 

Most of them have worked in an advertising agency and with many other creative professionals, so they usually also have a broad understanding of many other creative disciplines other than their own. Their expertise doesn’t stop at the creative world, however. To be a Creative Director, you have to have project management experience, strong leadership skills, and plenty of marketing and advertising expertise.

Those skills come in handy because a Creative Director is responsible for overseeing the entire creative process of the project they’re in charge of. They lead a creative team made up of designers, web developers, copywriters, and more to develop a company’s branding, strategize marketing campaigns, and complete any other creative projects that align with the company’s goals. Their job is to oversee all creative aspects of their projects and ensure that everything created is not only looking sharp but aligning with the company’s marketing strategies and brand identity.

What is a Project Manager?

A project manager is holding a gear. She is standing in front of various symbols of project management, such as a clock, a computer screen, a cell phone, and pencils.

It should come as no surprise to you that a Project Manager is someone who manages projects.

A Project Manager oversees every aspect of the complex projects that come down the pipeline. The scope of those projects depends on what industry the Project Manager is in, so while a Project Manager definitely can oversee marketing campaigns and a creative department, they aren’t limited to those two fields.

No matter what industry they’re in though, a successful Project Manager works hard to oversee all of the logistics, including managing budget and resources, keeping everything to strict deadlines, and working with company stakeholders to set time expectations. A good Project Manager has excellent leadership and management skills as well.

There isn’t a certain degree that a person needs for a career in project management but most have at least a certificate from somewhere like the Project Management Institute or a Bachelor’s degree from a university in a field like project management, business administration, or engineering.

They’ll be in charge of every department involved in your project, be it new product testing, software development, or even the manufacturing, marketing, and distribution of your products. Because of that, it’s imperative that they know what they’re doing and have expertise in a variety of different industries.

It’s possible that they’ll also be in charge of the creative department, but their involvement will be more along the lines of overseeing an art team or keeping them on budget and making sure deliverables are on schedule.

Which one do I need for my project?

To answer that question, you have to ask yourself what types of projects you have in mind. Do you need design work? Are you trying to roll out a new product or service for your business? Launching a new marketing strategy? All of the above?

To choose which leader would best suit the scope of work you need done, think about your needs and the certain projects that you’ll be undertaking.

You need a Creative Director if ...

If you’re looking to refresh your logo and colors, rebrand products, or give your company a visual update and launch a social media campaign with that new look, then you, my friend, are looking for a Creative Director. A Creative Director will sit down with you, listen to all of your needs, take note of the creative direction that you want to go in, and then get to work.

They’ll source creatives for you — anyone from copywriters to web developers to designers — explain your creative vision to them and lead the team toward producing high-quality creative work for your brand. They can help you build a strong and cohesive brand identity and maintain it across the board with your social media look, advertisements, brochures, you name it. And since they’re experts in their field, they can also guide you if you aren’t sure what direction to take, pushing the boundaries of creativity by offering up creative solutions to your most pressing challenges.

Looking for a way to differentiate yourself from competitors?

A Creative Director’s got you.

Do you need to build a strong brand identity to stand out in a crowded marketplace?

Have no fear, a Creative Director’s got you.

Whatever creative needs you have, your Creative Director and their team members can meet them.

You need a Project Manager if ...

If your needs are not so much on the creative side but on the planning and development side, it might be a Project Manager that you’re looking for.

If you need to coordinate with other organizations to get your project done, then you’re going to need a Project Manager. If you need someone to manage your budget and resources and stick to a predetermined timeline, then it’s time to find yourself a Project Manager. A Project Manager keeps everything on time and on budget, they coordinate between different project teams, whether they’re creative, manufacturing, marketing, distribution or anyone else involved, and they make sure that everyone is working together for the success of the project. They also keep track of the data and analytics to manage risk and prevent any issues that could cost your company time and money.

A pretty important person to have on your team.

Do Creative Directors and Project Managers work together?

Two hands connect two matching puzzle pieces, symbolizing how Creative Directors and Project Managers work together for the success of marketing projects.

Yes, sometimes they do!

As we mentioned earlier, sometimes Project Managers happen to be creative people but not always. So, if your project is creative in nature, such as a new marketing campaign complete with eye-catching visuals and snappy headliners, it’s quite possible that you would need both.

Let’s take a new product rollout for instance. For something that extensive, it would be a Creative Director’s job to help you brand your new product, create ads, and develop a marketing strategy. It would be the Project Manager’s job to oversee things like manufacturing, keeping everything on budget, and mapping out a distribution plan, as well as making sure that the creative team turns out their deliverables on schedule. The larger and more extensive your project, the greater the odds are that you’ll need to hire both leaders to get the job done.

A Creative Director is what I need. Where do I find one?

If it’s a rebrand you’re after, some spiffy-looking marketing collateral, or to launch a sweet new marketing campaign, a Creative Director can help.

There’s no need to spend your time trying to hire a freelancer or figuring out the latest project management software. Here at Designity, our Creative Directors take the burden of your project completely off of your shoulders. Our Creative Directors are top-notch creative professionals with excellent project management skills and the talent to guide you toward a brand identity that will resonate with your audience and draw in those new customers.

Think of them like your creative project manager, managing your timeline, sourcing the right talent, and ensuring your deliverables are on schedule and of the highest quality. At a flat monthly fee, this could be a time-saving and cost-effective solution for you and your business.

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Take me to your leader.

As you can see, Creative directors and Project Managers can wear many of the same hats but they handle very different job duties. 

But whether you’re posting a job for one project management role or the other (or even both!) these special people are the answer to ensuring a successful creative project for your business needs.

So now that you know the difference, who do you need on your team?

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Sara, a Designity content writer.
About the author:
Sara Lopez
Sara is a Texas-based copywriter.
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