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A creative director is the visionary responsible for steering the entire look, feel and delivery of an audio or visual project, publication, department or company.
A creative director can work in any industry, although they are typically called upon to work in any creative format. This could be with a magazine, TV production company, marketing communications firm, automotive design house or graphic design agency. Generally, the creative director is tasked with determining the best way for a company to represent themselves (or their clients) visually to the market. They will usually be in charge of a creative team which may include a graphic designer, content editor, photographer and marketing manager (or team).
The creative director will interpret either the objective vision of their own company or that of their client. Once they have a grasp on the brief and overall strategy, they will work with their own internal teams to deliver a pleasing and coherent deliverable vision. This may be the overall guiding thesis for a magazine, or a theme and key message for their client’s advertising campaign. The role blends the need to understand a variety of disciplines, so the creative director will need to be capable of working in art direction, concept planning, timeline management, execution of deliverables and post-delivery reporting and analysis.
Salary is wholly dependent on the industry being worked in, but as a general rule, the job is very well remunerated due to the level of responsibility which it places upon the candidate. Based on an amalgamation of search results on several UK-based job web sites, expected salary ranges are £35,350 to £67,750 for candidates working outside the capital. Creative jobs in London nearly always pay more, with the top potential salary exceeding £100,000 in many sectors.
- Understand the brief, whether internal or external (proposed by the client)
- Create an overall visual framework which can be accommodated by internal teams
- Liaise with the client to ensure the proposed scheme is satisfactory
- Consult with internal artistic teams to design a deliverable plan of execution
- Supervise the design process and assemble content so as to meet the overall theme
- Ensure strict deadlines are met throughout the course of project management
- Correspond with and meet client post-assembly to ensure the brief has been met
- Modify design plan to accommodate requests of internal or external customers post-completion
Normally, an honours degree is a requirement for immediate entry into an organisation at this level. Some firms are happy to accept candidates based on a CV which demonstrates success at similar levels or levels slightly below the position being applied for. However, those starting at a production level (graphic designers or photography/art supervisors) will need to spend many years in gaining experience of working under a creative director before they can progress internally or externally to this level.
- An ability to react to and plan a communications plan is essential
- Candidate must have strong marketing skills, especially in the areas of channel marketing and brand communication
- Project management is important, as the creative director will be managing several departments which are working to generate content inside their framework
- Strong presentation skills are required to communicate campaign and brand objectives internally and to external stakeholders
Whilst this role is typically office-based, most creative directors will spend a lot of time at meetings and production planning sessions away from their place of work. Those who lack a confident presentation manner will not be able to communicate effectively at this level. Whilst much of the job is spent in the company of a Blackberry and fleet car, a lot of business is conducted at industry trade shows, exhibitions, strategic forums, parties and networking events. It is a flexible role which demands equal flexibility from its potential candidates.
For smaller firms which lack the heavyweight punch of an international reputation, it is feasible for candidates to begin at a designer level and just work themselves upwards. There are several tiers, though, and it requires dedication and patience for those who are not able to accelerate their career progression by way of a recognised industry (or business communications and marketing) degree.
In the case of a graphic designer, for example, the candidate will usually progress to the role of senior designer (or team leader) from the grass roots entry point. From here, the progression tree will go something like senior designer, visual manager, project team leader, art director, creative director. After this, there exists the possibility to go on to further senior director levels, depending on the size and structure of the organisation.
It is difficult to name any major employers due to the differing demands of a plethora of employer types; each “big name” is specific to each industry. Generally, creative directors will be regional head office-based, although it does not mean that candidates should only be applying to household-name blue chip firms.
Also known as…
- Art director
- Design director
What’s it really like?
Rasrintr ‘Noo’ Pornpanvorakit is the creative director of Glamor Magazine in Bangkok, Thailand. She oversees the entire concept for Glamor: The Secret Society, which is one of Thailand’s most recently-successful high-society lifestyle magazines.
What made you decide or choose to get into this sort of career?
I was working on developing my own fashion and lifestyle magazine portal which was on-line only. It is called Luxury Club Thailand, and the aim is for it to be “the country’s most exclusive luxury online lifestyle English magazine and networking hub.” Concurrent to that, the financier behind the site I manage also wanted to launch a print magazine, so I was ideally placed to look after both. Glamor runs 20,000 copies in Bangkok.
Do you have a standard day or a standard type of `exercise’?
Yes, my working days are fairly standard, in as much as there is always a list of stuff to get through. As creative director, my job is to supervise the overall theme and style of the magazine, so I’m working as an art director but for the actual framework, rather than the photographic content (art director) or story content (editor). I work hard and play hard too, so a large part of the job is attending events, schmoozing with celebrities and generally trying to get in as many photographs as possible to glam up our own publication. That’s a lot of buffets!
What is the most common type of problem/call-out/enquiry to which you must attend?
The brief is vast, as it encompasses everything from concept brainstorming through to budgeting. A creative director must deliver against their concept whilst working within the confines of other departments’ budget demands. I may have a great idea for a sequence or column, but if it puts us over budget, we need to liaise with other teams and see how we can fulfil that.
What do you like most about the job?
I love it when our (advertising) clients agree with our creative idea. It’s a challenge getting everyone plugged in to the same thought stream, and even more of a challenge when you ask them for money.
What do you like least about the job?
On the same subject, the conflict between people and money. It’s a sad fact of life that money makes the world go round, so if we have a prolific advertiser who wants to buy half the magazine, we then have to be prepared to flick the switch and hold off on a concept we were going to use, and come up with something more suited to their product.
What are the key responsibilities?
Planning and decision making, and steering the overall creative vision in a direction which suits our strategy for growth, also in a way that delivers against our advertiser’s demands for strong ROI (return on investment).
What is the starting salary, and how does this increase over time with promotion?
It’s hard to be specific but I remember when I was being interviewed for the position with the magazine; I went in with quite a low offer because I really bought in to what they were trying to achieve. Luckily, they increased their offer without any prompting whilst I was in the interview! Must have been something I said.
What advice do you have for someone who is looking to get into this as a career?
There are many kinds of people and situations that we meet every day, in work and out. It’s important to live and learn, but people working in creative jobs need to understand that your life inside and outside of work often blurs into one incomprehensible whole. You will make new friends at network events and exchange work at private parties. It’s all a happy mess, especially in a city like Bangkok.
What are the most important qualities an applicant must and should possess?
Be spirited, be creative and have a strong sense of responsibility for the direction you choose for yourself and others. You are ultimately responsible for how things turn out with your organisation, so you need to believe in the strategy you are pushing.
Any closing questions, comments or additional advice?
Be yourself, follow your dream and always love what you do. The last part takes precedence over salary expectations, so in that respect, the city you live in is important, as is the social scene it provides for you. Bangkok is excellent in that respect; it’s a very open society, welcoming to outsiders and media entrants who wish to work hard. And party hard!