Creative director

 13 March 2013

A creative director shapes the creative style and quality of a studio, agency or design department. They are responsible for the organisation's creative output.

Part of the job is attracting prestigious new accounts to the agency. Image: IDEO London
Part of the job is attracting prestigious new accounts to the agency. Image: IDEO London

What does a creative director do?

A creative director is responsible for all the creative output of a studio, agency or design department. The creative director would make sure that all the work:

  • meets the quality standards
  • fulfils client expectations
  • enhances the reputation of the studio
  • fits in with the studios’ artistic guidelines.

The creative director is not necessarily involved in every piece of work created by the studio. But he/she may sign off all projects before they are presented to the client.

More strategically, a creative director sets the quality standards and shapes the creative style of the agency or design department.

The creative director is expected to show strong leadership to the design team, inspiring and motivating them to create great work.

Part of the job is attracting prestigious new accounts to the agency, by developing the reputation of the organisation and by active business development.

They may take on some of the tasks of studio management.

What is the job like?

They are likely to work in an office area in the design studio. The creative director has a lot of contact with other staff, such as designers and account managers.

The creative director must show strong leadership to the design team, inspiring and motivating them.

They also spend time with clients, which may involve travel. This could be overseas on international projects.

As a senior member of staff, a creative director would expect to work long hours, particularly close to project deadlines.

With experience, after building up a reputation, some may work on a freelance basis, taking on projects at different agencies or companies. Some may be creative director of their own studio or agency.

How do I become a creative director?

You need to have strong creative skills, combined with business skills. In particular employers will expect:

  • strategic thinking
  • problem solving
  • skills in managing people, projects and resources
  • leadership
  • understanding of the latest creative trends
  • excellent interpersonal skills
  • an ability to communicate well with staff and clients
  • good planning and organisational skills.

Training and qualifications

There is no set entry route, but creative directors have a great deal of experience in design. Many will have started their career as a graphic designer, brand designer or packaging designer.

Degrees

Many who have worked in design have a degree in:

  • graphic design
  • visual communication
  • graphic communication
  • multimedia graphics.

There are design degrees at many universities across the UK. The UCAS website lists all courses. D&Ad also has information about design courses.

For a degree, you usually need at least two A levels or equivalent. Some design degree courses may also ask for a Foundation Diploma. This is a one-year course offered by many colleges and some universities.

You can prepare for a degree by studying art and design at different levels. As well as GCSEs and A levels in art and design, you could take:

  • Awards, Certificates and Diplomas
  • HNC or HND.

You need to see what’s on offer at colleges in your area.

You could enter the design profession through an apprenticeship in graphic design at level 2 or 3. Employers will expect GCSEs usually in English and maths. They may want art and design or IT. Some may ask for one or more A levels (for level 3 apprenticeships).

Experience

As you gain experience in design, you could take on more senior roles. You would aim to work on larger and more prestigious projects.

You may have to move employer to develop your career and gain experience as widely as possible.

You could become a head of design or studio manager before moving into a creative director role.

What can I earn?

A creative director in an agency could start at £35,000 to £40,000. An experienced creative director in a large agency could earn £75,000 to £90,000.

Freelance creative directors are paid a daily rate for the days they are working, which could be £250 to £300 a day or more.


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