How to Choose a Great Creative Director

One of the things I love the most in life is being connected to cutting edge technology and the latest trends in design and culture. I’m getting chills only thinking about all the amazing things just waiting to be discovered!

I know there are a lot of people of the belief that your skill is what matters more than the technology which your are using, but in my opinion is an absolute must for a great creative director to be the first to learn about a new trend, a new piece of technology, a new change in culture. Otherwise… how is a creative leader going to innovate and lead creative decisions?

I still remember with a glowing warmth when I got my first Apple computer and how it totally rocked my world upside down, propelling me in a total new level and direction aesthetically and thinking wise.

In the end, our skills are very much dependent on the tools we are using. If you are using outdated technology, then your creative process is probably going to be outdated too. It goes the same way in every field.

So how can a person (that is not a creative) tell if they are working with a great creative director or a bad one? And how shall one pick the right creative lead for their brand?

Well, the first sign of a great creative director is the aforementioned always staying in touch with the latest technologies and trends.

1. They are always learning and always curious.

Often times being in this position, especially working as an independent, has pushed me to learn new things and develop new skills.

It basically pushes you out of your comfort zone and it makes you not get comfy and lazy in your nice office chair. There were so many times when I just wanted to shrink and pass on a client project than to have to learn yet another new thing, but the times I didn’t, always made me very happy I didn’t fold to my insecurities.

2. Another sign is also knowing when not to learn something new and having vision.

Just because something is trending, it doesn’t mean it will be long lasting. It’s great to understand what’s happening around you and have that pulse on the world, but that doesn’t mean we have to jump in every bandwagon. *cough* Yes, that includes bad movie sequels that have no substance *cough*

I personally like to listen to my gut feeling a lot. If I am genuinely attracted by something and genuinely passionate about a new topic, I want to learn more about it. But if it’s something that doesn’t align with my personality I’m never afraid to just stick to my guns and say “pass”.

3. Which leads me to a very important sign of a great creative director: PASSION.

I strongly believe that you cannot build meaningful things if you have no passion for them and they bore you to tears. It’s just not going to work out in the end! I always try to keep my passion for art, branding and design alive by having a lot of dynamic projects and also by choosing the right type of projects for my skills and interests.

I thrive in environments where there are a lot of things going on and that offer flexibility to bounce from one thing to another and always be engaged into something fresh.

4. Great creative directors also don’t have a preferred color, fixed design style or favorite font.

If you are working with a creative director and no matter what you are trying to express to them, they keep coming back with the same color palette and the same style, it means they don’t really… direct.

In this business you have to be versatile and you have to adapt. This field moves at lightning speed. What works for one client, might not work for another. What worked yesterday, might not work today.

With every new project I try to remind myself to always push myself stylistically and to not have a “go to” font choice or a “go to” style of design, because that becomes redundant and constricting. If you always do what you have done before, than you will end up mediocre at best.

It’s one thing to have a personal touch that radiates throughout one’s entire work, and it’s a completely different thing to self-plagiarize. A lot of people don’t realize that, but always look for versatility in the portfolio of a designer or creative director that you want to work with, because that might be the difference between your brand being a success or a failure.

5. A good creative director also is not afraid to say “no” or not to be liked by everyone.

Having courage to stand out and not waste time on BS is a great sign that you are working with a great creative director. Sure, there’s a time to be nice and polite, but if you would just smile and agree with everyone (and basically bend over have no backbone) you end up washed up and miserable. And your design work is going to suck!

So it really makes no difference to me if you like me or not. A great creative director is fierce and determined to do whatever it takes to make the project a success. And sometimes I step on some toes. But it’s all good if in the end you and your project are staying true to the original vision and goal.

6. A great creative director delegates, but also is very hands on!

If you want to be really good at anything, then you have to keep at it. The same goes for creative directors. If you suspect that you are about to work with someone that has been removed from the actual design or production part for years and doesn’t really remember what should happen first, then it’s time to find someone else. Or just run away screaming. The latter one definitely saves you some time.

I’ve worked under creative directors or design directors in the past that have no clue and trust me, it’s very frustrating! Probably half of my gray hairs right now would be non-existent.

7. A good creative director is more or less an influencer.

Creative directors are usually inspiring beings, and not just because of their vast experience in the creative field and brilliant ideas, but also by offering mentorship and consulting to the people or companies that need it.

Staying ahead of the curve is always a desirable trait, especially when paired with communication skills that win negotiations, so that puts creative directors in positions of influence. Look for irresistible pitches and charming presentations, and you got yourself a great creative director!

And since this article is almost over, do you have any further questions on how to choose the right creative director for your branding? Let me know! And please sign up for my newsletter. I’m always looking for sparkling conversations.

Author: klangwelt

Creative Director and Visual Designer creating outstanding and effective branding identities for luxury, lifestyle, fashion and culture brands. Passionate about all things art and design. Also a stylist and fashion blogger at Style Unsettled.

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