Creative Directions

Chances are you never saw yourself as a politician, a salesperson or leading one-on-one manager meetings. You're a designer or copywriter, right? Oh, and you are also, likely, an introvert.

Creative Director is a complex and critical role. Most of us got here with little to no education specific to the job. We learn the role through on-the-job experience. Some aspects of being the boss come easily, while other parts of it are more evasive and our experiences are all different. 

In 2016 I attended Creative Director Camp. It's an incredible, powerful event hosted by The Bureau. I took a crazy amount of notes; then I spent the following weeks in a race to expand on those notes before my memory became too fuzzy. 

It was an inspiring experience, and I've wanted to share my notes/thoughts on many of the topics that were discussed. Since CDC, I’ve communicated with other Creative Directors, and there are a few consistent patterns. As a result, I put out some feelers to gauge interest in a video course called "How To Kick Ass Like A Creative Director."

I was initially thinking about making it a Skillshare class or a Youtube channel because videos are great for establishing and controlling tone. I'm just not sure I'm the guy with the celebrity to deliver these messages in a way that comes across constructively.  Maybe someday. I say that because there are people who will not appreciate this discussion taking place in public. I get it; it's poor form to discuss challenges within earshot of direct reports. We, as professionals, also tend to want control of the narrative when sharing our "areas of opportunity" in our development with our employer. 

This tweet from InVision for their #DesignLeadershipForum is an example: 

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I loved the idea and applauded them on the day it dropped. This tweet is irksome though. Confidential? That may help the small number of members but what about the people aspiring to be leaders? What about the "client side" Art Director who doesn't work for a trendy brand or New York agency? We should be more open.

I just want to get the thoughts out there. As I mentioned, there are similar, familiar patterns. All of the creative directors that have called or hit me with a direct message since those feelers dropped a year ago have said the same thing. Some form of "Wow, you are dead on with [insert topic]." 

It is clear nobody gets every part of the job right; design, hiring, process, politics, mentoring, salesperson, visionary. The goal shouldn't be perfection even though it feels like that is the demand. In reality, our goal should simply be to be better. 

Talking about how to be a better design industry leader shouldn't be held behind a paywall or confined to a private group. If the intentions are to advance the practice of design leadership and elevate design in business, this is a conversation we should be having in public.

Here are a handful of the things that keep design team leaders up a night:

  • What's My Role?
  • Imposter Syndrome
  • Customer Feedback
  • Selling the Value of Design Internally (Again)
  • Supporting Innovation
  • Team Leadership
  • Mentoring
  • Dealing with the Loneliness
  • Avoiding Burnout
  • Design Exercises
  • Conducting a Great One-On-One
  • Design Team Processes
  • Core Values
  • Being Involved in the Business
  • Accountability
  • Hiring Designers
  • Having A Role in Sales
  • Firing Team Members
  • Fostering Collaboration
  • Career Pathing

I'm pretty good at a few of these. Which, should be apparent based on the length and color of those articles. I'll shoot you straight on the areas I'm still working on improving and share the ideas others have shared with me over the years. Hopefully, this can be helpful in getting the most out of talented people. No private memberships required.

Wayne Pelletier