With a more fragmented agency landscape, the next generation of CD is emerging from a wide variety of disciplines. Writers are not the only creatives stepping up to the task. Print and interactive designers and developers are bringing a new definition and perspective to a very complicated job. The transition from Creative to Creative Director is not easy. Being a great creative is only part of the equation. Leadership, maturity and strategy all come into play. Clients, account people and creatives alike are all relying on the CD to get it right. In an effort to define the ideal Creative Director, here are a few classic stereotypes to examine:
A Visionary has a mind for the possibilities. A true dreamer and artist, nothing can hold back the energy and optimism for a new idea. The challenge for this CD is to focus through the long process of execution and to not be discouraged when faced with the reality of budgets and timelines.
The Perfectionist is never finished with a job until every detail is polished. The work is often impeccable and shows the attention to the craft. This person needs to constantly remind themselves to look at the big picture and trust (and train) their team to sweat the details. Bandwidth can also be a challenge.
A Superstar is someone who owns a room when they walk in. They love the spotlight. They possess the magnetism and charisma to sell through bold and daring ideas. However, this type of CD can often hog great assignments or take undue credit for work. As CD they need to work hard to foster other creatives.
This CD lives to see others progress and do amazing work. They can articulate the principles of great ideas and design and they nurture the best in those around them. Ironically, the Mentor needs to work to maintain respect as a creative leader and fight the assumption that “those who can’t, teach.”
A Strategist has a mind for the big picture and what consumers and clients will respond to. They are smart, articulate and business minded. Their bane is that they can be seen only as a glorified account person by their own creative team. They need to strive to stay creatively sharp and relevant.
The Purist has a profound belief in what they are doing. They always strive to do the right kind of work with the right kind of process. The main struggle for this CD is that they can be paralyzed by compromise. The middle ground is often as unappealing for them as doing a bad job. Collaboration isn’t necessarily compromise.
An Administrator can accomplish a lot because they know how run a team. They know the status of all the jobs, work loads of their team and they delegate effectively. The Administrator needs to understand that it is quality, not quantity that matters. Let others coordinate. As CD, you need to be inspiring great work.
I’ve known some great Creative Directors along the way in each of these categories. Each has their place. My ultimate CD would be a Visionary with a pinch of Mentor and Strategist. The Creative Director that is oozing with raw talent and is still an upstanding, quality human being is pure gold. We’re lucky to have some great creative leaders here that are combining the best traits of the past and present to define a CD that is guiding us into the next era of brilliant creative work. Ultimately, there isn’t one right way to create amazing work. The right Creative Director, however, is key to making sure you can create amazing work day in and day out.