The more I work in the creative industry, I find that most creatives fall into one of two camps:
Those that relish the blank sheet of paper. They enjoy big messy problems and coming up with big possibilities. They have a broad knowledge base and can generate ideas that cross any medium, seemingly out of nowhere. Creative Generalists are often those creative directors, copywriters and art directors who just get it. They understand where it’s going and think outside of the 30 second spot.
Those that have chosen to hone their craft. They want to dive deep. They design, program and push the limits well beyond the surface level. Their craft and technique is extremely polished. They bring things to life and make the impossible happen brilliantly. Creative Specialists are often those extremely talented designers, illustrators, developers and animators who have taken their craft to new and amazing heights.
The personalities and processes of each of these creative types differs greatly. And putting together a fully functional creative department that can tackle today’s complex marketing needs requires a culture of mutual respect for each discipline and a deeper understanding of each individual’s creative process.
So here it is, I’m just going to say it. I believe the biggest problem in our industry today is the dysfunctional relationship between the Generalists and the Specialists.
Generalists suffer when their best ideas don’t get produced properly (or at all). Specialists suffer when marginalized by small-minded Generalists that want to control the project and aren’t up to speed on the latest trends or tech. Specialists are also under attack by a barrage of cheap stock and canned tools that drive down cost and appreciation for the craft.
I believe it starts with evolving the Copywriter/Art Director partnership into the Creative Generalist/Creative Specialist partnership. This doesn’t mean you have to change titles, but it does mean a more careful selection of your teams and your new hires.
Too often I’ve watched Art Directors (and even Creative Directors) tell interactive teams and designers exactly how to do their craft. I’ve seen amazing Developers, who are fantastic creative generalists, languishing under mountains of ill-conceived assignments. This needs to end.
Identifying unique creative teams and putting the right mix of Generalists and Specialists together is key. Anyone involved in the project needs to be present at the kick-off and have their roles defined. The creative lead, big-idea people and executional powerhouses will guide you to great work, but it’s the cross-pollination of these archetypes that will create magic.
Once you decipher which types of creatives you have, the quicker you can start creating that magic. Take a look at your best team. More than likely you’ve serendipitously placed a Generalist and Specialist together. Now do it on purpose and make magic your new normal.