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How to Become a Creative Director

Are you a very creative person? Do you enjoy art, writing, and design? Are you a great leader? If so, becoming a creative director may be for you. As a creative director, you’ll be responsible for managing teams of writers, artists, designers, and more. You will need to ensure that the projects are being done efficiently and correctly. To succeed as a creative director, you should have experience in advertising and marketing tactics.

You will likely oversee your brand’s marketing creative, making it important that you know the latest trends. As a creative director, you may work with many businesses or just one depending on if you work for a marketing firm or you work for one business’s marketing team. If you fit this profile and are confident in your skills, becoming a creative director could be a smart career choice.

Sample job description

[Your Company Name] is in search of a creative director. This candidate will lead teams of creative professionals including graphic designers, artists, writers, and other professionals within the company. Creative directors create and maintain the vision for a company’s products. Creative directors will display a high quality of the following skills: creativity, leadership, respect, communication, and time management. One of the most important roles a creative director plays is one of being involved in every aspect of a collaboration project from the brainstorming of ideas to the execution of a final product. The ideal candidate will be detail oriented and have the ability to manage the day-to-day details of their work. During projects, they supervise and guide their team to create work that is professional, well thought out, and high in standards. Although creative directors primarily work independently, they report to a chief marketing officer for approvals and major decisions.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Help develop brand standards for the graphics and marketing departments
  • Ensure brand standards are maintained across all projects and platforms
  • Direct the creative team in the production of print and digital deliverables
  • Oversee daily workflows and assess project workloads of team members
  • Communicate with clients to ensure expectations and deadlines are met
  • Manage project deadlines and budgets

Education and experience

This position requires a bachelor’s degree in digital marketing, mass communications, art and design, creative writing, or a similar field.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Solid understanding of creative and industry trends
  • Exceptional multitasking and time-management skills
  • Competence in using industry-standard tools, such as Adobe Creative Cloud
  • Outstanding leadership, project management, and communication skills
  • Expert knowledge in multi-channel marketing models and brand development

Preferred qualifications

  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • 5+ years of experience managing a team of creatives
  • Excellent graphic design knowledge

Typical work environment

Creative directors typically work at an office desk, but have the flexibility to “float” between different departments, due to the projects they help lead. The creative director needs to have reliable transportation due to the nature of their job as they may, at times, be required to travel in order to meet with clients and conduct business meetings in person.

Typical hours

The work hours for a creative director are typically from 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday in an office setting. However, longer or different hours may, at times, be necessary.

Available certifications

Creative directors require college degrees and several years of experience before being eligible to be considered for this leadership position. By furthering their knowledge and skills through education, training, and certifications, qualified candidates will have an advantage over others when applying for employment. 

Though creative directors do not have to become certified or licensed to work for publications, marketing agencies, or media companies, they can show their drive and determination by becoming members of professional organizations. These organizations consist of, but are not limited to: The American Institute of Graphic Arts, Graphic Arts Guild, The Society of Illustrators, Artists and Designers, and the International Council of Design.

Career path

Becoming a creative director starts with earning a bachelor’s degree in an arts, design or communications field such as creative writing, visual communication, digital marketing, or journalism. Many candidates pursue a master’s degree in fine art or business administration to set themselves apart.

Creative director roles require plentiful experience in the industry — often five to seven years’ work, at least. Graphic designers, illustrators, photographers, and copywriters looking to take on more managerial tasks often make great candidates for creative director roles. A strong portfolio of past creative work is crucial for getting hired as a creative director. The best candidates also stay sharp by keeping up with the latest industry tools and trends.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 27-1011

2020 Employment98,500
Projected Employment in 2030109,300
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 11% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift10,800 increase

As brands and companies move more of their flagship campaigns online, staying current with new technologies and best practices will be vital. Creative directors will need to find fresh ways to bring new forms of media (such as user-generated content) into their campaign strategies.

The best creative directors will recognize the importance of getting in the trenches with their creative teams. Keeping production skills sharp to help share the creative load will be necessary to produce outstanding work in our fast-paced digital age.