What the hell is a Creative Director anyway‽
As a freelance Creative Director I come across a lot of confusion about my job. It’s often not explicit. Perhaps it’s just the look on the face of someone during a weekend BBQ chat, other times it’s the nature of the requests I get from clients who have never had a Creative Director in-house, or the slight awkwardness of the young design team I’m about to direct who have never worked with one before. So this article is all about setting things straight.
A Creative Director creates and advances the creative vision of a brand… of a campaign… of a project. Too wishy washy still?
Imagine you have a small design team, perhaps a copywriter too. They help you create the brand communication materials your business needs. Brochures, presentation slides, exhibition materials, event collateral, web design, advertising, blogs….I could got on and on. They execute the brand’s vision. Then you give them a project to do. They get familiar with the brand and they produce the list of items they’ve been asked to execute. If your team are experienced, your project brief is specific and everyone collaborates well together you’ll have been given a perfectly good solution. Easy right? But how often does this not happen? How often have you been given a design solution that isn’t quite right?
The Creative Director is the missing piece in this process. They’re a translator, an ideator, a collaborator. They work with your design/writing team and supercharge everyone’s involvement. Janet Odgis puts it perfectly in her Huffington Post article.
“Creative Directors Are Your Brand’s Orchestra Conductor”
They are your big picture creative thinker who makes sure everyone else is working to the same vision. In fact they set the vision, move the vision forward and then bring the vision to life.
To give you a practical sense of a Creative Director’s tasks, here is a list of what a Creative Director does day to day. You can find similar lists in the Huffington Post article mentioned earlier and in this Adweek article.
- Listen to the client
- Gather as much information as possible about what problem the client needs solved
- Set the standards and objectives of the creative
- Connect the work to the brand strategy
- Develop a creative direction for the project
- Communicate clearly to the rest of the creative team, being accessible and supportive
- Keep track of the creative through every stage of the process
- Listen to your team’s ideas and challenges
- Progress and refine continually providing guidance and feedback
- Nuture the creative team
- Clearly explain the vision to the client, and manage their expectations throughout the process
What are your experiences with creative people? Drop me a line, I’m all ears.
Who's afraid of the big bad storm?
As a freelance Creative Director, I have been told many times that the term brainstorming is old hat and even conjures notions of aggression for what should be a positive experience. I was flabbergasted (yes... I just used that word... perhaps it is me that is old hat). Apparently it should not be used any more.
So let's call it crowd thinking or ideation or.... It really doesn't matter what you call it. What matters is how you approach getting your ideas and the process conducted. There are some very important rules that come with creative idea generation methods and over the years the brainstorming... oops crowd thinking methodology has come under fire for what I believe to be a lack of effective facilitation.
So who is afraid of brainstorming? Apparently a lot of people. Yes, it's intimidating putting your ideas out there for people to criticise. So once I got over my flabbergast I reflected on all the ways brainstorming has been given a bad reputation and have a few tips on how not to repeat those mistakes.
1 | Create a safe space
Idea generation methods (I can't even bring myself to call it crowd thinking) should create a safe space because without it you'll get limited new ideas. A safe space is one where there is no judgement. You'll need a strong facilitator and it's great if it is someone who is not invested in the result. The facilitator sets the scene by explaining up front that the session is not to critique, not to judge, not to say, 'but' and not a session in which the ideas are analysed at all. It is a session to add as many ideas to the space as possible, build on other's ideas, and think freely and openly.
The facilitator must quickly and effectively call out any bad behaviour.
Why is this important?
Even the worst idea in the world can give the group a good idea. What you're trying to encourage is group thinking. Lots of conversation, lots of interaction and lots of connections can bring about an abundance of new ideas.
“To be creative
lose the fear of being wrong”
Joseph Chilton Pearce
2 | Brief before
Provide a written brief well before the session. This will provide two key advantages for you. Firstly, you won't waste session time explaining everything. Secondly, people will have a chance to reflect on the information and turn up with ideas. This second one is so very, very important. Some people are better at thinking on their feet than others and by providing 'the others' with the information early you'll get 100% of their brain power on the day. The human brain also has a great way of letting information settle and connect during down time. So you'll have people turning up to your session raring to go with ideas they had on the toilet or during their morning jog.
3 | Analyse later
Make sure there is a meeting organised for a future time to do any analysis of the ideas. A brainstorming session is for creating the ideas. You can invite as many people as you like. In fact getting people into the session that have no involvement in the project's success or have no involvement in the area of business you're focusing on is a great way to get diversity of thought.
The analytical session later is for the core team to run through all the ideas on the table and decide which ones will work and how to move forward. Group thinking is great, group critiquing can be counterproductive. At this session you want as few people as possible and a very clear lead decision maker.
So there are my tips to making the big bad brainstorming session not so scary and infinitely more effective. Let me know if you have anything to add or need more information. I'll even facilitate your session for you if you need.