At Audience, when it comes to putting a project team together, we always make sure we have the right person for the job. So how do we choose a Creative Director? What do they do all day? And what is a Creative Director, anyway? We asked Global Head of Creative & Design, Dan Newman and Creative Director Miles Dutton exactly that!
“A Creative Director literally directs the creative.”
“A chameleon. Writer, illustrator, ideas factory, presenter coach, art director.”
Those were some of the answers we got when we asked our team at our all hands Creative Department meeting in January this year. Our international team of Creative Directors (CDs) met with the Designers from our UK-based Design Studio to share knowledge, thoughts and new ideas.
The team has an amazing breadth and depth of knowledge, skills and experience and a collective creative working life of over 150 years between them!
So why were the answers so different if they all do the same job? And what do they do all day?
Defining the role
If you’ve ever wondered what the answer is, you’re not the first and you’re not alone. CD is one of the roles that is most difficult to define for our colleagues in the account and production teams, so we never assume our clients understand what we do – and why a large chunk of a project budget is set aside for what we do.
“Firstly, CD is a role – not a hierarchical position. Audience is a creative communications consultancy and the CD on every project is responsible for driving creative solutions to the business needs outlined in the brief,” says Miles Dutton, Creative Director at Audience since 2014.
“By creative, we mean original, inventive, imaginative, innovative ideas designed to elevate whatever it is we’re doing or communicating to a level that inspires, engages and connects with the target audience – the trigger or the catalyst to bring about meaningful change.”
Firstly, CD is a role –
not a hierarchical position.
He continues: “We all have skills and experience in meetings and events, branding, workshops and campaigns. While these core skills are always required, on a project where a CD would be actively involved, additional specialisms may also be needed depending on the purpose and method of delivery the client wants.”
And that’s where the client, the core team and the project come in. In order to truly inspire and engage their target audience, what are their needs? While our CDs can – and often do – consult with one another, the aim is always to get the right CD for the right job.
“How we assign a CD depends 100% on what the client is looking for and what their project needs to truly engage the Audience,” explains Dan. “There’s no one size fits all for projects, which is why we’re fortunate to have a team of experienced CDs who think, see, imagine and innovate differently.”
Workshop design, agenda development, brand development and positioning, PR and communications planning, content development and presentation design, communications tactics, storytelling, copywriting, art direction, storyboarding: Our team does it all, but no single person does everything our clients need.
What’s in a name?
What’s in a name?
That covers how we choose a CD and gives an insight into some of the things they spend their days doing. But what exactly a CD is remains elusive – especially as our team of CDs themselves have different ideas about their role. We asked some other members of our team if they could tell us exactly what a CD is.
“A CD has the ability to strategically think about a client's objectives and goals (short term, but also long term), and articulate these into solid meeting agendas or programmes specifically tailored to the needs of a given audience, with a clear purpose and outcome; and they wrap all of this in a pretty theme with cute visuals.”
“A CD is ultimately responsible for a concept or vision – from idea to final delivery."
"They need to make quick decisions on the fly, so they need to know what they want and need to sell the idea long before it’s beginning to be made.”
“A CD works with the client very closely, understanding their objectives and key messages. They then take this information and help creatively craft an impactful communication in various forms. They start off with a visual identity and then are responsible for its creative output with the support of a design studio. A perfect CD in my eyes has creative, communication and presentation skills, problem-solving and leadership skills.”
While there’s clearly no definitive answer, we do seem to be finding some overlap in the definitions. We went back to Miles and Dan with these additional descriptions.
Vision and overview of a project
“I’d say we’re getting pretty close to what I do here,” says Miles. “For me, it’s all about the vision and overview of a project. From where I’m standing, can I look ahead and see what the finished project might look like and can I look back and see how that connects with the needs and objectives? I always keep the overview to make sure the content we develop fits the ‘brand’ we’ve created for the project and that every element is coherent and cohesive.”
“I think that’s where a project really needs a CD,” says Dan. “They have the vision, they’re a kind of ‘architect’ for the project and then they’re the catalyst, the driver to keep things moving in content and design. They advise the client on direction throughout and make sure everything comes back to the brief.”
So what about the original definitions from the CDs themselves?
“For me, those descriptions are an accurate reflection of what we each do,” Miles reflects. “They just go to show that we all see things differently – even if we all have the same aim in mind: to engage, inspire and connect with the audience to bring about meaningful change.”
So, there we have it. The role of the CD is versatile and multifaceted. Fortunately, so is our team of CDs. One size definitely does not fit all, but we always find the right CD for the job that keeps them busy all day.