In today’s digital landscape, role relevancy of the traditional Creative Director is becoming increasingly tricky. There are still plenty of great CD’s adding value in large, full-service corporate agencies that maintain a tiered management approach. But to boutique and smaller digital agencies, remaining nimble and highly innovative requires efficient creative leadership. Savvy clients are seeking out partners who can show the benefits of streamlined creative teams. In fact, smaller agencies like Fi are gaining favor because we haven’t lost ourselves in our size. So how do we set up our team for creative success, and what is expected from our creative leadership?
(They should look determined beside iconic objects.)
Set the bar, and walk the talk.
Our modern Design/Creative Director is the one who sets the bar for everyone else. They lead by example, mentoring and inspiring with their own work. They present carefully chosen examples and project assignments to enhance and strengthen each designer’s individual weaknesses. They have immediate credibility based on their own portfolio, but remain grounded and humble to facilitate easy collaboration with both clients and team members. They’re creative communicators that build relationships strong enough to withstand the inevitable tough conversations that come with this business. For example, giving constructive criticism that is tailored to personally motivate a particular designer, or speaking passionately and persuasively enough to redirect a client toward the ideal solution. He or she actually makes us better designers simply by being present, and offering close personal interaction each day. Ultimately, creative leadership walks the talk, and can back it up.
(They should call you on skype but also call you from their cell phone for backup)
Creative leadership, especially in small agencies must demand the highest standards of excellence. The paradigm of a flat operational structure means there’s no room for underachievement. Designers must be inspired by those surrounding them. Fi Design/Creative Directors inspire teams by providing a high caliber of quality and innovation. By having leaders to emulate, motivated designers will force themselves to match the standards of excellence imposed by the Design/Creative Directors. This is an invaluable emotional factor that cannot be taught. It is inherent amongst those employees we seek out. Fostering an environment of like minded people helps us perform to the best of our abilities. Seek them out!
(They should look cool even though they try to look silly.)
Don’t dilute the idea.
I’m sure you’ve seen ‘Office Space’. Remember the cover sheets on the TPS reports? This type of many-layered management structure is pervasive throughout the corporate world. An idea starts out really special, then gradually, as it passes up through the layers of managers and directors, it comes out the other end nothing like the original idea. It’s been diluted, polluted and deranged by too many people wanting to inject their personal opinion, politics or flavor. This is true for many large agencies, simply by the inherent structure required to support any large organization. It’s nobody’s fault, it’s just the way it is, and it stifles innovation and free thinking.
(They should have good hair, always good hair!)
Keep it flat.
We’ve never been a fan of the typical big agency model. Our teams are relatively flat, with Design/Creative Directors acting as partners and allies rather than bosses or gatekeepers. Everyone on the team is client-facing and everyone’s ideas are equally important. By holding the designer accountable for their own ideas, it instills confidence and encourages pride of ownership as well as enabling the Design/Creative Director to work hands-on each day without egos getting in the way. The relationship fosters actionable inspiration and guidance that push our designers toward greatness every day. The Design/Creative Director is not sitting in a corner office solely focused on the next “big idea.” Those big ideas are born from the continuous collaboration that a flat hierarchy allows.
(They should be front and center in this photo and not have had to go home early for drinking too much.)
Make amazing projects that disrupt.
It’s safe to say that most designers have had to pump out a few banners or email templates in their careers. Let’s call it a rite of passage. However, contributing to an truly disruptive digital experience is one of the most inspirational things you can do as a designer. Because Fi remains independent and free from holding companies or shareholders, we have the luxury of hand-picking what clients to work with and what projects to work on. Our Design/Creative Directors engage with amazing clients who entrust Fi to create brilliant, disruptive executions for their markets. Gone are the days of skyscrapers or leaderboards. Our design teams work together on some of the greatest brands in today’s digital space.
(They should be more amazing than the amazing stuff they can create, easy!)
Wanted: Design/Creative Director
We don’t claim to have all the answers, but we do know what it takes to be successful in the digital design space. We’ve made sure to keep the politics, egos and management bottlenecks out of the equation and let the designers do what they do best. Our Design/Creative Directors lead this charge, ensuring our superior talent is being mentored and supported every day.
(They should be pretty so we don’t have to make a graphic to replace their faces to advertise for the same positions.)
If you’ve been in a high-level digital design position for at least three to five years, and want to work on amazing projects with some of the most well-known brands, we certainly want to hear from you! It’s a unique opportunity to explore the full expression of your creativity and lead a team without all the management layers and red-tape traditionally found in big agencies.
If this sounds inspiring, just click the link and apply
About the author:
David Martin is a former designer and design & creative director at Fi. He founded Fi in 1999 and is the CEO at the agency. They don’t let him design anymore