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What is a Creative Director?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A creative director is someone who oversees the creative image and presentation of a company. Creative directors are found in advertising agencies and media companies, but they also appear in areas which are not typically thought of as creative, such as banking. Creative directors may be treated as part of the management team, with real managerial authority within the company, or they may simply head their own specific departments, managing the people in them but not necessarily shaping the direction of the company.

Presentation is everything, whether or not a company works in an industry where presentation is part of its business model, like fashion, media, or advertising. Creative directors work with the managers of the company to determine what kind of image a company wants to present, and then they very tightly control the company's image to ensure that it retains its integrity. For example, if a bank wants to present itself as a company which welcomes small depositors and retains a cooperative community spirit, a creative director would help present the bank in this light, stressing community connections, small-town values, and a welcoming attitude in everything from how the tellers dress to the way in which statements are formatted.

Creative directors oversee the art department which is responsible for generating graphic presentations of the company, but they also deal with copywriters, designers, and all company employees who are involved in some way with the company's image. A creative director may help to mastermind an ad campaign, assist a company with a radical shift in its image, or supervise public relations staff who handle press conferences and media inquiries.

Thanks to the instant availability of information in modern society, the job of a creative director has gotten much more difficult. Every activity a company undertakes which is inconsistent with its branding and stated mission will be instantly dissected and trumpeted around the world, from the launch of new product packaging which falls flat to the revelation of investments in companies or industries which run against the stated ethical beliefs of the company. As a result, the image control required from a creative director includes a lot of damage control.

Qualifications for a creative director vary. There are no hard and fast rules, let alone college programs which train creative directors. Degrees in fields like communications, advertising, and business are viewed as beneficial, but the best qualification is experience. Salaries also vary, depending on the industry a creative director works in, and the size of a company he or she works for.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Practical Adult Insights researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon957558 — On Jun 21, 2014

It's definitely very hard to choose a course that will help you to become a budding creative director. I am thinking maybe BA in Marketing and Business marketing of some sort of degree. You can get ahead in those three years with a degree.

By then it's all about the work experience/ shadowing placement you must get to straight after or when doing your degree.

Good luck all! -- T. J. ( Future creative director)

By anon304040 — On Nov 18, 2012

I've had a similar title prior to starting up my own company recently. The title I held was Creative Architect. They same duties included, if not more. I have to say that if marketing isn't your natural niche, you should probably pick another industry.

By ISay — On May 16, 2011

Experience or education in marketing looks very good on a creative director resume, and is very helpful to a creative director. A creative director has to know what the company wants to project to the public and also what the public wants, and how to tailor a company’s image to fit the public image. That's marketing.

By BambooForest — On Jan 19, 2011

There are many creative director jobs in the performance industry, and often these people help tie everything together much the way a normal director might, but with the focus of how things like costumes or setting design or lighting will work together. In bigger productions, they focus on all of these parts while a traditional director will focus on the acting.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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