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SKILLS you need to become a CREATIVE DIRECTOR!

Become a Creative Director

Welcome back. In our last lesson we went over the Pros and Cons you’ll experience when you become a Creative Director. Today I’ll focus on sharing skills that I acquired over the years that have turned me into the seasoned professional I am today.


In this series: The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Successful Creative Director we’ll be going over:

  1. Benefits & challenges of the PRO CREATIVE DIRECTOR
  2. SKILLS you need to become a CREATIVE DIRECTOR!
  3. PRO DESIGN GEAR minimalist uses to get it DONE FAST
  4. PRINT & FILM GEAR I use for PRO DELIVERABLES
  5. Software and Web Services I Use to Get the Job Done Fast
  6. Keeping Your Sanity with Releases
  7. Turning Ridiculously Long Todo Lists into Regular Goal Oriented Releases
  8. How To Flip Roadmap Todos into a Release
  9. Turning a Release into Actionable Sprints

Skillsets I first learned to become a Creative Director

To begin with, you typically don’t become a Creative Director overnight. Don’t think of it as becoming either. It’s a process. You’ll most likely have many other titles before you become a Creative Director. Looking at the list above, over 10 years I learned much of what I know in this order out of need or desire:

  1. Graphic Design
  2. Branding & Identity
    I knew was in love with branding and identity, how you could communicate ideas and actions with text, shape, and imagery.

  3. Web Design
    Next, I needed a website and didn’t like what the web developer came up with.
  4. HTML
    Then I needed to structure my website correctly.
  5. CSS
    After that, I needed to take my design skills and apply them to the web.
  6. PHP
    Advancing my education. I needed my website to be more than a house in the woods. I needed it to “function” + validation

  7. MySQL
    Second-to-last, I needed my website to be able to store things – users, posts, etc
  8. WordPress
    Lastly, I needed a Content Management system for my website.

Advancing my skillset as a Creative Director

Continuing It was hard enough to grasp graphic design principles, hexs, tags, stylesheets, and functions. But the wheels never stopped turning. As you continue to fine-tune your craft, you’ll understand why you or your company need another skillset. When done intuitively, you can turn projects that take weeks to mere hours. And that’s when it truly starts paying off. You can charge at market rate, yet get things done 10x faster than your competitors because of the time you invested upfront.

  1. Javascript
    First I needed to understand how to load things without refreshing the browser + validation
  2. User Experience
    After working for a team, I needed to make my flyers, websites etc flow and easy to use for our customers.
  3. eCommerce
    Then our team needed to be able to make secure payments
  4. Web Security
    Next, we needed to be able to protect our customer’s information and credit cards
  5. Front-end development
    After that, I needed to be able to work with Front-end developers
  6. Back-end development
    Diving deeper into code, I needed to be able to work with Back end developers
  7. Working with Copywriters
    Continuing on, I needed to be able to deliver better assets to clients with copy from Copywriters
  8. Version Control and Restoration
    Finally, I started to learn about Github. If something goes wrong, how do we cause the least amount of damage

From Pro to Proactive Creative Director

As you take on more projects that test your limits, you’ll start to gather understanding and expectations of stakeholders. As with life in general, when you live through the struggles and success of others, you stop thinking specifically about your angle and see the world infinitely.

Some of the pitfalls of a new Creative Director is presenting too many options or allowing revisions to go on forever. The best time to hit a project is early in the beginning. The longer it goes on, the less buy-in everyone has in it. And you yourself will typically lose passion as you become passionate about there new projects. Exceed expectations by not only being a Creative Director but a person that’s experienced love, pain, euphoria, and fear. These are the emotions your boss is feeling, your customers are feeling and your teammates are experiencing. When others are able to reflect with you on a deeper level then business, the magic begins.


Understanding the Business of Creative Direction

Below are more areas I continued to dive to meet demands of business and life.

  1. Business Management
    Continuing my career working with the CEOs, and stakeholders – how to take their visionary ideas and translate them into tangible deliverables, goals, etc
  2. Marketing
    Next, I started focusing on sales goals. We’re here to turn a profit, how do we promote ourselves to the right audience?
  3. Conversion Strategies
    Consequently, that brought me to conversions ratios. Everything is working correctly, but how do we optimize it and convert more?
  4. Customer Relationships
    This should probably be in the very beginning. Working as a Starbucks General Manager helped me improve my compassion and love for catering to others passion. They’re also the lifeblood of the company.
  5. Extremely good at troubleshooting via the web
    Naturally, I got amazing at getting the answer fast and move on

  6. File management that’s backed up
    Next, I started focusing on File management. Don’t destroy company assets!!
  7. Project Management
    After that, getting releases done every bi quarter while meeting the needs of others.
  8. Leading by example
    Always keeping a positive attitude and getting it done
  9. Photography
    Then I learned to shoot for company deliverables, products, etc
  10. Film Production
    And finally, I’ve been diving into Film Production. Jon Ryan of Jon Juicer helped me get started. It’s been an amazing journey. Creating promotional films and tutorials

Notice a couple of things?

First I started out as a “Graphic Designer” until I needed to become a “Web Developer” Second, notice how things transition from “I and me” to “We and company“? As I continued to learn and grow, things became less about a learning a specific skill and more about getting things done by having the understanding of those skills.

Remember, you don’t have to know all of these skills or even be a specialist at each. But you do need to understand how they each play a role with each other. And your company. You also need to be able to communicate between various departments and help each department come together and a unanimous decision.

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The biggest challenge you’ll deal with as a Creative Director is scope creep and pushed up deadlines. I’ll talk more on this in this series.

The final question: Do I need a college degree to become a Creative Director?

Simply put – no. You may have needed one previously. And it can help, but most everything you need to learn and want to learn can be accessed online by credible authors and companies. I wish Treehouse was around when I first go into the game. They’re the ultimate swiss knife for Creative Directors. They have video courses on graphic design, web development, business and more.

But a degree means better right? Again, no. But can help. Look at a Creative Director’s portfolio, and it should be pretty clear what she or he is confident in doing. Also, questions about project management and specifics of a certain skill set like PHP will help gauge their understanding and if they know how to get the information quickly if they don’t have deep knowledge of it.

I’ve seen plenty of resumes and degrees be a decision in the hiring process and a lot of times, those with the biggest degrees have the least amount of hands-on job experience. It’s like training to go the moon and going to the moon. Just get out there and do it. Make small steps to get there and have confidence in yourself.

It’s not about what you know, but how quickly you can get it done and implement it.

In our next lesson, we’ll talk about Physical Tools I Use Get it Done Fast. What skills do you have that help you stand out from the rest? What challenges did you have to overcome to get to where you are now. I’d love to know in the comments below!


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William Mosley, III | Owner | 828.201.2702 | 6 - 8AM Micro Business? | will@startrighttoday.com | 60 N Market St C200, Asheville, NC 28803

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