The Designer’s Guide to Becoming a Creative Director

To become a creative director is a worthy goal, but it takes a lot of work and dedication. Being a creative director means being responsible for a team of creative workers, leading and guiding them by setting an example and outlining a creative vision for a brand, advertising campaign, product, theater production, and other creative endeavors.

It’s a great job for people who like to create and who like to lead, but you can’t get there just by wanting it. There are important steps you will need to take to become a creative director, including finding out more about the job to make sure you really want it, getting the right education, landing a creative job, and working your way to the top. It all begins with information, so read on to find out everything you need to know about becoming a creative director.

Market Demand for Creative Directors and the Positions That Will Get You There

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, reports that careers for art directors, which follow a very similar path to creative directors, are both growing and lucrative. The number of positions is expected to increase by nearly 2,000 by 2024. The BLS also reports that most of these positions are found in advertising, marketing, and public relations. There is also demand for art and creative directors in the newspaper and magazine industries, specialized design companies, the motion picture industry, and retail and merchandising.


There is also growth in similar jobs that could lead to a position as a creative director. For instance, jobs for graphic designers are slowly growing, with more than 3,500 positions to be added in the next several years. The field for set and exhibit designers is also growing, at a faster rate of seven percent, while the field for designers of all types is increasing at a rate of six percent, as fast as average job growth.

What is the Role of a Creative Director?

There are many jobs for creative professionals, including web design, advertising and marketing, brand development, animation, set design, typography, package and product design, and so much more. What a creative director does is direct the designers who complete these creative jobs. Perhaps more importantly, the creative director dictates the overall creative vision for a promotional campaign, product, brand, or other project. The director has to state the vision and be sure that a project adheres to that vision and while remaining cohesive.


In addition to the overall vision and the managing of team members who help create and manifest that vision, a creative director has to handle more mundane and practical tasks. These include making and keeping to a budget for projects, managing the timeline to ensure that tasks and projects are completed on time, and working with clients to communicate updates about the project, how it is proceeding, and finalizing strategies to implement the client’s vision.

Benefits You’ll See When You Become a Creative Director

As a creative director, you can expect to have a career that comes with a lot of great benefits. It may take you some time and work experience to get there, but when you do, you can expect to enjoy a creative job that is fulfilling, challenging, and interesting:

  • Flex your creative muscles, every day. One of the biggest perks of this job is that you get to be creative. Yes, there are other, more practical aspects of the job, like budgeting, but you get to tap into creativity, develop ideas, and make something new every single day.
  • Work with creative people. Another great benefit is that when you become a creative director, you get to work with other creative people. This is a very people-oriented career that will allow you to interact with team members and share ideas on a daily basis.
  • Face interesting challenges. Creative directing is never boring. You will be challenged to bring ideas to life, making a campaign fit within a budget, or helping a designer understand the vision. Challenges are good for making this an interesting job.
  • Be a leader. Many people enjoy and even thrive in leadership positions, and that is exactly what you get to do as a creative director. In this position you get to enjoy the fulfillment and satisfaction that comes with leading others to be their best.

Training and Education Requirements to Become a Creative Director

There are no specific requirements to become a creative director, but there are some common and recommended routes to get there that involve a post-secondary education. Getting the skills you need to work in this field is best done in a post-secondary program with instructors who have experience working in design and creative jobs.


For example, a degree or certificate in graphic design is one way to get your foot in the door. Graphic design programs will teach you how to communicate visually, while giving you the technical skills and background needed to create impactful visual images and to design campaigns, products, packages, websites, advertisements, and other consumer content.


Once you have the right education, with all the needed technical and creative skills, you’ll need work experience. Your program certificate will get you that first job, and from there you can work your way up to higher positions with greater responsibilities. With the right education as your base, you can eventually become a creative director.

How is a Creative Director Different from an Art Director?

Creative directors and art directors often play similar roles in creative work. Sometimes the names may be used interchangeably or the same professional may take on the duties of both positions, depending on the size of a company or project. Essentially, the creative director dictates the overall vision and tone for a creative campaign or product, while the art director takes that vision and turns it into something, like a website, an advertisement, or a package.


The creative director is usually at the top of the creative chain, answering to a chief officer, editor, or overall manager. The art director is typically the next in command after the creative director and the leader of a team of creative workers who make the creative vision a reality. Often, though, the creative director takes on both duties: crafting the vision and managing teams that bring about that vision.

The Traits a Great Creative Director Must Have

Above all else, a creative director is a leader. In this position you will have to inspire other people to create their best work. This means that to be good at the job of creative directing, you have to be a good leader. Traits of a good leader include being approachable, being able to set clear standards and guidelines, being able to constructively review work and provide appropriate criticism, helping team members work well together, and supporting those team members. A good creative leader is also able to let team members get the credit for doing great work and to step aside so they can shine.


In addition to being good leaders, creative directors are great creative workers. They are able to come up with new and innovative ideas, but they also need to be able to recognize what is fresh and new, even when other team members have the ideas. There is also an analytical element to the job of a creative director, so you have to be able to scrutinize data and trends to figure out how ideas and images are changing.


Outside of the creative and leadership realms, great creative directors must be decisive, making some decisions quickly and backing up the consequences of those decisions. They have to be organized and detail-oriented to manage a number of ongoing projects. They also must be good with time management, as creative directors have to meet deadlines, often multiple changing deadlines for various projects.

How Much Does a Creative Director Make in Florida?

Careers in creative direction are lucrative, which reflects the education and work experience required to land one of these positions. The average salary for a creative or art director in the U.S. is $89,820, but the top ten percent of earners make more than $166,000 per year. Creative directors in the movie industry make the most, but in advertising, where there are the most positions, the average is an impressive $90,731 per year.


In Florida, the average salary is just a little lower, at $81,230 per year for art directors. In graphic design, a great gateway job to become a creative director, you can expect an average salary in Florida of $45,950 per year, with the potential to earn more with experience and more advanced technical skills.


Now that you know more about what a creative director is and what it takes to get there, are you ready to become a creative director? Check out the graphic design and other design programs that will set you off on your journey to getting into your dream career in the creative industry.

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