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Creative Direction

When it comes to creative directors, there's many different kinds. Throughout my career I have experienced quite a few of them. I learned just as much from the ones I loved and the ones that were 'challenging'. My approach to creative direction takes into account all I've learned over the years; how to communicate with direct reports versus senior leadership, how to gauge the level of hands-on direction I give creatives on a project-by-project basis, and most importantly, how to encourage creativity and collaboration not just with creatives but other members of the project team. 

My approach:

As a creative director, I'm the 'solution-finding' type. While an aesthetically-pleasing, book-worthy campaign is great, I find that I'm more interested  in finding the right solutions to creative asks through discovery, collaboration and communication.

  • Smart solutions are uncovered with a solid foundation of creative discovery, open-mindedness to others' ideas. I like to put emphasis on upfront exploration. I ask questions. I'll get historical (what has worked in the past, what didn't). I'll bring in key stakeholders early because I want to capture their concerns. I make sure the creative team has their questions answered.
     

  • I don't have all the right creative solutions. I'm not putting my ideas above others on the team, and I'm definitely not heavy-handed when giving direction. Collaboration is crucial and creativity is a dialog not a directive. The best projects start with at least two creatives on it. The resulting conversation, impromptu shares, and 'brain picking' create the strongest ideas. 
     

  • It's important to get everyone on board. Too many times I've seen people 'not in the loop'...which can cause confusion and delays. Proactively and strategically communicating with all key stakeholders is something I'm always mindful of. Pitching ideas and explaining creative to senior leaders? Important. Spending an hour with a vendor going over brand-guidelines? Yes. Working with event planners to right-size a trade show budget? Of course. We're all in it together, and I don't want anyone missing the boat.

In action:

At Harvard Bioscience I spent the majority of 2021 developing a single brand direction for the company and its fourteen affiliated brands. At the time I was a 'team of one' with no other creative support save a couple marketers with copywriting expertise. 

After the internal launch of the new brand direction, we were tasked with rolling the brand out. The rollout process started with several planning conversations with senior leadership, educating them on what resources would be needed for certain projects. For many, rolling out a new brand (and the cost to do so) was not familiar. 

The initial phase of the brand rollout was rebranding a 'Top 100' of marketing materials, requiring that I work closely with the product managers on content, while simultaneously working with contract designers to express the newly-created brand direction onto a variety of marketing vehicles. With the designers, I wanted to see how they initially interpreted the new guidelines rather than dictate to them how things should look, and in return got a great variety of concepts we were able to finesse.

After this initial push for refreshed marketing collaterals, our sights were set on two larger brand touch points: product design and web properties. With these two initiatives, we called in two agencies that specialized in product design and web. With both agencies I continued to lead creative with a lighter hand and a bit of flexibility at first, and after review of first concepts, provide more concrete specific direction. This see-what-happens, collaborative mentality allowed for a wider variety of ideas to bubble up.