It never fails. When I tell people I work as a creative director at a digital agency, the next question is typically some version of, "so, what is it that you do exactly?”
Many people think a Creative Director’s role involves sitting in an ivory tower spouting design direction to their underlings. Others seem to think the role is obsolete, a relic of traditional ad agencies. While it’s true that the Creative Director often holds the keys to the proverbial creative gates, the modern day Creative Director’s role is more integrated, subtle, agile, and collaborative.
On a typical day, it is equal parts creative facilitator, design advocate, team cheerleader, and idea defender.
Below, I've laid out what my typical day as a Creative Director looks like:
Good morning, Sunshine at 7 a.m.
I’m not a morning person by any means, but my dog Marshy seems to think otherwise. She wakes me up at 7 a.m. on the dot every morning so that I can stumble out of bed and feed her. Not only does my dog dutifully act as my daily alarm clock, she also serves as a source of stress-relief and pet therapy whenever days are draining and chaotic. In fact, it is scientifically proven time and time again that pets help lower your blood pressure as well as cortisol levels, a natural hormone triggered by stress. After some light stretching and a brisk walk around the block with my furry friend, I continue on to my morning routine of showering, getting dressed, and eating a hearty breakfast, usually consisting of a bagel, eggs, and fruit, to prepare for my day.
After all, being creative is why I got into design in the first place. I still remember staying up late into the wee hours of the morning designing and coding websites as a prepubescent teen, gleefully discovering the joys of creating something tangible out of clicks and keyboard strokes. I try to make sure I never forget the reasons “why” I do things — that’s what drives us, differentiates us, and yet simultaneously, also connects us. Designing is my passion and I constantly remind myself that I’m blessed to be able to do it for a living.
Creative ideas are brought to life by 11 a.m.
The Creative Director’s role requires combining technology, strategy, and design in order to bring an idea to life. It’s often a push and pull, both internally with your team and externally with the client. It’s getting that delicate balance just right; the one where you can give your team autonomy, manage expectations, and encourage innovation. All of this necessitates constant communication and collaboration, and I like to do it in the form of whiteboarding, internal reviews, and client working sessions. Here at YML, this creative process often takes the form of a Design Sprint, a week-long jam session of solving business problems through designing, prototyping, and testing ideas with customers. This is the ultimate crucible of creativity where your design, critical thinking, and problem solving skills are put to the test. In a recent Design Sprint, a startup in the Cryptocurrency space called Nimiq came to us with a challenge. How might we create a product that helps to differentiate it from the plethora of cryptocurrencies in a unique and engaging way? We debated, we slogged, we struggled, but ultimately we came up with a viable solution that was worthy of testing.
An inspirational walk at 2 p.m.
I make an effort to step away from my desk at least once a day to go outside on a short walk. I’m lucky to have an office located right next to a beautiful lagoon that was once the home of Marine World. Not only do these walks help clear my head, it also sparks ideas whenever I’m feeling a creative block.
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan found that taking a walk among trees and nature—as opposed to an urban environment—can improve your short-term memory by 20 percent. In another study by Jerome Singer, intentionally allowing your mind to wander allows it to access memories and meaningful connections, helping to lead us to those coveted “lightbulb” or "aha!" moments when we least expect them
I’ve been lucky to be able to see the team grow over the past four years from a handful of designers to a team of 17 across two offices. This is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a Creative Director: building a team of wonderful, creative folks who you’re able to watch grow to spectacular heights.