Creative Director

at a Top Consulting Agency


- Denver, Colorado

- 8/18/20
Job/Career Demand
Positive Impact
Work-Life Balance
Compensation & Benefits
Work Environment
Total Compensation
Years of experience
Recommended Education
Bachelor's Degree

What education would you recommend?

You don’t need a degree in the field, but an undergraduate degree is required.

Describe the path you took to become a creative director

I studied creative writing and advertising. When I graduated, I was interested in digital strategy and copywriting and found a position doing both at an advertising agency. I then spent time shadowing the lead UX designer, but when she unexpectedly left, the company threw me into the lead role. I taught myself everything through online classes (lynda.comudemy.com, etc.). Trial by fire. 

I moved to a different state so transitioned jobs, working as the lead UX designer for a lead TV provider’s app (as a contractor). I was then recruited by a large consulting agency where I became the national UX design lead for the Salesforce team. Afterward, I did a lot of platform-agnostic work and was promoted to Senior UX designer. I am now the youngest associate Creative Director and the only woman in this role. In total, I've been working at that company for a little over five years.

What's a day in the life of a creative director?

The best part of being a Creative Director is there is no typical day in the life; I love the variety of work. Frequently, you have a short daily meeting to get on the same page with the whole team, including UX, UI, front-end devs, back-end devs, project managers, and sometimes the client.

The process starts with research, reaching out to key stakeholders and users. We prepare a series of questions and test assumptions to improve our decision-making process. We build customer personas (a fictionalized version of a group of users) and user journeys (the path taking each persona to a successful outcome). These are useful to categorize different types of people who you use the website differently to allow multiple scenarios that create a positive result. We do information architecture, laying out the content/data on the various pages. We're then ready to build the wireframes, which go through multiple iterations, while staggering UI and visual design behind that. The final stage is user testing to get the product in a place that is ready for the development team. It's a very collaborative process, and as a Creative Director, you get to oversee everything.

What's the best part of being a creative director?

It's a fun industry to be in, and I genuinely look forward to my days (most of the time, haha). The role allows you to be creative, but you also get to explore an analytical side to things. It's interesting; you get to learn about many different industries, different people, and how they make decisions. I know more about a spectrum of industries than I would ever need to know, between dining, hotels, pharmaceuticals, automotive, HVAC, credit card companies, healthcare and many others. 

Every day is a new adventure; If you can handle uncertainty, my advice is to go for it!

What are some perks of your job?

Great PTO, Healthcare, Sabbatical option with 40% salary, maternity/paternity leave, free food/alcohol/coffee/etc. at the office

What's the downside of being a creative director? Words of caution?

UX design is more complicated than it seems. It looks like a lot of it could be common sense, but there's a lot of work going on behind the scenes. The ability to navigate between client needs and creative goals is key. You're not always going to get your way; you have to compromise and pick your battles. 

When I first joined the Salesforce team, we built custom front-end systems linked to the Salesforce back-end (because the out of the box UX/UI was not ideal). Before I did this, the team didn't prioritize how it looked or how the user experienced the product, so long as everything worked. There was pushback based on the norm, and I had to clarify if they were saying "no" this isn't possible, or saying "no" because it's complicated. This distinction was vital because it retrained the way people thought about problems. On the flip-side, you have to evaluate how long it will take to build something the ideal way. If it takes 23 hours to create what you want or 3 hours to make a  slightly less-perfect solution, you must evaluate the trade-off for the project timeline. Ultimately, many projects have exceeded metric expectations. The educational component for clients is a key component to success not only for the product but for the client relationship.

What's the earning potential? Entry-level? Mid-level? Senior-level?

The potential is high

Advice on how to get started as a creative director

You don't need to have a formalized UX education to become a UX designer, but finding good mentorship is essential. With technology continuing to change and grow, there are many opportunities out there, and being self-taught is becoming less and less uncommon, even for more prominent roles. Having the self-discipline to put in the work is usually the most significant factor.

What skills are needed to be a creative director?

Certifications aren't entirely necessary. When I hire someone, I look at their portfolio first and their resume second. Usually, I, and anyone else hiring, won’t look at a resume if the portfolio doesn't impress me.

In terms of core skills, you need to be creative and analytical, which I call creative problem-solving. Meaning, you need to look at a problem, come up with several different solutions, and pick the best one while taking into account all of your user research.

There is a sales component because you need to have the ability to express your ideas. Most clients aren’t entirely familiar with UX/UI design so you need to educate them and communicate in a way they will understand while showing them the value in your work.

What's work/industry culture like?

Amazing! Some of my closest friends are my coworkers.

What's important to understand for your specific region?

A bit harder in Colorado, although there are companies in the space, tons of people want to move here for the mountains, so there are a lot of out-of-state applicants.

Advice on how to get promoted

Do good work. You also have to play the game - understand the promotion process, the politics of the agency, and make real connections with people.

What's the future outlook for a creative director?

The industry is continuing to hire, and our team is as busy as ever. The UX field is relatively new in our client’s eyes, being highly sought after and continually evolving. Most clients don't know what it is, but they know they need it.

Anything else?

Portfolio is key; it's the first thing everyone looks at. If you're hoping to be a UX designer and your portfolio doesn't create a great experience aside from sample work, you won't be getting a callback. If you send a google drive link or similar, it will only complicate things and is not recommended. If you're looking to get your foot in the door, create a compelling website for yourself. There are several UX meetups or Slack channels you can take advantage of, get advice from the people there. 

If you're hoping to advance, sales and strong client relations are important. You don't necessarily have to be schmoozer, but you need to be able to communicate the core issues effectively. Take over a room if you need to, but know your audience. 

Lastly, numbers speak louder than words; if you've helped the team grow by x amount and increased revenue by x, those contributions matter to the people making hiring decisions.


5 months ago

This is a wonderful write-up!

I work as an apparel designer and am noticing a lot of previous coworkers slowly taper off and take UX/UI courses due to the burnout and stress in the apparel field.

Is moving from a different field of study something common that you see in candidates that interview? Would you say it's slightly more intuitive if you are already trained with a design eye (Illustrator/Photoshop)? Would it also be standard to start-from-scratch, where you would start over as an assistant?

You had also mentioned that the industry is continuing to hire- is this still holding true? I've heard some stories saying the industry is slowing down. Thanks so much!

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