I’ve been art directing for 10 years: early on, with the words ‘art director’ in my actual job title, and for the rest of that time, organically.
My experience as a copywriter is that we’re exposed to the strategy of a brief so we get the context. You can’t write copy without that understanding, as well as a lot of extra research the briefer hasn’t done. It then makes sense for the design to be guided by the background knowledge and context.
I’ve sat next to designers for my whole career, briefing, sketching wireframes, working on designs back and forth, editing copy to work in the design or changing page hierarchy to fit the copy. That’s how I’ve always worked. For the many designers I’ve known, this was greatly preferred to being handed a brief and told to get on with it. They can and will – but they’ll do it to the letter, without the full context or strategy. I’ve never known a designer who wanted to do that lot by themselves, frankly.
It’s a collaborative process. Now I’m a brand manager (not ‘just’ a copywriter), I 100% see my role as one of creative director, planning and guiding the making process, communicating with stakeholders and then presenting the design – with all the research and context that went into it at the ready. I also feel that I’m a protective barrier between stakeholders and design. It’s tough to be creative under immense pressure, so there needs to be some defence against the noise and stress. Otherwise, you don’t get good stuff out.
No one taught me to do this work and I never studied it. I’ve never worked with a creative director because I’ve never been agency-side. But here’s something: they’re mostly male. All the books about creative direction are by men. The fairly poor reputation that creative directors have in the industry – built by men.
And you know what? They didn’t study it either. They simply reckoned they could do it and they did it, whether they were excellent or mediocre. I think women who want to be creative directors but don’t know how should stop wondering. The men don’t know either, and they’re writing BOOKS about it FFS.
We know how to strategise. We know how to write. We know how to brief. How to art direct, how to present, how to be a creative director. It doesn’t matter what that’s looked like before. This is how it looks now.