I was a copywriter for 10 years. I learned about structure and aesthetics, sitting next to designers and developers. I was often told off for how much time I spent with them.
But I knew words. I wanted the next bit: getting the words into people’s eyeballs.
When I started working for an insurtech startup four years ago, I went from Head of Copy to Brand Manager, which is an important sidestep. I finally acknowledged that I was interested in more than just words.
Now, I write copy about 20% of the time. More often, I’m briefing, coaching, parenting and directing creatives. It’s hard, because you’re trying to get the thing in your head onto the page using someone else’s hands – and, worse, someone else’s galloping thoughts.
That is, however, also the best bit. It’s where we find something we hadn’t thought of, something only the other person’s lens could have seen.
A Creative Director’s job isn’t so much telling people what to do as provoking them to do SOMETHING. Cultivating ideas? Sounds terribly pretentious.
Here’s one of those somethings: a brief comes in for an internal newsletter. Content’s mostly there, needs layout and some sparkle. The word newsletter makes me sad, so I start thinking about how one makes such an old-school, church-notice-board print concept interesting.
Ah-ha! A zine. I’m picturing Riot Grrrl, rave flyers, bedroom walls. But that couldn’t be further from our brand, which is very sharp and solid. So, I chuck that over to Junior Designer to have some fun with. She asks – “Does it need to look like us?” Good question, because the brief to design a zine doesn’t sound much like us. I tell her to use brand colours in there, consider some shapes we often use for backgrounds.
And then the next day she shows me something that doesn’t look like a newsletter OR a zine. It has some of the elements of a zine in its cut-out shapes and typography, but it’s slick and tidy. It’s…us.
So, maybe what I do is like being the minder of truffle pigs. (She won’t mind me calling her a truffle pig.) I don’t find the truffles; I care for the precious snuffler and point her in the right direction. What the pig finds often surprises and delights me.