How to Become A Creative Director in 2023

Last Updated on 2 April 2023 by Proactive Creative

If you’re in a creative profession, you might well have your sights set on becoming a creative director at the peak of your career. It’s a coveted title that many aspire to, but you need incredible design skills, excellent leadership skills, and years of experience to get there.

Want to find out precisely what a creative director does, and the steps you should be taking if you’re going to become a creative director, too?

And how to level up to a creative director position? Read on – I’ve got you covered.

1. What is a Creative Director?

A creative director leads the creative department within a marketing or advertising company, or within a large company that has its creative or visual communication department. They have a whole range of responsibilities and tasks they need to accomplish.

As well as the day-to-day duties of running the office, managing the team, and hiring staff, to creative duties and managerial responsibilities.

The creative Director talks with clients or higher management to get their ideas, requirements, aims, and goals for any creative project the company needs. Then, the creative director needs to relay these ideas to the team, coming up with new, creative solutions, and guiding projects from start to finish.

2. Creative Director Responsibilities

If you take a look at a creative director job description, you might be surprised by the full range of tasks and responsibilities that a creative director performs. These range from every day to high-level tasks like pitching to clients or company directors.

Here’s a list of the most common responsibilities of a creative director:

  • Oversee deliverables, timeline, budgets, profitability
  • Hiring and training their team
  • Create marketing plans
  • Write copy
  • Supervise department’s daily workflow
  • Evaluation of projects – guiding them from start to finish
  • Oversee pitches, proposals, and presentations
  • Meet with clients to hear their needs and explain strategies
  • Review work by team members and give feedback
  • Manage the whole creative process from start to finish
  • Most creative directors ((not all) have a bachelor’s degree in journalism, advertising, or communications, although diplomas are not mandatory in most companies.

3. Creative Director Salary

One benefit of the creative director job is that it comes with a good, competitive salary. The midpoint for a creative director job’s starting salary is $111,000, although of course, this varies from company to company, and from a country to another. Wages can quickly go up to (and beyond) $150,000, depending on your experience.

As you can see, it’s a well-paid role that comes with plenty of responsibilities. Flexible working hours are another plus point of this job, but you will also be expected to put in extra hours on the run-up to big deadlines.

4. Creative Director Requirements

Here’s what companies will be looking for on your creative director resume:

  • An undergraduate degree in graphic design, visual communication, fine arts, journalism, or similar. A postgrad degree in a related topic is also a bonus
  • Impeccable communication skills – both written and verbal
  • Great leadership and management skills
  • Project management experience
  • A solid understanding of design, digital, and copy practices
  • Up-to-date knowledge of the industry trends and latest techniques
  • At least 5-8 years of experience in a creative role

5. Creative Director Vs. Art Director – What’s the Difference?

The titles may sound similar, but there’s quite a big difference between the role of creative directors and Art Directors. A creative director is responsible for managing client relationships, developing brand strategies, and ensuring that the finished product meets the client’s needs.

They oversee projects but don’t get as involved in the nitty-gritty as an Art Director. The role of Art Director involves every little detail of aesthetics, from font to spacing, kerning, and more.

If you’re weighing up becoming an art director vs. a creative director, think about where your strengths lie. Could you spend all day working on beautiful artistic details, but you’d prefer not to manage a team? Consider becoming an Art Director.

If you thrive on all things strategy, branding, and organization leadership, but still want to get stuck in on the creative side, you would make an ideal creative director.

6. How To Become a Creative Director

If you have your hopes set on becoming a creative director, these tips should help you on your journey. The best way to achieve your goal is by starting out working as a creative professional like a copywriter or graphic designer.

You will gain that crucial, practical experience of working on creative projects, coming up with deliverables, and seeing the process from the inside. You’ll also get to flex your creative senses and come up with some exciting designs, learn the latest trends, and get a feel for how teams work effectively (or not!) together.

You won’t only need superb design skills and a firm understanding of design trends and techniques. A bright understanding of the business side of marketing is also essential.

A creative director needs to be fantastic communicators, influential leaders and be able to design and implement branding strategies efficiently. And in better harmony with their creative team of graphic designers.

If you want to become a creative director, you should work on three things:

  • your critical thinking
  • your ability to understand and interpret data
  • and your pitching ability

These are all key factors that employers look for when hiring a creative director. Combine these with your creative design skills, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a creative director.

7. The Best Books For Aspiring Creative Directors

Want to read more on the subject of creative direction? Check out these titles for inspiration, guidance, tips, and more:

Creative Direction in a Digital World: A Guide to Being a Creative Director by Adam Harrell

Buy on Amazon

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

Buy on Amazon

The Graphic Design Idea Book: Inspiration from 50 masters by Gail Anderson and Steven Heller

Buy on Amazon

Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones by James Clear

Buy on Amazon

Whatever You Think, Think the Opposite by Paul Arden

Buy on Amazon

Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills

Buy on Amazon

To Sum Up

The role of a creative director is dynamic, exciting, challenging, and will be sure to keep you on your toes. It can be incredibly rewarding to guide creative projects through to fruition and see the real impact you are making in the world.

If you are both creatively minded and a strategic thinker, with a fair amount of business nous and amazing people skills, you could make a top creative director. 

Stock up on some of the book titles mentioned above, work on your critical thinking skills and keep ahead of the trends in the industry. All of this will set you in good stead to become a creative director!

I’d love to hear what you think about this post in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, Proactive Creative may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.


Outmane is the founder of Proactive Creative. He is an artist/designer.


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