What Does a Creative Director Do & How to Become One: Sit Down with Andi Dunn
Creative directors are the creative leads at companies who design, develop, and deliver a strategic vision for clients. In a nutshell, they leverage their creativity in a meaningful way by making the everyday things around you beautiful and visually intriguing.
If you have a passion for all things art and design, you may have wondered, “what is a creative director, exactly? And how does one achieve this title?”
We sat down with our very own Queen Bee & leader of the pack, Andi Dunn, to get an inside look at her own experience as a Creative Director and all the way through the progression in her career leading her to where she is today, as CEO of Honey Creative.
If you’ve got a knack for inspiring others and an eye for design, this vision-heavy position could be for you!
In your words, What is a Creative Director? Specifically, what is a Creative Director in a Brand Agency?
A Creative Director in my opinion helps lead a team and can identify the right individuals for the success of a project. A Creative Director has an integral part in creating a strategic plan of action to bring a client’s vision to life! I like to think of it like being the head chef at a restaurant: some days you might be actually cooking a meal for customers, other days you might be instructing your sous chef, or interacting directly with your customers but all to deliver an incredible, memorable meal.
How long have you been a branding expert?
I have more than a decade of design experience and have specialized in branding for seven.
Tell us a little bit about your path from Creative Director to owning your own agency
My plan was never to become a Creative Director actually. I was passionate about design and serving my clients, but it was a humbling experience to admit that I simply can’t do it all and there are other, more talented individuals that I could collaborate with to provide the services I lacked. This was a win-win because stepping into a leadership role allowed me to focus on what I loved while my team could do what they do best, all while providing a better service to our clients without diluting the deliverables!
What was the hardest part of the transition from Creative Director to entrepreneur?
It has been a challenge to see myself as a leader at times. I think most entrepreneurs can admit that they don’t have it all figured out but when you have a team looking to you to lead and direct the show, it can feel scary and vulnerable. I try to be open and honest about experiencing imposter syndrome and I’m grateful for a team that is understanding and doesn’t see that as a threat to my ability to lead, it simply makes me human.
What are the 3 qualities a successful creative director must possess?
I think empathy, insight, and responsibility are the 3 qualities a creative director must possess in order to be successful.
As a Creative director, you must be able to understand all sides and all perspectives to plan effectively. It’s being compassionate enough to relate to your client and their experience to be able to delegate appropriately. And of course, as the ‘beekeeper’ I must take responsibility for my hive and admit my shortcomings and be prepared to take ownership of any mistakes.
What do you think makes someone a great creative director?
Compassion and trust make a creative director great. To have the commitment to stick it out and trust your gut to see a vision through takes dedication while also holding space for questions and curiosities.
Is selling a client an edgy idea easy or hard?
It absolutely can be! However, we try to vet our clients to ensure there’s mutual trust so it helps alleviate some of the anticipated tension. And because Honey Creative’s process is very involved and informed based on strategy and their audience, it’s all in the delivery! We’re on the same team and are working toward the same goal so if the client understands what the target is, it’s much easier to get them on board with an edgy idea!
What tips do you have to continuously inspire creative teams and keep them sharp?
I love to encourage personal projects! I believe everyone is creative in their own way and it’s important to maintain a balance of passions to keep things interesting. Everyone on my team has their own endeavors and is personally developing in ways that not only help them grow deeper in their role at Honey but also just make them a more well-rounded individual!
What tips do you have for building and nurturing a healthy and vibrant creative culture within an agency?
Listen and understand that it just takes time! With all of us being remote it can be a challenge to feel the team-like energy when you’re not in the same space. However, we try to break bread on projects and stay communicative daily. I also try to provide opportunities for us collectively to get to know each other more throughout the year like virtual brainstorming sessions or getting together casually.
In your opinion, what is the best way to give feedback on creative work?
This is a complicated answer because it depends! For our clients, we request a Communication Survey to identify their preferences in providing feedback (either verbally, in writing, or visually through a video call) but internally, we share a lot together to get each other’s perspectives and insights which I think helps dilute the intensity of potentially ‘harsh’ criticism.
What has been your biggest success as a Creative Director and why?
I am so beyond proud of Honey’s hive! It has been a challenge to find the right fit for roles over the years and I finally feel like I’ve found the right fit alongside others that believe in our mission just as much as I do as the founder. That has been the biggest success.
And finally, what advice would you give to anyone who has recently been promoted to the role of Creative Director?
Be vulnerable. It’s ok to not have everything figured out or not feel like a director sometimes but understanding that you are operative as a collective is a big comfort. Your team is meant to support you just as much as you support them!