Our in-house profile this month is on Carol Carter, Global Head of Creative Services for BlackRock, the worlds largest asset management firm. Whether in her early career as a journalist or now leading a global creative team, she has seen firsthand that inclusion, diversity and collaboration bring out the best in people, yield the most creative work and have an impact on the bottom line. Her latest endeavor has her setting up a design team in India.
“Surprisingly, the farther apart we are geographically, the closer we are creatively. Good design is the ultimate unifier.”
Your full name?
Where do you work?
What does your company do?
BlackRock is the world’s largest asset manager, managing money on behalf of clients of all types, including pension funds, university endowments and individual investors saving for retirement.
What types of services does your team specialize in?
Graphic design; brand and identity management
How many people make up your team?
Your title/role within the company?
Global Head of Creative Services
What was your very first job in this field?
I began my career as a journalist and worked in publishing where I needed to write copy and do page layout. I learned basic design principles in journalism school but I also worked closely with graphic designers and photographers during my time in publishing. I always knew the importance of design and composition in telling a story.
Share a best-practice leadership experience?
One of my first tasks when I took on the role as global head of creative services was to unify three similar teams that operated independently. Years of working in silos led to a lack of alignment and collaboration across creative services teams. But breaking down the silos, establishing a management team that gave everyone an equal voice and developing a collaborative work environment ultimately got us to a place of trust, respect, admiration and affinity.
What are you working on now that you’re excited about?
Our team has been working on a new visual identity for our below the line work for the past 6 months. When we knew we needed to update our visual identity last year to better reflect our commitment to a simpler, more visual approach to communications with our clients, we considered partnering with an outside design firm but in the end decided that we had the talent in house to accomplish what we needed to get done. It shows how far our team has come in the past five years from a talent and capability standpoint. I’m incredibly proud of the team we’ve built and the work that we produce.
If you could share one piece of advice for an up-and-coming creative leader what would it be?
Learn to be comfortable with ambiguity. If you can excel in situations where there is transition and reinvention taking place, you will have a role to play in any firm.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by the fact that the marriage of content and design is being viewed as critical to business success – no matter what the industry.
What is the first thing you do each day to organize yourself?
I’m a dinosaur. I still rely on my notebook and a pen. Writing a list every morning keeps me focused.
Have you noticed any changes or trends for in-house creatives in the past year?
As the regard for in-house creative has risen in recent years, so has the scrutiny. It is no longer enough to produce outstanding work that drives business goals – you need to do it in a way that shows the firm your team is smart about using the resources you’ve been given. In other words, your creative team needs to be a well-run business within a business—and you better be prepared to prove it.
What has been your greatest challenge as a creative leader?
Communicating the need for time in the creative process – and guarding the humanity that exists in the act of creation. In an age of automation and advanced technology, clients want instant results. There is still a large amount of craftsmanship and collaboration in what we do – and that needs the sanctity of time. Technology has given us better tools but, in the end, it is the personal interaction between the writer, the designer and the work that yields the best results.
Describe the career path you have taken and where you see yourself next
I started out in publishing as a writer and I have always loved writing and design. During my publishing career, I either worked with graphic designers or did my own layout. I left journalism when my daughter was born to take a public relations role with a leading financial services firm. After doing that for a while, I missed the tangible nature of publishing and moved into the marketing team — writing collateral and collaborating with the in-house creative team. From there, it was an easy step to move from internal client to creative services team member. I am thrilled to be in my current role as global head of creative services at BlackRock and, over time, hope to further hone my communications and marketing skills to advance social issues that are important to me.