I was given a solid foundation in the fundamentals of design: color theory, typography, composition, etc. There were, however, a number of topics that were unfortunately passed over.
One blaring omission was the fundamentals of people—how to lead and motivate individuals to achieve the best work possible.
It seems we’ve all worked for the tyrant Creative Director who came up with the “winning” ideas and then doled them out to the staff to implement—only to leave them feeling deflated, dispirited, and minimized. Don’t be that CD. Help your people develop their own ideas, give them the tools to do it, and then get out of their way. Your primary function should be as an editor, not the sole creator. Your creatives will never design it, write it, or ideate it the way you would—but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Check your ego at the door and make it about the idea and the people. If you build and nurture their creativity, the “management” part will take care of itself.
A second oversight in school was the differentiation between the marketing functions of a brand and its visual and verbal expression. If you’re a designer and are being asked to manage a brand, my advice is to begin to understand the business side. Who’s your target audience and what motivates them? Really understand “why” the brand does what it does, vs. just “what” it produces. Learn what terms like sales funnel, CRM, and click-thru rate mean and how they’re important to the brand. And the hardest part— make analytics your friend.
Numbers and graphic designers historically don’t go together, but in today’s world everything is measurable. It’s important to understand how analytics can inform your creative solutions—while still maintaining a level of “what-if.” Breakthrough creativity takes a leap of faith. Before jumping, though, you should have a good idea of where to leap, how far the leap will take you, and where you will land. Analytics can provide that footing. Then you can entertain a term that was once only heard in direct marketing: optimization. Test and learn strategies can actually be a creative’s friend. Understanding the numbers lets you gauge the success of your work in real-time.
If only I’d been introduced to these fundamentals in school. But, better late than never.
This POV brought to you by a member of Boom Ideanet, “Instant bandwidth for the creative department of the future.”