What Do You Need to Become a Creative Director?

Creative directors are found in many industries. They serve as the head of creative departments at manufacturing, web design, magazines, marketing, and advertising agencies, nonprofits, and private companies. Even the White House has a creative director.

If you have a passion for art and design, you may have wondered: What is a creative director, exactly? And, how does one reach this executive-level creative position?

What Does a Creative Director Do?

The job of a creative director is essential to develop and oversee creative projects from concept to execution. Creative directors set the direction for a brand’s identity. They’re in charge of the overall vision and narrative in marketing, advertising, or creative campaigns. They don’t typically dive into the creative work themselves; rather, they direct others to produce the result.

Daily, creative directors will meet with clients to discuss their needs, lead team brainstorming sessions, balance a budget, direct creative decisions, and deliver projects. Great creative directors will know how to manage and motivate a team by ensuring their staff has the resources they need to do their best creative work.

What Do You Need to Become a Creative Director?

You’ll need to acquire professional and creative skills. While the specific requirements will vary by industry, every creative director will need the following:

Communication Skills

Creative directors are in charge of communicating with their staff, company executives, and clients. It’s critical to know how to give and take critiques, manage multiple team members, and effectively communicate a creative vision so that others can execute it. They often need to make presentations, so public speaking skills are also a must.

An Eye for Art

Creative directors need to understand creative crafts like design trends, art history, cinematographic techniques, illustration, or writing styles. Understanding design thinking and how to conceptualize your ideas are also important skills.


Before becoming a creative director, you’ll likely begin as a writer, designer, photographer, or another junior-level creative role — and mastering that craft is a key part of the career path. From there, you’ll need management roles that allow you to hone your communication and leadership skills.