How to Become a Creative Director

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An Eye for Design and Solid Leadership Skills Make for a Successful Creative Director

The position of a creative director isn’t an entry-level job—it’s practically the top of the career ladder for someone who began in a job such as graphic designer, copywriter, or another artistic or creative position. Although it can be difficult to juggle the senior positive of creative director with raising a family, this is a fulfilling career for a person with an eye for design and some business savvy.

The Role of a Creative Director

A creative director works in a variety of industries, including advertising firms, media companies or film, and is responsible for setting the creative vision of a specific project, campaign or even the whole brand. She then sees it through to execution, ensuring that the creatives working on the project are on-point with visuals, messaging and other components. Often, the creative director must maintain deadlines, manage client relationships, and establish and track budgets.

Relevant Skills

Along with having a degree in a related field, such as graphic design or media arts, a creative director must have an eye for design and a creative mind. During your education, you will likely learn about art history, design history and pop culture, and you will develop skills in creative tools such as the Adobe Creative Suite and various web design platforms.

Because a creative director holds a senior position, the right candidate needs to have leadership skills and basic business sense. These include written and oral communication skills, an eye for financial details and project management ability.

Art Director vs. Creative Director

Sometimes, the terms “art director” and “creative director” are used interchangeably to describe the same position. However, they can also be two different positions. In some organizations, the art director is responsible solely for the artistic and design portion of a project or brand, focusing on the smaller details, such as fonts and graphic choices, while the creative director handles the overall strategy and execution of the campaign or project. In this case, the creative director is senior to the art director.

Salary Expectations

Salaries for a creative director can vary wildly based on company, geographical region and responsibilities. Someone taking this position can expect to earn around $117,000 annually, according to, with the lower end making $98,000, and the high end earning almost $140,000. However, if the position is more along the lines of art director, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states the median average salary for that job title is $89,820, as of May 2016.