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Two heads are better than one.
That’s how it works in our creative department, anyway. Our two creative directors discuss how they manage together without killing each other...
Two creative directors for a 10-person department may seem like a lot. And even though Nick and I are both power-mad megalomaniacs, we make it work.
Wow, coming on a little strong there. To be fair, only one of us is a power-mad megalomaniac… It’s just a crapshoot on which one of us it is.
we have a great team with a great culture
Part of that is baked in, but most of it comes from their talent and get-to-work personalities. So upfront, they certainly make it easier for us.
I think we and the team know our strengths and weaknesses enough that we are able to stay in our own lanes. For me, having a design background makes reviewing and directing design-based projects easier than projects that are steeped heavily in messaging. I’m not too stubborn to know when I’m out of my comfort zone and need some help. For example, I know something’s not working but I don’t know how to fix it. That’s where having a partner to lean on helps.
Exactly. Meanwhile, I’ve got a writing background, so I default to messaging first. Normally that’s in copy, but I’m looking for messaging in the design, images, graphics, layout. Does that match up with the proper tone? I admit I’m not an expert in design theory––but I know what I “like.” From this perspective, I can offer Nick some thoughts on design, and he trusts and respects me enough to not laugh in my face if it’s ridiculous. And like the proverbial blind squirrel or the stopped clock, I get lucky and come up with a design idea that works. So he’s willing to listen. And I listen to him because he’s great at offering up copy and headline suggestions when I’m stuck or when we’re brainstorming. The fact that we’ve worked together so long (15 years, essentially from when we got in this business) is a big reason why we’ve got this ingrained trust in each other.
But that’s the quote unquote easy stuff… It gets a tad bit more interesting when it comes to the management of the department. There’s a lot that goes into making the creative department run, and it’s nice to have someone to discuss everything with. I think having two points of view helps us to make better and more informed decisions. Better decisions enable the team to work more efficiently, making for a better on-brand and on-strategy creative product.
It certainly takes a bit of the pressure off to know we can run through points of view––quickly––to come up with the best decision. This way a choice isn’t clouded by any preconceived notion or bias. And frankly, Nick and I agree a lot of the time as it is. Having him to bounce ideas off helps me to confirm what I was thinking, or makes me stop in my tracks and realize that my thinking was off.
But we make sure we have one voice… While we are the two “dads” of the department––that’s what the team calls us, which we outwardly bemoan but deep down kind of like––we want to be consistent in our leadership. If one member of our team goes to Nick or me with an idea, issue or insight, he or she is confident knowing the takeaway will be the same. But this consistency didn’t just happen overnight.
That is absolutely right. Mike and I have been working together for such a long time that we know each other’s idiosyncrasies. I also think the team knows them as well and they’ve learned who to go to for what. Sometimes, I think they use this knowledge “strategically” if you know what I mean.
In the long run, it works out though. The team has two similar-minded individuals they have access to, and it helps make their lives easier. And ours too. We can guide an idea, be a bridge from thinking to execution, or just sit back and watch the magic happen.
Bingo. Access is crucial because we as a department
move fast while maintaining top quality control.
If a project needs reviewed or questions need to be asked of us, it’s a lot easier to get that when there are two of us. Nick may be tied up in an off-site meeting, but the team still has access to a creative director in me. Or if I’m relaxing on a beach somewhere, Nick runs the show and the team knows right where to go. And we have two stellar associate creative directors to step in as well.
It also helps that the team is so talented, reliable and proactive. With two of us, Nick and I essentially double our interactions with every member of the team, enabling us to better understand their strengths and growth opportunities.
I couldn’t say it better. The team is super talented and reliable, and that’s why this whole thing works. I’m often amazed at what the gang does. The creativity and attention to detail.
Their judgment on what works and what doesn’t
. The way they can collaborate so quickly and the way their informal discussions become a full-on high-energy brainstorm… It’s pretty special, if you ask me.
Exactly. Sometimes the biggest challenge for Nick and me, who’ve spent years doing the heavy lifting ourselves (concepting, design/layout and writing), is just getting out of the way and letting the team work unencumbered.
I could go on and on, but will wrap it up in this way. I know Nick and I bring out the best in each other. It’s been something that’s been built over the 15 years we’ve worked together. And, God forbid, if a bus were to hit me, and Nick took over on his own, he’d be phenomenal and the department would be outstanding. But we know together we’re stronger. It’s cliché, but true. And while we have egos that are satisfied by doing a great job while elevating our skills and the work of the department, we understand that it’s silly to try and gain an upper hand against each other, because that sort of power trip would actually be detrimental to the department. This isn’t Game of Thrones.
Wait, what… we’re not trying to take the other out and seize absolute power? I really need to adjust my agenda. I’ve been working under the assumption this was a battle of creative directors and the last one standing was the best. Oops!