5 Steps to Become a Creative Director | Top Universities

5 Steps to Become a Creative Director

By Laura Bridgestock

Updated April 6, 2021 Updated April 6, 2021

Sponsored by the Royal College of Art

La crème de la crème of creative jobs. The final echelon for design graduates and seasoned artists alike. That much-prized creative director role you’ve been looking for is just around the corner, but you need to know how to beat the competition and market yourself to recruiters to get it. Here are five steps you should follow to become a hot-shot creative director in no time…

1. Gain some work experience after graduation.

Before you hop onto the grad school bandwagon, it’s vital that you get those years of work experience in. Once you’ve got your bachelor of arts in graphic design or animation, you should be sending out polished CVs, portfolios and original cover letters (see point four) to recruiters and HR managers, and start learning on the job. Find out what you’re good at. Pick up new skills. Discover what you’re really interested in. Build a network of contacts worldwide.

2. Find out where you want to be.

Whether you’re planning on working in advertising or publishing, you need to make sure that you know your industry back to front. Do the research. Keep in mind that you would be spearheading very different design and conceptual work at a magazine than you would at a marketing agency or a book publisher.  Which industry resonates the most with you? What would you like to achieve?

3. Be a technophile.                 

Today’s creative director is many things, including a technologist! Experience with HTML, PHP, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and Flash is absolutely essential, and knowledge of coding and developing would be advantageous. You need to be able to communicate with developers in their own terminology, as confidently as you would with the client or your team of designers.

4. Creative personalization wins the day.

You may want to consider alternative ways of grabbing your dream company’s attention. Accessing those higher positions in the industry is notoriously difficult and sometimes a killer portfolio and great experience just won’t cut it. To land their dream creative jobs, designers resort to all sorts of inventive ways to showcase their talents to HR managers, such as this clever copywriting CV disguised as a patient information leaflet, or this gorgeous illustrated application for a job at Pixar.

5. Invest in a postgraduate degree.

Once you’ve established yourself, earned the respect of your colleagues and have a few years of experience behind you, start thinking about how to reach the next level. You might want to consider enrolling on a postgraduate course, such as the Royal College of Art’s master’s degrees in information experience design, design products or visual communications. This is an opportunity to gain new skills, build a network of contacts and acquire the necessary credentials to access a higher-level position. Like other RCA alumni, you could cut the queue straight to a leadership position by the time you graduate.

Follow in the footsteps of eminent designers, artists and inventors…

Proving that creative jobs do exist for those with the right skillset, 86% of graduates of the UK’s Royal College of Art (RCA) find work within six months of graduation. And it’s not hard to see why…

With famous alumni including David Hockney, Tracey Emin, Orla Kiely and eight members of Apple’s top design team, RCA is one of the most prestigious universities of art and design worldwide and offers state-of-the-art facilities for budding artists, architects and designers.

For a chance to meet RCA deans this year, students based in the US should email the RCA's Head of Communications, Áine Duffy, stating their discipline and preferred date:

  • 22 October in San Francisco
  • 30 October in New York City
  • 5 November in Chicago

This article was originally published in September 2016 . It was last updated in April 2021

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