selling ideas, Strategy

Learn to sell creative ideas to clients

I find this skill massively overlooked in the training of designers. Creating great work is one thing, selling it is quite another. People often fall back on ‘a good product sells itself’ but this is rarely true. So learn to sell. Learn to pitch.

We often get caught up in the design and forget the justification for it. We feel that because we’ve thought about it and designed it well, the client should just trust us whole heartedly and accept our idea. We forget that they haven’t been on the whole journey with us and have come from a different mind state.

This leads to them opposing an idea either through ignorance, misunderstanding or lack of knowledge and we just take it straight to hard. This builds the stand off, where both parties feel right but misunderstood and stubborn to back down.

We need to take our clients on a journey, backed by data and clear explanations of the problem they are trying to solve and what they need as a solution. Then and only then, should we present the idea.

Idea followed by explanation = conflict

Explanation followed by idea = empathy

One thing I will be working on as a skill is to think of an elevator pitch for all ideas. Whenever I need to present a design, an idea, or even a meal suggestion; I will aim to do so in an exciting persuasive and short sentence.

Resources Worth Reading


Get your strategy right

Your strategy dictates your design, so get that right and the rest will be much easier. If you can base your strategy off a research document, then you’re onto a winner. If you can keep referring back to a clear strategy during the design process, all the work will fit together and not go off track.

I’m currently working on a strategy document with my Creative Director for a product relaunch. It’s using personas from a  research document to establish a clear key selling message as a top level focus. This is helping us to have one clear goal and then filter down to specific messages for personas from one place. The messaging matrix is how we will develop specific messaging for each persona.

Successful advertising works in the form of a funnel made up of 3 sections. 

  2. Communication
  3. Persuasion

89% of advertising isn’t noticed, so failed at the first step. Most time on a project is lost on meetings about the persuasion element and this is where a good strategy comes in. Your strategy is your persuasive element which then writes you communication element. A good strategy covers the last 2 points in the advertising funnel, leaving impact down to the design stage. 

management, tedtalk, video

Video: The Happy Secret To Better Work

One of the important aspects of being a creative director is being able to manage a team, the best team to manage is a happy team. This video explains the link between happiness and success. We are much more productive, creative and successful when we are happy and we need to re-engineer the way we approach happiness.

This is a short 12 minute video, well worth a watch. Enjoy

creative directing, resources

Always start with a belief – Putting Direction, in Creative Directing

Having just finished reading ‘Hegarty on Advertising. Turning intelligence into magic’ – By John Hegarty, I remind myself how important it is to have a core belief and stick to it.

For Hegarty, that belief was ‘When the world zigs, zag’.


It was the line they used for a Levi’s campaign which rejuvenated an old and failing brand and brought it back into something fresh and desirable. This approach to zagging became the core mantra for BBH, the agency Hegarty cofounded. He constantly went back to this idea when he was trying to make important business decisions. As a Creative Director, having this core belief and mantra helps you to solve the second part of your job description: Directing. In order to direct people, you must have a direction to move in, and this, is what the core belief is for. It ties your decisions back to a company philosophy and insures you remain true to your beliefs.

This not only applies to the company you are working for, but the clients and projects you work on. Ensure you have a value proposition before you try to answer a brief. Yesterday, I was working on mood boards for the photography styling of a new fashion brand, whilst working with my creative director and struggling to find a direction, he noted that we didn’t have the Value Proposition for the brand, did they have one? did we need to write one? either way, we needed one to help us focus all of our design decisions, so get a value proposition and your direction will follow.

Hegarty’s book, is a great resource of intelligent creative advice and a great reminder to define that value proposition and follow it. I highly recommend reading this book for anyone looking to make an impact in the creative industries and advertising.

inspiration, resources

Resource: First Impressions and Laughing Matters with Chip Kidd

Breakfast is one of those times I’m never quite sure of what to do. It’s eaten in 10 minutes, so a full TV show just ends with me being late to work, and I can’t read and eat at the same time.. I’ve tried, and it ends with cornflakes on my shirt… and my book.

Sometimes I just sit in the garden and enjoy the quiet and eat. This morning I’d decided a TED talk would be a good, thought provoking start to the day, and damn it was!

Here are the two talks I watched this morning. Take a few minutes and get inspired:

Chip Kidd: Designing books is no laughing matter. OK, it is.

creative directing, introduction, job specification, job titles

Introduction: What is a Creative Director?

‘Be the soul of your agency. You are the person who defines and guides the agency’s creative beliefs. You are the conscience of the company and the person responsible for keeping the creative spirit burning.’ – John Hegarty ( from ‘Hegarty on Advertising – turning intelligence into magic’

What does a creative director do? It’s the initial question I really had to ask myself when thinking about this role, what actually is a creative director? How do I define that job role? So let’s start at the beginning and define what this is about. A Creative Director is a role which will vary from company to company depending on size, industry and structure however there are key traits and areas that they will share. So if things seem broad, bare with me. Besides, breadth is key with this role. Creative Directors roles can involve:

  • Client meetings and the initial brief.
  • Return briefs and project strategy — this is all about understanding the problem which needs to be solved, and working out the best medium to solve it in.
  • Project direction, headlines and concepts.
  • Project/concept management from start to finish.
  • Tweaks and quality control — double check those widows and orphans, check the spelling, colours, typography. All the stuff you might miss out when working under a deadline. Even if you’re not the one doing it, you need to ensure these things are checked.
  • Staff management for projects, ensuring you have access to all the skills you may need to complete the project.
  • Staff improvement, by which I mean imparting every bit of their knowledge and experience to their team. This serves the double purpose of a better team, and a push for yourself to constantly develop and grow.
Creative Directors also may need to think wider than individual projects which have come in. They will need to look to the future from an organisational role, and oversee the agency’s direction in terms of the type of work the agency wants to do and attract and in some cases the agencies style.

The real question I want to look at within this blog is what the process looks like to go from a junior designer into a creative director. What do you need to learn, where can you find more resources and how can you become a better designer/director.


How to become a Creative Director, Art Director or generally better graphic designer

This site is not one article with a short description of how to become a creative director. Nor is it an explanation of why the good creative directors are so great, those things already exist. It aims to help you acquire the knowledge needed by giving you good materials and information and not just assuming you have to slog it away in the industry for 15 years until you get promoted into the role.

This is about a journey, and sharing information. Creative Directors require a very broad range of skills and a wide breadth of knowledge, it’s not just enough to tell people that and then leave them to figure out what knowledge. We’ll be exploring these areas, digging into them, summarising the key points and inspiring you to learn more so you can become a creative director, or just a better designer. So enjoy it!