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An Interview With a Creative Director
Have you ever caught yourself wondering what a Creative Director gets up to on the day to day? Perhaps you’re a budding designer aspiring towards a career in the creative. Or maybe you’re an experienced designer in search of a new perspective on what it means to be a Creative Director.
Well we’d like to introduce you to our resident CD, Craig Whiteford, as he tells all on what it is to be a creative at Strive Digital UK. Let’s get started on our ‘Interview With a Creative Director.’
First of all, what does it mean to be a Creative Director?
“The Creative Director role involves overseeing the creative output of the agency, be that client work or our own marketing efforts. I lead our design team through each of our projects, but that doesn’t mean it’s a hand off role. I produce design work too, mainly for brand and web design.”
What made you aspire to become a designer?
“It started back in my school days where I was hugely influenced by my art teacher – Mr. Murray. He saw creativity in me and really nurtured it. Introducing me to graphic design and opening up a world that had previously eluded me.”
So, have you always been a creative person then?
“Yeah, I was always a big drawer from an early age and loved still life drawing and creating abstract art. But it’s not just art and design. I used to put on parties called ‘Guilty Pleasures of Mother Goose’ – a.k.a. GMPG, where I would love creating the lighting and decoration for events, doing installations at warehouse parties and forest raves. In a parallel world I would like to think I am an interior designer or product designer.”
What did your path into the creative industry look like?
“I was accepted on to the Visual Communications degree at Glasgow School of Art (GSA) straight from school at the tender age of 17. Having no idea about the big bad world, never mind the creative one.
I did two years then dropped out and spent nearly a decade working in banking and working as a commercial broker and manager for a UK finance business. I spent my days organising large scale development funding and bridging finance, but that all came ‘crashing down’ with the credit crunch in 2008.
I always had regret, and a big ‘what if’ that plagued my consciousness over not following the path into design. So I looked at the paths ahead of me and made a big decision to switch it up again and get back in to design. At the core of this was an aim to do something that I loved, something I was passionate about. So I finished my degree and entered the design world. After graduating I started out freelancing, working in-house at publishers and agencies. Then I joined Red when it started back in 2013.
Looking back at my journey, I have to say I couldn’t be happier withhow it has turned out, and urge anyone thinking of retraining to go for it!”
What do you think are the biggest misconceptions around working in design or as a Creative Director?
“I think the biggest misconception is that it’s all about design, which it’s not. It’s building relationships and working with people to get the best out of them. Making sure they are empowered to be as creative as they can be.”
Are you a perfectionist?
“I would say that when it comes to my final output that I am a perfectionist. Sometimes I get sucked down a rabbit hole of pixel perfection, especially in web design as I aim for pixel perfection and a balance and harmony between elements. This probably adds time to projects but I see it as time well spent.”
How many design disciplines do you work across?
“More and more as time goes on and I get hooked on a new area of design. I design for print and web. Brand design has always been a passion and has naturally let me on to brand marketing and position. I have spent a lot of time over the past 3 years working on web projects, and UI and UX (although two very separate areas of design) have been a big interest and I have been getting more involved in mapping out user flows and creating user personas – again feeding in to my interest in marketing. In one day I could be working with a printer and selecting a stock and treatments for a job, in a brand positioning session and then directing one the team on some front end animations for a website project. I have an insatiable desire to learn new things but time is the enemy on that front these days, as I have a young family and cant spend as much time on personal projects, and learning new skills. I like to have a good understanding of how all types of design production or marketing are delivered, motion for example, or SEO. But I am conscious of loosing focus so I do try to stay within brand and design in my day-to day when in production mode.”
So, what do you think is the key to being a great designer?
“That’s a tough question and one that would give you a hundred different answers from a hundred different people. These days a designer has to be able to do so many things. However, I believe at the core of a successful designer is a spirit of curiosity and playfulness. As well as a skeptical approach to their own work. It’s too easy to turn to a solution that has worked before. I also think great designers also have an insatiable desire to learn and continue to grow.”
What do you reach for when you need a little bit of creative inspiration?
“Instagram. “It’s research for work, honest” I very often say to my partner, Le’Anne. There is just so much great work being produced all over the world and it’s being shared on social media. You can’t help be inspired by it. We are lucky enough to be living through an information revolution with everyone having the power to publish their work and share ideas.”
You meet a genie at a design talk and he grants you your dream design project to work on? What is it and who is it for?
“That’s actually a very tough question to answer. I could get lost in this. I am a big St. Mirren fan and would love to design a new brand identity and system for them. As a homage to one of our greatest manager Sir Alex Ferguson, I would extend my design influence across all aspects of the club. Redesigning the badge, kits and clothing, stadium wayfinding, website, interiors, and launch a new marketing campaign aimed at driving an increase in attendances. Gordon Scott, if you are reading this, get in touch.”
What about that go-to album to get you into the creative mindset?
“I usually stick on my headphones to block out some of the questionable music selections that find their way in to the studio Spotify. I like to listen to some Boards of Canada or Bonobo to get some focus.”
Finally, tell us what the best part of the job is for you?
“Ideating and working with my team to get through a problem together. Definitely!”
If you want to check out some of Craig’s work with Red then head over to our website to explore.