What Creative Directors Do and When to Hire Them

May 16, 2023

Creative directors steer your company's creative identity. They provide the creative vision, set the goals, and lead the creative team.

A creative director's scope of responsibility is usually broader than their closely-associated colleague—the art director—depending on an organization’s size.

(Some smaller organizations’ creative directors straddle an art director's scope of responsibility in addition to their own.)

So, what do creative directors offer? And is this officer the right next hire for you?


Your company’s visual identity communicates your authority and credibility. It affects buying intent and market sentiments about you. The visual identity can also help you differentiate your organization from your peers and competitors.

Creative directors are the stewards of this visual identity and brand expression.

They establish guidelines for your creative team and see that all creative collateral is true to and effectively communicates your brand’s identity, messaging, and creative vision.

These professionals are expert designers, editors, or copywriters but do not typically work on technical tasks (unless they're moonlighting as art directors).

The most technical task creative directors may take on is developing strategies and style guides for your brand’s output.

What do they do?

Creative directors translate your business and marketing objectives into creative objectives for your creative team to execute.

They develop creative concepts and promote them among your company’s stakeholders, seeking to secure your leadership team’s buy-in.

They’ll guide the creative team through concepting, designing, editing, and executing various brand and marketing projects without necessarily working on the technical elements of those tasks.

They coordinate with marketing in your organization, manage creative budgets, and present work to your organization’s leadership or agency’s clients.

Although this is not all-inclusive of a creative director’s remit, you begin to see the scale and importance of what they do.


How is a creative director different from a brand director or chief brand officer? What about an art director? Or a CMO?

These roles seem and sound similar but are pretty distinct.

A brand director may have some say in your organization’s visual identity (depending on how you and your team decide to structure that role) but works on multiple aspects of your company’s branding: your positioning in the market, your messaging, understanding your competitors, customer loyalty, brand awareness, and more.

A chief marketing officer and a chief brand officer work closely when both roles exist within an organization. Otherwise, if only one of these roles sits in your organization, that person performs the work of both.

Whereas creative directors own your company's visual identity, your chief marketing officer owns your company's marketing strategies and promotion.

How about art directors? This is where things become more nuanced.

Unlike creative directors, art directors work on the technical elements of your company’s visual identity, including designing and deciding on the art and visual details.

Many will advise that you might think of creative directors as “big picture" and art directors as “details”.

As we mentioned, it’s common to have a creative director take on the role of the art director and vice versa in smaller shops.


It depends on your stage of development.

If your organization is in its earlier stages, still developing its products and services, and scaling up, a fractional creative director would be your best option.

Fractional creative directors work on a part-time contractual basis rather than full-time but fulfill the creative direction you’ll need.

If you’ve achieved steady growth or your organization has matured, bringing on a full-time creative director to ensure your company’s creative output is visually consistent is the most appropriate option.


Knowing when to hire these professionals is tricky; we can walk you through the considerations you’d need to make.

Because your brand’s visual identity is one of the first pieces of information you communicate to your customers, your style is a big part of selling and positioning. A creative director owns this part of your business, making them an indispensable addition to your team.

We work with companies at different stages to determine when to bring on a creative director and connect them with our network of creative direction professionals.

Get in touch with us if you’d like to learn more about creative directors and explore our network!

Elysian Staffing