Think about painters; what does their art say about them? For most (if not all), it’s their form of expression. They express their creativity by brushing (or splattering) colours, shapes, designs and interpretations across a canvas. Graphic designers also expresses creativity by choosing colours, shapes, font, imagery and interpretations but their motivations are not about self-expression, they are strategically and objective driven.
A creative director enters a project by examining the problem or proposal, interpreting the need and thinking through the early phases of the project to develop a vision. This vision may cross a breadth of media from print to digital. And it’s then the graphic designer’s job to turn that vision into a tangible reality.
Once the client’s brief is understood, the next critical step in this process is my briefing to the team — which includes the graphic designer, copywriter and often even the production artist, photographer and illustrator. As a creative director, I provide an overview of the vision and the objectives of what is likely needed. But it is my designer who delves much deeper; my designer goes beyond the surface level of what I’m conveying and scrutinizes why we’re doing it in the first place. It’s that intelligent dive that uncovers the crucial components that are translated into the design and if all goes well that is when ‘the WOW gets created. WOW equals the memory hook — the stuff that sticks.
A good graphic designer gives life to the vision by setting the tone and mood, which in turn generates the right emotional feeling and gives the piece its vibe. This creative outcome is often the culmination of weeks or months of work to develop a communication plan, new branding initiative, marketing strategy or determining key messages; if the tone is wrong, the audience won’t respond.
Although as creative director it is my job to conceive the initial direction(s), it is not my job to dictate the concept or design. Based on the communication criteria and my mentorship, it is the graphic designer who explores creative avenues by sketching out interpretations and crafting a few iterations of the proposed design to present to the client. By doing so, he or she tinkers with colour palettes, typographic pairings and grid structure to evolve a visual direction that meets the needs of the client.
Not only does the graphic designer create the visual look and feel, if they are practiced in their craft, they also engage with the writer to determine the tone and direction of the narrative. Their engagement often crosses over to include working with illustrators, photographers and all others who serve a role in a project’s success.
The graphic designer doesn’t go “wandering into the woods,” but instead is challenged to break the ground to form a clear path and bring that initial vision to life.
Read other posts in this series:
In the creative process, writing shouldn’t be DIY