Now inviting all designers, artists, photographers, marketers to our Artist + Designer plan (4TB)

From graphic design to creative direction: A career guide

During the past few years, the working world experienced a lot of pivotal shifts and transformations. Phenomena such as The Great Resignation propelled people to rethink the way they work. Over 4.5 million people chose to transition to new careers during this period. While a job change can be stressful or challenging, it can also provide opportunities for people to utilize new and relevant skills for a different role, aiding in career advancement and experience in their chosen field.

In terms of the creative sphere, graphic design is not only a valuable role in the industry, but it can also provide a good background when transitioning to other careers, such as a creative director. Taking on the role of a creative director is a natural path for many graphic designers, as these jobs require professionals to have an intimate understanding of the best design practices. Creative directors also need knowledge of the necessary software, the importance of visual impact, and the role of design in brand development to oversee creative projects, skills they likely already possess through their previous work with graphic design.

Here are a few ways your graphic design role can help you shift to a job in a creative direction:

An awareness of impact

Illustrations by Ivan Haidutski

As a graphic designer, you’re all too familiar with how design can impact viewers. Other than providing aesthetically pleasing visuals, it’s an essential tool for connecting and communicating to the humanity of people. When you design in a way that caters to the needs and interests of others, you can send your desired message effectively through visuals.

Creative directors help oversee the implementation of that message throughout marketing campaigns, all creative content, or branding strategies. An awareness of what specific design choices—illustration style, colors, font choice, and the like—are trying to communicate to an audience can help you unify every output, ensuring that a project’s overall vision is visually impactful and effectively conveyed.

Collaboration and coordination

Illustrations by Ivan Haidutski

Communication is crucial not just for customers and clients but within a creative team as a whole. Something recruiters often look for when hiring graphic designers is robust communication skills, which are paramount to collaboration. Since the creative team is usually composed of both designers and non-designers, they’ll need to coordinate their visual style of thinking along with other creative elements.

As a creative director, you’re in charge of guiding the team into harmony. You’ll have less control in the creation aspect, but now you oversee how communication flows among team members to ensure all materials align with a client or project’s demands. Your graphic design background and communication skills can help you spot gaps in group coordination and address them. Collaboration is necessary for any creative project, and your leadership and communication skills can ensure your team is a well-oiled machine.

Passing the baton

Illustrations by Ivan Haidutski

Your graphic design experience provides a strong foundation for your work as a creative director. You can help younger or newer designers find their footing in your team from your new role. You’ve likely been through challenges as a graphic designer, and you can help those in your team to overcome them, boosting your team’s performance.

Your hands-on, real-life experience as a graphic designer makes you a reliable, empathetic leader who knows the ins and outs of working on a project or as a creative within a team, allowing you to better guide those under your supervision. With a better understanding of what it’s like to be in a designer’s shoes, you can find ways to make work more manageable and more efficient for everyone so creative output it’s always at its best and most cohesive.

Undergoing a career change isn’t always about looking forward and chasing advancement; it’s also about learning from your past knowledge and experiences. Shifting to a role as a creative director from graphic designer has equipped you with an arsenal of skills to help guide your team to creative success.

Specially written for

Written by: Rayssa Jael