Before we dive into the particulars around the Creative Direction, we’d like to define what we mean when we talk about creative direction. This can be difficult to put a finger on. It can also mean different things from one agency to another. At ETR, the Creative Direction refers to the overall vision that we have for a project, and seeks to answer the following questions:
In many ways, defining the Creative Direction is the first, and arguably the most important milestone in moving a design project from the very abstract to the very concrete. Every step forward is a hard-won distillation of the step that came before it.
We start with the highest-level business goals laid out in the Project Manifesto and formulate a Central Design Challenge. We then identify the broad user-centered Design Requirements we must fulfill to meet that Central Design Challenge.
Finally, we gather a list of characteristics and attributes that drive the Art Direction and define the rules around how we use color, contrast, type, and icons.
It’s in this way that we as designers can know that every single choice we make – every UI element, every color, every pixel of every page – is ultimately rooted in the high-level goals to which our clients aspire. Our Creative Direction ensures that nothing is left to chance.
Once the Creative Direction has been ratified by our client, it becomes the framework and the rule-set that we use to guide our decisions as we move into the Project Blueprint and Design & Development Phase of the project. More than that, the Creative Direction becomes a yardstick with which we can measure our design solutions. We will ask ourselves – Does this design live up to our Design Requirements? If the answer is yes, then we move on. If it’s no, one of two things is the case: Either the design needs another iteration so that it does meet all of the Design Requirements, or one (or more) of our Design Requirements needs to be reprioritized. Done right, the Creative Direction can often serve as a strong deterrent against culprits like subjectivity and fiat, which can derail user-centered design projects.