What's in a title? What should yours be?

Edward Boches wrote an article at Adweek titled "The New Generation of Hybrid Creatives Is Here. Is Your Agency Ready for Them?", and it started a Twitter chain conversation that is still going, while the comments at the article are still deserted. (edit: strike that, Disqus was acting up, there's comments).

Edward is speaking of his students, as he has - along with so many other professors and mentors - discovered the snowflake-like diversity in skills in the new ad generation. The kids are directors/film makers/designers, copywriters/coders/editors and planner/art directors/ballon artists. When it comes to the art side of things, I find it has always been extremely helpful to narrow it down, as there are "art directors" on movie sets and "art directors" in print magazines, these jobs are very different but they do have in common that you are responsible for the overall art vision, directing the art specialists such as designers, illustrators, costume designers and so on to the final coherent visual goal. Art directors direct the art.

With how media has fragmented into ever smaller niches now, it's little wonder that people are beginning to flaunt their skill sets as hyphens on their titles. I find it extremely useful when a designer simply states web and print if they know both, which is common today but was a unicorn 20 years ago.
Edward finds that "this next generation of advertising creatives have both the desire and the skills to play in multiple sandboxes—with no interest in being confined to just one." Funny, I don't recall ever wanting to be confined either, as that freedom is at the very heart of being a creative. But the moment some agency discovered that I had a knack for the web, I had to fight an uphill battle to get to do anything else. Even my old portfolio school reborn, the SCA 2.0, do not confine the students, though there has always been teams leaving and teams are "writer + art". It's up to the team to decide who gets the last say on what.

Are the ad agencies finally catching on? Why are we even saying that some people are "creative technologists", when we literally mean "an art director who understands the internet and social media", and not "an art director who also knows some programming"? I know I am not on the extreme end of visual creatives when I literally build servers just to get my idea off the ground, as other Parsons graduates have built dot matrix bikes just to write messages on the ground.

I can't recall any time where an art creative or designer wasn't so much more than "just an illustrator" or "graphics guy", their offshoot skills and nerdery highly individualized and driven by ideas. To add to that, pretty much every writer I was ever paired with has also been a drummer, with side-projects ranging from an actual touring band to several novels. This is why the creative department is like herding cats - none of us fit a mould. But our titles say who has the last say and the final responsibility of what. I've called dibs on the art. I recall when I interviewed someone in Cannes, it suddenly dawned on him that I was an Art Director just like he was. Stumped he blurted out; "but... but... you write..?" He said it as if that was some sort of freakish mutation. Yes, I write, and I paint large walls, and I pick things apart just to see how they work.

Instead the N8tives will report directly to GCD Paul Vinod and CCO Toygar Bazarkaya, who conceived the idea. They'll get access to the best briefs and an invitation to use their manifold skills to invent solutions.
"Kids come out of college today with a fiery creative spirit and a desire to create all the time," says Vinod. "They are hybrids. Defining them would be putting them in a straitjacket."
Other progressive agencies also claim to embrace the idea of hybrids and misfits. But for many it's still business as usual. Teams may collectively have a broad set of skills but individuals still have to fit the old job descriptions.

I think "Invent solutions" is the key here. Advertising itself is a problem solving game. Everyone from the account exec to the myriad of planner, strategy, data-driven-marketing nerd are all trying to solve a problem for the client. The client might not even know what their problem is, all they really want is a better bottom line. That's where all our of our skill sets come in, from number crunching to doodling pretty little pictures. This is why people say "everyone is a creative", we are all being creative in our respective job descriptions.

Here's the Twitter discussion that followed (and is still ongoing).

So kids, when you graduate as art director/film maker/planner/writer I have but one piece of advice for you - show us this in your portfolio.

You can write all the titles you want on your card, but if I don't see it in your work, it won't help you. Don't be afraid to make a dot-matrix printer bike and bring the blueprint. And to anyone out there who has a "writer" title, you better have a lot of writing in your book. Too many writers these days have only a sparse tagline in their portfolio, and not one single writeup of the campaign goal, main idea, or strategy used. Rationale? Nope. No radio scripts or TV scripts, and if they do exist it takes two minutes to read their 15 second script. You do realize that when you get to the office, writing those items will be your responsibility, yeah?


Name plaque image from Zazzle where you make name plaques.