Four Tips on Successfully Building Your Own Creative Department

A Guest Post By Keith Bowman, Senior Art Director, Tonic Design Co.

Dave Bowman PhotoRecently, my colleague Patrick Walsh shared a few great tips on finding the right creative partner to take on some of your design projects. Indeed, outsourcing creative is a smart—and often necessary—move for young agencies that are growing fast…but what happens when you’re outsourcing so frequently that it’s no longer a viable option for your growing company?

It’s time to start thinking about bringing your creative work back in-house. But just as with finding the right outsourcing partner, it’s essential that you take the time to really think it through before you throw a few creatives together and call them a “department.” You want to build the right creative team, and to do that you need to consider a few factors:

1. Personality is key.

Staffing your shop with complementary personalities is often the most effective strategy to running a successful business. Look to hire creatives who are both extroverts and introverts. Strong and outgoing extroverts will often deflect or absorb what milder introverts cannot, thus allowing each to excel at the work in the manner that befits them the most.

2. Look for really creative creatives.

Graphic design is not always about breaking the rules. Truly memorable design comes from a need to create new rules, solve problems, and find new ways to effectively communicate a concept through a visual method. A successful design doesn’t always rely on the designer’s ability to “think outside of the box,” it may depend on the designer’s skill in finding a solution using the parameters found within the box.

There are a lot of talented designers out there. But not every one of them is a true “creative.” The latter is who you should be looking for… and hiring.

3. Creatives can be analytical too.

Design professionals are often thought of as being completely uninterested in numbers and analytics. Yet the best creatives have analytical minds, and want to help you solve business problems for your clients.

Look for creative professionals who are analytical thinkers as much as they are “big idea” people. Don’t get me wrong; we love big ideas ( . But unless a big idea is broken down into bite-size pieces, a team cannot set and be guided by strategic priorities.

4. Good Cop, Bad Copworks.

Make a buddy cop movie. In other words, pair creatives that have different skill sets, but play to their strengths. Assign specific portions of a project to match the designer’s strength, but make sure they are each exposed to the other’s workflow/skills.

Often, this will lead to expansion of skills for all involved while encouraging a greater sense of ownership and responsibility.

There’s an element of trial and error in everything we do. But following these guidelines as you build your own creative resources should result in far less pain than gain… and better business all around.

Keith Bowman is senior art director for Tonic Design Co. where some of his key responsibilities include creative process enhancement and new technology implementation. He has more than 20 years of design experience, which has allowed him to work for some of the biggest and best agencies in the Philadelphia area. His passion for design and the creative process leads to his work being frequently cited in the design world.