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Managing the Creative Types

January 28, 2022
min read
Managing the Creative Types
Managing creatives can have it's challenges.[...]

This is probably my favorite subject when it comes to running a creative agency.

Dealing with, managing and working along side the creative designer! 

Let me apologize right up front to those of you I am sure are going to be offended by this article. I have a strong opinion that a good designer is worth his/her weight in gold and any shop that thinks that they can operate without one is downright crazy. Now I'm not going to make a statement like that without defining a few things and giving you the tools to make money from the content of this article as well as give you some hints on how to manage this person to get the most out of them. 

Let's define the statement “good designer”. A good designer is first and foremost reliable, I'll elaborate on this in a minute but by reliable I mean will show up to work everyday and get the tasks you need done done. A good designer can articulate and translate, they must be able to articulate your business policies and fee schedule to your customer as well as translate your customers wants and needs to reality. A good designer will have the ability to create “eye catching” art that will benefit your customers goals. Last but not least from a wrap standpoint this designer must understand how to look at a car through a new pair of eyes. 

In my many years in business I have come across many designers, some that are great and most that are so so.  The sign business as a whole has been so driven by copy and clipart due to the ease of getting a hold of a plotter and becoming a sign shop and the software that has been tailored to sign layout that the industry as taken the term of design and placed it in the hands of some one who can lay out text with a good outline. 

Once again i'll get on my soapbox of full color digital. The sign gods have looked down us favorably and blessed us with inkjet technology! Now what? Well the bar has been raised and no longer are the 2 color text applications getting the impact they once did. With all of the visual stimulation we get on a daily basis, wether it be in the form of advertising, fashion, decorations etc its all getting better, bolder and fighting for our attention. The bottom line is you better be able to produce products that can compete for the attention they deserve or you will be left in the dust. 

Finding a good designer:

When I had to look for a good designer I found myself using the same set of criteria each time. Does this person know Adobe photoshop and illustrator?  Photoshop is the advertising industries primary tool, next to illustrator. In my experience if a designer is proficient with both of these products they can usually handle any file type that comes through the door. Next question in my hiring repertoire is this, do they have a good eye? 

Always look at a portfolio, if you are impressed more than likely your customers will be also. Ask to see different examples of their work, look at advertising design, photographic work as well as sketches etc. This will give you a good idea if they know and understand color and composition.  Are they fast enough, not only should a good designer know how to create, they should also be able to do it in a timely manner, set up a mach client interview with them and ask them to proof it for you on one of your house computers. This should give you a good idea if you were fed a bunch of lip service during the 1st 2 steps. 

I have had the most success putting an add up on which is a national bulletin board online that is frequented by creative types.

Notice what I did not mention, a degree. A degree when hiring for a wrap shop is a bonus, but the best designer I ever had working for me never even heard of art school, but was an asset to my business. More important than a degree is the ability to be semi-organized. Thats right “semi” organized, most really creative people struggle in this area, find a designer that can keep up with your art fee’s. The ability to stop and call the client and ask for more art time is crucial to your bottom line. 

Last but not least is the ability to look at a car! What I mean by look at a car is this. Your designer must be able to see the wrap before its done, he must understand how to look at the surface of the vehicle and make adjustments in Photoshop to make the wrap work. Now you will be hard pressed to find a designer who knows this off the bat, it can be taught but in my experience they either get it or they don’t! You want one who gets it. 

Trust me on this! If you have a good designer with the right tools you will make more money! I know this from experience, and would not be telling you about it if I didn’t think you would benefit from it.

Managing that creative person!

If you are still reading this article you are either open to the idea of getting a good graphic artist/designer or have one already and may be wondering why I would put the effort into writing an article on how to manage them. Aren’t they the same as every other employee, don’t I manage them just like my production person or sales person. The answer is a resounding, NO!

Designers are a different breed of person and need to managed as such, working primarily with the right side of their brain all day they tend to have special needs, and I do not mean this negatively, that need to be addressed for both of your continued success.  

First and foremost your designer should be a “special” person in your shop, remember without them you would never be able to “make” anything and therefore not keep your printer running! By special I mean this, pay them well for what they do, they should have a good work area with the right/current tools to do their job. They should be esteemed by you to your customers, remember they have the ability to get art done quickly as well as capture those add on design fees which could relate to several thousand dollars per month. 

Work area is very important to a designer, you should allow them to decorate it how ever they choose barring anything that may offend you or your customers, Make this space theirs even if it does not match your style or tastes, allow them to have an area to meet with clients and conduct business in a fun environment.  Along with work area, I would encourage my staff to listen to the music of their choice during work time, once again let me stress because I know that their music may be a complete ear soar to you, they will work harder and faster in this environment. 

To punch or not to punch:

I took all my design staff off a time clock about 4 years ago, I realized that creative people stay up late and do not really like mornings. Heres the caveat to that statement, if there is a customer meeting I required they be there for that. My policy on my designers was this, I want you here somewhere around opening and expect you to put in a full day, That simple! Then what began to happen was amazing, not only did they put in a full day but began to stay later to get things done. 

When you treat your designers well they will do amazing things for you! They are vitally important to the success of your business in so many ways, thats why I believe you will benefit from hiring a good one! 

A few more side notes on the management of staff, this business should be fun and enjoyable if it isn’t why are you doing it? While maintaining the chain of command your employees should feel valued and respected by you. I ate lunch with my staff every Friday without fail, my opinion about my staff was this. Without them my family did not eat, without me, their families did not eat. It was my job to make sure they were as happy and productive as I could possibly make them. 

Fact: I had 0 turn over in 3 years, and my employees were among the most sought after in my market. 


I am proud to say, that Stephen Sinek started in my shop, no degree mind you and is now one of the best wrap designers I have ever seen! Just look at past issues of wraps to see his work. He is my testimony that good recruiting and management pays off!! 

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