Think Like a Designer: A guide on creative direction through writing

By: Alex Styer, Director of Digital Media

One of the pain points I have experienced over the last 15+ years working in the communications field is when there is a lack of substantive direction or feedback on creative projects. The phrase “I don’t like it” provides little in the way of helping to guide an idea or message through to a completed advertisement/video/social post. My job is to take intangible ideas and turn them into concrete words and images.

When I am in the driver’s seat for creative projects, I use several tools to help bring substance out of a conversation:

  • Keep it Simple: Ask simple, open-ended questions to help get to a WHY. This could include questions like: How does this make you feel? How do you want it to make you feel? Who is our audience? What do we want them to do after seeing this? Taking a step back and starting from the very beginning can help bring out core messages and themes.
  • Think Abstract: Is it too square? Round? Colorful? Bleak? Is the text too modern or dated? Is the presentation jarring or pleasing to the eye? I find these types of questions extremely useful in creative presentations. Speaking in basic abstract concepts can help a large group find consensus in fast order.

  • Use Help: Online tools like, Canva, Hootsuite and even, yes, Chat-GPT all provide ways to help kickstart or further your creative process. I find that when I am stuck, even staring at a page or three of random stock images will help to bring forth an idea or word that I wasn’t previously thinking.

The end goal of all this is to come up with concrete words or phrases and direction for either you or a graphic designer to implement. The more specific, the better. Remember, a lack of direction or rushed proofreading will ultimately cost extra in overage hours, so it’s important to try to provide clear direction during the creative development and review process.

A few more tips:

  • Avoid sending or making edits in piecemeal form if working with larger teams.
  • Set deadlines for creative feedback.
  • Gather all feedback at one time and make one round of edits.

These tools have ultimately helped me to guide hundreds of creative projects from ideation through to completion. I hope they can provide you with some guidance in your own creative pursuits.

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