A Look Behind the Curtain: The Process of Art Direction

scott lawson new headshot

Scott Lawson

STIR | Creative Director
Aug 18

The most frequent question I get asked by people both inside and out of the marketing industry is, “So, how do you come up with all those ideas?”

I’m sure most people in this profession have been asked the same thing. And for a number of years, I’m not sure that I truly knew the process of art direction. I could have told people what they want to hear – that just like in Mad Men, all it takes is six Manhattans, a pack of cigarettes, a little bit of luck and BAM! You have yourself an idea!

I don’t know if that’s ever been the case for me.

But after having been part of launching new brands into the marketplace and refreshing existing ones, and later garnering some recognition for that work, I thought it was high time to think about my process of art direction.

First, a fully integrated idea or campaign requires a team of people working together to move a brand forward. It’s not just about the art director’s ideas. Everyone on the team, from an account executive to a digital designer to a production artist, plays an important role in a brand’s success.

Without a proper creative brief, the messaging and strategy can get lost, and we aren’t able to properly meet the needs and goals of our clients. Rarely, if ever, is art direction a one-man show.

It also takes a lot of thinking. Then it takes none. Stay with me, I’ll explain.

You get a creative brief, and you start to think. Then you think some more. You sweat the details and the possibilities. You think about the brand and the message until you feel like you’ve exhausted every possible outlet.

And then, you step away. For me, I go for a run, or hop on my bike and go for a ride. I need to get out of my office and away from my screens, pencils, and paper and do something active. It clears my head. I do my best to get away over the lunch hour. That “mental down time” helps put the big thinking into place. And most times, I can come up with a few new ideas when I’m not staring at a white sheet of paper, hoping the answer will just come to me.

We take pride in the work we do here at STIR for all of our clients. Our integrated offerings and team approach help ensure well-rounded thinking for your brand.

And when time permits, sometimes the thinking happens on the trail, not at the desk.

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