The Full-Stack Creative Leader

A little while ago I was interviewed by the great guys at Australian Design Radio. Amongst other things we discussed the idea of the full-stack designer.

The Designer that comes with a range of technical skills; the craft of laying out publications to designing the user experience and interface of a digital application (website, device app).

It's a real thing, this full-stack Designer. 

And it got me thinking — so is the Full-stack Creative Leader.

Too many times the 'Designer' is limited in their description by the technical nature of their role. They use tools, they execute and try so hard to become one with 'the idea' and 'the strategy'. 

I hear it often. The cry from Designers who are deep in technical knowledge and shallow on the other stuff.

The full-stack Creative has done the technical, mouse-driven work and is now more interested in painting with a bigger, broader brush. The full-stack creative is consultative, strategic and a leader.

In my experience this is something many Designers find extremely difficult.

Throughout my career, there were times when I would say 'Creative Strategy' and see most of my team run the other way, and those that remained, return blank, vacant looks.

The first thing the Full-Stack Creative Leader cares for is the idea, and the idea is plentiful and multifaceted. They're not going to get married to the first idea on the first date, they're going to take many ideas out for many dates before they choose. 

They have such extreme ownership and understanding of the idea that they can sell it. And sell it they do. They have mastered the art of selling the idea to clients. They know how to have a room understand, comprehend and empathise for the idea and the problem that idea is solving.

Have you seen Don Draper's 'Kodak Carousel' presentation? :)

The Full-Stack Creative Leader commands the room and represents the team. Yes they obsess over kerning, shape, form and function, but they move beyond the minutiae quickly and get down to business. The business of creativity - Creating ideas that create impact.

They are entrepreneurial in their approach and can expand that idea into platforms that return on the initial investment.

Yes, this means that their ideas can make money.

They know that design is not self-expressive art, but that design can be artful.

The Full-stack Creative Leader is well-versed in the language of business, because they understand that the job they do fits neatly into the machine of commerce.

They have a seat at the board-room table and can 'unpack' a problem with the best of them. 

They ask questions — lots of questions and aren't afraid to ask 'the dumb questions' because they know that every answer is fodder for their work.

Academia is scrambling to get industry input into their courses for a reason.

Some industry associations have scrambled to reposition themselves to attract a broader industry cohort, realising the world outgrew their initial thoughts of narrowing in on a position  to represent one type of vocation.

So, this idea of a full-stack Designer that knows code, layout and a whole bunch of other technical skills is interesting. But what I find far more interesting is the idea of a creative leader that is well-stacked with both hard and soft skills.

Skills that will see them progress into their career and break through the plateaus that many of us have faced.

Jim Antonopoulos