Lead Designer Vs Creative Director

Art has come a long way since pencils and ink on paper. Computer artists these days specialize and this article compares a couple of career options for artists looking to become lead and/or creative designers.

Comparing Lead Designers to Creative Directors

Lead designers within the artistic fields primarily work as head creators for video games, but also spearhead website or multimedia projects. Creative directors are those artists in charge of the visual portion of a project watching over a team of designers working on the specifics. Both positions are a leadership role, but each one focuses on a unique aspect of the overall project. Below is a comparison of these two design careers and some vital information on each.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth* (2014-2024)
Lead Designer Bachelor's degree $86,510 (for all video game designers) 4% (for all video game designers)
Creative Director Bachelor's degree $89,820 (for all art directors) 2% (for all art directors)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Lead Designers vs. Creative Directors

Lead designers take full responsibility for a creative project starting at idea conception. The lead designer is the middle man who sees to it the concept meets the client's needs from beginning to end while working with a team. For example, a lead video game designer takes care of initial design and helps create core functionality. Creative designers on the other hand take charge of the visual stylings and images for a project like the layouts for magazines, films, television shows or video games. Creative directors drive the overall theme of the project and guide other artists' work as each production progresses.

Lead Designer

Lead designers running a creative project such as a video game or website will work with two teams. They'll start with clients to discover their needs and then will collaborate with the creative director to develop a strategy for the visual and story concepts. A lead game designer will come up with and help create the framework ideas like the level design, game mechanics, plotlines and character biographies. These designers will work with the art teams to then flesh out all the different creations into a final product.

Job responsibilities of a lead designer include:

  • Utilize the latest in design and digital software
  • Monitor user experience and testing to guarantee sales success
  • Provide continual feedback to team during production process
  • Ensure that deadlines are being met and the work is within the client's specifications

Creative Director

The creative directors could take charge of a variety of visual and/or animated aspects of a project, such as character concepts, layouts, backgrounds and other ideas. These experts are the overall designers who oversee and approve the production done by other designers. They may make changes to fit the themes discussed with the lead designer as the production goes along.

Job responsibilities of a creative director include:

  • Determine the best concept ideas for design implementation
  • Decide all visual production such as art, photographs, illustrations, etc.
  • Coordinate all work between artists and departments
  • Make presentations to executives, boards and/or clients

Related Careers

Lead designers and art directors often work together for some companies or certain projects, and there are several interesting related career fields that exist. Industrial designers, like lead designers, collaborate with multiple professionals like scientists and engineers to design new products for organizations that make automobiles, washing machines, refrigerators and more. Multimedia artists and animators are similar to art directors in that they work in the visual aspects of a project, but have more hands-on experience than their supervisory counterparts.

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