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Creative Ops

Lonely Planet’s Annie Greenberg on what it really means to be a creative director

February 22, 2023 · 3 min read

This is part of our 100 Creative Directors interview series. It has been edited for length and clarity. To return to the series homepage and browse other interviews, click here.

What kind of creative director are you?

Creative director is such a nebulous term. 

The type that I am is really about how Lonely Planet shows up in the world. What makes something signature to Lonely Planet? What does that mean? What is the sticky stuff? 

What is the indescribable thing that makes Lonely Planet, Lonely Planet?

I was consulting for the brand then came on full-time, really to focus on the digital space looking at how we can capture that love, nostalgia, and reverence for the brand from the publishing side over to the digital space.

My background is in copy, video, and new media, so more in that world than the traditional art and design director space — but I still have my opinions on those things!

How do you measure your team’s success?

The first thing that came to mind is cheesy but I'm just going to say it: If my team is proud of their work then I am proud of them.

We all have our own North Star, internal gut check on if something is good. 

Part of what I was brought in to do at Lonely Planet was to redefine and institute what ‘good’ looks like — and to make sure that our ships are all pointed towards the same horizon. 

Once you level set that — which is difficult and a process and evolving — then if somebody's proud of their work then you know that you are too and that it will be successful.

There are so many hard metricized KPIs like views, follows, completion rate, shares — especially on social. You get that feedback and you know if something's a “success.” My job is to sort through: “Yeah it was a success, but it wasn’t exactly on brand.”

 Or we’re going to totally redesign our look and feel on social — which is one of the things I've done in the past year — we might lose some people but we're gonna stand for something. We're going to crystallize what we're offering our audience and the folks that want to come along are going to do so passionately.

What are three things that you can't do your job without? 

Coffee. Definitely coffee. I go to sleep dreaming of coffee.

Eavesdropping. Being out in the world. I need to have the space to walk around and be inspired and hear what people are chatting about.

Resilience. There are always going to be issues that come up whether you're on set and talent doesn't show up and you need a new host by 4 pm because your crew is standing there waiting, or you thought you were going to be able to hard code a site to look a certain way and turns out ‘surprise, we can't hit that deadline.’

You're allowed to be frustrated. take a deep breath and then say, “and yet we move on.”

I think that being resilient makes you unflappable and once you get those reps under your belt, it's a lot easier to stay focused on what's possible rather than what's not.

Resilience unlocks an optimism which I think is really healthy for creativity and for creative teams.

What is the best piece of advice you've ever received in your career?

My family motto is if it's worth doing, it's worth overdoing. Which I take to mean if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. So I just commit myself, like one hundred, every day. If I'm coming to something, I'm going to come with my full self. 

In that same vein, if you take it easy, it'll be easy. If you take it hard, it'll be hard. 

You are in charge of your own attitude and your own approach to work and at the end of the day, this should be fun. It should be exciting.

There are a lot of things you can get paid to do and I think this is a pretty great thing to get paid to do.

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