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Creative Ops

The Denver Broncos’ Kevin Johnson on the subjective nature of creative work

March 01, 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?

I’ve primarily lived in the sports world. I've been working in sports and creative fashion for about 20 years. I started as a designer and just worked my way up to CD. 

I like to give my team space. Flood them with inspiration, ideas, and make sure we’re going down the right path, but really let my designers design and show their skills.

My goal is to give them all of the groundwork they need and then let them run, and at the end of things, when I'm reviewing it, we shouldn't be too far off base. If we do land off base, then I've done a bad job as CD preparing my team to get off and running in the right direction. 

What’s the most difficult part about shipping great creative?


We love to ideate, we love to explore and push as much as possible; but people also need creative quickly. We don’t always have time to let it marinate. 

So we have to pick and choose when we can really flex our creative muscles. How do we bake time in to allow for that to happen on some projects?

Time is always the biggest constraint and biggest hurdle to getting through something and shipping it out.

How do you measure your creative team success?

Creative is so subjective. 

In the sports world — because we push out so much content — it can be especially challenging. In the social landscape, we measure success through views and engagement. We want to make sure that our fans are responding to what we're putting out there.

From an event standpoint, it's based on the request, and then we do the postmortem: How was the turnout? What was the fan feedback? We take that into consideration to know what to move forward.

Some of it’s also just a gut feel — especially when it comes to stuff outside of social media that can’t be measured. 

We like to talk to our staff, folks inside the organization and ask: Hey, are you feeling it? Does it feel fresh? Does it feel modern? Does it feel vibrant? Does it feel exciting? Do our players engage with it? Do they love it? 

We’ll kind of go from there.

What are the three things you couldn’t do your job without?

  1. A solid design team. I'm only as good as my designers. Getting the right people in place to do their job is crucial.

  2. The right tools to be efficient. That can go in a variety of different ways — from our MacBook to Adobe to online services that just make things easier. 

  3. The space to create. Allowing us to be the experts in our area and believing in us to create and come back with solid design work that inspires them and that they can stand behind. It’s hard to design when folks want XYZ and then say these are the exact steps you’re going to do it in. 

    That’s not fun. That doesn’t give us space. That doesn’t give us boundaries to work through our designs. 

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received or given in your career?

Stay humble.

Creative, as I said before, can be very subjective. 

Your designs are not always going to resonate with everybody. 

You need to be able to take feedback, constructively. You need to advocate and articulate where your design comes from, what the thought process is, and how you got there. But you’re not going to win every one of them.

Stay humble, take feedback, take the criticism. Ask questions appropriately. Rework the design and get through the process. Soak it in and let it go, and keep that humility.

Learn from it, move on to the next one — and don't take it personally.

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