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Creative Ops

160over90’s Lina Yaghi on turning an idea into emotionally resonant creative work

March 22, 2023 · 4 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 does it mean to be a creative director, for you?

I’ve worked with all different types of media, from broadcast to social. I don't feel any medium is better than the other. Right now, social is really interesting and engaging for me personally, but I've done online streaming videos, commercials, digital, web…it's really been all over the place. So, for me, being a creative director is about grappling with an idea and how it relates to the brand at hand, then bringing that to life. Regardless of what the product is, this work is about engaging with an idea and making sure it elicits a reaction.

What’s the hardest part of actually getting great creative out into the world?

If it's a really out-of-the-box idea, you have to get the client to buy off on it and that can be difficult if it's truly a wild idea. Bold ideas can be risky and clients don't always want to take a risk. The hard part is selling the idea through, is helping them buy into the risk, and helping them understand how it'll pay off. This usually means showing them past examples of risky work, especially from brands they know or admire that have successfully taken these risks and seen them pay off. 

The second difficult part of shipping good creative is making sure that all of the pieces are properly working together, that the creative is tailored to the audience and to the platforms it’s intended for. How will people be watching it? How are people going to experience it — is it video? If so, is it streaming or broadcast? If it's social, where's it being posted to? You need to establish where the end creative is going to live and work backwards from there to make it effective.

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

My first thought is Adobe Creative Suite. I think most designers and art directors work in the Creative Suite and would agree. I literally could not do my job without it.

The second thing is my dog, Blondie. She's my best coworker! I've worked remotely for the past three years and just having her around really makes my day better. If I’m in a rough meeting, going and having a little moment with my dog afterwards is perfect, she keeps me balanced.

What I love about remote work is that there's none of the pitfalls of a typical office environment. The flipside is you have to work harder to create those connections with people. Creative work, when you’re collaborating, is so vibe-driven, and that’s hard to replicate over Zoom, but you find a way.

Related to this, actually, is my plants. It’s similar to why my dog is so important — working remotely, I’ve created a little environment in my office that makes me happy and enables me to be productive. 

The third thing is having a good team. We can't do this work in a silo. Interacting with your team and bouncing ideas back and forth off of each other, talking to the account person, strategy people…it all builds up to forming and creating that great idea.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given that’s shaped how you’ve moved through your career?

The best advice I've ever been given was to take time for yourself. That's crucial, especially being a creative. If you don’t, you're going to feel burnt out. If you don’t take time for yourself, your work suffers.

Go out, talk to people, be aware of what's going on around you. See a movie, take a walk. All of these things are going to inspire you to come up with better ideas. Spending time doing things you love and engaging with the world makes you better at your job.

A piece of advice I’d give to people beginning their careers is to be more open to feedback. Sometimes when we're just starting out, we make our ideas and our designs and our copies so precious and think everything is so perfect. But in doing so, you lose sight of the bigger idea and why we're doing this in the first place. It's for a brand. It's for a client. It’s not about you. Learning to take feedback is crucial and essential to your growth.

Can you expand on the importance of your pursuits outside of your job, inasmuch as they make you better at your job?

As a female who grew up in a Muslim family, around so much diversity, it's so important to be able to reflect and bring awareness to the experiences we don't usually see in advertising. Your job doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it’s part of the fabric of your life.

Also as a woman who has been training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for the past 10 years, I know what it's like to do something really hard and challenging. I know that it's not about winning or losing, but about knowing that you gave it your all.

Everything that we do as creatives working for brands is related to human and emotional connectivity. When you put a video out there, or a social post, whatever it is, you want people to react. If you don't have sight on what's going on around you culturally, if you're not connected to that intuitively, your ideas might turn out a miss. The best ideas I have always start with a spark from the outside world.

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