Designerds’ Melody Julius on learning to love and trust the power of failure
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.“Failure doesn’t equate to disaster. It’s a necessary teacher. And it can lead to really rapid growth if you let it.”
What kind of creative director are you?
I'm a Creative Director at Designerds. I'm actually relatively new to the position. I began in December and prior to that, I was serving as our Art Director and I've actually been with the company for over five years. So, I've kind of worn a number of different hats and I feel very fulfilled in this role.
We're a full service creative agency specializing in supporting in-house creative teams at some of the world's biggest brands. We do this by embedding our amazingly talented designers directly with their teams.
So, with that, my role is an interesting blend because I do get to give proper creative direction where I'm writing briefs and things on our agency-style engagements, but with our core model being that designers embed with in-house teams, they already have creative and art directors. I review the work and oversee the quality, but more of the work is now in team-building and operations.
So I have gotten to partner more with the creative operations side of things just in recent months, which has been really interesting.
What would you say is the most difficult part of shipping good creative?
Communication is everything. Most problems stem from a root of any sort of breakdown in communication, whether that's between us and a client or internally.
And I think that makes sense because design to me is a language. We’re trying to visually translate a message and so if we're misunderstanding something or we're not communicating well as a team, things are going to get lost in translation.
You might think that shifting to a fully remote setup might interfere with good communication, but I actually think in some ways, it's improved our success. We're using a lot more tools. We’ve had to - having things written down in Slack and using collaborative tools like Figma more regularly. We’ve had to implement new tools and strategies to keep up and that's improved our overall communications.
How do you measure your creative team's success?
Success for me is: is the team happy? Are we thriving? Do people love coming to work every day? Are they bringing their A-game?
I'll keep going back to it, communication is an essential piece of that. To love coming to work, the team has to have clarity, especially when it comes to their responsibilities.
How do we measure success? The measurement is always the client's happiness. Are they thrilled with the outcome? Is our work delivering you know on the metrics that we say it will? Are we meeting or exceeding our deadlines?
We have to be really efficient and I think my team feels most successful when we're in that flow state, with open communications lines, deep in collaboration.
We’re making amazing work and it just feels harmonious and it just clicks.
What are three things that you cannot do your job about?
First, we'll be sappy and say: my team. I'd be nothing without my team. There is no creative director role if there are no designers.
A recent game changer has been my standing desk and walking pad setup. A lot of people working remotely have been getting into those and that's been a huge game changer for me in avoiding that afternoon slump at the end of the day.
I'm sure everyone's gonna say it, but coffee. I have to say it. I can’t do my job without coffee. Got my cappuccino right here.
Best piece of advice you have for an aspiring creative director?
Something one of my first creative directors said has always stuck with me. He was adamant: “You have to fail, you have to. Not only will you fail, but you must.”
Of course, is like a young and rising designer at the time, that was not the advice I was expecting or even hoping to hear. I think a lot of us get into this industry because we're perfectionists by nature and in the back of my mind, I thought maybe I could escape without being a colossal disaster.
But what I've learned over the years is that failure doesn’t equate to disaster. It’s a necessary teacher and can lead to really rapid growth, if you let it. It’s critical for me that my team feels like they can be honest with me. They know they will receive honesty from me so we can learn from our mistakes together.
A follow up to this piece of advice is to just be decisive. I think that fear of failure paralyzes us a lot of times and prevents us from making decisions. And design is a really subjective career. You have to pick a path and go down it and stick with it.
And if it results in failure you can always course correct. But it’s important to just keep moving.