How does managing a design team compare to being a designer?

(I originally wrote this as an answer for Quora)

They are VERY different jobs and an individual is probably going to be a lot better at one of them than the other.

My first job out of college was being a production artist for a small (about 7 people) design agency. I soon worked my way up to designer and soon after, I led the team as Creative Director.

And shortly thereafter I decided to go out on my own…

Managing the team was not enjoyable for me as I don’t like being held accountable for other’s behavior (making sure people are treated equally, hitting deadlines, calling off work…).

I also have never been a fan of paperwork. There’s a ton of paperwork to do as manager of a team — quotes, proposals, tax stuff, training materials, marketing plans.

And there’s being the project manager. That takes a lot of organization skill. I was very good at it, but I didn’t care for that responsibility as much as designing cool things.

Finally… you have to know much more about marketing if you’re heading a design team. That’s because you will often be the liaison and spokesperson for your team — engaging with your clients and collaborating on shaping the project that is to be designed.

In the end, I decided that if I had to do all those things anyway, that I’d just prefer to do them on my own terms, and the teams that I use on given projects are virtual, so that end of things are more manageable.

Managing a design team takes leadership and organizational skills and I’d imagine a lot of people may find that they actually enjoy and excel at it more than being a designer as they’re completely opposite skillsets. And vice versa.

logo, Edwards Communications - Internet marketing, Cleveland, Ohio

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