Where are the Chief Creative Officers

In a world of CEOs, CFOs, and, even, CTOs, that does it take to accept the role of CCO for a startup or business? Is there even room on the top floor for another chief power?

Ever since the beginning of this technological renaissance, the importance of design has been accepted throughout the web and mobile industries. There are existing upper management roles for creatives at hardware, software, and consulting shops, both big and small; however, these positions are usually labeled as Creative Directors, Product Managers, or Senior Designers. These titles give little weight when set next to Executives, Vice Presidents, and Presidents in a company.

Let's break down roles of current chief positions:

  • The CEO is usually the face of a company, making the greatest decisions for the general direction of the company at large, and maintaining the ability to veto the decisions of other officers.
  • The CFO is the grand treasurer in charge of general flow of money through a company and keep the monetary decisions in line.
  • The relatively new position of CTO is primarily responsible for all the technical details required to run the company, as well as keep the dev team happy and making sure all the executive decisions are implanted correctly.

So, doesn't it make sense to add someone to this team who is in charge of the major design decisions of the company? This person can work with the CTO in order to ensure the technical implementations of the company's products come out usable, enticing, and interesting when they reach the user. The partnership between CCO and CFO can provide a cost-effective organization of designers and making sure the creative department is set-up with the resources needed to maintain productivity. Finally, the CCO is a direct line of communication from the creative to the CEO and a guide for overall design direction as a company.

I do believe in an open environment where any member of a company should feel comfortable contacting anyone in the company for the betterment of the company overall. However, bigger companies with hundreds of employees like Google, Apple, or Microsoft, and specific departments for their various skillets or products, then every email cannot always be read by the one Chief Officer.

The best example of a CCO position in the world today is actually at Apple with Sir Jony Ive as Apple's Senior Vice President of Design. Even this is a convoluted title for the amount responsibility that lies with Sir Ive in the day to day operations of this very design-oriented company. Where is the President of Design or are those duties passed on to the CEO, Tim Cook? Apple has broken down the leadership of it's various divisions fairly well, but, as the public face of their hardware (and now software) design, Sir Jony Ive has earned more of a Chief title than almost anyone in the industry today.

Should ambitious designers be forced to go to business school in order to join the executive ranks and make greater change within a company? Or can the common executives evolve to include a person, like Sir Ive, to keep the importance of design known throughout a company?

Only time will tell.

P.S. - I was first inspired to think about this topic after reading about being a daring design pegasus rather than a combo design/dev unicorn. Let me know what you think on Twitter.