Some career advice needed, specifically as relates to the intersection of advertising/marketing, interactive, and art direction. (long)
How do I reconcile two skillsets that are rapidly diverging, specifically in advertising
I need a bit of a hand navigating a difficult career path, here. First, a little background:
I have been working in advertising/marketing (specifically interactive) for eleven years, now. I have experience with a variety of types of client, ranging from financial, consumer package goods, pharmaceutical, communications, health and beauty care, and femcare.
I came into the industry as a jr. art director, worked my way up to art director, and then a curious thing happened: Flash gained some traction. My agency at the time needed one of the AD's to pick it up and I stepped up to the plate, feeling it would be a useful skill to learn. My knowledge of how to develop in Flash grew with the tool itself... from strict timeline work to AS1, to now using OOP design patterns in AS3. If I may toot my own horn a bit, I really am quite good at it, and I really do like bringing designs to life -- from the animation to the functionality.
Here's the problem: At my current agency, the rich media team is looked at strictly
as part of the dev department, and is completely divorced from any part of the creative process. I basically like the agency (and there are in fact a few points that make me very loyal to it), but this balkanization of departments is a big issue for me on a personal and professional level. Having been there for three years now, I feel frustrated to not be using any sort of conceptual skills that I worked to develop, frustrated at not having any creative input into my own work, and frustrated at having poorly comped and storyboarded work lobbed over the fence at me by jr. AD's fresh out of college who don't trust my design judgment because I am in another department.
Compounding things is the fact that there is presently no attractive career path for me at this agency. Since I am classed as being in our dev department, the only path upward is purely technical. Since the agency doesn't really appear to value high-level input of developers, the ceiling in that path is quite low. It caps out before
the director level...forget about anything higher.
When I started in this industry, I wanted to eventually path into creative direction. Here, that option is essentially unavailable to me.
For the sake of reference, my eleven years roughly break down to the following:
- 5 years as AD (including some while also working with Flash)
- 4 years as strict multimedia development2 years as hybrid -- predominately Flash, picking up art when needed, concepting new projects, under the creative team
At no time have I ever been on such a divergent career track than I had charted. I spoke recently to our VP of creative about taking on more of a creative role and he seemed very open to the idea, though he did balk some and hedged around how hard it was to change seats after you've been pigeon-holed at an agency. Since that conversation about 3 months ago, I've been tossed a single bone...and it was really more of a production job.
They did however, talk to me about the possibility of switching back over to the art side of things. As a Jr. AD.
Now, I'm not too keen to take that. I haven't been a junior anything
in 10 years, and that not only be resetting my progression from a position of seniority, but would slash my salary by more than half. I honestly think it's a bit of an insulting lowball due to the general disdain our agency has for the dev team, but I can't exactly counter it since my design portfolio is out of date at this point. I tend to not think it's a valid assessment of my value in that capacity, as I have been offered ACD roles at the agencies of former colleagues in another city as recently as March. Alas that I am locked into a mortgage and can not relocate. It feels more like a round dismissal.
Also mentioned was the possibility of creating a new role. That's intriguing, but a bit scary. The economy is fragile, and new roles seem like they get cut easily. I'm not opposed to it, however, I just need to make sure I have some sort of concrete value to add in such a role.
I suppose taking on freelance design work would help some. It would give me something recent to show, so I'll get on that...but I am going nuts in the meantime.
One more facet: I have recently taken on the mantle of point-guy for multimedia accessibility in our agency. Not that somebody else could not fill that role, but it's not a terrible spot to be in, and I have helped play a significant role in turning around a large client's perception of us as an agency by working hand-in-hand with their accessibility people.
How should I navigate this?
What could I bring to the table as a new role? I feel like it's beneficial to have people around who speak the language of both creative and development -- especially when so few developers these days come from a creative background, and so many designers working interactive have no real clue how to design for interaction and animation.
Should I instead seek out another agency? I really don't want to start over elsewhere if I can fix this where I am.
Should I remain where I am? I'm not happy! I like my work and love my teammates, but I see no future and don't feel valued at a high level.
This situation is causing me no small amount of stress. What would you do?