What’s in a role: Anjelika Temple, Chief Creative Officer at Brit+Co
By Amanda Mulay, Senior Talent Manager
In this series, “What’s in a role,” we ask portfolio company leaders about their career paths, the best way to break into their vertical, and what operators should know about hiring for their position. Past posts profile a people analytics manager, internal recruiter, and an AI trainer.
According to a recent report shared in The Outline, there are more than 345,000 individuals who list “creative director” as their professional title on LinkedIn. A quick online search shows 1.6 billion results, and the title itself has showed steady growth in popularity over the last five years, per Google Trends. It’s clear that more people (job seekers and hiring managers alike) are interested in learning more about the increasingly prevalent role.
I wanted to dig into what this job looks like, and thought, who better to speak with than the creative lead for Brit+Co — the lifestyle digital media company driven by a mission to spark creativity in its readers. Next up in Lerer Hippeau’s ongoing series “What’s in a role” is Anjelika Temple, Founding Partner and Chief Creative Officer at Brit+Co. She shared with us what skills top creative leaders need to succeed, her biggest creative challenge to date, what founders should know about hiring their own creative manager, and more.
(The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Amanda Mulay: What does your role entail and how do you typically explain it?
Anjelika Temple: I oversee the teams that bring Brit+Co’s stories to life. When we were getting started, I was brought on to help tell our story, and come up with the voice and content strategy behind it. When Brit hired me to join we knew the drive and mission, but initially thought about making apps and tech products to help bring this “using online tools to get offline and creative” idea to life. We figured we were going to try a little bit of that and we’d create the content and the storytelling around it and see if people related to us. The content was what really took off. Now, seven years later, that’s evolved. The best way to describe my role is as the keeper and the stretcher of our voice, both visually and editorially.
Mulay: Tell us a bit about your background and how you became the Founding Partner and Chief Creative Officer at Brit+Co.
Temple: I had always been creative growing up and was a really motivated person, but was also interested in the arts — where you do find ambitious people — but it’s less of a “business” industry. In college at Middlebury, I majored in philosophy and studio art and ran clubs like a co-ed fraternity and served as editor of a feminist art magazine. That’s where I really fell in love with building community through creativity and this idea that I really felt, which was that everyone has a creative spark within them.
After college, I had no idea what I could do and was not really the most employable person! So I lived in an artist colony in Vermont for just under a year, becoming a staff artist-in-residence, working as an assistant to the president, and spending the rest of the time in the studio. I discovered that the thread connecting everyone there was this desire to express something in them that was creative.
My now-husband and I decided to travel for a year and I was able to do it thanks to getting into a few artists residencies. The thing was, being in those programs made me realize I didn’t know exactly who I was as an artist or creative, and I still had a lot to figure out. I then spent three years as a creative assistant and then manager at an ad agency, my first real job. It showed me one version of what creative people can do at companies.
I went on to work a bunch of freelance design and event planning gigs while also working full-time as a producer at a company whose mission was to bring affordable art to everyone. Then we moved West! I just happened to meet Brit [Morin] my first weekend there through a friend. A couple months into a new job as an editor at a local deals publication, Brit reached out to me to pick my brain for a project she was working on. She asked if I wanted to quit my job and start this company and I said yes.
Mulay: How do your past experiences as an artist, designer and producer relate to what you’re doing now?
Temple: Especially now, versus seven years ago, because I’m not executing and writing everything anymore, it’s really helpful that I’ve tried a lot of these creative roles in my past life. So even though my design skills are absolute crap in comparison with the designers on my team, it’s great that I have been a designer in the past because I can speak their language. I can really relate to the process they’re going through and when I’m giving feedback, I’m always thinking that I need to think as the designer first and not just as the person giving feedback. The same relates to the creative producers who are hands on creating our DIY projects as well as the writers who are writing all our content.
Mulay: What soft skills do you believe have made you successful in your current role?
Temple: I’m a very fast decision-maker. I see something and pretty much know what my feedback is right away, and that helps me in traditional business conversations and also with creative decisions. I have the ability to give helpful feedback that allows someone to grow and doesn’t deflate them.
Mulay: What’s been the biggest creative challenge in your career to date?
Temple: The first thing that comes to mind was the series of Target merchandise lines we created. It started with a coloring book we did with Crayola and a licensing project where we put patterns on plates and cups in partnership with Cheeky. And then we did our own two Target lines, one was DIY kits and one was planners and work accessories. Creating products was always part of the vision but creating and manufacturing actual products with lead time and detail work compared to digital content creation was vastly different. We were happily thrown in but had to learn so much so quickly.
We had so many challenges, and it was a positive experience overall, but I learned a lot about where you need to be able to push back when working with buyers, and listening to your gut instinct about trends sticking around. I’m really proud in particular about the two lines that were completely Brit+Co, but I would definitely go into it with a different perspective and different experience now if we were to do it again.
Mulay: What should a founder or hiring manager look for if they want to bring on a creative lead?
Temple: The number one difference (besides whether they have a design degree or an art background) is experience managing people. It depends on the size of your company, but even if you’re only two people, that person is going to manage freelancers or even manage you. The ability to manage and make decisions is huge. I love being a manager as much as I love being the voice of the brand.
Mulay: What advice would you offer to anyone interested in working as a creative manager, director, or C-level exec?
Temple: My number one piece of advice is to not wait until “eventually.” A lot of people look for a job that checks every single box and has flexible hours and lets you do everything you want. And that’s a legit goal and you should absolutely work towards that place in your career, but you can learn so much from every different type of creative job. The amount you need to learn about yourself as a creative can come from the collaboration with others that you get from a variety of different jobs, and that’s very valuable.
When I talk to a lot of young creative people now, they want to go right into starting their own company. I’m all for it, and do the side hustles, but I promise you will learn so much about business by working with and for someone else.
Mulay: How would starting a lifestyle media brand today differ from 2011?
Temple: Honestly, it’s a completely different world. Instagram barely existed when we started the company. There weren’t influencers. I’m sure there were personalities, there were certainly celebrities and bloggers with engaged followings, but the industry of the influencer didn’t exist. Brit’s early a-ha moment was: “Hey let’s start this brand with a person, because people relate to people.”
It’s so, so different to think about starting a company with a face because the way you would start that now would not be by creating a content website with an editorial calendar, an in-house engineer and so on. It would be starting on Instagram or Pinterest. The model is also completely different from a financial perspective because of the way digital advertising has changed with the growth of social media. Plus people’s desire for branded content versus programmatic ads, all of that has changed dramatically.
Mulay: Which brands do you think have been especially creative in their approach to reaching consumers?
Temple: Bando comes to mind because there’s a mix of the brand’s voice and the founder’s voice coming through. Glossier comes to mind immediately; they have nailed their demographic. It’s this mix of a luxurious feel, but it also feels genderless and they like memes! It feels very human.
Mulay: What do you do when you want to feel inspired?
Temple: I get outside. I turn off my phone. Every vacation I take, I delete Instagram and Slack. I love those apps, but I don’t need them with me on my vacation. I go on adventures with my family, go hiking on the weekends and will not check into social channels of any kind because I want to be “in it.”
I’m constantly tiptoeing the line between being totally overwhelmed by the amount of digital content and creative work there is in the world, and completely inspired by all of it. Sometimes it can be really hard to have a crystal clear idea of your own when there’s so much to look at. And so, into the mountains I go, so I can conquer my own.
Interested in a role at Brit+Co? Check out current job openings here.