Creative direction and art direction can be a very confusing and interchangeable pair of terms for a regular Joe, maybe even for you.
But the difference of both hinges on which has the most constraints, rules, and definitive objectives to follow. One is highly subjective, and the other is very objective. Although, some projects may come as an in-between of both, which may probably be best handled with creative direction, as creative direction is open for a bit of artistry as well even with constraints and considerations.
Here are the reasons why.
Art direction is in touch mostly with how a certain project will come and feel as a work of art. It basically is paving the way into making something with artistic value and on which the goals of are mostly subjective and inclined on how a piece should feel and be. It walks less in the path of structure, rather it paves more on the path of feeling and impulse, but in a good way, if you consider that structural constraints are not an issue for the project.
On the other hand, creative direction is mostly present on projects that have concrete goals, and are in need of a specific impact. We could simply say that this one is just the more scientific and technical version of art direction, which means more constraints and rules are present here. Freedom is not as it is as of the former.
Although different, these two still have very similar properties, like how both are involved in aiding production in the senses and perception department.
Creative direction, though, comes as more of what is needed on technical designs, art, and creation, such as, product design, branding, architecture, and most advertisements. Although, this does not mean that Artistic direction could not be used on the previously mentioned types of projects. Artistic direction may be used or may come as preferable for product design and branding as well, but if only it aligns with the vision or the subject, which in most cases are very specific and seldom “open and artistic”.
Although the difference now feels glaring, in a lot of cases either of the processes still get interchanged which leads the output of such projects as some sort of a raffle draw, for it may come out either better or worse, but rarely as exactly as planned.
An artistically directed flow usually is adapted in more personal works. It is more of a message from the artist as it is how the artist would like to tell it.
A creatively directed flow, on the other hand, is the attempt to understand how the audience should perceive the piece in order for the intended message to be relayed as what it should be. This is a more careful process that involves a lot more variables to consider.
Somehow, it is all about either expression (artistic direction) or impression (creative direction). That is the simplest way to put them in context.
On whether which will be best to use as a method on a project depends on what the implied purpose of the project is.
So, if it is something that you wanted to be expressive with, such as, your personal paintings, sketches, sculptures, or collection, then you should go with artistic direction.
But if it is something that you consider to be more fixed and involves a lot of specifics, then you should proceed on approaching it with creative direction.
Well, even with all these laid out here it still can honestly come to be a very confusing pair especially if you go deeper into this. Not only that, also note that in some cases, these two can be used together, with artistic direction may be under the umbrella of creative direction or vice versa and rarely do they come in equal terms.
So, mind the vision of the project first. Know the purpose of the project. Understand that the decision that you make upon choosing from the two will greatly affect your project.
But most importantly, be mindful of either and consider each carefully. Enjoy creating art for yourself and for others, so you’ll instinctively start to grasp the meaning of either.