Art directors are responsible for the visual style and images in magazines, newspapers, product packaging, and movie and television productions. They create the overall design and direct others who develop artwork or layouts.

Duties

Art directors typically do the following: 

  • Determine how best to represent a concept visually
  • Determine which photographs, art, or other design elements to use
  • Develop the overall look or style of a publication, an advertising campaign, or a theater, television, or film set
  • Supervise design staff
  • Review and approve designs, artwork, photography, and graphics developed by other staff members 
  • Talk to clients to develop an artistic approach and style
  • Coordinate activities with other artistic and creative departments
  • Develop detailed budgets and timelines
  • Present designs to clients for approval

Art directors typically oversee the work of other designers and artists who produce images for television, film, live performances, advertisements, or video games. They determine the overall style or tone, desired for each project and articulate their vision to artists. The artists then create images, such as illustrations, graphics, photographs, or charts and graphs, or design stage and movie sets, according to the art director’s vision.

Art directors work with art and design staffs in advertising agencies, public relations firms, and book, magazine, or newspaper publishers to create designs and layouts. They also work with producers and directors of theater, television, or movie productions to oversee set designs. Their work requires them to understand the design elements of projects, inspire other creative workers, and keep projects on budget and on time. Sometimes they are responsible for developing budgets and timelines. 

Art directors work in a variety of industries, and the type of work they do varies by industry. However, almost all art directors set the overall artistic style and visual image to be created for each project, and oversee a staff of designers, artists, photographers, writers, or editors who are responsible for creating the individual works that collectively make up a completed product.

The following are some specifics of what art directors do in different industries:

In publishing, art directors typically oversee the page layout of catalogs, newspapers, or magazines. They also choose the cover art for books and periodicals. Often, this work includes publications for the Internet, so art directors oversee production of the websites used for publication.

In advertising and public relations, art directors ensure that their clients’ desired message and image is conveyed to consumers. Art directors are responsible for the overall visual aspects of an advertising or media campaign and coordinate the work of other artistic or design staff, such as graphic designers.

In movie production, art directors collaborate with directors to determine what sets will be needed for the film and what style or look the sets should have. They hire and supervise a staff of assistant art directors or set designers to complete designs.

Work Environment

Art directors held about 74,800 jobs in 2012. About 15 percent of art directors worked for advertising and public relations firms. Others worked for newspaper and magazine publishers, specialized design services firms, and motion picture and video industries.

The industries that employed the most art directors in 2012 were as follows:

Advertising, public relations, and related services 15%
Newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers 5
Specialized design services 4
Motion picture and video industries 3
Manufacturing 2

About 57 percent of art directors were self-employed in 2012. Even though the majority of art directors are self-employed, they must still collaborate with designers or other staff on visual effects or marketing teams. Art directors usually work in a fast-paced office environment, and they often work under pressure to meet strict deadlines.

Work Schedules

Most art directors worked full time in 2012.

Education and Training

Art directors need at least a bachelor’s degree in an art or design subject and previous work experience. Depending on the industry, they may have worked as graphic designers, fine artists, editors, or photographers, or in another art or design occupation before becoming art directors. 

Education

Many art directors start out as graphic, industrial, or set designers in another art-related occupation, such as fine artists or photographers. They gain the appropriate education for that occupation, usually by earning a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.

To supplement their work experience in those occupations and show their ability to take on a more creative or a more managerial role, some complete a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Most art directors work 5 years or more in another occupation before being selected for positions as art directors. Depending upon the industry, they may work as graphic designers, fine artists, editors, photographers, or in another art or design occupation before becoming art directors.

For many artists, including art directors, developing a portfolio—a collection of an artist’s work that demonstrates his or her styles and abilities—is essential. Managers, clients, and others look at artists’ portfolios when they are deciding whether to hire an employee or contract for an art project.

Important Qualities 

Communication skills. Art directors must be able to listen to and speak with staff and clients to ensure that they understand employees’ ideas and clients’ desires for advertisements, publications, or movie sets.

Creativity. Art directors must be able to come up with interesting and innovative ideas to develop advertising campaigns, set designs, or layout options.

Leadership skills. Art directors must be able to organize, direct, and motivate other artists. They need to articulate their visions to artists and oversee production.

Time-management skills. Balancing competing priorities and multiple projects while meeting strict deadlines is critical for art directors.

Pay

The median annual wage for art directors was $80,880 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $43,870, and the top 10 percent earned more than $162,800.

In May 2012, the median annual wages for art directors in the top five industries in which these art directors worked were as follows:

Motion picture and video industries $104,630
Specialized design services 90,210
Advertising, public relations, and related services 85,390
Manufacturing 68,210
Newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers 67,170

Most art directors worked full time in 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of art directors is projected to grow 3 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations. Art directors will continue to be needed to oversee the work of graphic designers, illustrators, photographers, and others engaged in artwork or layout design.

Employment of art directors is projected to decline in the publishing industry from 2012 to 2022. Although job opportunities may decline as traditional print publications lose ground to other media forms, new opportunities are expected to arise, as the number of electronic magazines and Internet-based publications grows. Rather than focusing on the print layout of images and text, art directors for newspapers and magazines will design Web pages that incorporate a variety of photographs, illustrations, infographics, graphic designs, and text images.

Job Prospects

Strong competition for jobs is expected as many talented designers and artists seek to move into art director positions. Workers with a good portfolio, which demonstrates strong visual design and conceptual work across all multimedia platforms, will have the best prospects.

For More Information

For more information about art directors in advertising, public relations, or publishing, visit

Art Directors Club

For more information about art directors in film and television, visit

Art Directors Guild

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2014–2015 Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh.

Holland Code

Creating
Persuading

Median Pay

$80,880

Projected Growth

3%

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Comments

Antoine Bazemore (not verified) says...

I rather get a job or career to be an artistic and become a social.

yessicat (not verified) says...

I have always been interested in Architecture and the whole concept of design. I grew up knowing I wanted a career in art, I just haven't always been 100% which artistic path I would like to take. I have went from wanting to be Picasso to wanting to decorate houses and commercial buildings, to wanting to create beautifully structured architecture all over the world, and now I am thinking about looking more into becoming an Art Director. I love art but I am also fascinated with being the best at what I do, being in charge, being on top. I don't want to be the best employee, I want to be the best boss. I only skimmed this article, but from what I can see so far, an Art Director seems more for me than what I have been planning on all my life and I'm surprised I am just now finding out about it. Or maybe I have always known about it subconsciously and have only lately been interested in it. Either way it goes, I hope to research this career path and determine if it is the one for me. ART MAKES THE WORLD GO 'ROUND.

gashy says...

It's like reading about my own life! Always knew I wanted to be creative and work with art, but I studied interior architecture, then i did illustration, and now it all makes sense. In college and university I would always take the lead position in group projects or competitions and 8/10 we would win. I wish you all the best! 

Emery (not verified) says...

you wrote this comment 1 year and 7 months ago !! what r u doing now ?  

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