Career Development

Art Director Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More

Art directors are the creative minds who manage communication between a company and their audience. They develop visual concepts, plan out strategy, and oversee the creation of various pieces of communication materials.

Art directors are the creative minds who manage communication between a company and their audience. They develop visual concepts, plan out strategy, and oversee the creation of various pieces of communication materials.

Art directors are often tasked with ensuring consistency in the brand look-and-feel across multiple touchpoints, including different product or service offerings, advertising spots, and even social media. They also commonly work with other designers to create anything from digital assets to print ads to web design layouts.

Read on to learn more about what it’s like to be an art director and what it takes to become one yourself.

Art Director Job Duties

Art directors are responsible for the following:

  • Managing teams of designers and copywriters to create effective marketing materials
  • Creating layouts, including text and images, for print, digital, and social media advertisements
  • Sourcing and licensing images from stock photo libraries.
  • Producing graphics for social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
  • Ensuring that content is appropriate for the target audience and follows all relevant laws and regulations
  • Managing vendors to ensure that materials are delivered on time
  • Researching market trends to develop effective design solutions

A successful art director must be able to communicate effectively with both designers and clients. They must also have a keen eye for detail as well as an understanding of how colors, shapes, fonts, images, and other elements work together in advertising campaigns. 

Art Director Salary & Outlook

The median annual wage for art directors is $79,492. Those earning higher wages tend to work in the motion picture industry, and the top earners are making over $125,000 per year.

Opportunities for art directors are expected to decline over the next decade. As demand for advertising continues to shift from print ads to digital media, the number of art directors will decrease due to the widespread use of computer-generated artwork in production.

Art Director Job Requirements

The requirements for art directors are as follows:

Education: An art director should have a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, graphic design or a related field. The majority of programs include coursework in common design principles like logo design, typography, color theory and digital media.

Training: After completing their education program, art directors should expect to undergo on-the-job training at an entry level job where they complete real-world projects under the supervision of an experienced creative director or art director. This training helps prepare them for creative leadership positions within their organization and teaches them how to manage creative teams and projects efficiently.

Certifications & Licenses: Certifications are not required for this position, but many employers prefer candidates who have earned certifications from professional organizations like the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA).

Art Director Skills

An art director’s job requires many skills, including:

Ability to lead: An art director must be able to lead a team of artists and other designers, as well as represent them in meetings with clients. The ability to organize projects, manage budgets, and handle other administrative tasks is also important.

Creativity: Creative ideas are essential for good design work. The art director must have a strong background in design or other artistic fields so he can bring his own vision and style to the project.

Decision-making skills: An art director must make decisions regarding the project’s scope, schedule, budget, and overall direction based on their experience and research into industry trends. They must also make good decisions about which outside artists will work with the team.

Time management skills: Art directors need to manage their time effectively between meetings with clients and employees at all levels of the organization (from executives down to junior graphic designers). When deadlines loom large it’s important that an art director remain level-headed and stick to the plan without losing sight of the big picture or getting distracted by small details.

Attention to detail: It’s important for an art director to pay attention to details so they don’t miss anything that may affect the finished product or bring out minor flaws that detract from the overall design concept.

Business sense: Decision makers will always want to know what the potential return on investment is for any new campaign or idea they consider, so it’s important that art directors have a solid grasp of business concepts. They need to know how many people might see an ad or view an internet site or why certain ideas might not work in some markets but could be successful in others.

Art Director Work Environment

Art directors can work in many different places, depending on their specialty. Some art directors work in advertising agencies. Others are self-employed and work from home. Many art directors are employed by large newspapers, magazines, or book publishers.

Art directors are usually busy people. They are often expected to be creative, persistent, and hard-working. As a result, they spend most of their time working with clients to create new advertisements or trying to make the latest edition of a newspaper or magazine look appealing to readers. It can be stressful to meet deadlines while meeting high standards for quality.

Art Director Career Path

Getting Started

Aspiring art directors must do their own graphic design, look for freelance work, and learn about the field through trade journals and industry contacts. As art directors work with different clients, they gain experience. They’re constantly under pressure to produce work that looks current and is cost-effective.

Five Years On The Job

Many art directors have formed their own design firms at this point; others have become in-house art directors. Those who continue as freelancers become known for their particular style of design. They may sell their services to large corporations or work with smaller businesses that want a unique look for their products or services. Satisfaction varies widely at this point; some people are satisfied that they have made it into the “big leagues” of design, while others feel that they haven’t done enough with their careers by this point.

Ten Years On The Job

Art directors who have been in the profession ten years or more take a leading role in advertising agencies or design studios. They oversee the work of designers whom they hire and often help them establish a reputation in the field. These art directors may even begin working on outside projects for clients outside of their main employer. At this point an art director is considered a “heavy hitter” in the design world—a good catch for any design firm seeking a fresh source of ideas and talent. Salaries increase dramatically at this point for those who decide to stay in the field or decide to move into a managerial position within a large corporation or independent design firm.

Art Director Trends

Here are three trends influencing how art directors work. Art directors will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

Increased Focus on Content Marketing

One of the emerging trends in marketing is the shift from traditional advertising to content marketing. In addition to providing information about products and services, content marketing aims to build a relationship with customers. The goal is to provide valuable, informative material that will engage clients with the company brand. For art directors, this means developing more engaging ways to share information and telling stories through social media and blog posts.

The Rise of Low-Fidelity Prototyping

As the digital space continues to evolve, it is becoming increasingly important for designers to master new skills in order to stay relevant. For example, many clients today are looking for low-fidelity prototypes that can be shared through social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. This requires art directors to develop strong design skills that emphasize high-impact visuals over detailed production value. 

Integrated Media Design

Integrated media design, or IMD, is a type of design that involves using various elements across different mediums to create a seamless experience for the consumer. Companies are increasingly turning to professionals with integrated media design skills in order to craft engaging campaigns that work across multiple platforms. For example, an integrated media design may use copywriting to support visuals on social media or develop videos for website content. 

How to Become a Art Director

1. Planning Your Career

Art directors are typically creative people who can think outside the box to create compelling visuals that bring a brand story to life. To prepare for a career as an art director, it’s important to develop skills across multiple disciplines while maintaining a solid portfolio of past work.

Ideal candidates typically have at least a bachelor’s degree in graphic design or art, as well as 5 years of experience in their field. While art directors must be skilled at both art and design, they must also have an understanding of marketing to effectively promote their work.

Art directors often collaborate with copywriters, creative directors, graphic designers, web developers, and other specialists in order to bring their ideas to life–therefore, anyone with their eye on this goal should develop strong interpersonal skills.

2. Writing a Resume

A well-written resume for an art director highlights their leadership skills, ability to work with designers and clients, and ability to manage multiple projects. 

If you have any awards or accolades be sure to list these as this will show that your work is appreciated by others in the industry. Listing your skills is helpful–this includes everything from computer programs you are proficient at using to design techniques like watercolor painting. When listing past employment include which projects you worked on, what role you played, what tools were used, and who the clients were. You may also show a portfolio of your artwork.

It is important to highlight any design education or training, such as a degree or certification that you may have received in order to get this job. It’s also beneficial to mention any relevant courses that you’ve taken in the past few years due to your current position, such as new techniques available through newer software packages.

3. Applying for Jobs

To apply as an art director, your first step should be build your portfolio. Take any type of work you’ve done and create a website that you can share with potential employers. Many freelancers, artists, and graphic designers do this. Another thing to think about is how you can stand out from other candidates. You can do this by giving advice to other people on Quora or Stack Exchange. You can also create side projects that incorporate design, development, and programming—all of which will give you an edge over the competition.

Share your work on social media sites like Twitter and Instagram to promote yourself. You’ll also want to attend networking events in your area. Often, these are hosted by groups that are related to your industry, such as the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) for designers. Make connections with people and start following them on social media. This way, you’ll be notified whenever they publish new work, talk about their job, or share opportunities. 

4. Ace the Interview

A job interview for an art director position is primarily about your ability to design visually appealing ads, but there are other aspects of the job that will be explored. A common challenge of the role is working which multiple clients with differing needs. The interviewer will want you to talk about how you would handle this situation and what solutions you would recommend.

It is also essential to explain how you communicate your ideas while still maintaining a professional demeanor. Art directors must be able to explain their vision while being sensitive to others’ concerns. Your interviewer will likely want to know how well you are able to sell your ideas, whether that means telling a story through images or explaining why someone should buy a product.


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