What you need to know
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 of a project and direct others who develop artwork and layouts.
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.
Some of the things an art director might do:
- 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
- Manage graphic designers, set and exhibit designers, or other 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
- 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 the work as it progresses.
- Resourcefulness: Art directors must be able to adapt their latest designs to the changing technology used in their industry.
- Time-management skills: Balancing competing priorities and multiple projects while meeting strict deadlines is critical for art directors.
The average pay for art directors in the United States ranges from $51,130 to $170,230.
The specific pay depends on factors such as level of experience, education and training, geographic location, and specific industry.
Employment of art directors is projected to grow 5 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as 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. Rather than focusing on the print layout of images and text, art directors for newspapers and magazines will increasingly design for web and mobile platforms.
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.
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.
Discover some of the courses you will take pursuing a degree in Fine Arts.