Careers Paths

Discover More About Art Directors

An art director is someone you’ve probably encountered if you operate in the creative industry. It’s a job title that frequently appears in settings where creative projects are handled, such as graphic design, marketing, publishing, cinema and television, web design, and video games.

An art director is a professional who is responsible for overseeing the visual aspects of a creative project, such as an advertising campaign, a film, a video game, or a publication. Their primary role is to ensure that the visual elements of the project are cohesive and effectively communicate the intended message or brand identity. Art directors work closely with a team of designers, illustrators, photographers, and other creative professionals to develop the project’s visual concept and style.

Depending on the particular workplace, the function may appear slightly differently. The work of art directors can be seen in a wide range of locations, including billboards, movie screens, and social media, as well as in advertising agencies, film sets, and with public relations firms.

You may have your sights set on the position of art director if you have a creative vision, especially in the area of art and design. This article will provide you with a ton of helpful advice if you’re just getting started in the creative industry and are unsure of what art direction entails.

What is the role of an art director?

An art director oversees the visual components of a newspaper, a product, or a movie. Art directors can be found working on a variety of projects, including shows, movies, books, newspapers, and advertisements. They are in charge of planning and directing the direction of the layouts, pictures, sets, and videos. Artists, photographers, graphic designers, and other creative employees are frequently managed and given duties. Other obligations include:

  • Establishing and using a style manual for an assignment or publication
  • Selecting images, videos, graphics, and charts for projects
  • Collaborating to create content with independent photographers and artists
  • Completing tasks on time and under budget
  • Cooperating with editorial or advertising divisions
  • Content evaluation, criticism, and approval
  • Interacting with clients to talk about their creative goals and project requirements
  • Creating comprehensive budgets for creative projects
  • Producing style guides for projects for their workplace or clients
  • Picking out graphic components for projects
  • Finding independent creatives to create visual material, assigning work to creatives like animators, graphic designers, and photographers, and supervising and providing comments on their output.
  • Constructing new graphic components, and retouching photos before publishing
  • Discussing the project’s contributions with representatives from allied areas like advertising and editorial
  • Keeping track of the project’s development to make sure it stays on schedule for completion
  • Accepting purchases within the limits of project budgets
  • Selecting selected designs to show clients and doing client presentations.

In marketing or advertising, art directors collaborate intimately with clients to visually convey their message. Art directors assist in creating or selecting artwork for book and magazine covers and inside layouts. They might also manage or produce website graphics. When creating sets for a movie, art directors work closely with the principal directors. After that, they’ll collaborate with set designers to finish the design.

What types of art directors are there?

The particulars of an art director’s job will vary depending on the sector you operate in. Because there are so many different types of art director positions, you should do further study on each position before applying so you know exactly what abilities and duties are required. We’ll discuss some of the most typical fields of employment for an art director below.

Publishing industry art directors

Art directors often control the page layout of publications with employment openings in publishing. They could also be in charge of selecting the designs for books and periodicals’ covers.

These days, as there is more online publishing than ever before, this profession may also require you to create web publications, thus you may need to use software like Figma.

Public relations (PR) and advertising art directors

Art directors produce work for PR and advertising agencies that promotes a brand or concept. This entails conveying to the audience the brand’s intended message and appearance and making sure the work is consistent with the brand and follows any brand rules.

You’ll be in charge of organizing the efforts of the complete creative department and design staff, including professionals like graphic designers, and you’ll also be in charge of the overall visual features of an advertising or social campaign, including posters, Tube and bus advertisements, and social media assets.

Art directors in film production

As an art director in film production, you will consult with the filmmakers to determine which sets are required for the picture. Once this has been decided, it is your job to design the sets in a way that best captures the visual aesthetic of the film.

To complete the creative vision of your movie sets, you’ll hire and manage an ensemble of assistant art directors, set designers, and production designers.

Average income

Art directors receive a wide range of pay, depending on things like their years of expertise and the scale of the organization. For instance, art directors with huge corporations can easily make six figures a year.

  • American average yearly wage: $75,957
  • Some people earn between $19,000 and $150,000 annually.

Criteria for art directors

Despite having innate creativity and talent, art directors often need a college education as well as specific knowledge and training to succeed. Employers of art directors seek candidates with sufficient academic credentials and professional experience. While most businesses prefer seasoned art directors, some may employ individuals who are looking for leadership positions. People that flourish in art director roles also have strong creative and leadership abilities.


Typically, art directors must complete four years of study toward a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. To further their leadership or creative abilities and boost their professional value, some art directors might additionally pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree. However, most positions for art directors do not call for candidates to hold postgraduate degrees.


Art directors often gain their skills via experience instead of formal education due to their work in the creative industry. However, if their line of work or business demands them to possess specialized abilities, like website building, they may enroll in extra courses. If an art director works via the internet or with electronic media, they might enroll in web design and HTML courses.


Generally speaking, hiring art directors doesn’t require a license or certification. Nevertheless, you may take part in a graphic design certification program at an on-campus or online college if you don’t have an art degree or want to advance your talents in a certain field.


Art directors should be excellent creative thinkers, but they must also be capable administrators because they frequently oversee creative personnel and independent contractors. The following represent a few of the most crucial art director abilities:

  • Creativity: To develop fresh and intriguing graphics, layouts, designs, and campaigns, art directors need to be imaginative and creative.
  • Communication: Art directors have to be able to effectively convey ideas to their staff, freelancers, and other departments. To ensure they comprehend and meet their clients’ visual needs, they must also be prepared to communicate with them and listen to them.
  • Visual design: Art directors are familiar with theories relating to visual design, including color theory and layout concepts. They use their creativity and their expertise to produce engaging and appealing pictures.
  • Leadership: Art directors have to be able to assign, supervise, and motivate the artists and designers on their team.
  • Flexibility: Art directors need to keep up with the latest developments in media, technologies, and trends. They must have the flexibility to adjust to changes in the sector.
  • Time management: Art directors frequently oversee several projects at once and are held to stringent deadlines. They should be at ease setting project priorities and multitasking.
  • Computer literacy: Art directors have to be at ease using software to create and edit visual elements. They ought to be knowledgeable about the top image editing and layout software.
  • Detail-oriented: Art directors should have a keen eye for the smallest of details, taking into account everything from color to design to text style and placement, among other things.

The work environment for art directors

Many art directors are self-employed freelancers who frequently have the freedom to choose when they want to work. They might collaborate closely with and provide original material for a range of customers, including marketing firms and web designers. An art director, however, might also work a full-time job as an employee. Directors working for publishing houses, film studios, advertising agencies, public relations businesses, and other design services are probably used to working in a busy office setting and collaborating with various departments. Because they frequently must meet deadlines, art directors might have to work late into the night or on the weekend.

How to get a job as an art director

Consider a career route requiring a degree in fine arts and relevant professional experience to assemble a great portfolio of work if you want to become an art director. Numerous art directors take the following actions to launch their careers:

1. Get a bachelor’s degree.

Pick a degree in the arts while you are in college, like graphic design. This will serve as your career’s cornerstone. Consider taking additional courses in web design, marketing, or company management that can help you in this field.

A bachelor’s degree with a specialty in the visual arts is typically required for new art directors, while some succeed in their positions without a formal education. Some of the most popular degrees are a Bachelor of Design and a Bachelor of Graphic Design. These degrees offer a solid grounding in both the theory of art and its practical application. These degrees require four years of full-time study, or an equal amount of time spent studying part-time.

2. Acquire appropriate experience.

Start by getting an internship or an entry-level job as a graphic designer, artist, editorial or advertising assistant, photographer, or in a related creative capacity. You may be able to climb into more senior roles in this field with the experience you earn and the relationships that you create.

Your chances of finding work can improve if you apply for lots of different jobs. Think about your interests and abilities in the many art forms. For instance, if you enjoy capturing pictures, think about a career as a photographer. Look for employment with fashion designers and clothes retailers if you want a career in the fashion business as a creative director. Jobs in graphic design may be most suitable for you if you wish to pursue a career in commercial or advertising media.

A job as a junior art director can also be available. Despite the possibility of an entry-level position, several employers favor employing candidates with prior creative expertise for this kind of role. After one or two years in the art business, you might advance to the position of assistant art director. Focus on honing your talents and absorbing knowledge from your art director as soon as you land a junior art role. Take note of how they help you and manage tasks. When you work as an art director, put what you’ve learned into practice.

3. Think about pursuing a graduate degree.

You can seek a master’s degree in fine arts or a related profession if you wish to advance your expertise and abilities. While not typically required, doing so could help you advance in your career or be considered for positions with higher pay. Additionally, an advanced degree could make pay negotiations easier for you.

4. Create a portfolio.

Create a portfolio that showcases the best work you’ve done so far in your career. In college, start assembling your portfolio and refresh it as your work progresses. Pick tasks that showcase your sense of style, abilities, and capabilities. Many firms request a portfolio of work when recruiting an art director alongside a cover letter and CV. One of your most valuable tools while looking for employment as an art director is a high-caliber portfolio.

5. Make career advancements.

You might be eligible to apply for art director jobs when you have a minimum of five years of professional experience in the creative industry and, ideally, management experience. Create a solid portfolio, CV, and references to aid in your quest for a job interview and an offer.

6. Get a job as an art director.

You can begin applying for the position of art director if you have at least three years of work experience in the creative sector. Once you are comfortable with your creative abilities and your capacity to oversee a team of creatives, you should apply for these positions. Focus on your ability to think creatively and your previous experience leading teams, completing projects on time, and staying within your budget when you go for interviews.

Career advancement options for art directors

Art directors have a variety of career advancement options available to them, depending on their interests and goals. Some common advancement options for art directors include:

  • Senior Art Director: As art director gains experience and builds their skills, they may be promoted to a senior art director role. In this position, they are responsible for managing larger teams and overseeing multiple projects at once. Senior art directors also have more input in the creative direction of projects and may be involved in client pitches and presentations.
  • Creative Director: For art directors who have a strong background in creative strategy and leadership, a move to the role of creative director is a common advancement option. Creative directors guide the creative vision of an organization, ensuring that all creative work aligns with the company’s brand and values. They are responsible for managing a team of art directors and other creative professionals, as well as collaborating with other stakeholders such as client services, strategy, and operations.
  • Executive-level positions: Art directors who have garnered extensive experience and expertise in creative work may choose to move into executive positions such as Chief Creative Officer or Chief Marketing Officer. These positions require overseeing all aspects of a company’s creative work and managing a team of art directors, creative directors, and other professionals. Executives in these positions typically have input into the company’s overall strategic direction and may be responsible for driving new business growth.
  • Freelance or Consulting Work: Many experienced art directors choose to work as freelancers or consultants, providing their expertise to clients on a project-by-project basis. Freelancers have the flexibility to choose which projects they work on and set their rates. They may also work on a wide range of projects across multiple industries, gaining exposure to a variety of creative challenges.
  • Entrepreneurship: Art directors with an entrepreneurial spirit may choose to start their own design or advertising firms. In this role, they would be responsible for all aspects of the business, including hiring staff, managing finances, and attracting new business. Starting your own business is a significant undertaking, but it can also be a rewarding way to apply your creativity and build something of your own.

Overall, the career advancement options for art directors are numerous and diverse. The path you choose will depend on your interests, skills, and goals, but with hard work and dedication, there are many opportunities to grow and succeed in this field.

The employers of art directors

Art directors are employed by a variety of organizations and industries that require creative visual work. Some common employers of art directors include:

  • Advertising agencies: Art directors are often employed by advertising agencies to oversee the creation of visual content for advertising campaigns, such as print ads, billboards, and TV commercials.
  • Design firms: Many art directors work for design firms, where they manage the creation of visual elements for a range of clients, from corporate branding to product packaging.
  • Publications: Art directors are employed by magazines, newspapers, and other publications to oversee the visual elements of the publication, including cover art, photography, and illustrations.
  • Film and television: Art directors are involved in the production of films and television shows, where they are responsible for the visual design of sets, props, and costumes.
  • Video game development: Art directors are employed by video game development companies, where they oversee the visual design of game characters, environments, and other elements.

Overall, the types of employers that hire art directors are diverse, and employment opportunities exist in many different fields that require creative visual work.

A sample job description for an art director

A seasoned art director is needed by our business to supervise a group of skilled graphic designers, photographers, and artists. The art director will be in charge of creating unique layouts and designs that successfully communicate our clients’ messages. This person must love design, have a good eye for detail, and have the ability to work across a variety of media platforms. Candidates who meet the requirements must have a bachelor’s degree in fine arts or a closely related field and a minimum of five years of administrative or creative experience.


Being an art director can be a very rewarding profession. Art directors are responsible for creating visuals that communicate a message or tell a story, and the process of seeing their ideas come to life can be very fulfilling. They work with a team of creative professionals, such as designers, photographers, and illustrators, to create unique and visually stunning projects that make an impact.

Art directors also have the opportunity to work in a variety of industries, including advertising, publishing, film, television, and video game development. This diversity allows art directors to work on a range of projects and provides the opportunity to develop new skills and techniques.

In addition to creative satisfaction, art directors also have the potential to earn a good salary. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for art directors was $94,220 in 2020, with higher salaries in some industries, such as advertising and public relations.

Overall, being an art director can be a very fulfilling and rewarding profession, providing opportunities for creativity, growth, and financial success.

Frequently Asked Questions about art directors

  • How much does a typical art director make?

The average annual pay for an art director is $89,794, according to Indeed Salaries. The experience, education, location, and employer of an art director can all influence their pay. The top pay for art directors is now available in Melbourne, VIC, and Sydney, NSW.

  • What kind of setting does an art director operate in?

The atmosphere in which an art director works differs based on the projects they are involved with and their employment position. Art directors who work for a company permanently, like advertising art directors, spend most of their time there. They might spend time away from the workplace participating in photo shoots and client meetings. Certain art directors are independent contractors who serve numerous customers. For instance, a freelance art director with a focus on film or television may work on a variety of indoor sets, studios, and shooting sites.

No matter their employment position, art directors typically operate in high-energy settings. The majority of art directors typically work during normal office hours on weekdays. To meet deadlines, they might have to work on the weekends or late into the evening.

  • Is being an art director a rewarding profession?

The complex and varied nature of the position makes working as an art director a smart career choice. Since art directors may collaborate on a wide range of creative endeavors, many people find it simple to remain inspired and motivated by their jobs. They have a great deal of creative power, thus the work may be quite personally satisfying. Additionally, the work environment is fast-paced, which keeps art directors interested. While they occasionally put in extra hours right before deadlines, art directors can maintain a healthy work-life balance.

  • Is becoming an art director simple?

People can choose the educational path that best suits them by looking at the qualifications that art directors can have. The majority of recent art directors hold a bachelor’s degree in a creative subject. Most motivated students can achieve the Australian Tertiary Admission Ranks (ATAR) for these degrees. Since postgraduate training is uncommon for art directors, most students only stay in school for four years before starting their careers in the creative sector.

Entry-level positions for art directors require some experience, but talented creatives may advance quickly. Motivated individuals should be able to secure their desired employment thanks to the numerous progression chances offered by the creative sectors.

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