How to become an art director

Job description: What does a art director do?

Advertising attracts attention and can polarize. The art director, who often forms a team with the copywriter, is responsible for the optics. Art directors work wherever images or optical signs are used for communication. You will take on an artistic management function in the advertising and media industry and design various communication and advertising media. The supervised projects and activities can be the layout and text design for advertising campaigns or the monitoring of production processes for photoshoots, film shoots, and animations. A frequent field of work is also the design and optimization of brands and companies’ appearance, for example, on websites or for trade fair appearances.

For the implementation of marketing concepts, they coordinate the graphic and typographical implementation. In coordination with the customer, the requirements are determined by defining and taking into account the communication channels and the target group, among other things. To advise customers, art directors track, recognize and evaluate trends and developments in marketing and advertising. During the concept development and implementation, they maintain contact with the customer and, depending on the project, work with copywriters, directors, and photographers, and illustrators together and bundle their creative potential. The aim is to implement customer requests and ensure that work is stylistically consistent. A concept is only executed after the customer has given its approval. Art directors take on management functions: They guide the project staff from the areas of design, graphics, and text and coordinate the tasks and production processes – such as photoshoot and layout – to implement a project. They also make calculations to take economic aspects into account.

Art directors are mainly employed in advertising and communication agencies. Online and offline media publishers also offer possible activities from the cover design to a series of images. However, it is also possible to work in independent graphic design offices for advertising film production companies or repro or lithography companies, digital presentation media manufacturers, and incorporate advertising departments.

Further professional and career opportunities can open up for art directors through further training, for example, in advertising and media design or a degree in communication design or visual communication.

Art director responsibilities and requirements

In contrast to copywriters, among whom there are many career changers, art directors are experienced, leading graphic designers and have often completed a university or technical college degree. The related courses are graphic or communication design. During the course, basic knowledge in media forms of expression such as print, multimedia, and photo and film is acquired. This also includes working with graphics programs such as Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator.

But applicants can also convince with training as a graphic designer and subsequent further training and a corresponding collection of work samples. They usually have several years of professional experience for this managerial position, which they have gained as an assistant or designer and then as a junior art director. In general, they work in all media areas, such as print, film, and online, and a wide variety of products and target groups. Specializations in the online area are becoming more and more common, which in addition to the usual skills in design, also require knowledge in the IT area. In larger agencies, specific jobs are often given to employees,

Essential qualities for the work are, above all, an interest in visual expressions – such as drawing and painting – as well as creativity, and aesthetic sense of style, and a right eye for the visual. Curiosity and a high level of self-motivation are necessary to work creatively again and again during your professional life. Also, a high level of frustration tolerance is essential, as concepts that have been created are often discarded. To develop concepts for customers, conceptual thinking, and the ability to empathize with different people and target groups are essential characteristics for the work as an art director. Working hours can be very irregular. The completion of projects or partial steps often requires a lot of passion and commitment.