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September 4, 2019

When you’re working to advertise something – a product, event, idea, or service – it takes a lot more than a few crayons to get the job done.

It requires a colossal amount of talent to pull off a creative project; videographers, photographers, graphic designers, illustrators, data visualizers, lighting designers, and animators all have to work together to make sure that the final result is what was expected (or beyond what was expected) of them.

Additionally, the success of a creative project requires direction – a northern star to guide all of the creatives along the same path.

What is an art director?

Art directors are the leaders of visually creative projects that require the work of multiple artistically gifted professionals.

Art directors are used to design movie sets or magazine layouts, but they’re absolutely crucial in an advertising agency. Whether it’s a product, service, or just an idea, art directors have to work with a client to make sure that they relay their sales pitch to an audience clearly and creatively.

In 2016, 90,300 people worked as art directors. Nearly 60% were self-employed, while just 13% of those were employed by advertising agencies full time.

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Advertising agency art director responsibilities

Whether a client hires an art director from an agency or an independent art director, their responsibilities generally are as follows:

  • Determine how to best visually represent a concept
  • Make certain that the client’s marketing materials are visually appealing, engaging, and direct
  • Direct the visual elements of the advertising campaign (print advertisements, billboard designs, display advertisements,
  • Collaborate with a copywriter to develop overall concepts for an advertising campaign
  • Pitch finalized concepts to the creative director

Essentially, art directors orchestrate anything and everything visually creative for a client’s campaign. Sometimes, art directors may have to do more than just manage; it’s not uncommon for them to step in and assist in the design process themselves.

Advertising agency art director salary

Overall, the salary of an art director isn’t too shabby. In May of 2018, the median annual wage of an art director was $92,780. While art directors in motion picture and video industries are compensated the highest (earning an annual average of $117,360), the advertising industry is the second-highest compensated, earning art directors an average of $95,130 – above the median annual wage.

Preparing for a career as an advertising agency art director

The compensation for an art director in an advertising agency is nice, but how does someone get to that point?

Like creative directors, art directors often have experience in another art-related field like photography or graphic design. Having hands-on experience is part of what makes you qualified to direct others doing the job you once did. Art directors often earn a bachelor of arts or bachelor of fine arts degree, but some go as far as earning their master of fine arts (MFA) degree to further prove their artistic and managerial abilities.

In addition to a degree, art directors often keep a record of their work, whether that means having an online graphic design portfolio or prints of their best photography work. Being able to not only talk about but also prove your creative style and skills is essential in an interview.

Advertising agency art director skills

Even with all of that preparation, school can’t always provide you with some of the necessary skills that an art director needs. The following strengths aren’t optional – they’re essential if you’re looking for success.

  • Communication skills - art directors are responsible for communicating with their clients, as well as those that they’re directing, working alongside, and reporting to.
  • Leadership skills - art directors are the managers of multiple creative professionals and are responsible for upholding the overall vision they’ve promised their client. Being able to encourage others, organize workflows, and direct these artists is absolutely necessary.
  • Ideation and creativity skills - art directors in the advertising industry compete wiith others in their same position to prove that their ideas are the most creative, innovative, and produce the best results possible for their client. Thinking inside of the box isn’t going to work , here.
  • Technical skills - art directors should have a working understanding of HTML and PHP when collaborating with user experience and web designers for the implementation of digital graphics as well as thorough knowledge of common design software such as Adobe Creative Suite.
    Is Adobe Creative Suite right for you?  Read Reviews Now, FREE →

Are you shining bright enough?

Being an art director in the world of advertising means more than just being creative; it means being different. In a world full of advertisements, envisioning something unique for your client can be difficult. But with the right direction and an army of artists under your belt, your idea might be the next big thing.

Looking to go bigger? Learn more about what a creative director job description looks like.

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