How To Become an Art Director

Updated July 21, 2022

Many companies within the creative industry employ art directors. This position requires a number of both soft and hard skills and is ideal for creative individuals who have worked as graphic designers or other creatives and wish to advance their careers. In this article, we will explore what an art director does as well as the steps you can take to become one.

What does an art director do?

An art director is a professional who oversees a team of creatives such as designers within an organization. Art directors typically manage the overall design of a project and direct the individuals who work on various creative aspects of the project. An art director's primary focus is the style and aesthetic appeal of a project.

While this professional's duties can vary greatly depending on the company and industry as well as the project, a few common tasks an art director may be responsible for include:

  • Inspiring and guiding a team of creatives to accomplish a project

  • Determining the layout and style of visual messages and marketing materials

  • Deciding on which art, photos and other creative elements will be included in a project

  • Reviewing and approving designs, artwork and other components of a project

  • Formulating timeline and budgets for creative projects

  • Training team members on creating artwork for mediums such as packaging and logos

  • Working with product and merchandising teams to ensure a streamlined creative approach

  • Presenting completed design projects to clients for approval

An art director may work in several industries. Common companies that rely on the expertise of art directors include publishing, advertising, motion picture and video production and specialized design service businesses.

Read more: Learn About Being an Art Director

Requirements for art directors

Most art directors hold a minimum of a bachelor's degree—typically a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Fine Arts. Common degrees that a future art director may pursue include graphic design, visual communications or digital media. Some art directors may also choose to further their education by obtaining a Master's Degree in Business Administration or Fine Arts to advance their careers.

How to become an art director

The following are the steps you should take to pursue a career as an art director:

1. Earn a bachelor's degree

Nearly every art director job will require you to have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in terms of education. There are several degrees you can obtain to support your goal of becoming an art director, including degrees in advertising, fine arts and graphic design. There are also art management degrees available that combine business management with artistic practices.

2. Get an art-related internship

Either while you are in school for your bachelor's degree or immediately after, you should consider working as an intern in the art field. If possible, you should seek an internship in the industry that you wish to pursue your career in, such as movie production or publishing.

An internship enables you to get experience in the art field and equips you with work to put in your portfolio.

3. Seek a full-time art position

Most positions as an art director require you to have a minimum of three to five years of experience in a lower-level art-related job. For example, you could work as a graphic designer, copywriter, photographer or other creative within your chosen industry.

These positions give you the opportunity to hone your artistic skills as well as obtain the required experience needed to go on to be an art director.

4. Consider further education

While not always required, many art directors also hold a master's degree in fine arts or a related field. Pursuing a master's degree can further prepare you for an art director position and equip you with valuable managerial skills needed to oversee a team of creatives.

5. Request or apply for promotion

If you are already working at a company that has an art director position, consider asking to be promoted to this job after you have obtained the necessary experience in a lower-level position. If an art director position opens within your company, don't be afraid to inquire and apply for it, even if you don't have three to five years of experience.

Showing interest is important to let your managers know you are driven and committed to the position of an art director. Additionally, you can apply for an art director position at another company or agency.

Skills for art directors

While being an art director requires a number of both soft and hard skills, the following are a few of the most important skills that most successful art directors share:

Leadership skills

Being a director of any kind requires strong leadership skills. As an art director, you will be in charge of managing individuals who work on a project and ensuring that the project is completed in a timely manner. Regardless of which industry you work in, you should hone your leadership skills if you are considering pursuing a career as an art director.

Project management skills

Art directors oversee every aspect of various creative projects, including the production of movies, media and advertising. Being organized and able to handle multiple components of a project including the timeline and budget is key to being a successful art director.

Communication skills

Art directors need to be able to communicate with both their team as well as their clients to successfully complete a project. Efficiently communicating timelines and expectations to team members as well as understanding and interpreting the desires of a client is an important part of being an art director.

Aesthetic judgment

As an art director, you will be in charge of creating and producing the overall aesthetics of a project. Whether you are implementing a new design for a client website or designing a video game, having strong aesthetic judgment is a primary skill needed by effective art directors.

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