How to Become an Art Director

What is an art director?

Art directors are responsible for the visual style and images in magazines, newspapers, product packaging, and movie and television productions. They oversee the work of other designers and artists, and present completed ideas to clients/team members.

How to become an art director?

Employers will often expect you to have a foundation degree, higher national diploma, degree or postgraduate qualification in graphic design, advertising design, illustration or fine art. You could do a junior advertising creative, advanced apprenticeship which would give you some of the skills and knowledge for this role. With experience you could work your way up to art director level.

The apprenticeship typically takes 18 months to complete as a mix of learning in the workplace and study.

You could get some experience before applying for your first job. This will give you a better understanding of the industry and is a good way to make useful contacts.

You can contact agencies directly to ask about placements, and make industry contacts through relevant groups on social networking sites like LinkedIn. You can get more advice on how to approach advertising agencies from the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising.

Art director duties

Art director duties are diverse and depend on the employer and specialty, but some responsibilities are common to most:

  • Meet art department work standards by following production, productivity, quality, and customer service standards
  • Resolve operational problems
  • Identify work process improvements
  • Meet art department cost standards by monitoring expenses and implementing cost-saving actions
  • Formulate art concepts by supervising workers engaged in executing layout designs for artwork and copy to be presented by visual communications media
  • Produce sketches or ‘storyboards’ (television), or ‘roughs’ or ‘scamps’ (print) to communicate ideas to the client
  • Gain an understanding of the target audience and business that the advert is aimed at
  • Meet with the creative director and account managers before presenting ideas to clients
  • Pitch ideas to clients

Art director skills

To be an effective art director, you’ll need certain skills and competencies. The following are often cited in job vacancies:

  • Ability to produce and communicate fresh ideas and visual concepts
  • Excellent organisational skills
  • Ability to multitask
  • Team player
  • Ability to take rejection and criticism and to be able to adapt ideas to clients’ and colleagues’ needs
  • Keen eye for detail

How to find an art director job:

These jobs are advertised online, in local newspapers and at your local jobcentre. To find all the art director jobs near you, you need to:

  • Search for art director jobs on popular job websites such as; Indeed, Total Jobs and CV Library
  • Use the DWP’s Find A Job Service
  • Check local newspapers and local Facebook groups, especially groups dedicated to local jobs

What does an art director do?

The job of an art director varies depending on the job role and the company you’re working for. Check the duties and responsibilities of art director job advertisements to find jobs that best suit your skills and experience. 

The day-to-day tasks of an art director include;

  • work closely with a copywriter to create original ideas that fit your client’s brief
  • produce storyboards or sketches of your ideas
  • present the ideas to the agency’s creative director and account team
  • help present ideas to the client
  • make any changes that the client asks for
  • hire graphic designers, artists, photographers or film companies to produce the artwork or TV ads
  • choose studios or locations and attend photo or film shoots
  • make sure that budgets and deadlines are met
  • oversee the final editing of the finished adverts