Becoming an art director is for lots of artist and visual designers the main goal in their careers. If you wanna follow this professional path and try to climb the ladder of your the company, studio or agency you are working in and reach this position, you will find this article very interesting. I will introduce you to tips and steps you need to follow in order to become an Art Director.
But before we start with the tips, let’s talk about the nature and functions of an Art Director’s job.
What is the job of an Art Director?
An Art Director is that person who uses creativity to express ideas visually. He works closely with the creative director, producers, marketing and product department. Of course, he will work even closer with the artist and designers under his direction, that will look for his guidance, expertise, and vision in their daily work.
Of course, not all the Art Directors are equal. I’m saying this because the daily routine of an Art Director working in a Marketing agency will be different than the one of an Art Director working in a Gaming Studio. The structure of the company, the work pipelines and of course the very same nature of the products each company and studio are producing will determine the day by day work of an Art Director. Taking this into account, I’m going to be as general as I can in order to give you a good understanding on how you can become an Art Director, in all industries across the board.
The art director is responsible for converting the ideas into visual assets that will enter through the eyes, because, even the best spectacular concept, without a good art direction, can lose its effectiveness. Between its capacities, it must emphasize the versatility, the capacity to design, the conceptualization and the creative thinking as well as the communicative capacity. It can be confused with an artist or a designer, but in reality, it is a communicator with creative and aesthetic skills.
An art director is ideally lover of details, must have a good taste to demand visual perfection, knows how to manage the supports and harmonize the elements that count. He or She knows many techniques, is an observer, knows how to use references and knows the importance of prior research in any work that he or she has to do. Also is able to manage projects and coordinate people. If you wanna pursue a career as an Art Director you will find that you need not only artistic skills. Also many other like time management, presentation skills, ownership, and leadership, etc… I know this very well because one of my goals is to become an Art Director myself.
As you can see, being creative is not the only skill an Art Director needs. In fact, skills like the ability to communicate to his team and other departments will be crucial. Another skills the Art Director needs to become successful is accountability and be able to handle the pressure. The Art Director is the tip of the spear of the art department in a company, studio or any type of production company. He has the final saying on how a product should look. This is why sometimes can be a difficult position to be because like in any industry results are expected and expectations need to be fulfilled.
Which are the functions of an Art Director?
Now that you have a general idea of what is the job of an Art Director, let me go into details on which are the functions of the job:
- The Art Director must generate the main idea based on the concept. From his or her initial idea or creation, depends on the development of the project. This is why an Art Director needs to be a receptive person since he or she must be able to internalize the concept offered by the creative director or the production department and be able to translate this idea into a visual format. Of course, most of the time it will not be him/her, the one creating the visual asset, but it will be done under his or her guidance and supervision.
- In any case, the Art Director needs to have the skills for being able to capture that motor idea graphically. There are discussions about the skills needed to carry out this part of the task of an art director. Some people argue that drawing is essential. Others would force the art director to handle all kinds of graphic design or illustration programs. Remember in any case that the purpose is to communicate the idea effectively. The method should not be the most important.
- The Art Director will be responsible for the approval of the final art. The final art is what will be presented to the client and must respond to the initial briefing and the concept of the creative director. The art director will make his product vision available to the production technicians. The art director will be who decides colors, typography, proportions, etc.
11 Tips to become an Art Director
Here you have a list of skills you need to have or develop that will grant you a job as an Art Director:
1- Leadership and good communication. The art director marks the visuals of the campaign, product, asset, etc…This visual representation needs to embody the spirit and keys of the project. In order to ensure that all the team follow the same objectives and unify forces, it is necessary to know how to clearly convey the ideology, to know each member of the team (its advantages and weaknesses), to coordinate and motivate them. Technically a good briefing will help to achieve it without deviating from the objective of the campaign. The briefing is a document that will mark: the objectives, target, main slogan, texts, and necessary images, communication platforms and their technical characteristics, as well as delivery timing.
If you are not a natural leader, don’t worry, you can become one. Train yourself to become a better communicator. Improve your organization skills and learn how to analyze people and know how to use their skills in your advantage and the well being of the art team and the project. Like I told you before, I´m educating myself to become an Art Director and recently I decided to take action and enroll in a course to help me to develop some of this skills I was speaking about. So far, the course it´s been very useful and I´m even applying some of the principles and techniques regarding leadership and people´s management in my current job as Senior Artist.
2- Real knowledge of programs and production processes. Art directors have already had some years of experience in the world of design or creativity with technology (concept art, photography, video editing, multimedia, etc.) so they are prepared because they have knowledge of the characteristics and possibilities of each sector. There are a time factor and experience that contributes to the process of learning many software and work pipelines. But of course, the more you push yourself to be up to date with the latest technologies and work processes, the faster you will achieve your goal.
3– Always meet the deadline. If you are not used to delivering on time your work, you need to start working on that, right now!. A good delivery schedule is essential for any creative, but much more for an art director, because the calendar guarantees the proper functioning of the project: the incubation of the idea, selection of creatives, design deliveries, customer exposure, possible changes and final deliveries in all media, which is usually at least one month before launch. The control of timing will be one of the fundamental keys to the success of the project.
4- You need a good strategy and organization skills. Each project or advertising campaign is unique and the choice of the best professional specialists in each area will help the art director to make the campaign effective. You need to know the strengths and weaknesses of each member of your team. The better you know them, the better you can locate them in any project.