How to Become an Art Director

Art director working their office

If you are a creative person who loves visual design, you might consider pursuing a career as an art director. An art director is responsible for managing a team of designers to execute the overall vision for a live performance, streaming or broadcast project. These professionals develop the main design concepts and take ownership of the project from start to finish. This role is a senior-level position that usually requires a relevant arts degree as well as working on design jobs. If you want to become an art director someday, here is what you will need to know about the field.

Understanding the Role of the Art Director

Art directors are responsible for the visual elements of a project. These projects can include magazines, newspapers and product packaging. Some art designers work on TV, movie and documentary productions. Many art directors are self-employed individuals who run their own design agencies. Others work for design service firms, newspaper and magazine publishing companies, advertising firms and the motion picture industry.

The specific job responsibilities can vary depending on the industry, but in general, art directors may do any of the following:

  • Meet with clients to develop an understanding of their needs and style preferences
  • Develop the look and style of the project, and determine which design elements are needed
  • Figure out how to represent concepts through visual images like digital drawings
  • Coordinate artistic activities and supervise a team of designers, including graphic designers or set designers

Art directors may also be responsible for presenting projects to clients and executing revision requests.

Earning a Degree to Become an Art Director

There is no one set type of art director degree required to pursue this career. However, art directors often get their start by earning a Bachelor of Arts in Advertising and Graphic Design. This is an ideal degree for individuals who want to focus on graphic design for publications and websites. Alternatively, if you would like to become an art director in the motion picture industry, you might earn a degree in digital film production. You may also earn a degree in Theatre Set Design.

Whichever path you choose, you should take advantage of all opportunities to build a professional portfolio while in school. Give every assigned project your best effort. You can include these projects in your portfolio, which will be an invaluable tool as you search for a design job after graduation.

Cultivating the Characteristics of Successful Art Directors

As you are working toward earning your art director degree, you should actively work on cultivating the key characteristics of successful professionals. In this field, leadership skills are essential. Art directors are responsible for managing teams of designers, and these teams are often comprised of people of differing personalities, backgrounds and cultural values. It is important to develop a rapport with everyone on your team, and to understand how to direct, motivate and inspire others. One way to practice this while in school is to start your own study group with classmates or assume a leadership position in a campus club.

Other important characteristics for aspiring art directors include the following:

  • Communication skills: Good communication involves more than one’s speaking and writing abilities. It is also essential to understand how to actively listen to others, including the interpretation of body language and other non-verbal cues.
  • Creativity: Creativity is often thought of as a natural talent. However, just like any other skill, it can be cultivated. Practice creative thinking often, and you will find that it becomes easier to develop creative design concepts.
  • Time management: Time management is important for all types of students, but particularly for those who aspire to leadership positions. You will need to know how to manage not only your own time, but also the schedules of your team members.

Landing Your First Design Job

Even if you would like to establish your own design agency, you should plan on spending at least a few years working for someone else’s agency. The job of an art director is a high-level position that requires experience. For example, you might start your career by becoming a graphic designer in the advertising industry. In this capacity, you will focus on helping clients develop an attractive brand image that builds their companies.

If you prefer to work in entertainment, you might start your career with an entry-level position in the motion picture industry. For example, you might become a producer’s or a director’s assistant. These entry-level positions enable you to learn the business from the ground up, and the insights you will acquire will prove invaluable as you climb the ladder and pursue your goal of becoming an art director.

Creativity and a career-focused mindset are prized at Grand Canyon University, where you’ll find a supportive learning community and extensive resources to help you succeed. If you have dreams of a high-level position in design, you can earn a relevant art director degree from the College of Fine Arts and Production. Click on Request Info at the top of your screen to explore the Bachelor of Arts in Advertising and Graphic Design degree or the Bachelor of Arts in Digital Film with an Emphasis in Production program.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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