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How to Become an Art Director

Do you have a keen eye for design, a knack for directing innovative talent, and strong organizational skills? A position as an art director is a rewarding, creative role that might be perfect for you!

Art directors are instrumental in creating the visual language and style of advertising campaigns, magazines, product packaging and branding, film, and television productions. In addition to creating the overall look for a company’s products and marketing, art directors manage a team of designers and artists that develop day-to-day assets to bring their visions to life.

A great art director must be able to think creatively and critically to determine the best way to represent concepts visually. He or she must also be able to talk with clients to devise a complete artistic approach to a project, as well as speak to and defend their team’s work during client presentations.

Sample job description

[Your Company Name] is hiring an experienced art director with a passion for creativity and an eye for design to lead our highly skilled art department. An art director must have exceptional leadership skills in order to guide projects and communicate their vision effectively to others. The ideal candidate has both artistic and marketing experience that will aid in promoting our company brand. If you have the vision to identify what speaks to consumers and the ability to inspire others to clearly execute said vision, you may be the perfect fit for our company.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Determine and develop the visual style of advertising campaigns, publications, and other visual elements for the client
  • Manage design staff and collaborate with other creatives
  • Create detailed timelines and budgets for the creative team
  • Review and approve the artwork, photography, and graphic designs produced by design staff
  • Select photography, artwork, designs, and other visual elements for layout
  • Coordinate multiple projects simultaneously to produce quality content and meet client deadlines
  • Present creative concepts and finished projects to clients for review

Education and experience

  • This position requires a bachelor’s degree in fine art, digital media, visual communication, photography, or related field

Required skills and qualifications

  • Strong attention to detail
  • Excellent time management and organizational skills
  • Proficiency with industry-standard tools, such as Adobe Creative Cloud

Preferred qualifications

  • Good communication and organization skills
  • Basic mastery of relevant graphic design software
  • Ability to effectively handle pressure and responsibility

Typical work environment

Art directors work within a fast-paced office environment. There is a high level of social interaction involved with designers, photographers, artists, and clients. Art directors are often under strict deadlines to complete their work and often work in close proximity with others throughout the day.

Typical hours

The work hours for an art director are typically from 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday, in an office setting. However, longer or different hours may, at times, be necessary.

Available certifications

Art directors do not have to be licensed or hold any kind of certification, however, being certified in an artistic field increases your chances of being hired for the position. These are the top certifications to consider for aspiring art directors:

  • Professional Certified Marketer (PCM) – This certification equips you with the knowledge and skills to excel in a digital marketing landscape. These courses teach you about social media, email, and content marketing as well as leadership skills, digital strategy, and customer experience. You can gain a PCM through online courses that range from 30-120 hours of learning and it must be renewed every 3 years.
  • Project Management Professional (PMP) – As a certified project management professional, you let employers know that you are capable of taking the lead in a team environment. Holding a PMP shows that you have experience with the people and processes required for managing a project. Before you can take the PMP exam, you must have at least 35 hours of project management course training and at least 36 months of project management experience. Your PMP certification is renewed every 3 years by either retaking the exam or maintaining at least 60 hours of professional development during that time.
  • Certified Interior Designer (NCIDQ) – The NCIDQ is a way to verify your experience and skills in the realm of interior design. Gaining this certification consists of an exam with 3 sections: The Interior Design Fundamentals Exam, The Interior Design Professional Exam, and The Interior Design Practicum Exam. You are required to have a certain level of secondary education in interior design and a specific amount of experience hours in interior design before you are eligible to take the NCIDQ exams for certification. This certification must be renewed every year.

Career path

The career path for an art director begins by earning a bachelor’s degree in one of the art and design fields, such as visual communications, fine art, digital media, or photography.

Additional requirements for any art director role include previous work experience and a strong creative portfolio. Depending on the industry, experience as an editor, graphic designer, illustrator, photographer, or fine artist will also help you stand out for a position as an art director.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 27-1011

2020 Employment98,500
Projected Employment in 2030109,400
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 11% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift10,800 increase

As the role of the creative director becomes less common in traditional ad agencies, art directors can step up to the plate. By working closely with copywriters and graphic designers, a seasoned art director can create outstanding content, all while taking on more managerial tasks as well.

Art directors will continue to learn cross-disciplinary skills, such as copywriting and web development, to better collaborate with their creative teams. Once an art director familiarizes themselves with their team’s skill sets, they will be able to communicate their creative vision effectively, which will lead to a more agile and productive creative team.