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Art Director Careers

What Does an Art Director Do

Art directors are responsible for the visual style and images in magazines, newspapers, product packaging, and movie and television productions. They create the overall design and direct others who develop artwork or layouts.

Duties

Art directors typically do the following: 

  • Determine how best to represent a concept visually
  • Determine which photographs, art, or other design elements to use
  • Develop the overall look or style of a publication, an advertising campaign, or a theater, television, or film set
  • Lead graphic designers, set and exhibit designers, or other design staff
  • Review and approve designs, artwork, photography, and graphics developed by other staff members 
  • Talk to clients to develop an artistic approach and style
  • Coordinate activities with other artistic and creative departments
  • Develop detailed budgets and timelines
  • Present designs to clients for approval

Art directors typically oversee the work of other designers and artists who produce images for television, film, live performances, advertisements, or video games. They determine the overall style in which a message is communicated visually to its audience. For each project, they articulate their vision to artists. The artists then create images, such as illustrations, graphics, photographs, or charts and graphs, or design stage and movie sets, according to the art director’s vision.

Art directors work with art and design staffs in advertising agencies, public relations firms, and book, magazine, or newspaper publishers to create designs and layouts. They also work with producers and directors of theater, television, or movie productions to oversee set designs. Their work requires them to understand the design elements of projects, inspire other creative workers, and keep projects on budget and on time. Sometimes they are responsible for developing budgets and timelines. 

The following are some specifics of what art directors do in different industries:

In publishing, art directors typically oversee the page layout of catalogs, newspapers, or magazines. They also choose the cover art for books and periodicals. Often, this work includes publications for the Internet, so art directors oversee production of the websites used for publication.

In advertising and public relations, art directors ensure that their clients’ desired message and image are conveyed to consumers. Art directors are responsible for the overall visual aspects of an advertising or media campaign and coordinate the work of other artistic or design staff, such as graphic designers.

In movie production, art directors collaborate with directors to determine what sets will be needed for the film and what style or look the sets should have. They hire and supervise a staff of assistant art directors or set designers to complete designs.

How To Become an Art Director

Art directors need at least a bachelor’s degree in an art or design subject and previous work experience. Depending on the industry, they may have worked as graphic designers, fine artists, editors, or photographers, or in another art or design occupation before becoming art directors. 

Education

Many art directors start out in another art-related occupation, such as fine artists or photographers. Work experience in art or design occupations develops an art director’s ability to visually communicate to a specific audience creatively and effectively. They gain the appropriate education for that occupation, usually by earning a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.

To supplement their work experience in those occupations and show their ability to take on a more creative or a more managerial role, some complete a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Most art directors work 5 years or more in another occupation before becoming art directors. Depending upon the industry, they may work as graphic designers, fine artists, editors, photographers, or in another art or design occupation before becoming art directors.

For many artists, including art directors, developing a portfolio—a collection of an artist’s work that demonstrates his or her styles and abilities—is essential. Managers, clients, and others look at artists’ portfolios when they are deciding whether to hire an employee or contract for an art project.

Important Qualities 

Communication skills. Art directors must be able to listen to and speak with staff and clients to ensure that they understand employees’ ideas and clients’ desires for advertisements, publications, or movie sets.

Creativity. Art directors must be able to come up with interesting and innovative ideas to develop advertising campaigns, set designs, or layout options.

Leadership skills. Art directors must be able to organize, direct, and motivate other artists. They need to articulate their visions to artists and oversee the work as it progresses.

Resourcefulness. Art directors must be able to adapt their latest designs to the changing technology used in their industry.

Time-management skills. Balancing competing priorities and multiple projects while meeting strict deadlines is critical for art directors.

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Average Salary
$74,672
Average Salary
Job Growth Rate
1%
Job Growth Rate
Job Openings
6,529
Job Openings

Art Director Career Paths

Top Careers Before Art Director

Top Careers After Art Director

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Average Salary for an Art Director

Art Directors in America make an average salary of $74,672 per year or $36 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $117,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $47,000 per year.
Average Salary
$74,672

Best Paying Cities

City
ascdesc
Average Salarydesc
San Francisco, CA
Salary Range81k - 154k$112k$112,182
Seattle, WA
Salary Range76k - 141k$104k$103,856
Portland, OR
Salary Range71k - 133k$98k$97,576
New York, NY
Salary Range60k - 114k$83k$83,265
Fort Lee, NJ
Salary Range60k - 114k$83k$83,162
Boston, MA
Salary Range60k - 114k$83k$82,834
$32k
$154k

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyascdescCompanyascdescStart DateascdescSalaryascdesc
Art Director CV: Claire.Dehoet@Creativegroup.com
Art Director CV: Claire.Dehoet@Creativegroup.com
Robert Half
Robert Half
01/26/2021
01/26/2021
$62,61001/26/2021
$62,610
Art Director
Art Director
Latitude
Latitude
01/20/2021
01/20/2021
$75,00001/20/2021
$75,000
Art Director
Art Director
Robert Half
Robert Half
12/10/2020
12/10/2020
$89,21912/10/2020
$89,219
Art Director
Art Director
Robert Half
Robert Half
11/18/2020
11/18/2020
$79,30611/18/2020
$79,306
Art Director
Art Director
Robert Half
Robert Half
11/13/2020
11/13/2020
$90,00011/13/2020
$90,000
See More Recent Salaries

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Art Director Resumes

Designing and figuring out what to include on your resume can be tough, not to mention time-consuming. That's why we put together a guide that is designed to help you craft the perfect resume for becoming an Art Director. If you're needing extra inspiration, take a look through our selection of templates that are specific to your job.

Learn How To Write an Art Director Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless Art Director resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

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Art Director Demographics

Gender

male

54.5 %

female

40.8 %

unknown

4.7 %

Ethnicity

White

72.6 %

Hispanic or Latino

11.8 %

Asian

8.5 %

Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

47.9 %

French

12.6 %

Chinese

5.1 %
See More Demographics

Art Director Education

Degrees

Bachelors

65.9 %

Associate

13.2 %

Masters

12.2 %

Top Colleges for Art Directors

1. Harvard University

Cambridge, MA • Private

In-State Tuition
$50,420
Enrollment
7,582

2. Duke University

Durham, NC • Private

In-State Tuition
$55,695
Enrollment
6,596

3. University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA • Private

In-State Tuition
$55,584
Enrollment
10,764

4. Northwestern University

Evanston, IL • Private

In-State Tuition
$54,568
Enrollment
8,451

5. Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh, PA • Private

In-State Tuition
$55,465
Enrollment
6,483

6. University of Southern California

Los Angeles, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$56,225
Enrollment
19,548

7. University of Texas at Austin

Austin, TX • Public

In-State Tuition
$10,610
Enrollment
40,329

8. University of Florida

Gainesville, FL • Public

In-State Tuition
$6,381
Enrollment
34,564

9. Northeastern University

Boston, MA • Private

In-State Tuition
$51,522
Enrollment
13,760

10. New York University

New York, NY • Private

In-State Tuition
$51,828
Enrollment
26,339
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Part Time
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Top Skills For an Art Director

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 13.7% of art directors listed graphic design on their resume, but soft skills such as communication skills and creativity are important as well.

  • Graphic Design, 13.7%
  • Creative Concepts, 11.5%
  • Adobe Creative Suite, 7.2%
  • Layout, 6.5%
  • Art Direction, 6.4%
  • Other Skills, 54.7%
  • See All Art Director Skills

Best States For an Art Director

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as an art director. The best states for people in this position are Washington, California, Oregon, and Utah. Art directors make the most in Washington with an average salary of $102,203. Whereas in California and Oregon, they would average $101,551 and $97,674, respectively. While art directors would only make an average of $89,153 in Utah, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Washington

Total Art Director Jobs:
164
Highest 10% Earn:
$177,000
Location Quotient:
0.92
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. California

Total Art Director Jobs:
874
Highest 10% Earn:
$179,000
Location Quotient:
1.22
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Oregon

Total Art Director Jobs:
114
Highest 10% Earn:
$170,000
Location Quotient:
1.12
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
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Top Art Director Employers

We've made finding a great employer to work for easy by doing the hard work for you. We looked into employers that employ art directors and discovered their number of art director opportunities and average salary. Through our research, we concluded that Ogilvy was the best, especially with an average salary of $74,826. J. Walter Thompson follows up with an average salary of $74,551, and then comes Leo Burnett with an average of $74,856. In addition, we know most people would rather work from home. So instead of having to change careers, we identified the best employers for remote work as an art director. The employers include Activision Blizzard, VaynerMedia, and 1871

1. Ogilvy
4.5
Avg. Salary: 
$74,826
Art Directors Hired: 
96+
2. J. Walter Thompson
4.1
Avg. Salary: 
$74,551
Art Directors Hired: 
82+
3. Leo Burnett
4.4
Avg. Salary: 
$74,856
Art Directors Hired: 
69+
4. Apple
4.9
Avg. Salary: 
$131,556
Art Directors Hired: 
61+
5. Grey Global Group
4.7
Avg. Salary: 
$74,671
Art Directors Hired: 
56+
6. CampCo
4.1
Avg. Salary: 
$58,594
Art Directors Hired: 
55+

What are the best companies to work for?

Kayb Joseph

Professor of Art, Covenant College

We encourage students to take a small business course, as most studio owners are small businesses. We also promote internships to determine the right fit.Show more

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