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Become A Design Director

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Working As A Design Director

  • Thinking Creatively
  • Interacting With Computers
  • Getting Information
  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
  • Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work
  • Deal with People

  • Mostly Sitting

  • Repetitive

  • Stressful

  • $125,899

    Average Salary

What Does A Design 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.

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How To Become A Design 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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Design Director Demographics

Gender

Male

57.8%

Female

39.4%

Unknown

2.8%
Ethnicity

White

59.3%

Hispanic or Latino

16.2%

Black or African American

10.2%

Asian

10.0%

Unknown

4.4%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

35.5%

French

14.5%

Italian

12.8%

German

7.0%

Chinese

5.8%

Mandarin

4.7%

Korean

2.9%

Cantonese

2.9%

Japanese

2.9%

Russian

2.3%

Portuguese

1.7%

Dutch

1.2%

Venetian

1.2%

Carrier

1.2%

Swedish

0.6%

Vietnamese

0.6%

Indonesian

0.6%

Hawaiian

0.6%

Lithuanian

0.6%

Tahitian

0.6%
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Design Director Education

Schools

Fashion Institute of Technology

28.5%

Savannah College of Art and Design

7.2%

School of Visual Arts

6.1%

Art Center College of Design

5.3%

Parsons the New School for Design

5.3%

Pratt Institute-Main

5.3%

Syracuse University

4.9%

Rhode Island School of Design

4.5%

Rochester Institute of Technology

3.9%

New York University

3.3%

University of North Texas

3.1%

University of Texas at Austin

2.9%

University of Southern California

2.7%

Iowa State University

2.7%

Academy of Art University

2.5%

University of Cincinnati

2.5%

Carnegie Mellon University

2.5%

Purdue University

2.5%

Columbia College Chicago

2.3%

Cornell University

2.3%
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Majors

Graphic Design

40.0%

Fine Arts

9.5%

Business

8.2%

Architecture

6.3%

Interior Design

6.1%

Design And Visual Communication

4.6%

Communication

2.8%

Marketing

2.5%

Apparel And Textiles

2.4%

Computer Science

2.0%

Electrical Engineering

2.0%

Management

2.0%

Photography

1.8%

Education

1.7%

Specialized Sales And Merchandising

1.6%

Drafting And Design

1.5%

Computer Applications

1.4%

Theatre

1.2%

English

1.2%

Finance

1.2%
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Degrees

Bachelors

52.0%

Masters

18.3%

Other

17.1%

Associate

7.5%

Certificate

2.7%

Doctorate

2.0%

Diploma

0.4%

License

0.0%
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Temporary

Real Design Director Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Product Design Director Facebook, Inc. Menlo Park, CA Sep 12, 2015 $250,000
Product Design Director Facebook, Inc. Menlo Park, CA Jul 15, 2016 $250,000
Product Design Director Facebook, Inc. Menlo Park, CA Sep 10, 2015 $250,000
Design Director Converse, Inc. New York, NY Jan 04, 2016 $246,330
Design Director-Men's Footwear Cole Haan LLC Greenland, NH Aug 20, 2016 $240,000
Senior Design Director Lands' End, Inc. Dodgeville, WI Apr 27, 2016 $225,000
UI Design Lead (Internal Title: Director of Design) Yahoo! Inc. New York, NY Oct 25, 2016 $225,000 -
$245,000
Director, UI Design Twitter, Inc. San Francisco, CA Jan 12, 2015 $220,000
Director of Engineering, Physical Design Group Arm, Inc. Austin, TX Mar 16, 2015 $213,000
Director of Engineering, Physical Design Group Arm, Inc. Austin, TX Jan 10, 2015 $213,000
User Experience Design Director AKQA, Inc. New York, NY Apr 20, 2016 $200,928
Director of Technical Design, Appearel Innovation Tory Burch New York, NY Nov 03, 2016 $200,000
Design Director-Ready To Wear Kate Spade LLC New York, NY Dec 30, 2016 $200,000
Director of Design, Men's Bottoms Levi Strauss & Co. San Francisco, CA Aug 22, 2016 $198,450
Director of Visual Design Fantasy Interactive Inc. San Francisco, CA Sep 16, 2016 $160,000
Design Director for Knitwear NIC & Zoe Company Natick, MA May 07, 2015 $160,000
Director, Design Services Innominds Software Inc. San Jose, CA Mar 17, 2015 $160,000
Experience Design Director Havas Worldwide New York Inc. New York, NY Jan 21, 2015 $159,245
CD Design DIR Apple Inc. Cupertino, CA Jan 21, 2016 $158,600 -
$253,800
CD Design DIR Apple Inc. Cupertino, CA Jan 21, 2015 $155,500 -
$248,800
Design Director Foursquare Labs Inc. New York, NY Aug 02, 2015 $155,000 -
$175,000
Director of California Design Center Aavid Thermalloy, LLC San Jose, CA Sep 05, 2015 $123,053 -
$125,000
Ux/Visual Design Director We Heart It, Inc. San Francisco, CA Aug 11, 2015 $120,399
Director, Design Services-Americas Hyatt Corporation Chicago, IL Jan 03, 2016 $120,000
Interactive Design Director Area 17 Media, LLC New York, NY Sep 15, 2015 $120,000
Design Director Toca Boca New York, NY Dec 10, 2015 $120,000
Design Director Quovo, Inc. New York, NY Mar 09, 2016 $120,000
Design Director Assembled Brands Partner Services LLC New York, NY Nov 30, 2015 $120,000 -
$160,000

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Top Skills for A Design Director

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  1. Design Staff
  2. Web Design
  3. New Product Development
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Directed design staff by delegating responsibilities and providing guidance, coordination and feedback to designers to ensure achievement of goals.
  • Provided comprehensive web design & development services to nonprofit organizations.
  • Brainstormed regularly with Marketing on new product development.
  • Worked closely with retail buyers and merchandisers to create proprietary and licensed product collections, merchandising solutions and marketing concepts.
  • Assumed control of an imploding statement automation project three days before quarterly statement production.

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Top 10 Best States for Design Directors

  1. Washington
  2. Massachusetts
  3. Illinois
  4. California
  5. New York
  6. Georgia
  7. Oregon
  8. Ohio
  9. New Mexico
  10. Utah
  • (102 jobs)
  • (116 jobs)
  • (137 jobs)
  • (627 jobs)
  • (353 jobs)
  • (158 jobs)
  • (50 jobs)
  • (35 jobs)
  • (7 jobs)
  • (18 jobs)

Top Design Director Employers

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Jobs From Top Design Director Employers

Design Director Videos

Extra Credits - So You Want To Be a Game Designer - Career Advice for Making Games

Ferrari Design Director Flavio Manzoni on LaFerrari Design

Career Advice - Interior Design

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