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Become A Freelance Art Director

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Working As A Freelance Art 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

  • $84,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Freelance 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.

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How To Become A Freelance 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 Length of Employment
Art Director 4.2 years
Creative Director 3.9 years
Top Careers Before Freelance Art Director
Art Director 27.5%
Internship 3.9%
Designer 3.9%
Director 1.8%
Artist 1.7%
Top Careers After Freelance Art Director
Art Director 23.7%
Designer 3.5%
Director 1.7%
Owner 1.6%

Do you work as a Freelance Art Director?

Freelance Art Director Demographics

Gender

Male

52.5%

Female

36.7%

Unknown

10.8%
Ethnicity

White

59.1%

Hispanic or Latino

16.3%

Black or African American

10.9%

Asian

10.0%

Unknown

3.7%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

39.1%

French

10.3%

Japanese

9.2%

Korean

8.0%

Italian

6.9%

German

4.6%

Portuguese

3.4%

Chinese

3.4%

Russian

3.4%

Irish

2.3%

Swedish

1.1%

Urdu

1.1%

Vietnamese

1.1%

Mandarin

1.1%

Polish

1.1%

Hindi

1.1%

Norwegian

1.1%

Arabic

1.1%
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Freelance Art Director Education

Schools

School of Visual Arts

18.1%

Art Center College of Design

8.8%

Pratt Institute-Main

7.1%

Fashion Institute of Technology

6.5%

Parsons the New School for Design

6.0%

New York University

6.0%

Syracuse University

5.8%

Savannah College of Art and Design

5.8%

Academy of Art University

4.6%

Columbia College Chicago

4.4%

Miami Ad School

4.2%

College for Creative Studies

3.1%

Rochester Institute of Technology

3.1%

Portfolio Center

2.5%

Virginia Commonwealth University

2.5%

University of Florida

2.3%

University of Delaware

2.3%

University of Texas at Austin

2.3%

Art Institute of Pittsburgh

2.3%

Maryland Institute College of Art

2.3%
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Majors

Graphic Design

40.3%

Fine Arts

13.9%

Design And Visual Communication

8.0%

Photography

6.4%

Advertising

5.4%

Communication

4.0%

Theatre

3.8%

Computer Applications

2.7%

Marketing

2.3%

Graphic Communications

1.8%

Business

1.5%

Animation

1.4%

Journalism

1.2%

English

1.1%

Digital Media

1.1%

Visual And Performing Arts

1.1%

Education

1.1%

Public Relations

1.1%

Audiovisual Communications Technologies

1.1%

Music

0.9%
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Degrees

Bachelors

61.6%

Other

16.0%

Masters

10.7%

Associate

5.9%

Certificate

4.2%

Diploma

1.1%

Doctorate

0.4%

License

0.1%
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Top Skills for A Freelance Art Director

  1. Graphic Design
  2. Web Banners
  3. Adobe Photoshop
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Created ad concepts, identity, packaging, web design and video editing for ad agencies and graphic design firms.
  • Work with Shopper Marketing clients to develop web banners and Developed and design company quarterly online newsletter.
  • Complete work with programs such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe After Effects and Adobe Premiere and Cinema 4d
  • Administered and managed daily operations including design, photography and freelancers, handling jobs from conception through completion.
  • Work alongside video production crew, directing scene shot locations and scripting talent actors performance ability.

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