What are Some Important Qualities for an Art Director?

As the art industry grows in popularity and revenues, the list of qualities of an art director continuously lengthen. This is because the individuals fulfilling the said role have to act as leaders, motivators, innovators, and spokespeople simultaneously. Well, if the market is expanding and more artists are entering it daily, the requirements to achieve all those titles are also getting more strict and challenging. So, what would be a few of the most important qualities that companies look for when promoting art workers to directors?

Always Curious

While the market in which art directors operate is pretty self-explanatory, the skillset required to execute this role effectively is quite versatile. Besides understanding artistry and tools, resources, and plans needed to complete projects, directors have to know several other things as well. Some examples include finance, employee management, office politics, negotiations, pricing models, and morale improvement strategies. Absent a high level of curiosity, however, it is very unlikely that an art worker will pursue any of the aforementioned areas. Hence why maintaining a questioning mind and constantly obtaining new knowledge is vital.

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Thrive in High-Stress Environments

According to Forbes, art director jobs are amongst the top 20 most surprising positions with annual compensation exceeding six figures. And rightly so. After all, there are probably more people who do not know what these professionals do than the ones who are familiar with their duties. Those who have a basic understanding of the market will quickly realize that the high salary for art directors has a lot to do with their extraordinary responsibilities. Unlike traditional art workers who prioritize completing projects and reaching their full potential, directors have to oversee innumerable subordinates, ensure that the deadlines are met, and more. They are also often leading meetings where the entity’s long-term goals are discussed and budgets are developed. As most of these scenarios are stressful by default, art directors have to possess enough resilience to overcome workplace pressure. That will help them avoid burnout and extreme tiredness that hinders productivity.

Optimistic and Encouraging

Forbes also classifies someone’s ability to empower those around them as one of the top eight leadership skills. Knowing how to empathize with employees, regardless of their status within the entity, is something that very few professionals are familiar with. Those that have a firm grasp of that concept possess a talent to encourage their subordinates to chase perfection and overcome present struggles. This helps reduce employee turnover and perpetuates a positive environment where people can remain optimistic whilst taking care of their day-to-day duties.


One of the most crucial qualities of an art director is professionalism. The basic definition characterizes it as behavior that demonstrates a sound commitment to ethics, honesty, respect, and effectiveness. Art directors are probably one of the greatest examples of individuals who have to comprehend and possess this strength. The reason goes back to their responsibilities over employee management and empowering. It is no secret that people respond much better to positive feedback and respectful evaluations. Expectedly, art directors who lack professionalism may see employee satisfaction rates plummet while the cumulative turnover rises. Meanwhile, anyone who is respectful, committed, and effective will make it much easier for others to cooperate with them as they chase shared objectives.


Given that an average art director will earn north of $92,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is important to understand the career path that leads here. Individuals who are looking into becoming directors must realize that this is more of an end-goal than a starting job. That means that art directors have to move through the ranks before they are officially promoted and acknowledged as the masters of their craft. The actual number of years that is needed to reach this rank depends on an overabundance of factors that make it borderline impossible to create an average expectation.

For instance, some art directors operate slower and do not attain the promotion until 15 to 20 years after starting. Others, however, are simply born to lead and manage large projects and often find themselves directing before they even get to the 10th year of working. The key concept to keep in mind is that personal ambitions will dictate the career pace. Individuals who are extremely ambitious and have no problem overcoming adversity will probably reach the art director status relatively soon. Those who just want to dedicate themselves to artistry and have no interest in leading others, however, will probably never even care about directing.

Impeccable Focus

Since ambition is one of the qualities of an art director, it is fair to expect that someone’s ability to focus will come into play as well. After all, ambitions are completely futile if the person lacks the necessary focus to chase them. In terms of art, an impeccable focus means knowing the exact type of project that one is looking for, managing employees directly, and continuously tracking market changes. All of those requirements will be effortlessly fulfilled by an art director who can focus on their tasks until the ultimate completion takes place. Individuals who struggle in this area may need to consider strategies that will help them achieve a stabilized focus. In case that they prefer not to do so, they simply need to seek positions outside of the art director sphere.

Art directors should also have a quality that makes them great teachers. While the term teacher is utilized quite loosely here, it stands for the ability to train new employees. Even though educating new-hires is not in a director’s job description, knowing how to break down difficult concepts will keep everyone on the same page and help sidestep misunderstandings. In case that one lacks this quality, they can easily develop it through communication training. Thus, it should probably be looked into after all of the qualities of an art director from above have been carefully addressed.

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