The profession of art director encompasses many mediums. They are responsible for the visual style and images in magazines, newspapers, product packaging, movie, and television productions.
Here are three principle areas where you can work as an art director.
Advertising: You 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.
Publishing: You work on the visual look and feel of the publication, however the editor has ultimate responsibility for the publication’s verbal and textual contents.
Film: In the hierarchical structure of a film art department, the art director works directly below the production designer, in collaboration with the set decorator and the set designers.
A creative director also works in the same mediums as the art director. You find them in advertising, film, and music. Their role takes them beyond the arts, as they are prevalent in business, as well. They are the creative leads at advertising and marketing companies, working with designers, artists, copywriters, sales teams and marketers to create a vision for products sold. Creative directors perform the planning, oversee the creative process, and give guidance to the creative people that work under them. This is why these professionals have the name of ‘idea people.’
There is a similarity in the educational path of both professions. A Bachelor of Arts or Fine Arts in graphic design is appropriate for both directors.
Individuals leaning towards advertising may consider a degree that combines advertising and graphic design. This program has a curriculum that concentrates on creative thinking, strategic problem solving, collaboration, brand and campaign development, and technology training for multi-platform campaigns. You will engage in diverse areas of advertising innovation and creative design.
A program of this type includes design thinking, advertising and design fundamentals, digital photography, production methods, advertising copywriting, image creation, and web design. These concepts will prepare you to explore various career opportunities such as graphic designer, art director, multimedia artist, and animator, as well as advertising and promotions manager.
Certainly, a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, or Bachelor of Fine Arts in graphic design is beneficial. Another option is a Bachelor of Graphic Design that is also a four-year program. Most of the curriculum at your selected college/university should have about 90% of the coursework devoted to design.
Individuals taking the creative director route should look at schools offering degrees in graphic design and/or visual arts. Again, your major will depend on your career aspirations. Those interested in applying their creative talents to marketing should look at both fine arts and marketing. Some degree programs have fine arts courses included in the General Requirements section of the curriculum. Many employers, however, prefer to hire creative directors with knowledge of marketing techniques as well as knowledge of art and graphic design.
Most jobs in jobs requiring creativity prefer experience. Therefore, it is imperative that you strive for entry-level jobs to gain experience. For example, art directors typically have 5 or more years of work experience in another occupation before becoming art directors. Depending upon the industry, they may have previously worked as graphic designers, fine artists, editors, photographers, or in another art or design occupation. Similarly, many creative directors enter the profession after working as a copywriter, designer, art director, or similar creative background. Advertising and marketing can be the exception to this premise.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in May 2017 the median salary of art directors at $92,500 with below average job growth of 4% over ten years. The BLS based the data on five years’ experience with a Bachelor’s degree. The Bureau stated that 3 in 5 art directors were self-employed in 2016. Others worked for advertising and public relations firms, newspaper and magazine publishers, motion picture and video industries, and specialized design services firms.
The BLS does not list the occupation of creative director. An alternative site, Salary.com, does report the median income for a typical Creative Director at $118,152. Therefore, 50% of the people who perform the job should expect to make less than $118,152. The top 10% percentile has an average salary of $160,957 per data reported from Human Resources departments to Salary.com. This company attests to be the leading consumer and enterprise resource for compensation data, software and consulting.
Since we addressed advertising as a creative venue, we need to note that the BLS does provide data for this occupation. They reported in May 2017 the median salary for Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers at $129,380 with a Bachelor’s degree. This management position looks attractive for aspiring people with the creative talents to blend with advertising and marketing.