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Careers In Art Direction

Career Description

An Art Director develops design concepts and review material that is to appear in periodicals, newspapers, and other printed or digital media. They decide how best to present information visually, so that it is eye catching,  appealing, and organized. Art directors decide which photographs or artwork to use and oversee the design, layout, and production of material to be published.  They may direct workers engaged in artwork, design, layout, and copywriting.

Common Work Tasks

  • Formulate basic layout design or presentation approach and specify material details, such as style and size of type,  photographs, graphics, animation, video, and sound
  • Review and approve art materials, copy materials, and proofs of printed copy developed by staff members
  • Confer with creative, art, copywriting, or production department heads to discuss client requirements and presentation concepts and to coordinate creative activities
  • Present final layouts to clients for approval
  • Confer with clients to determine objectives,  budget, background information, and presentation approaches, styles, and techniques
  • Work with creative directors to develop design solutions
  • Attend photo shoots and printing sessions to ensure that the products needed are obtained
  • Create custom illustrations or other graphic elements
  • Mark up, paste, and complete layouts and write typography instructions to prepare materials for typesetting or printing
  • Prepare detailed storyboards showing sequence and timing of story development for television production

Other Job Titles

Art Directors are also known by other titles, including:

  • Artists
  • Illustrators
  • Cartoonists
  • Graphic Designers

Education,  Training, and Experience

Education and Training
Art directors usually have years of work experience and generally need at least a bachelor’s degree. Many colleges and universities offer programs leading to a bachelor’s or master’s degree in fine arts. Courses usually include core subjects such as English, social science, and natural science, in addition to art history and studio art. Independent schools of art and design also offer postsecondary studio training in the craft, fine, and multi-media arts leading to certificates in the specialties or to an associate or bachelor’s degree in fine arts.

Art directors usually begin as entry-level artists in advertising, publishing, design, and motion picture production firms. Artists are promoted to art director after demonstrating artistic and leadership abilities. Some art schools offer coursework in art direction as part of their curricula. Depending on the scope of their responsibilities,  some art directors also may pursue a degree in art administration, which teaches non-artistic skills such as project management and finance.

  Art directors must have an eye for esthetics and artistic ability. They must also have the ability to lead others and appropriate work experience.


The median annual salary for an Art Director is $72,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $144,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $40,000. Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of art directors are:

  • Advertising and Related Services - $87,970
  • Newspaper, Periodical, Book, and Directory Publishers - $71,020
  • Specialized Design Services- $96,460
  • Motion Picture and Video Industries - $90,000
  • Management of Companies and Enterprises - $97,070

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  9%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 7,000
  • Employment 2006 : 78,000
  • Employment 2016:  85,000
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