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What are Different Types of Art Director Jobs?

By Vicki Hogue-Davies
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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There are art director jobs available at a variety of skills levels. Art director jobs can be found at publishers of magazines, books and newspapers. There are art director jobs at advertising agencies and in creative departments at corporations. Art directors help with the development of sets for stage, television and film. Art directors can be regular, salaried employees for their organizations or they can be freelancers.

Whatever the industry they work in, art directors generally are responsible for overseeing the design and layout of a visual product. The art director might supervise artists, graphic designers, layout personnel and others or might work as a one-person show. He or she is usually trained in an artistic field, such as graphic design or as a fine artist.

Art directors at magazines and newspapers establish the design for their publications. They ensure that the look is consistent throughout the publication and from issue to issue. They select photographs and determine page layout. At book publishers, art directors plan and design book covers or manage the cover design process.

In the advertising world, art director jobs involve conceptualizing and managing the overall look of advertising campaigns. They may work with printed material, television advertisements or online. Art directors in advertising often work closely with copywriters to develop the total ad package. They often report to creative directors.

At corporations, art director jobs involve designing or overseeing the design of company newsletters, brochures, websites and other printed or online material. The art director usually works in the creative services department. Art directors in the corporate world often work in a team environment with graphic designers, illustrators, writers, editors and others.

On stage, television and film sets, art directors generally report to production designers. They are responsible for ensuring the design of the stage or set as visualized by the production designer. Art directors are tasked with managing many of the departments that create the visual look of a stage or set. These departments include the art department, props, set construction and others. The assistant art director helps the art director carry out these tasks.

Many people who become art directors work their way up through the ranks. They might start out in graphic design positions or as visual artists. Freelance art directors often work on the staff at publications or agencies before taking the plunge to become self-employed. Freelancers can work for several publications, agencies or other employers at the same time.

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Discussion Comments

By KoiwiGal — On Jan 17, 2012

I think being an art director sounds like it could be a wonderful job. And I know I do have some talent when it comes to fine art.

But a graphic design job is not for me. I had several friends at university who were studying graphic design and they worked horrendous hours compared to the rest of us. Often they'd be working all day and night to get a project done.

They said it was only supposed to get worse when they got a job.

It's always all or nothing, because they'd be working on specific projects with a deadline.

I don't think I would handle the stress of that very well, and I imagine being an art director could be even worse, of course depending on where you worked. You have to really love the job to want to do it, otherwise you'd burn out quite quickly.

By indigomoth — On Jan 16, 2012

@pleonasm - I agree you'd want to get that kind of thing right. I imagine in this kind of case an art direction would be issuing a brief to the artist for them to come up with something featuring a woman in a field, or whatever and maybe it's a mix up.

On the other hand sometimes they deliberately change the protagonist on the cover so the book will sell better.

Personally, I think whoever was the art director for the Twilight series did a fantastic job. I'm not a huge fan of the books, but the covers are amazing, distinctive and timeless.

By pleonasm — On Jan 15, 2012

I think it would be quite interesting working as an art director for a publishing house.

While it might seem like a sort of random process, it would actually be fairly difficult to make each cover unique but still tie it in somehow with the line so that people can recognize it.

And you'd also have to make sure that you keep the cover true to the book. Although I know that doesn't always happen.

I've heard a lot of stories about people who have been given a book cover for their novel with a protagonist on there that doesn't match the actual protagonist for gender, race or age, something which seems fairly important to get right, to me at least.

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