WHAT IS AN ART DIRECTOR?
There are lots of names and titles that are banded around in various industries, but who are they and what do they do?
An Art Director in an advertising agency typically works closely with a Copywriter. You work as a creative team to arrive at an overall concept, the ‘big idea’ for a campaign, advert, mailer, brochure etc.
The Copywriter does what it says on the tin, they write the copy and are responsible for any of the textual content whereas the Art Director is responsible for the visual aspects within the team.
Working closely as a team means that there are often over laps where a visual is suggested by a Copywriter or a headline is suggested by an Art Director, this works really well as the team are bouncing ideas off each other to create the best execution of the final concept.
So what is the difference between an Art Director and a Graphic Designer? Again there are over laps between these titles. The overall difference is that the Art Director is involved in the concept side of things and will come up with the campaign idea from a marketing point of view as well as a visually stimulating angle. However, an Art Director is also expected to have experience and expertise of graphic design and technical knowledge of the production process (mainly print production). Old school Art Directors would always hand draw layouts and ideas but as we move with the times it is necessary for an Art Director to have expertise in key design programmes.
A Graphic designer usually focuses specifically on visual communication and the presentation of a layout. This will include typography, images, symbols and other graphics and is done primarily on the computer. I personally believe that the term ‘Graphic Designer’ is used to describe various disciplines that involve graphics or visual elements and is a confusing title as everyone has a different view on who or what is a Graphic Designer.
In the agency I worked for and many others around the country, you don’t have Graphic Designers you have Art Workers. The role of an Art Worker is to take an Art Directors drawings or designs and work them into a layout, doing amends from clients and finally getting the piece ready for print and making sure it adheres to specific print guidelines. An Art Director would over see this work to make sure it is on brand and in line with their overall design vision.
In my role as Art Director for my previous company I had worked my way from being an Art Worker and as I gained knowledge and experience made my way up to be an Art Director and because I had been taught the ‘old school’ disciplines at college I used a variety of drawing techniques and computer generated design to create my visuals and concepts. You get this more and more nowadays, as it is unlikely that straight after University you would walk into an Art Director position. This is because you need to have hands on experience of the industry, marketing background, print production knowledge as well as being technically able and have the capability of idea generation. The combination of these disciplines only comes with time and a lot of groundwork.
Within an agency you will have a Creative Director above the Art Director who will have been trained as a Copywriter or an Art Director and sometimes you will have two Creative Directors from both disciplines. They will have years of experience behind them working on a range of campaigns usually for major clients. The Creative Director has the final say on anything that goes out of the agency and is involved in the day to day running of the studio specifically looking after the Art Directors and Copywriters where as a Studio Manager will look after the Art Workers and make sure they are fulfilling their roles.
The majority of the liaisons with the client are done with the Client Services team – a separate team that have their own hierarchy much like in the studio. You have to work closely with this team aswell as they are more often than not your voice where the client is concerned.
So, for me working for myself after being in PR, image, photography and model sourcing and buying, an Art Worker and predominantly as an Art Director and having a stint working directly with clients – who am I?
When people ask me what I do I tend to say I am a designer as this seems to cover off all aspects, I never say I am the Director of… or the Owner of… as these titles don’t describe what you do on a day to day basis. My main role day to day is idea generation, design and marketing so when it comes to summarising my company I describe it as ‘design and marketing’ as these are both such broad areas that it encompasses everything I offer.
Having someone who has the experience and has worked in a variety of areas and disciplines is beneficial to your campaign as they will pull on all the resources and knowledge they have to create the best overall result for you and your business. I would always look at a persons work and whether I like their style, their personality and whether they have ample experience rather than looking at their job title as they can be misleading.