Art Directors

Summary

art directors image
Art directors oversee the work of other designers and artists who produce images for television, film, advertisements, or video games.
Quick Facts: Art Directors
2014 Median Pay $85,610 per year
$41.16 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation 5 years or more
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2014 74,600
Job Outlook, 2014-24 2% (Slower than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 1,800

What Art Directors Do

Art directors are responsible for the visual style and images in magazines, newspapers, product packaging, and movie and television productions. They create the overall design of a project and direct others who develop artwork and layouts.

Work Environment

About 15 percent of art directors worked for advertising and public relations firms in 2014. Others worked for newspaper and magazine publishers, specialized design services firms, and motion picture and video industries. About half of art directors were self-employed in 2014.

How to Become an Art Director

Art directors need at least a bachelor’s degree in an art or design subject and previous work experience. Depending on the industry, they may have worked as graphic designers, illustrators, copy editors, or photographers, or in another art or design occupation before becoming art directors.

Pay

The median annual wage for art directors was $85,610 in May 2014.

Job Outlook

Employment of art directors is projected to grow 2 percent from 2014 to 2024, slower than the average for all occupations. Art directors will continue to be needed to oversee the work of graphic designers, illustrators, photographers, and others who design artwork and layouts.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for art directors.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of art directors with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about art directors by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Art Directors Do

Art directors
Art directors determine which photographs, art, or other design elements to use.

Art directors are responsible for the visual style and images in magazines, newspapers, product packaging, and movie and television productions. They create the overall design and direct others who develop artwork or layouts.

Duties

Art directors typically do the following: 

  • Determine how best to represent a concept visually
  • Determine which photographs, art, or other design elements to use
  • Develop the overall look or style of a publication, an advertising campaign, or a theater, television, or film set
  • Lead graphic designers, set and exhibit designers, or other design staff
  • Review and approve designs, artwork, photography, and graphics developed by other staff members 
  • Talk to clients to develop an artistic approach and style
  • Coordinate activities with other artistic and creative departments
  • Develop detailed budgets and timelines
  • Present designs to clients for approval

Art directors typically oversee the work of other designers and artists who produce images for television, film, live performances, advertisements, or video games. They determine the overall style in which a message is communicated visually to its audience. For each project, they articulate their vision to artists. The artists then create images, such as illustrations, graphics, photographs, or charts and graphs, or design stage and movie sets, according to the art director’s vision.

Art directors work with art and design staffs in advertising agencies, public relations firms, and book, magazine, or newspaper publishers to create designs and layouts. They also work with producers and directors of theater, television, or movie productions to oversee set designs. Their work requires them to understand the design elements of projects, inspire other creative workers, and keep projects on budget and on time. Sometimes they are responsible for developing budgets and timelines. 

The following are some specifics of what art directors do in different industries:

In publishing, art directors typically oversee the page layout of catalogs, newspapers, or magazines. They also choose the cover art for books and periodicals. Often, this work includes publications for the Internet, so art directors oversee production of the websites used for publication.

In advertising and public relations, art directors ensure that their clients’ desired message and image are conveyed to consumers. Art directors 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.

In movie production, art directors collaborate with directors to determine what sets will be needed for the film and what style or look the sets should have. They hire and supervise a staff of assistant art directors or set designers to complete designs.

Work Environment

Art directors
Art directors determine how best to represent a concept visually.

Art directors held about 74,600 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most art directors were as follows:

Advertising, public relations, and related services 15%
Newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers 5
Specialized design services 4
Motion picture and video industries 3
Retail trade, except motor vehicle and parts dealers, food and beverage stores, and general merchandise stores 2

About half of art directors were self-employed in 2014. Even though the majority of art directors are self-employed, they must still collaborate with designers or other staff on visual effects or marketing teams. Art directors usually work in a fast-paced office environment, and they often work under pressure to meet strict deadlines.

Work Schedules

Most art directors worked full time in 2014.

How to Become an Art Director

Art directors
Many art directors start out as graphic designers or in another art occupation, such as fine artists or photographers.

Art directors need at least a bachelor’s degree in an art or design subject and previous work experience. Depending on the industry, they may have worked as graphic designers, fine artists, editors, or photographers, or in another art or design occupation before becoming art directors. 

Education

Many art directors start out in another art-related occupation, such as fine artists or photographers. Work experience in art or design occupations develops an art director’s ability to visually communicate to a specific audience creatively and effectively. They gain the appropriate education for that occupation, usually by earning a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.

To supplement their work experience in those occupations and show their ability to take on a more creative or a more managerial role, some complete a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Most art directors work 5 years or more in another occupation before becoming art directors. Depending upon the industry, they may work as graphic designers, fine artists, editors, photographers, or in another art or design occupation before becoming art directors.

For many artists, including art directors, developing a portfolio—a collection of an artist’s work that demonstrates his or her styles and abilities—is essential. Managers, clients, and others look at artists’ portfolios when they are deciding whether to hire an employee or contract for an art project.

Important Qualities 

Communication skills. Art directors must be able to listen to and speak with staff and clients to ensure that they understand employees’ ideas and clients’ desires for advertisements, publications, or movie sets.

Creativity. Art directors must be able to come up with interesting and innovative ideas to develop advertising campaigns, set designs, or layout options.

Leadership skills. Art directors must be able to organize, direct, and motivate other artists. They need to articulate their visions to artists and oversee the work as it progresses.

Resourcefulness. Art directors must be able to adapt their latest designs to the changing technology used in their industry.

Time-management skills. Balancing competing priorities and multiple projects while meeting strict deadlines is critical for art directors.

Pay

Art Directors

Median annual wages, May 2014

Art directors

$85,610

Art and design workers

$43,100

Total, all occupations

$35,540

 

The median annual wage for art directors was $85,610 in May 2014. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $45,060, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $168,040.

In May 2014, the median annual wages for art directors in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Motion picture and video industries $101,080
Specialized design services 93,590
Advertising, public relations, and related services 89,060
Newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers 69,340
Retail trade, except motor vehicle and parts dealers, food and beverage stores, and general merchandise stores 65,320

Most art directors worked full time in 2014.

Job Outlook

Art Directors

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Total, all occupations

7%

Art directors

2%

Art and design workers

2%

 

Employment of art directors is projected to grow 2 percent from 2014 to 2024, slower than the average for all occupations. Art directors will continue to be needed to oversee the work of graphic designers, illustrators, photographers, and others engaged in artwork or layout design.

Employment of art directors is projected to decline in the publishing industry from 2014 to 2024. Growth may decline as traditional print publications lose ground to other media forms, although some growth may occur as the number of electronic magazines and Internet-based publications increases. Rather than focusing on the print layout of images and text, art directors for newspapers and magazines will increasingly design for web and mobile platforms.

Job Prospects

Strong competition for jobs is expected as many talented designers and artists seek to move into art director positions. Prospective art directors with a strong understanding of creating designs that are intuitive to the user will have better prospects working with interactive digital platforms. Workers with a good portfolio, which demonstrates strong visual design and conceptual work across all multimedia platforms, will have the best prospects.

Employment projections data for art directors, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Art directors

27-1011 74,600 76,400 2 1,800 [XLSX]

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of art directors.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2014 MEDIAN PAY
Craft and fine artists

Craft and Fine Artists

Craft and fine artists use a variety of materials and techniques to create art for sale and exhibition. Craft artists create handmade objects, such as pottery, glassware, textiles, and other objects that are designed to be functional. Fine artists, including painters, sculptors, and illustrators, create original works of art for their aesthetic value, rather than for a functional one.

See How to Become One $44,400
Fashion designers

Fashion Designers

Fashion designers create original clothing, accessories, and footwear. They sketch designs, select fabrics and patterns, and give instructions on how to make the products they designed.

Bachelor's degree $64,030
Graphic designers

Graphic Designers

Graphic designers create visual concepts, using computer software or by hand, to communicate ideas that inspire, inform, and captivate consumers. They develop the overall layout and production design for various applications such as advertisements, brochures, magazines, and corporate reports.

Bachelor's degree $45,900
Industrial designers

Industrial Designers

Industrial designers develop the concepts for manufactured products, such as cars, home appliances, and toys. They combine art, business, and engineering to make products that people use every day. Industrial designers consider the function, aesthetics, production costs, and the usability of products when developing new product concepts.

Bachelor's degree $64,620
Multimedia artists and animators

Multimedia Artists and Animators

Multimedia artists and animators create animation and visual effects for television, movies, video games, and other forms of media.

Bachelor's degree $63,630
Photographers

Photographers

Photographers use their technical expertise, creativity, and composition skills to produce and preserve images that tell a story or record an event.

High school diploma or equivalent $30,490
Writers and authors

Writers and Authors

Writers and authors develop written content for advertisements, books, magazines, movie and television scripts, songs, blogs, or other types of media.

Bachelor's degree $58,850

Contacts for More Information

For more information about art directors in advertising, public relations, or publishing, visit

Art Directors Club

For more information about art directors in film and television, visit

Art Directors Guild

O*NET

Art Directors

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Art Directors,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/art-directors.htm (visited February 06, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015