Bureau of Labor Statistics

Art Directors

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
2020 Median Pay $97,270 per year
$46.77 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, 2020 98,500
Job Outlook, 2020-30 11% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2020-30 10,800

Summary

What Art Directors Do

Art directors are responsible for the visual style and images in magazines, newspapers, product packaging, and movie and television productions.

Work Environment

Most art directors are self-employed. Others work for advertising and public relations firms, newspaper and magazine publishers, motion picture and video industries, and specialized design services firms.

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, art directors may have previously worked as graphic designers, illustrators, copy editors, or photographers, or in another art or design occupation.

Pay

The median annual wage for art directors was $97,270 in May 2020.

Job Outlook

Employment of art directors is projected to grow 11 percent from 2020 to 2030, faster than the average for all occupations.

About 11,500 openings for art directors are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

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
  • Manage 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, or book, magazine, or newspaper publishing 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 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 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 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 98,500 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of art directors were as follows:

Self-employed workers 58%
Advertising, public relations, and related services 12
Motion picture and video industries 3
Newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers 3
Specialized design services 3

Even though most 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.

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

Art directors typically need a bachelor's degree in fine arts, a design subject, or a related field, such as communications technology.

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. Workers gain the appropriate education for that occupation, usually by earning a bachelor of arts or bachelor of fine arts degree.

Some art directors earn a master of fine arts (MFA) degree to supplement their work experience and show their creative or managerial ability.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Most art directors have 5 or more years of work experience in another occupation before becoming art directors. Depending on the industry in which they previously worked, art directors may have had jobs as graphic designers, fine artists, editors, photographers, or in another art or design occupation.

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 2020

Art directors

$97,270

Art and design workers

$49,600

Total, all occupations

$41,950

 

The median annual wage for art directors was $97,270 in May 2020. 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 $54,530, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $199,250.

In May 2020, the median annual wages for art directors in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Motion picture and video industries $122,960
Advertising, public relations, and related services 99,890
Specialized design services 92,870
Newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers 83,020

Job Outlook

Art Directors

Percent change in employment, projected 2020-30

Art directors

11%

Total, all occupations

8%

Art and design workers

4%

 

Employment of art directors is projected to grow 11 percent from 2020 to 2030, faster than the average for all occupations.

About 11,500 openings for art directors are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

As traditional print publications lose ground to other media forms, art directors are shifting their focus to the design of websites and mobile platforms. This shift in focus is expected to increase demand for art directors.

Employment projections data for art directors, 2020-30

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

Occupational Title

Art directors

SOC Code27-1011
Employment, 202098,500
Projected Employment, 2030109,400
Percent Change, 2020-3011
Numeric Change, 2020-3010,800
Employment by IndustryGet data

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) 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.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop 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 2020 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.

See How to Become One $49,120
Fashion designers Fashion Designers

Fashion designers create clothing, accessories, and footwear.

Bachelor's degree $75,810
Graphic designers Graphic Designers

Graphic designers create visual concepts, using computer software or by hand, to communicate ideas that inspire, inform, and captivate consumers.

Bachelor's degree $53,380
Industrial designers Industrial Designers

Industrial designers combine art, business, and engineering to develop the concepts for manufactured products.

Bachelor's degree $71,640
Multimedia artists and animators Special Effects Artists and Animators

Special effects artists and animators create images that appear to move and visual effects for various forms of media and entertainment.

Bachelor's degree $77,700
Photographers Photographers

Photographers use their technical expertise, creativity, and composition skills to produce and preserve images.

High school diploma or equivalent $41,280
Writers and authors Writers and Authors

Writers and authors develop written content for various types of media.

Bachelor's degree $67,120

Contacts for More Info

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Art Directors,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/art-directors.htm (visited November 25, 2021).

Telephone: 1-202-691-5700 www.bls.gov/ooh Contact OOH

View this page on regular www.bls.gov

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