Overview

Art Directors are responsible for the visual style of a company dealing in imagery. Magazines, newspapers, theaters, films and television all rely on Art Directors to make everything come together in an aesthetic way that appeals to the key demographic (target audience).

Career opportunities may exist in publishing, marketing, public relations and production. Many Art Directors are self-employed and advertise their skill sets to various companies, stepping in to organize and oversee individual projects rather than being on the permanent payroll.

To be competitive in this role you will need at least a bachelor’s degree in an art and/or design project, as well as several years of related work experience. A portfolio also goes a long way towards inspiring the trust of clients by giving a physical demonstration of previous projects. This can make starting out hard work and you will need a good measure of perseverance and determination to achieve your goals.

Once you have your foot in the door, the rewards are well worth the effort with pay ranging from around $70,000 in publications to well over $100,000 per annum in motion pictures.

The projection for Art Directors is a slow growth of about 3% in 10 years. It is a very niche market, so concentrate on the development of outstanding skills and do not expect to be inundated with job offers. Have a resume and portfolio that demonstrate your artistic vision, strategic planning, and inspirational leadership – then be prepared for some tough competition.

Pay

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for Art Directors in 2016 was just under $90,000 per year, which equates to around $43 per hour. Salary aggregator Payscale puts their median salary for Art Directors quite a bit lower at just under $63,000 per year. However, they do mention that commission can play a big role in impacting median salaries, as well as locations. Coastal cities like New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Boston all command much higher salaries than cities more inland.

Salaries for younger Directors, as in those with 5 or fewer years of experience, start at around $50-55K/year and slowly increase proportionally with experience gained through about the twentieth year, in which salaries seem to level off. Obviously, not many Directors work for longer than twenty years in the position as, it can take decades to achieve “Director” title, and those who stay that long usually do it more for a passion of the art than the compensation packages themselves.

Art Director Pay Statistics

2016 Median Pay$89,760 per year
$43.15 per hour
Typical Entry-Level EducationBachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation5 years or more
On-the-job TrainingOptional
Number of Jobs, 201674,600
Job Outlook, 2014-2024+2%
Employment Change, 2014-2024+1,800
Sources: U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics & Payscale

Industry Forecast

Being the specialized profession that it is, there are hardly ever times when one might consider “Art Director” growth rates to be particularly impressive. While the arts continue to expand, they do not seem to be directly correlated with national GDP growth, and thus, anticipating expansion and contraction can be quite difficult.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the growth rate for Art Directors through 2024 is about 2%, which is in line with more general Art and Design work, which is also projected to grow at around 2% during this time. While these figures are positive, meaning there will be an increase in positions, they fall quite short of the 7% average for all occupations combined, which highlights the disconnect between Art Directorship and other more economically dependent professions.

Still, Art Directors will be needed across the country to oversee the work of on-site designers, illustrators, photographers, and craftsmen at art galleries/shows, publications and educational institutions. Positions in dying mediums like traditional newspaper and magazine print will continue to decline, while positions in web design and mobile platforms will only increase in coming years. For these reasons, Directors with skills and background with digital mediums will have a general advantage over those who fail to adapt to the way media is increasingly being consumed.

Types of Art Directors

Art is an endlessly diverse form of expression; consequently, there are nearly endlessly specialized types of Art Directors. At the most basic, an Art Director is simply responsible for managing other artistic talents like designers, illustrators, photographers, and other creatives in an effort to achieve a set goal. Directors achieve their authority to manage these groups of professionals through proven track records in their areas of expertise, as well as through holding a broad skill-set, themselves, that aides them in critiquing and assisting all aspects of art production and distribution.

Oftentimes, Art Directors will specialize in various mediums. For example, you may have Advertising Art Directors who work with advertising firms, from print to video, to audio and web content.

Likewise, there are Art Directors for public relations firms, for big newspapers and magazines, for web design agencies, for theater groups, for motion pictures and even things like architecture and industrial design.

Art can be expressed in so many different mediums it is no wonder the Director position can be an equally diverse and specialized one, as well.

Many Art Directors start out as specialists, in design or production of some sort, and after acquiring enough experience and different types of skills, usually under the wing in “apprenticeship” fashion, or through continued education at an art institute, gain the title of Director.

From here, they can advance or transition into Creative Director roles, more Senior Art Director positions, or other more specialized functions, depending on industry, like Creative Services Director, Creative Director, Vice President & Creative Director, Marketing Manager or Marketing Communications Director.

Your exact job title will be dictated largely by the industry and company you work for. Marketing agencies will have slightly different titles than art institutes, which will have different titles from web design companies and non-governmental organizations.

Try to narrow down your specific title as best as possible as it will help you refine your job search and write your resume with more precision, both of which will increase the number of opportunities you will competitively qualify for as an applicant.

Sample Resume Download

Below is an example of a professionally written Art Director resume that you can download, print out and doodle on in effort to get a feel of what is expected from a professional with experience similar to your own.

Obviously, you will want to customize your own resume as the experiences and skills in this sample are specific to that individual, which will vary significantly from your own individual experiences and skill-sets.

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How To Write Your Own

Writing an Art Director resume can be quite a challenge, simply because the medium itself comes with a very strict set of conventions that do not really lend themselves to much artistic expression.

Resume formats are established and highly inflexible. Only through subtle uses of color, font selection and layout can applicants stand out over others. The best way to stand out will always be with carefully selected words and descriptive sentences.

Writing an impactful Art Director resume first requires the author to shift their creative mindset from one of visual design to one of thought, just as great novelists do on a regular basis.

The real impressive nature of a book is not necessarily its cover or font, but the content that lies within its pages. For this reason, it is the content of your resume that deserves the most thought.

You can, however, fully express yourself in an attached portfolio of your work or by linking to a website/blog which features your work.

Feel free to display the web address of your portfolio right at the top of your resume, underneath your name and address. Those working in the arts will be curious to visit this and sometimes will even click through to your portfolio before reading the rest of your resume when processing applications on a desktop.

In addition to featuring your portfolio prominently, you will still want to make sure your resume has standardized margins, is free of all grammar and spelling errors, and contains information which is directly relevant to the position you are applying for.

Only Include Recent Experiences

Since “Director” is a senior level position, you will not be worrying about including experiences that are older than 15 years on your resume, as they are highly unlikely to be of use for the level of job you are currently applying for. Likewise, do not include experiences that are unrelated to being an Art Director, as they will only detract from your other, more relevant, experiences.

Bullet points for experiences should be written in order of most important, as the first point is the most impactful. The older the experiences, the less detail and more “summarizing” you will be.

For example, your current or most recent experience will contain the most detail as the responsibilities will be most relevant to the position you are seeking. Experiences from a few years ago will have slightly less detail, and experiences from 5-10 years ago will continue to have less and less detail the older they get.

Mention Projects/Production as Experiences

Being a part of the “Arts”, being a director may not be as cut and dried as other more common white collar professionals. Whenever possible, try to include the employing company when listing your professional experiences. If you worked on large projects or productions at the company, you can list those as sub-sets within the primary experience.

Mention shows and campaigns you worked on by name, including the dates, as well. Be sure everything is organized in a reverse chronological fashion.

Name Drop

While you should take care to emphasize your skills and duties in your bullet points, it does not hurt to drop names of influential industry leaders, brands, or individuals you have worked with.

Having worked with a noted person or brand is not valuable because of the mentioned individual, but instead the fact that well-known brands/companies/galleries have trusted your expertise in the past  will serve to reassure those screening your resume for future work  that you can be relied upon.

Name the productions and projects you worked on for specific clients, as long as you did not sign a non-disclosure agreement. Also, include the size of the teams you have managed in the past.

Quantify the team sizes numerically. Also quantify production costs, budgets managed, attendance numbers, etc., as this helps add scope to your achievements and experiences.

Sample Bullet Points

Below is a collection of sample bullet points you can use for inspiration when crafting your own resume. These bullet points reflect the traits that are commonly sought in Art Director candidates.

Sample Art Director Bullet Points

Task
Formulate basic layout design or presentation approach and specify material details, such as style and size of type, photographs, graphics, animation, video, and sound.
Manage own accounts and projects, working within budget and scheduling requirements.
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.
Review and approve art materials, copy materials, and proofs of printed copy developed by staff members.
Work with creative directors to develop design solutions.
Create custom illustrations or other graphic elements.
Confer with clients to determine objectives, budget, background information, and presentation approaches, styles, and techniques.
Review illustrative material to determine if it conforms to standards and specifications.
Negotiate with printers and estimators to determine what services will be performed.
Attend photo shoots and printing sessions to ensure that the products needed are obtained.
Research current trends and new technology, such as printing production techniques, computer software, and design trends.
Hire, train, and direct staff members who develop design concepts into art layouts or who prepare layouts for printing.
Mark up, paste, and complete layouts and write typography instructions to prepare materials for typesetting or printing.
Conceptualize and help design interfaces for multimedia games, products, and devices.
Prepare detailed storyboards showing sequence and timing of story development for television production.

Professional Summary

Instead of a common career objective, you will be using a professional summary, as you are a senior level candidate and career objectives are reserved for entry-level through mid-level professionals.

A professional summary is a relatively straightforward introduction to your resume and a bit easier to write than a career objective because, generally speaking, having extra sentences and bullet points helps candidates better represent their hallmark achievements, as opposed to the limiting 1-2 sentences of a career objective.

Your professional profile can consist of 2-3 sentences, forming a short paragraph, or a couple of sentences plus a few (4-6) key bullet points, as well. Here, you will state your years of experience (numerically), the path you have taken, any special focus you have developed, and your intended aim with the company/organization you are applying to.

Think of your professional summary as what you would say if you had to perform your interview in an elevator and only had a minute or so to communicate to someone what you are all about professionally and how you would be an asset to their organization.

The professional summary, also sometimes called the “professional profile” is the only place where you are allowed to use the first person voice on your resume, so do not worry about sounding braggadocious.

Achievements & Awards

Instead of a typical “additional skills” section that concludes most entry to mid-level applicants resumes, you will instead be writing an “achievements & awards” section. If you have not won any awards, then just call it an “achievements section” or “additional qualifications” section to reflect your seniority.

Here, as hinted, you will include any industry-related recognition you have received from previous work you have done, whether it be from independent judging panels, industry organizations, clients or the agency/organization which employed you.

Showing your awards will indicate to the reader of your resume that you are not only ambitious but also have previously been recognized for your talents, which increases your market value in their eyes as someone with a successful track record who is likely to bring success to their organization, as well.

You can also include any professional associations you may be a member of, whether they be non-profit charities, volunteer groups or professional associations. Once such group is the National Association of Independent Artists (NAIA) For a complete list of various artistic professional associations you can consider joining please read this exceptional list from the  University of Oregon’s Art and Administration Program.

Useful Skills to Include

Below are some samples of other achievement oriented skills that you can consider sprinkling into your resume to show your broad skill-set that only someone of a senior level can bring to a company or organization.

Useful Art Director Skills

SkillSkill Description
Active ListeningGiving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
SpeakingTalking to others to convey information effectively.
Judgment and Decision MakingConsidering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
Time ManagementManaging one's own time and the time of others.
Reading ComprehensionUnderstanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
Critical ThinkingUsing logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
Complex Problem SolvingIdentifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
CoordinationAdjusting actions in relation to others' actions.
Active LearningUnderstanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
Social PerceptivenessBeing aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
PersuasionPersuading others to change their minds or behavior.
Management of Personnel ResourcesMotivating, developing, and directing people as they work, identifying the best people for the job.
WritingCommunicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
MonitoringMonitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
Learning StrategiesSelecting and using training/instructional methods and procedures appropriate for the situation when learning or teaching new things.
NegotiationBringing others together and trying to reconcile differences.
InstructingTeaching others how to do something.
Service OrientationActively looking for ways to help people.
Operations AnalysisAnalyzing needs and product requirements to create a design.
Systems AnalysisDetermining how a system should work and how changes in conditions, operations, and the environment will affect outcomes.
Management of Financial ResourcesDetermining how money will be spent to get the work done, and accounting for these expenditures.
Systems EvaluationIdentifying measures or indicators of system performance and the actions needed to improve or correct performance, relative to the goals of the system.
Management of Material ResourcesObtaining and seeing to the appropriate use of equipment, facilities, and materials needed to do certain work.
Quality Control AnalysisConducting tests and inspections of products, services, or processes to evaluate quality or performance.
MathematicsUsing mathematics to solve problems.
Operation MonitoringWatching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.
TroubleshootingDetermining causes of operating errors and deciding what to do about it.
Technology DesignGenerating or adapting equipment and technology to serve user needs.
Equipment SelectionDetermining the kind of tools and equipment needed to do a job.
Equipment MaintenancePerforming routine maintenance on equipment and determining when and what kind of maintenance is needed.
RepairingRepairing machines or systems using the needed tools.
ProgrammingWriting computer programs for various purposes.
ScienceUsing scientific rules and methods to solve problems.
Operation and ControlControlling operations of equipment or systems.
InstallationInstalling equipment, machines, wiring, or programs to meet specifications.

Additional Resources

-Youtube video

-Authority organization/affiliation links