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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 and direct others who develop artwork or layouts.


Art directors typically do the following: 

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 or tone desired for each project and articulate their vision to artists who submit images, such as illustrations, graphics, photographs, charts and graphs, or stage and movie sets.

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 the budgets and timelines. 

Art directors work in a variety of industries, and the type of work they do varies somewhat with the industry. However, almost all art directors set the overall artistic style and visual image to be created for each project, and oversee a staff of designers, artists, photographers, writers, or editors who are responsible for creating the individual works that collectively make up a completed product.

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

In publishing, art directors typically oversee the page layout of newspapers and magazines. They also choose the cover art for books and periodicals. Often, this work includes Web publications.

In advertising and public relations, art directors ensure that their clients’ desired message and image is conveyed to consumers. Art directors are responsible for the overall visual aspects of an advertising or media campaign and may 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.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition