You are not an Art Director — Frank derFrankie Neulichedl

You are not an Art Director

Every graphic/online/media designer nowadays calls himself an art director (or worse Information Architect). Even the Wikipedia, the new holy grail of knowledge states, in a little confusing manner. Find out what is the difference between a graphic designer and an art director and what it takes to become one. [callout_right]Despite the title, an advertising art director isn't necessarily the head of an art department...[/callout_right] Well, let's get straight to the point - if you do not "direct" at least a team, may it be of internal co-workers or external partners in a project, then you are probably not an art director. You might be a very good graphic designer, photographer, art-buyer, copy-texter,  image retoucher, layouter, producer,  but not an art director. Let me explain why.

Art directors are team players

An art director must have a good knowledge of the above capabilities. He must understand them, he has not to excel in them, but know how to use them accordingly. If he is not the best photographer for the job, he has to know who is and this not only by capabilities, but also according to the budget.

In smaller firms, most of the time the budgets are tight and therefore the graphic designer takes also the pictures and writes the headlines, looks over the production, printing ... While this can result in very good quality for small projects, it also has on big pitfall. The outcome is limited to the capabilities and style of one person.

The Art director on the other hand,  has to have the big picture in his head, know where the whole production is heading to. Setting the style and tone for the project and is not limited to only his capabilities.

Step by step

Obviously there are not only the extremes - on the path from being a graphic designer to become an art director are many steps, where duties may vary and overlap. But the important thing to know is that the mindset changes when you are no longer only a graphic designer. You think differently and approach projects differently.

How to achieve this different mindset will be shown in the next lessons - little by little.