Advertising Art Director

  • Advertising Art Director

Visual advertising should be eye-catching but is also intended to make an emotional promise to the consumer. The most difficult task of the advertising art director is to interpret the client’s vision as presented in preliminary concept meetings, and return with a composite (“comp”) that accurately expresses the theme of the product and meets with the approval of the client. The tools have changed somewhat over the years, but the process of conceptualization still begins with that mental “a-ha” moment.


The first step in the advertising art director’s process is to assimilate all of the available background material presented in association with the product. He or she will carefully listen to the client’s needs so as to design a campaign that can grab the attention of consumers and communicate a sense of what the audience will experience by listening to the album, seeing the movie, or attending the show. With client notes in hand, the advertising art director assigns a graphic artist to begin initial comps. The art director will guide these artists to produce several different polished examples to be presented to the client for approval. The art director also delegates additional work, such as scheduling shoots or voice-over sessions, and oversees the completion of those projects. It may take several rounds of revisions to arrive at a final campaign that the client is pleased with and which can then be translated to several different media, like billboards, one-sheets, web advertising, and television commercials. The advertising art director is ultimately responsible for ensuring the completion of all design assignments and answers to the agency’s creative director, but also may be in a position of administrative authority in the art department. In such cases, he or she is tasked with developing a budget for the production of art for each campaign and presenting the creative director with a cost proposal.

Skills & Education

A college degree in fine art or graphic design is recommended for this position, as the advertising art director must be a highly skilled artist capable of working in a number of media. Of course, inherent design talent is a prerequisite. Courses in advertising, marketing, and art history are also beneficial. If you do not naturally gravitate toward digital art, you should seek training with software like Photoshop, or start tinkering on your own and honing your skills. This job demands an individual who is an effective leader, capable of motivating his or her art staff and pulling from them their best work. He or she must be adept at taking an abstract vision and producing a tangible product; this requires excellent verbal and written communication skills.

What to Expect

It’s easy to fall in love with a particular iteration of a design, and become attached to that comp and less willing to budge on your artistic vision; this is a hazard of the job. Advertising art directors cannot become so attached to their labors of love that they disregard the wishes of their clients or the design brief as translated through the creative director or even the account executive. You must balance the client’s expectations with your own creative judgment. Remember that you are being paid not only for your talent and trained eye, but also to produce a product on contract; when possible, you can attempt to sway the client from making an obviously hideous design choice, but in the end, the person writing the check is the boss. Those who take an unwavering stance on their artistic creations are probably better suited to stay home and paint, rather than work in advertising.


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