Art Directors are responsible for the creation and development of advertising ideas, with particular focus on their visual appearance. These ideas can exist in many formats from print to film to online.

Art Director

Also known as...


The role in brief...

Art Directors are responsible for the creation and development of advertising ideas, with particular focus on their visual appearance. These ideas can exist in many formats from posters and print advertisements, to TV commercials, cinema, radio, experiential, Direct Marketing leaflets, mobile applications and websites. The Art Director combines artistic sensibilities and understanding with knowledge of design and production processes to create work that engages those it is aimed at. They ensure messages are strengthened by conveying meaning visually, as well as through the accompanying words.

Working with...

  • Internal: Copywriter(s); Creative Director; Account management team; Planners; Creative Services, Studio and production staff.
  • External: Print producers; Commercials directors; Commercials producers, Animators, Illustrators, Radio Producers, Photographers.
  • Art Directors often partner with Copywriters to form creative teams for the purpose of working on creative briefs within an agency, with the Copywriter having greater focus on the written material (copy) within the final creative output.

Responsible for...

  • Understanding and appreciating the context that lies behind a client’s business and communications need, and the key proposition and creative brief that is provided as the basis for their work.
  • Understanding the target audience and proposed media to be used in the campaign.
  • Devising and developing original advertising and communications ideas. These ideas need to be relevant to engage the target audience and address the client’s business problem.
  • Presenting ideas to the Creative Director for approval and development, and amending the look through several stages of concepts and executions.
  • Generating and maintaining enthusiasm for ideas within the agency (and with clients in more client-facing Art Director roles) as they move from concept to execution.
  • Producing sketches, visual references and storyboards to convey the concept to the agency team, and then on to clients, designers and producers.
  • Responding positively to client and research feedback and continuing to develop the work until final approval stage.
  • Staying up-to-date with available talent for commissioning among photographers, illustrators, typographers and film directors through regularly reviewing their books and showreels.
  • Selecting photographers, illustrators, TV Production companies and Directors, animators and models and cast involved in the creative production. In larger agencies they will also work closely with Art Buyers and in-house TV Producers to achieve this.
  • Overseeing the production of creative outputs e.g. print advertisements, TV commercials, mailings, social media content, etc. In some agencies they may work with Art Buyers and in-house TV Producers and Studio, if there is one, to accomplish this.

Those who succeed are...

  • Imaginative and able to generate a range of ideas whilst applying their creative thinking to solve business problems.
  • Able to distinguish between a central, core idea and the executional possibilities it gives rise to. Able to defend against changes to the execution which would change the idea; also able to let go of details that would not be as necessary.
  • Strong communicators who can ‘sell’ ideas in an inspirational way.
  • Team players, who can operate effectively under pressure and to tight deadlines.
  • Tenacious and resilient throughout the frustrations of an iterative process.
  • Knowledgeable for historical changes in design, with an eye for the best in contemporary art and design.
  • Aware of the latest production techniques, tools and materials.
  • Fascinated by people, advertising and brands. They are curious about culture.
  • Aware of the basics of legal and regulatory background which must be adhered to.
  • Keen to learn from other creatives and legendary art directors for example by reviewing award winning ads, for example D&AD ‘pencils’ or reading books about art and design in advertising.
  • Aware of the power of brands and very clear on a brand’s look, knowing that it must be strong and consistent to register in seconds.

Where they come from, and where they go...

Art Directors come from a variety of backgrounds, although will typically have a degree or postgraduate in a relevant subject such as creative advertising, or design. Those studying on dedicated advertising courses will often form partnerships with a Copywriter while studying. They will then look for a first job as a team. This is done by developing a ‘book’, or portfolio, of work to show Creative Directors at meetings and interviews.

Art Directors can also be taken on following agency apprenticeship schemes where there is no requirement for a degree, although A-Levels, or equivalent are still expected.

As Art Directors become more senior, working on bigger and more important briefs within the agency, they are often referred to as ‘Middleweight’ or ‘Heavyweight’ Creatives, with some then becoming Group Heads then Creative Directors in their own right. Others may choose to ply their skills independently as freelancers, working across a number of agencies and clients.


Last updated 21 January 2022