How to Become a

Creative or Art Director

The complete career guide to be a Creative or Art Director: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $101,990
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 2.4%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Creativity Focused
    Career Attribute

Creative or art directors are responsible for overseeing all creatives and art produced for a variety of outlets, including advertising, publishing, TV and film industries, and video gaming. They manage a team of designers and utilize the talents of the entire team to produce effective and engaging artwork.


What is a Creative or Art Director?

The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in creative or art director roles:

  • Develop themes, styles, and guidelines for creatives and artwork for brands and media
  • Manage and lead a team of designers, assign tasks, and approve designs
  • Review finalized creatives and designs to ensure quality and consistency of the overall product
  • Work with clients and leadership to understand requirements, present artwork, and gather feedback
  • Manage department budgets, hire new designers, conduct training, and resolve issues

A Day in the Life of a Creative or Art Director

Creative and art directors work in many industries, and the work they oversee can vary dramatically depending on the type of artwork they’re required to produce. However, there are some things that creative and art directors do across all industries. All creative directors manage a team of designers. They are responsible for developing themes, styles, and guidelines for the overall design of the product they’re working on. They’re also responsible for understanding the needs of requested designs, approving the final product, and presenting it to clients or company leadership.

Creative and art directors may work for advertising agencies. In this role, they work with agency clients and develop all types of marketing and branding materials—from digital banner ads to actual product labels and containers. In publishing, creative and art directors may oversee a variety of design tasks, such as the creation of logos and style guides, creating or choosing images to appear alongside text, or developing the overall theme for a special issue of a magazine or for an entire website.

Creative and art directors also oversee art production in film, television, and video games. In these roles, directors are responsible for ensuring that artwork used creates the desired impression, is consistent throughout the entirety of the produced product, and pleases audiences. They work with a variety of artists and designers to communicate the desired effect of the artwork being used, provide critiques and feedback to employees, and approve all artwork for the final product.

Typical Work Schedule for Creative or Art Directors

Most creative or art director roles are full-time positions. The majority work normal business hours and are off on weekends and holidays, but overtime may be common in this role to ensure deadlines are met.

Creative or Art Director Specializations

  • In advertising, creative and art directors work with clients to create artwork for branding, advertisements, and marketing materials.
  • In publishing, creative and art directors work to ensure that all brand, style, and theme guidelines are met when publishing content for magazines, websites, or books.
  • In television and film, creative and art directors oversee costume and set designers to ensure that all design work used in the production matches desired themes.
  • In video game design, creative and art directors work with a team of artists and developers to ensure that artwork for the game is quality, consistent, and unique.

Career Progression

  • Early Career: Graphic Designer, Artist, UX Designer
  • Mid-Career: Senior Designer, Visual Manager, Project Team Lead
  • Late Career: Creative Director, Art Director

Typical Employers

Creative or art directors are hired to work by a variety of employers in many different industries. They may work for creative agencies where they oversee design for a variety of clients. They may work in marketing departments for large brands. They may also work in the television, film, video game, or publishing industries.


How To Become a Creative or Art Director

The starting point for a career as a creative or art director is earning a bachelor’s degree in a related field. The bachelor’s degree pursued should be closely related to the type of design you want to direct. For example, if you want to work in digital publishing, a graphic or web design degree is probably a good choice. If you want to work in the video game industry, a degree that provides education in both art and programming can be beneficial. A bachelor of fine arts (BFA) degree is also a suitable degree for many aspiring art directors because it focuses on refining overall artistic abilities and aesthetic skills.

After earning a bachelor’s degree, you’ll need to find entry-level work in the industry of your choice. Art directors are usually senior-level employees with many years of professional experience, so after earning a degree you’ll need to find work, accrue years of experience in roles with increasing responsibilities, and build a quality portfolio of design projects. With years of professional experience and a quality portfolio, you may qualify for open art director roles.

Because creative and art director roles are highly competitive, many aspiring creative and art directors choose to pursue graduate degrees to stand out amongst the competition for an open role. While some choose to earn master of fine arts (MFA) degrees to focus on further refining their artistic talents, some choose to earn masters of business administration (MBA) degrees. MBA programs may be beneficial because they focus on providing business and leadership skills that will be needed to manage a team of designers as a creative or art director.


Creative or Art Director Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

Low Range

$63,590

Average

$101,990

High Range

$172,900

National Hourly Wage

Low Range

$31/hr

Average

$49/hr

High Range

$83/hr

How do Creative or Art Director salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Creative or Art Director's can make an average annual salary of $101,990, or $49 per hour. On the lower end, they can make $63,590 or $31 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #65 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Average Salary Nationally


Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming a Creative or Art Director. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.


Highest Education Among Creative or Art Directors

  • 1.9%   Doctorate
  • 12%   Masters
  • 45%   Bachelors
  • 9%   Associates
  • 18.4%   College
  • 10.7%   High School
  • 3%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs

74,600

2024 Est. Jobs

76,400

Job Growth Rate

2.4%

Est. New Jobs

1,800

How does Creative or Art Director job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 1,800 jobs for a total of 76,400 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 2.4% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #537 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Avg. Growth Nationally


What Companies Employ The Most Creative or Art Directors

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Self-employed workers 41,000 400 0%
Advertising, public relations, and related services 11,600 400 0%
Specialized design services 2,900 200 0%

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