Approximately 90,300 art directors are employed in the United States. A variety of organizations in virtually all industries employ art directors. They might work at advertising agencies, publishing houses, museums, packaging firms, photography studios, marketing and public relations firms, desktop publishing outfits, digital prepress houses, digital media companies, or printing companies. Art directors who oversee and produce on-screen products often work for film production houses, Web designers, multimedia developers, computer games developers, or television stations.
While companies of all sizes employ art directors, smaller organizations often combine the positions of graphic designer, illustrator, and art director. And although opportunities for art direction can be found all across the nation and abroad, many larger firms in such cities as Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles usually have more openings, as well as higher pay scales, than smaller companies. Approximately 59 percent of art directors are self-employed.
Since an art director's job requires a great deal of experience, it is usually not considered an entry-level position. Typically, a person on a career track toward art director is hired as an assistant to an established director. Recent graduates wishing to enter advertising should have a portfolio of their work containing seven to 10 sample ads to demonstrate their understanding of both the business and the media in which they want to work.
Serving as an intern is a good way to get experience and develop skills. Graduates should also consider taking an entry-level job in a publisher's art department to gain initial experience. Either way, aspiring art directors must be willing to acquire their credentials by working on various projects. This may mean working in a variety of areas, such as advertising, marketing, editing, and design.
College publications offer students a chance to gain experience and develop portfolios. In addition, many students are able to do freelance work while still in school, allowing them to make important industry contacts and gain on-the-job experience at the same time.
While some may be content upon reaching the position of art director to remain there, many art directors take on even more responsibility within their organizations, become television directors, start their own advertising agencies, create their own Web sites, develop original multimedia programs, or launch their own magazines.
Many people who get to the position of art director do not advance beyond the title but move on to work at more prestigious firms. Competition for positions at companies that have national reputations continues to be keen because of the sheer number of talented people interested. At smaller publications or local companies, the competition may be less intense, since candidates are competing primarily against others in the local market.
Art directors in the film and television industries advance by becoming production designers or by working on more prestigious projects or working for larger companies.
Tips for Entry
Send your resume and cover letter to art directors listed in the Literary Marketplace (https://www.literarymarketplace.com).
Visit the following Web sites for job listings:
Join professional associations such as the Art Directors Club and AIGA to access training and networking resources, industry publications, and employment opportunities.
Land an entry-level job as an assistant to an art director or as a designer to learn about the field and make industry contacts.