The job title of an art director is very tempting, even for those who are in no way connected to creative departments. The title is, usually, associated with independence, respect, creativity and being “above-us-all”. However, the reality is not such. An art director, usually, has a lot of responsibilities but the title is not the glamorized job profile it is made out to be. It takes a lot of creativity, effort, leadership skills and qualities of being able to innovate and inspire creativity in others.
Art directors, usually, lead a team of creative people in film & TV, publishing, web design, marketing, advertising, product design and a number of other fields. An art director helps creative employees to remain true to the company’s ideals and also inspires talent, when he or she finds it. It is, usually, associated with managing a team of designers but it is a lot more than just that.
To be an art director, special skills are required, which others might not have. So, when we think we can be art directors, we need to understand that the job profile is not what we want it to be and it can actually be quite a lot of tough work. In this article, let us take a look at what an art director needs to have, apart from the obvious creative skills.
The job of an art director is not about hierarchy
A lot of people think that an art director has the supreme position within a creative department. This is a fallacy that needs to be addressed. If you want to be an art director and you believe in exercising your hierarchical power or authority, you are sadly not fit for this job.
A real art director does not believe in hierarchy and instead, exists to recognize talent, where it stands and nurtures it. An art director needs to act as a mentor or a supporter of the creative team. He or she does not have the job to boss over a team of extremely talented and creative people. Creativity goes against the principles of corporate hierarchy and authority. It values democracy, chaos and sometimes even anarchy.
Your job as an art director is to respect this need for independence and creativity & promote a culture of mentoring, which helps to channelize this creative energy into something that works well for the company. If you are a web design company, your job as an art director is to encourage web designers to think out of the box, innovate and find inspiration in places they wouldn’t look for.
Do you have people skills and the ability to network?
An art director also doubles up as a manager of the creative team. Yet, he does not manage the creative team but instead, helps the team to connect with other external entities. This means, an art director needs to have good people skills, the power of persuasive skills and the ability to make new connections. All this requires a pleasing behavior and the ability to not come across as a creative airhead.
If the art director has streaks of snobbery, it will not work well for the company. There needs to be an element of humility and quest for knowledge, which is what sets the creative department apart from the others. An art director, thus, has to know how to network, publicize and engage the team in various networking activities.
Creative people are, usually, good at networking with other creative people but when it comes to non-creative teams like administration, management and development, they often feel peeved. An art director’s job is to ensure that the creative team’s message is communicated to external agencies in a coherent and understandable manner.
Analyze yourself before applying for the position of an art director
If you think you are creative, that is not the end of it all. You also need to have mentoring skills, the ability to network, the quality of engaging external entities and a clear non-hierarchical attitude. You need to be able to recognize talent, where it exists and be able to nurture it. It is not a job that allows you to sit in a cabin but will require you to work hard. If you think you have all these qualities, go ahead and lead a team of extremely creative & talented people.