Art Director Salary

An Art Director must produce and approve the final visual image for a product that is intended for public viewing. This position can work for a number of different mediums including magazines, advertising, marketing, newspapers, publishing, fashion, theater, product packaging, and media (including internet, movie, television, video games). The overall visual design of a finished product is the responsibility of the Art Director. In order to develop the artwork and layouts for a project the Art Director must work with and direct a team of artists and designers. Read on for more details about the Art Director salary and job description.

Overview of an Art Directors Salary

According to, the average Art Director salary in the U.S. is currently $83,263 per year (or $25 per hour). The top 10% make approximately $93,000, while the bottom 10% makes around $39,000. Some of the factors that influence an Art Director’s salary are experience, location, and skills.

Earnings Factors of an Art Director Salary

Obviously the more experience you have the more money you should make. Entry Level experience (0-5 years) tends to bring in an annual salary of $49,000. Workers with Mid-Career (5-10 years) experience earn on average $62,000. Anyone with over 10 years experience averages about the same at $68,000. This means for most Art Directors the pay scale tends to plateau after the 10-year mark. So whether you’ve worked for 10 years or 25 years you are going to earn roughly the same salary.

As far as location the highest paying cities in the U.S. are San Francisco ($81,252), New York ($79,306) and Seattle ($75,271). These three cities are above the national average by 33%, 30%, and 24%, respectively. This is due to the fact that they are large fashion and entertainment hubs in the country. On the flip side, Denver ($54,190), St. Louis ($50,933), and Dallas ($48,798) are all below the national average.

Some of the skills that can positively influence one’s salary are User Interface Design (+21%), Adobe After Effects (+8%), Branding (+7%), Project Management (+6%), and Web Design (+6). Some skills that have negative influence or no influence at all on salary due to the saturated nature of their demand are Video Editing, Photoshop, Graphic Design, and Illustration.

Art Director Job Description

Several artists or designers might have input or contributions on any given visual design, but it is the Art Director who pulls the pieces together to make the polished final product. And this finished product must appeal to the clients target audience. The Art Director accomplishes this goal by conveying the message through visual means. This is perhaps the most difficult task: translate the objective (a desired mood or concept) into a visual replica.

The Art Director must meet with the client in order to find out specifically what the intended message is. Sometimes the client’s ideas are underdeveloped; the client might be unsure of what exactly their message is or should be. The Art Director must find a way to reach the goal of achieving the required effect. During the process the Art Director, his or her creative team, and the client must brainstorm together to ensure that the final product is adequate; otherwise a lot of time can be wasted.

Good teamwork is key. The Art Director must be sure that all work is done with the client’s brand at the forefront, while working with constantly changing timelines and requests. Often times the Art Director must also be able to constructively handle differing opinions of individuals in the group and limited resources, such as capital and personnel.

Art Director Job Outlook

Once you’ve learned how to become an Art Director the next thing to do is find a job. So how is the Art Director job outlook currently? About 15% of Art Director’s find employment with advertising and P.R. firms, and others find work in various media outlets such as magazines and television. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the Art Director position is expected to increase by about 2,200 jobs by 2022 (In 2012 there were 74,800 Art Director jobs). This would be a rise of 3% in a 10-year period.

While this growth is slow, it is growth. With the ever-growing Internet landscape there will always be a need for graphic design, illustrators, photographers, and other art layouts. With this demand for visual imagery there will always be a need for Art Directors to ensure that all components come together effectively. However, as technology continues to change look for the role of Art Director to evolve in order to keep up. But overall, with confidence, talent, and strong social skills, anyone looking to become an Art Director has a great shot.

Art Director Education Requirements

The Art Director education requirements are generally not very strict, and that’s because employers are looking more at an applicant’s experience. An applicant can get away with just having a Bachelor’s degree in art, fine arts, or some kind of design field. But most potential hires might find it hard to get an Art Director position straight out of college as employers seek individuals with 5 years or more work experience. This experience can include work as a set designer, graphic designer, industrial designer, illustrator, or photographer. But any kind of art or design position helps. Also having some marketing, communication, business, and production background can help one to integrate into more employment opportunities.

Prospective Art Director hopefuls need to develop a substantial portfolio that displays his or her artistic accomplishments. Not only does a portfolio help an employer see the applicant’s abilities but it also shows clients that the Art Director can meet the goals that they wish to accomplish through visual means. Taking on any freelance work that becomes available can develop a portfolio extensively. Different kinds of projects cannot only diversify one’s portfolio but also help gain valuable real-world experience.

The best training that an Art Director can receive is not given in any classroom; it’s found on the job. This kind of experience can show an employer that you can be professional, work in a team, and manage time effectively.

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