What does an Art Director do?

Art direction is a way to present a product, person or place creatively to evoke a sense of a particular culture or emotional reaction from the audience.

Art direction helps in communicate and share certain information through visual mediums. An Art Director is someone who creates and manages the overall design and visual style. This can be for websites, ad campaigns, magazines, newspapers, photoshoots, movie and TV productions. While their duties vary depending on the sector, generally they are always there to set the artistic tone using imagery and aesthetics. When becoming an art director, they are responsible for managing all the creative, aesthetic, and visual sides of a campaign.

In TV and Film, Art Directors are responsible for turning the creative vision of the production designer into a reality by drawing plans, visuals and making models. They organise the art department and oversee the construction of the set. They are responsible for the way the set is dressed and the inclusion of any props. They remain on set throughout the production to ensure it is maintained and dressed appropriately to accommodate the varied content. They ensure everything is within budget and meets health and safety guidelines.

In advertising, it’s the art director’s responsibility to make sure the client’s intended message is clearly and creatively delivered to consumers. To do this, they must direct and collaborate with designers until the images or visual style is reflective of client’s vision. They must account for not just colour, style, branding, etc. but also have to consider how moving images contribute to the overall presentation.

In eCommerce and Editorial, Art Directors must ensure that the work articulates the client’s brand—both strategically and graphically. The Art Director is heavily involved in selecting talent, props, backgrounds. If the project involves video, the Art Director is consulted during the curation or development of music and narration, so the visual and audio work together. During the shoot, the Art Director and the photographer are part of a well-prepared collaborative team. The Art Director must ensure the creative strategy is met. He or she oversees the stylists, which may include food, apparel, product, hair and makeup team members. He both assists and directs the photographer to ensure the team gets “the shot.

What are some of their responsibilities?

• Planning in advance – mood boards, sketches, models, shot lists
• Determines how to present concept visually
• Selects which photos, art, or other elements to use
• Develops overall style and communicate to team
• Manages and supervises designers
• Reviews and approves designs
• Communicates with clients to develop an artistic approach/style
• Coordinates with all artistic departments
• Develops budgets and timelines for project completion

Who do Art Directors work alongside?

• Directors
• Producers
• Production Designer
• Photographers / Videographers
• Stylists
• Hair and Makeup
• Graphic Designers
• Prop Makers

What makes a great Art Director?

• Adobe Photoshop – you need a competent level of understanding for this editing software
• Adobe Lightroom – to organise, store and retouch images, a good understanding of this enables you to streamline the editing process
• Adobe Illustrator – you need a competent level of understanding for this design software
• Adobe InDesign – you need a competent level of understanding for this design software
• Figma – you need a competent level of understanding for this design software
• Have an in-depth understanding of Camera systems and how to frame shots
• Understanding of Lighting processes and how to light a production
• The Editing process – although you may not need to use it, it helps to know how things work to understand how the end result should look.

How to become an Art Director?

• No specific qualification is required to become an Art Director. It may, however, be beneficial to gain qualifications and experience in the industry.
• What type of degree you choose may be based on what area you want to cover e.g
o Art Direction as a whole (https://www.arts.ac.uk/subjects/communication-and-graphic-design/undergraduate/ba-hons-design-for-art-direction-lcc)
o For branded content you may choose Graphic Design (https://www.ravensbourne.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/ba-hons-graphic-design)
o For Photoshoots, you may choose Set Design (https://www.ntu.ac.uk/course/art-and-design/ug/ba-hons-design-for-film-and-television)


There are different ways to network –
• Attending events is a fantastic way to meet people in person
• LinkedIn – make connections!
• Facebook Pages – join a group and they will post jobs and advice!
• Talk to your connections about work – sell yourself!


• Elvtr has a 6-week course on Art Direction covers creating campaigns strong enough to stand on their own (https://elvtr.com/course/become-an-art-director)
• The graphic design learning path on LinkedIn includes 11 courses to help you learn in-demand technical skills and improve the soft skills needed to collaborate with others. These courses include Illustrator 2021 Essential Training, Color Trends, Photoshop 2021 Essential Training, and Color for Design and Art. (https://www.linkedin.com/learning/paths/become-a-graphic-designer)
• Udemy is a great platform with learning resources for a variety of different courses – including master classes on Graphic Design (https://www.udemy.com/courses/search/?src=ukw&q=Graphic+Design)
• For those looking to learn the fundamentals of Art Direction – University of Arts London offer a short course on the principles of Art Direction (https://www.arts.ac.uk/subjects/communication-and-graphic-design/short-courses/art-direction/art-direction-short-course-chelsea)
• For those looking to expand their current knowledge – Central Saint Martins have a course on Creative Direction. For creative students and professionals who wish to enhance their skills in creative Direction. This is a natural follow on course for students who have completed Art Direction, Fashion Styling, other Photography or Graphic Design courses. (https://www.arts.ac.uk/subjects/journalism-pr-media-and-publishing/short-courses/art-direction/creative-direction-online-short-course-csm)

Work Experience

• Different companies may offer work experience opportunities to build up your CV, enquire with them to see if they offer anything that may help! You can reach out to places such as advertising companies, news agencies, media companies and see if they have any internships available.
• You could start as a stylist’s assistant, production assistant or runner in commercial, eCommerce, film or TV and work your way up – make sure to ask questions!
• If you are lacking in experience, you can always reach out to production studios – Some studios offer apprenticeship opportunities. These experiences offer opportunities to build up your CV, you can also enquire with them to see if they offer anything further work experience opportunities that may help! Make sure to ask questions (https://britishfilmcommission.org.uk/plan-your-production/studios/)
• For work experience opportunities – you can reach out to film and TV studios. Broadcasters such the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky have great programmes for beginners, keep an eye out for openings in their Art Departments


• A visual representation of your work helps to sell yourself – Behance, Dribble or TheDots are great platforms to utilise
• If you don’t have many projects to put into a portfolio, you can communicate with local productions and studios for work experience – network and exchange work!

How can I book an Art Director?

Call Yellow Cat on 020 7580 7333 or email us on info@yellowcat.london

Tripod Brixton,
Lambeth Town Hall,
1 Brixton Hill, London,

Hours: Monday to Friday, 8am – 7pm
Phone: 020 7580 7333