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Job Photographs

  • A man is sitting at a desk, looking at an illustrated book.  On the computer screen in front of him there is an image of a man's face.

    Studying an international design journal to get ideas.

  • A man is sitting at a desk, looking at a photo on a computer screen.

    Working with one of the selected photos.

  • Two men are sitting at a table, talking.  On the table there is a printed document and a notebook.

    Discussing a new brief from a client with an account executive.

  • A man is sitting at a desk, looking at a collection of photos on a computer screen.

    Selecting suitable images for an interior design company ad.

  • A man is standing by a table, looking down at a double-page advertisement in a newspaper that is spread out on the table.

    Advertising art directors are responsible for the overall look of advertisements.

  • A man is sitting at a desk, adding large text to an image of a man's face on a computer screen.

    Adding text to an image.

  • A man is standing by a table, looking down at a four-page advertisement in a newspaper that is spread out on the table.

    Checking the final version of an ad in a newspaper.

  • Art Director (Advertising)

Art Director (Advertising)


As an Art Director, you will be are responsible for the overall look of advertisements (ads). You'll work closely with copywriters to produce eye-catching and effective ads. You will use information about the client's product or service, and about the target audience.

Also known as

  • Art Director, Advertising
  • Designer (Advertising)

Video: - Gary: Creative Director

Work Activities

As an Art Director, you will be responsible for the appearance and presentation of printed advertising material, internet and interactive advertising and television commercials.

You might need to come up with new and creative ideas for different types of advertising, or you might work mainly in one area, for example, advertising on social media sites. This will depend on the type of agency you work for, and on the needs of the client.

The creative team consisting of the Art Director and Copywriter work from a brief supplied by the client or a strategic planner in their agency. The brief provides information about the product, service or brand that the client wishes to promote, and about the target audience.

The Art Director and Copywriter produce a number of possible advertising ideas that include rapidly sketched illustrations known as 'storyboards' or 'roughs'. The rough idea, once approved by the client, is translated by the Art Director into the final ad.

In preparing ads, the creative team think about the content, which includes headlines, slogans, text and illustrations. You also decide on the visual appearance, which is affected by things like the use of space, colour, graphics, typeface (the print style of the letters) and animation.

Although the design needs to be interesting, exciting, appealing or eye-catching, the creative team must remember that its prime purpose is to sell a product or get a message across.

As an Art Director you may produce the graphics yourself, but more often you'll select and commission suitable Artists. This can involve examining portfolios of drawings, photographs, cartoons and graphic designs.

You might be responsible for designing a wide range of printed material including posters, leaflets, brochures, packaging and display material.

You might work on internet and television commercials. You will select a film director or production company by looking through showreels. You might also have to choose Actors, Actresses and locations as well as music.

You'll attend all production meetings, and supervise filming and editing of both film and soundtracks. You might need to work with agencies that provide special effects or computer-generated images and animation.

Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.

Personal Qualities and Skills

To become an Art Director, you will need:

  • creativity and a lively imagination
  • lots of ideas and the ability to tell visual stories
  • knowledge of art and popular culture, as a source of inspiration
  • knowledge of graphic design, IT, photography, print, digital and new media
  • the ability to cope with (and preferably thrive on) pressure
  • good communication and teamwork skills
  • to be well organised and able to work to very tight deadlines
  • problem-solving skills
  • confidence
  • a sense of humour
  • the ability to work to a budget
  • to be observant, with the ability to pay close attention to detail

Pay and Opportunities


The pay rates given below are approximate.

  • Starting: £26,500 - £30,000
  • With experience: £34,500 - £40,000
  • Senior Art Directors earn £43,500 - £52,000

Hours of work

As an Art Director, you can expect to work 39 hours a week, Monday to Friday. However, irregular hours and weekend work are sometimes required, especially as deadlines approach.

Where could I work?

Most Art Directors work for advertising agencies, such as full-service agencies or creative agencies. Some Art Directors work in the advertising or marketing department of large organisations.

Opportunities for Art Directors occur in towns and cities throughout the UK.


There are opportunities for experienced people to work as freelance Art Directors. Some creative teams start their own agencies.

Where are vacancies advertised?

Vacancies are advertised in local/national newspapers, in magazines such as Campaign (available online) and on recuitment websites. Vacancies can often be for a creative team of an Art Director and a Copywriter.

Social media websites, such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, are a great way to network, find vacancies and get in contact with possible employers. Make sure that your profile presents you in a professional manner that will appeal to potential employers.

Take a look at our General Information Article 'Finding Work Online'.

Entry Routes and Training

Entry routes

Most employers will expect you to have had some kind of art and design training, and to submit a strong portfolio of your creative work.

Most entrants have either a degree or an HND. There are advertising design and creative advertising courses as well as some graphic design courses that have specialist options in advertising. Some universities run courses that are part of the D&AD education network. D&AD also runs student awards and challenges. See the website for more details.

Entry to HND and degree courses in art and design is sometimes after a relevant Foundation course or BTEC level 3 qualification, for example.

Foundation degrees in art and design subjects are also available.

A great way to get into this career is through an internship. Take a look at our information article 'Internships', for more details.

West Herts College offers the postgraduate professional development diploma in art direction/copywriting. Other relevant postgraduate courses include creative advertising.

D&AD offers workshops and placements as part of their graduate academy programme.


Many Art Directors begin as Designers working in advertising, for example, Graphic Designers or Multimedia Designers. However, some large agencies have special recruitment and training schemes for new entrants, often in pairs with Copywriters (called creative teams).

Creative teams aim to get creative placements in a few different agencies, to build up a portfolio (or 'book') of campaigns and ideas.

D&AD runs professional development workshops and training courses for Art Directors and creative teams.


Advertising Art Directors and Copywriters can progress to senior creative team positions, handling larger and more prestigious client accounts; some creative teams start their own agencies.

Work Experience

Previous experience working in an art and design environment would be really useful for this career.


Some people enter a three-year art and design degree directly, and others complete a Foundation course first, followed by a degree. Some degrees include a foundation year, making the degree a four-year course.

For entry to an foundation diploma in art and design, the usual requirement is:

  • 1/2 A levels
  • GCSEs at grade C/4 or above in 3/4 other subjects

For entry to relevant degree, the usual requirement is:

  • 2/3 A levels
  • GCSEs at grade C/4 or above in 2/3 other subjects

You might need A levels in art, design and/or media for some relevant degrees. You might also need English GCSE at grade C/4 or above and, in some cases, maths GCSE.

Alternatives to A levels include:

  • BTEC level 3 qualification in art and design
  • the International Baccalaureate Diploma (with an art/design subject)

However, course requirements vary so check college/university websites carefully.

To enter any course in art and design, you will need a wide-ranging portfolio of your creative work.

Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A-level.

Adult Opportunities

Age limits

It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.


Employers usually ask to see a wide-ranging portfolio of your creative work.


If you don't have the qualifications needed to enter your chosen degree or HND course, a college or university Access course (for example, Access to Art and Design) could be the way in.

These courses are designed for people who have not followed the usual routes into higher education. No formal qualifications are usually needed, but you should check this with individual colleges.

Some employers prefer applicants to have postgraduate qualifications in advertising.

Other options for adults include taking the Art Foundation course on a part-time basis leading on to a degree/HND course. Higher National Certificate (HNC) courses are also available part-time, often in the evenings and/or daytime.

Many colleges might relax their usual academic entrance requirements for applicants with experience in arts, crafts or design.

Distance learning

The Interactive Design Institute, together with the University of Hertfordshire, offers online courses in Graphic Design and Illustration.

Staffordshire University offers an MA in Creative Futures: Advertising and Brand Management, by blended learning. This involves online study, supported by some attendance at the university.

Further Information

Professional institutionsProfessional institutions have the following roles:

  • To support their members.
  • To protect the public by keeping standards high in their professions.

For more information on the institution(s) relevant to this career, check out the contacts below.


Skills for the creative industries



Creative Choices

Publisher: Creative & Cultural Skills



Creative & Cultural Skills

Skills for craft, cultural heritage, design, literature, music, performing arts and visual arts



Getting into Art & Design Courses

Author: James Burnett Publisher: Trotman


Design and Art Direction (D&AD)

Address: Britannia House, 68-80 Hanbury Street, London E1 5JL

Tel: 020 7840 1111



Staffordshire University

Address: College Road, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire ST4 2DE

Tel: 01782 294000


Advertising Association (AA)

Address: 7th Floor North, Artillery House, 11-19 Artillery Row, London SW1P 1RT

Tel: 020 7340 1100



Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA)

Address: 44 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8QS

Tel: 020 7235 7020



Institute of Advertising Practitioners in Ireland (IAPI)

Irish enquiries

Address: 8 Upper Fitzwilliam Street, Dublin 2

Tel: 01 6765991




Publisher: Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA)



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