Advertising Art Director

The Job and What's Involved

Advertising art directors are responsible for what advertisements look like. They are involved in creating a campaign that has an instant, positive impact on the consumer in order to promote the product or brand being advertised. They can be involved in all of the different forms of advertising, including advertising on television and radio, the internet, posters and direct mailings.

Their tasks and duties may include:

  • Working from a brief with a copywriter or other members of a creative team, generating ideas to present to the client.
  • Working on designs in order to produce an effective advertising campaign.
  • Commissioning specialists, such as artists and photographers, to work on projects.
  • Managing projects, on and off location.
  • Working within a budget.
  • Editing the final results for presentation to the client.

Most art directors work under the supervision of a creative director, and usually work on a project from its earliest stages through to the launch. They are likely to work on several projects at once, and the work is fast paced and demanding.

Art directors work very closely with a creative copywriter. They are often employed together, as a team.

Advertising art directors normally work between 9am and 6pm, Monday to Friday. However, extra hours are often required so they must be flexible and prepared to work evenings and weekends.

Art directors spend most of their time working indoors, in offices or studios. They also travel to meet clients and visit television studios or other locations where advertisements are being filmed. Working on location may involve staying away from home for short periods.

Dress code expectations vary between agencies, but are often quite informal.

Starting salaries range from approximately £15,000 to £25,000 a year. Pay is often higher in London agencies than elsewhere.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Most art directors work for advertising agencies, although some are freelance. There are just over 1,000 agencies in the UK, of which more than half are based in London. Other centres for advertising include Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Newcastle and Manchester. Well-regarded art directors are always in demand, but advertising is an extremely competitive industry to break into.

The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) has a scheme allowing students to post CV's on the company's website between June and September each year. The IPA's graduate recruitment agency factfile lists member agencies with structured recruitment programme's, and is an excellent starting point for those wishing to make a speculative approach to agencies.

Job vacancies for experienced art directors are advertised in Campaign, Creative Review, The Drum and national newspapers. They are also advertised on the IPA website,, and at

Education and Training

There are no set qualifications to become an advertising art director, but entrants usually have a degree.

Art and design degree courses are widely available at universities and art colleges throughout the UK. In England, Northern Ireland and Wales, many students take a foundation course in art and design before starting their degree course. Typical entry requirements are five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), and sometimes an A level/H grade or BTEC national diploma. There is sometimes a minimum starting age of 17 or 18.

For degree courses, students generally need a minimum of two A levels/three H grades and five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), or equivalent qualifications. Degree courses normally last three years (or four years in Scotland).

For BTEC national diplomas, candidates usually need four GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3). For HNC's/HND's they need one A level/two H grades, including in an art and design subject, or a BTEC national certificate/diploma in a relevant subject, or equivalent qualifications.

Postgraduate degrees and diplomas are also available. Entry is usually with a first degree in an appropriate subject.

For all courses, applicants are usually expected to have a portfolio of their own art and design work. Any internships or relevant work experience, whether paid or voluntary, may also be advantageous.

D&AD runs advertising workshops that can be a useful way of developing skills and a portfolio of work, meeting like-minded people and making useful contacts. These are held in London, Leeds, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh. See for workshop dates and further details.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Training is normally in-house, under the supervision of more experienced colleagues. Attending external courses on specific areas, such as presentation skills or television advertising, may also be encouraged.

Some agencies may require entrants to take the IPA foundation certificate, which is an online course culminating in a two-hour exam. It is designed to give an overview of advertising and the specific roles within the industry.

D&AD runs a programme for creative professionals called Workout. The course is suitable for people working in advertising at all levels.

Advertising art directors are expected to keep their skills and knowledge current by staying up to date with industry trends and standards.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

An advertising art director should:

  • Be highly creative.
  • Have a thorough understanding of photography, typography and printing techniques.
  • Have excellent interpersonal and communication skills.
  • Work well as part of a team, with a range of people.
  • Have excellent computer skills in relevant art and design software packages.
  • Be able to work under pressure.
  • Be highly motivated and well organised.
  • Have a good eye for detail.
  • Be able to see other people's point of view and cope with criticism.
  • Be able to work within strict budgets.

Your Long Term Prospects

Movement between agencies is common. Experienced art directors may choose to specialise in one area of advertising, such as trade advertisements.

It is possible to progress to senior art director or creative director, while some art directors set up their own agencies. Others decide to use the skills they have learnt in other creative fields, such as design or film production.

Some successful art directors are able to work on a freelance basis.

There may be opportunities to work abroad with international agencies.

Get Further Information

Advertising Association, 7th Floor North,
Artillery House, 11-19 Artillery Row, London SW1P 1RT
Tel: 020 7340 1100

The Creative Circle,
22 Poland Street, London W1F 8QQ
Tel: 020 7734 9334

D&AD, 9 Graphite Square,
Vauxhall Walk, London SE11 5EE
Tel: 020 7840 1111

The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA),
44 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8QS
Tel: 020 7235 7020

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