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Becoming the first print magazine to enhance each image, editorial, and advertisement with compelling interactive content sounds like no small feat. But for Rachel Gogel, art director of GQ Advertising, creating a unique app that would bring the venerable men's fashion magazine to life was simply par for the course. Just four months after jumpstarting the project, Gogel and her team launched GQ Live!, an app that allows readers to scan each print page with their mobile device's camera, revealing digital extras such as animations, video trailers, social media, and even 3D experiences. Gogel, who had steered the project since its inception, was able to convince her editorial team and more than 170 advertisers that the app would be the "next big thing." Her instincts were correct—GQ Live! is now seen as an industry leader and the "augmented reality" technology used in the app is a rapidly growing trend in the publishing world with Dwell, Maxim, and Esquire recently following suit.
That ability to deliver groundbreaking and inspiring conceptual ideas that work—while thinking across all media—is considered one of the most vital aspects to being an art director. "Being a designer or art director doesn't mean what it used to," says Gogel, who's also a typography instructor at the School of Visual Arts. "You're expected to know about print, Web, tablets, social media—it's no longer one-dimensional."
Overall, art directors or creative directors—which will see 9 percent growth in employment by the year 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)—are responsible for producing artwork to be displayed in an advertising campaign, magazines, television, film, websites, or on products. Art directors are often in charge of a design team and ensure their creative executions meet the client's objectives and remain true to the brand.
For Gogel, being an art director in the publishing industry means all of the above and then some, with the brand always at the forefront of her decision-making. While being resilient to ever-changing timelines and requests, and working in concert with numerous departments including sales, editorial, digital, research, marketing, and merchandising, Gogel must determine one visual language for a brand and maintain that image and voice throughout all of her creative materials. "Occasionally you might have more time on a project and you might want to take your time and get really into it, but usually the turnaround for things is very quick," says Gogel. "That said, we still represent the brand in everything that we produce so it has to be of a certain quality."
With experience, Gogel says art directors will learn about time management, team collaboration, professionalism, punctuality, work ethics, leading a team of artists who might have different visions, and taking constructive criticism. “If you are a passionate and engaged individual who takes initiative and knows how to negotiate/value his or her worth to the company, you will be fine,” she says. “It also helps if you have a mentor at your job who can lend advice or vouch for you.”
The BLS reports the median annual wage for art directors was $81,260 in 2010. The best-paid 10 percent in the field made approximately $166,620, while the bottom 10 percent made approximately $44,120. The highest-paid work is in the metropolitan areas of New York, Los Angeles, and Nassau-Suffolk, N.Y.
Most art directors will have at least a bachelor of arts or bachelor of fine arts degree in art or design and at least 3 to 5 years of work experience. Depending on the industry, art directors may have also worked as graphic designers, industrial designers, illustrators, copy editors, set designers, or photographers before becoming art directors. Developing a portfolio—a collection of an artist's work that demonstrates his or her styles and abilities—is essential. Managers, clients, and others look at an art designer's portfolio when they are deciding whether to hire the person or contract for his or her work.
Gogel, who was born and raised in Paris, France, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2009 where she majored in fine arts with a graphic design focus, and minored in anthropology. After graduation, she did a two-week masters workshop in Italy through the School of Visual Arts and then settled in New York City to work in fashion (Diane von Furstenberg, Peter Som, Svilu), TV/film (Sundance, USA Network, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry documentary) and publishing (Travel + Leisure, GQ). "This client list is the result of 3.5 years of freelancing and being open-minded about taking on all sorts of projects in order to build my portfolio," says Gogel. "I ended up accumulating experience and industry knowledge in a short amount of time." Gogel also says that having a background in marketing and communication as well as a basic understanding of business and some production skills will come in handy while on the job.
"When I talk to people looking to get into the field, I stress three things: 1. Grow your online presence, 2. Networking is essential, and 3. Learning doesn’t end with school," says Gogel. "Once you establish a brand or identity for yourself and you start to develop your own voice/style, you start to feel more confident about selling your skill to a potential employer. Show that off online with a strong portfolio, resume, and a developed LinkedIn profile clearly highlighting your experiences and strengths." Gogel also recommends researching potential companies and knowing the competition by following those brands on Twitter, taking on projects through connections, and being surrounded with other like-minded professionals either through events or by joining an organization. "Staying fresh and inspired is key," says Gogel. "There are continuing education classes, seminars, and online tutorials that can keep you up-to-date on new programs and media."