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Art Director

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Overall Score
(5.5 out of 10)

Number of Jobs

2,200

Median Salary

$80,880

Unemployment Rate

7.4 percent

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This Job is Ranked in
Best Creative Jobs #2
The 100 Best Jobs #91

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, design 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 jump-starting 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 and access digital extras such as animations, video trailers and social media. Gogel, who steered the project since its inception, convinced 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 used in every issue as a standard in-book overlay for advertisers and select editorial, and seen as an industry leader for magazine apps.

That ability to deliver groundbreaking and inspiring conceptual ideas that work – while thinking across all media – is a vital aspect for designer directors. "Being a designer or art director doesn't mean what it used to," says Gogel, who's also an instructor at the School of Visual Arts in New York and covers print-to-mobile technologies emerging in the magazine media space. "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 7.4 percent growth in employment by the year 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics – produce artwork for advertising campaigns, magazines, television shows, films, websites or products. Art directors are often in charge of a design team and ensure their creative executions meet a client's objectives and remain true to the brand.

For Gogel, being a design 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 message for a brand and maintain that image and voice throughout all her creative materials. "We represent the brand in everything that we produce so it has to be of a certain quality," she says.

With experience, Gogel says art directors will learn about time management, team collaboration, professionalism, punctuality, work ethic, 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 his or her worth to the company, you'll be fine," she says. "It also helps if you have a mentor at your job who can lend advice or vouch for you. A good level of confidence, talent and social skills will get you a long way."

Salary

The BLS reports the median annual wage for art directors was $80,880 in 2012. The best-paid 10 percent in the field made approximately $162,800, while the bottom 10 percent made approximately $43,870. The highest-paid work is in the metropolitan areas of New York, San Francisco and Richmond, Va.

Salary Range

75th Percentile $117,090
Median $80,880
25th Percentile $57,830

Training

Most art directors will have at least a bachelor of arts or bachelor of fine arts degree in art or design and at least three to five years of work experience. Depending on the industry, art directors may have 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 deciding whether to hire the person or contract for his or her work.

Gogel, who was born and raised in Paris, 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, TV, film and publishing. Her impressive list of clients ranged from Diane von Furstenberg and Sundance to Travel + Leisure. "This client list is the result of 4.5 years of freelancing and being open-minded about taking on all sorts of projects in order to build my portfolio," Gogel says. "I ended up accumulating experience and industry knowledge in a short amount of time." Gogel also says having a background in marketing and communications, as well as a basic understanding of business and some production skills, will come in handy while on the job.

Reviews & Advice

"When I talk to people looking to get into the field, I stress three things. One: Grow your online presence. Two: Networking is essential. And three: Learning doesn't end with school," says Gogel, who started at GQ at age 23 as an associate art director, moved up to art director and was recently promoted to design director of GQ Advertising.

"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, résumé 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 and Instagram, helping others build their networks, taking on projects through connections and meeting like-minded professionals through events or by joining an organization. "Staying fresh and inspired is key," Gogel says. "There are continuing education classes, seminars and online tutorials that can keep you up to date on new programs and media." Finally, she stresses that summer internships in college can help you figure out what path you want to take – it's all about trial and error, she says.

Job Satisfaction

Upward Mobility good High
Stress Level poor High
Flexibility good High
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Last updated by Kimberly Castro.


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