hat’s the difference between Creative Direction and Art Direction? What are the job descriptions? What are the typical characteristics of a creative director versus an art director?
Generally speaking, art directors and creative directors should have some of the same skills:
- Several years of design/creative Experience
- Leadership Qualities (able to lead a creative team)
- Understanding of the brand’s goals & aesthetic
On a basic level, art directors get their hands dirtier than creative directors:
- In control of design execution. They actually work on building the creative assets
- Lead specific design choices based on broad goals set by the creative director
- Tasked with creating a cohesive aesthetic across all of the assets related to a project or campaign
- Works directly with graphic designers and other creatives on the team
In general, Creative Directors are responsible for planning & supervising the tone and creative strategy:
- Conceives & presents the broad creative strategy/direction for a project or campaign
- In direct contact with the client or main stakeholders
- More business-oriented understanding of the project
- Works with the Art Director to develop visual concepts
- The Creative Director salary is typically slightly more than the Art Director (but it depends)
When to bring on a Creative Director vs Art Director
Often times, if asked, a creative director can dig in and perform the role of an Art Director. Similarly, Art Directors can often fill the Creative Director role if asked. However, if you have the budget, it often works in your favor to bring each role in as separate people.
If you’re a smaller brand with a tighter budget , definitely consider hiring a freelance creative director who has has a proven track record of fulfilling that Art Director role.
Tips - Know your Creative (KYC)
Here’s a checklist for getting to know your Creative Director:
- Look at their portfolio. If you can’t tell, ask them if they’ve worked directly on building/designing the assets themselves, or if they’ve worked with a larger team. If they worked with a team, ask them if they’d consider combining the art director/creative director role into one.
- Ask them for strategic case studies or examples of successful campaigns
- Ask them about how they’d approach coming up with a creative strategy
- Ask them how they work with the rest of the creative team
Here’s a checklist for getting to know your Art Director:
- Look at their portfolio. If you can’t tell, ask them if they’ve worked directly on building/designing the assets themselves, or if they’ve worked with a larger team. If they worked with a team, ask them if they’d ever consider working as a creative director as well.
- Ask them for specific aesthetic/sample references that reflect your goals
- Ask them about their specific design approach/process
- Ask them what programs they use and how they’d describe their aesthetic