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Art Directors

The term art director is an overall title for a variety of similar job functions in advertising, publishing, film and television, the Internet, and video games.


In publishing, where the term originated, an art director organizes the pages of a magazine or newspaper and in consultation with an editor, chooses or designs accompanying pictures or graphics. Typically, this art director reports to the editor. At larger books or magazines, there are assistant and associate art directors that report to the art director. Many times a Design Director oversees the entire team.


An art director, in the hierarchical structure of a film art department, works directly below the production designer, and above the set designer, but on the same level as the set decorator. A large part of their duties include the administrative aspects of the art department. They are responsible for assigning tasks to personnel, keeping track of the art department budget and scheduling, as well as overall quality control. They are often also a liaison to other departments; especially the construction department. In the past, the art director title was used to denote the head of the art department (hence the Academy Award for best Art Direction) however, the Art Directors' union felt that the title was becoming too diluted, as multiple art directors were appearing on a single show, negating the idea of one person responsible to the look of a show, and people started giving themselves the title without the approval of the union. As a result, the union decided to create the title of production designer, and created rules as to the use of the title, namely there can be only one production designer on a show, and the union must approve the use of the title. This has not translated to TV commercials, where the head of the art department is still called the art director.


Art Directors in Advertising aren't necessarily the head of an Art Department although the title may suggest it. They typically work in teams with a copywriter. Together the teams work on a concept and design for commercials, print advertisements, and any other advertising medium. The art director is mostly responsible for the visual look and feel of the creative product as well as the concept. The Art Director ensures that the end product has the same look and feel as the original concept. The copywriter has ultimate responsibility for the product's verbal and textual content, and both are responsible for coming up with big, effective and persuasive ideas.

The Art Director is responsible for creating and maintaining the overall photographic consistency of the art elements connected with the production, such including the design, construction and coloration of the sets and props as well as the main and end titles on the finished picture. The Art Director works closely and in cooperation with the Director and is responsible to the Producer or the Producer's designee. Duties and responsibilities include the following:

  • Maintaining accuracy and consistency for elements appearing in period or futuristic pictures.
  • Breaking down the script for the quantity and type of props, furniture, window, floors, ceilings dressings, and all other set materials and functioning in close cooperation with the Set Decorator, Key Carpenter and Property Master.
  • Visualizing, designing and supervising the creation of storyboards.
  • Visualizing, designing and supervising the creation of sets, props and costumes.
  • Designing and/or selecting individual set decorations, props, mechanical devices and dressings.
  • From the script, storyboard and breakdowns, working with the Director and Production Manager in preparing the itemized budget for the Art Department as authorized by the Producer Unit.
  • Coordinating the overall "look" of the picture if requested by the Director.
  • Supervising, as a stable artist-executive, the work of the Key Carpenter, Set Decorator, Property Master, Costume Designer and Key Make-up Artist as required by the Director and in close cooperation.
  • Attending location Survey trips with the Director when requested.
  • Working with the Location Manager in lining up locations to shoot in for final approval of the Director.
  • Designing titles for the picture and supervising their production when needed.
  • Providing sketches, detailed drawings, paintings and construction plans as required by the director and/or producer and approved in the budget.
  • Providing art material to accomplish these duties of this Hat with the expectation that he or she will be reimbursed for authorized expenditures in accordance with policy.

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