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THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE HIRING AN ART DIRECTOR

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What is an Art Director?

In a basketball team, you have individual stars: the playmaker, the sharpshooter, the big man, the defensive specialist, and the rebounder. Some teams even have the mascot and the trash talker whose main purpose is to make the other team lose their cool and play badly. But regardless of how good individual players are, what pulls them together and turns them into a winning team is the coach.

In a creative team, whether it’s in an advertising agency, a digital marketing firm, a magazine, a stage production outfit or an events coordination company, the coach is the art director.

An art director is someone who pulls the creative team together into one cohesive unit. He visualizes and projects the overall artistic strategy for a project. Then, he defines what is needed from each member of the creative team: the graphic designers, photographers, artists, copywriters, editors, and the production staff. He inspires them to bring in their best work, and orchestrates their results together into the finished project.

Here are a few sample works of Geraldson Chua, one of the more famous art directors from the Philippines, who has worked for Esquire, Oprah Winfrey’s O Magazine and Women’s Wear Daily (examples below are in that order) – all before he hit 30. Notice the combination of images, text and illustrations, as well as the layout and overall artistic flavour of each. That’s what an art director does.

In most organizations today, the art director is sometimes confused with a senior graphic designer. And that’s because most art directors nowadays rose from the ranks of graphic designers. But make no mistake. While graphic designers work with computers and tools, an art director works with people. So an art director may have the technical chops of a graphic designer (or a copywriter or an editor), what sets him apart is the ability to manage, inspire, and lead people.

Another common confusion is between that of an artistic director and a creative director. The creative director conceptualizes the overall creative direction of the project, while the art director executes that concept and turns it into a tangible aesthetic expression.

The Role of an Art Director

For an art director, management of the creative team goes beyond simply assigning tasks and making sure those tasks get completed.

It starts by understanding the entire creative strategy and seeing the big picture, which he shares with his team. He then takes that big picture and breaks it down to its component parts: the graphics, the photographs, the copies and every other element of the entire creative vision. He then assigns each component to the corresponding member of the creative team. Finally, he combines each individual output together to bring the creative vision to life.

In this sense, an art director needs to have a crystal clear grasp of the client’s message. He has to be present in client meetings. He needs to participate in the discussions. He needs to ask questions. He has to make recommendations if necessary. The aim for an art director is to be an authority when it comes to the client’s message. When the client says, “Our goal for this marketing campaign is to get people excited to play basketball!”, the art director must be able to reply, “5-on-5 or 3-on-3?”

That being said, an art director should be inspirational without losing objectivity. He must be able to motivate and inspire his team to deliver their best output, but objective enough to reject it, no matter how good it may be, if it doesn’t contribute to the overall creative vision.

Important Skills and Traits of Art Directors

Most art directors come from the ranks of the creative team so they are familiar with the technical aspects of graphic design, photography, copywriting etc. In fact, it is a must for art directors to know enough of these skills in order to “speak the creative team’s language”.

The creativity of an art director is in a whole different level. He must be able to look at a piece of graphic design, a photo, a headline or a typeface and know in his head where each fits in the overall creative vision.

But more than technical skills, as a management-oriented role, an art director needs exceptional communication skills. From the beginning of the project, when the creative vision still mainly resides in his head, he must be able to communicate his artistic idea to the creative team. That’s like describing the color red to a blind person. The measure of how well an art director is able to communicate is how close to his vision the output of his team is.

Like many other management roles, an art director also needs to have excellent time management and organizational skills. His attention to detail must be without question. And his ability to multi-task should be unparalleled.

Where Can You Find Art Directors?

So we’re down to the million dollar question: “Where do you find a worthy art director?” Is there a number you can call like 1-800-ART-DIRECTOR?

First off, you need to decide whether you want to hire a local art director or a remote one.

The advantages of hiring locally include:

  • Ease of access and the ability to work with you personally – it’s always easier to work with someone face to face.
  • Less cultural and social adjustment needed – you’re most probably living in the same city as your designer so you’re in the same time zone, speak the same language and share the same culture. This makes work so much smoother.
  • Better team-building opportunities – being in the same place physically creates plenty of opportunity to train, collaborate, build rapport, and get feedback.

On the other hand, hiring local talent can have the following disadvantages:

  • Specific skill sets can be harder to find – if you’re limited to a particular geographical area, finding a rockstar will be challenging.
  • Overhead expenses – if you hire locally, you’ll be obligated to keep an office which means you have to pay rent, pay for supplies, pay for electricity and other utilities. If you already have an office, you’ll have to provide your new hire with a work space which translates to the same thing – increased overhead.

If you decide to hire a remote worker, you need to decide if you’re hiring a project-based director or a full-time one. In any case, here are the advantages of hiring remote talent:

  • Specific skill sets can be harder to find – if you’re limited to a particular geographical area, finding a rockstar will be challenging.
  • Overhead expenses – if you hire locally, you’ll be obligated to keep an office which means you have to pay rent, pay for supplies, pay for electricity and other utilities. If you already have an office, you’ll have to provide your new hire with a work space which translates to the same thing – increased overhead.

If you decide to hire a remote worker, you need to decide if you’re hiring a project-based director or a full-time one. In any case, here are the advantages of hiring remote talent:

  • Access to a global pool of talents – you’re not limited to who’s available in your city and what they know. Hiring remotely gives you access to talented art directors from different countries who may even charge relatively smaller fees than local recruits. This is true to both project-based freelancers and full-timers.
  • Little to no overhead – most remote workers work from home so you don’t need to worry about providing them with work spaces. This is especially true for project-based freelancers. However, for full-time employees, you may be required to subsidize their internet connection, computer equipment etc. But these costs are still far less compared to local overhead expenses.
  • Less contractual obligation – you can hire art directors on a per-project basis. If you like their work, continue to give them projects to work on. If you don’t, just don’t give them any more tasks to perform and that’s that.

On the other hand, here are the disadvantages of hiring remote workers:

  • Trial and error –you can’t really gauge the level of expertise, experience and even work ethic of the remote worker until you take a leap of faith and hire them. The good news is, if you don’t like their performance on the first project, you can just part ways right then and there.
  • Time constraints – if you hire a remote art director, particularly a freelancer, you need to understand right off the bat that you’re probably sharing him with several other clients (some paying more than you). That means your project is at the mercy of the freelancer’s workload. This may not be the case, though, with full-time remote employees.

That being said, here are a few places where you can find art directors online. Note that in some of these websites, you’ll have the option to hire either locally or remotely. It’s all up to you, your needs and your budget:

  • Monster (local and remote) – although Monster now caters to remote worker needs, its strength still lies in sourcing local talents. All you need to do is search “art directors”, narrow down your search by location and experience, and you’re off to the races.
  • Upwork (local and remote) – geared more towards the US market. You can post an art director job, and available contractors can start lining up to apply. All you’d need to do is choose the best candidate. This is a good place to look for either part-timers or full-time art directors.
  • People Per Hour (remote and local) – geared more towards the European market. Just like Upwork, you post a job and contractors will apply. You can choose the best candidate and go from there. This is also a good place to look for either part-timers or full-time art directors.
  • C9 Digital (remote) – specializes in providing remote staffing services from the Philippines. It is considered a concierge service where you don’t simply hire art directors from the Philippines (or any other kind of remote worker for that matter), you hire an art director with an entire management service behind him to keep him accountable and always on his toes. This is ideal for people looking to hire the best and expecting to get the best while keeping costs relatively competitive.

Hiring Considerations

When looking to hire an art director, whether it be local or remote, there are a few important considerations you have to keep in mind.

What kind of project are you working on? Are you running an advertising agency, a digital marketing firm, a magazine, a stage production outfit or an events coordination company?

Next, what level of experience or proficiency would you like your art director to have? Would you be okay with a mid-level director or are you looking for a senior level one? Are you looking to hire for a one-off project or are there multiple ones in your pipeline?

Finally, how much do you have to spend? Are you ready to spend good money on a senior-level art director or is your budget pointing towards a mid-level one?

C9 Digital Graphic Designers

Here at C9 Digital, we have art directors in all levels of proficiency. Whether you need a mid-level (with 1-3 years experience) or a senior level art director (with 4 years experience or more), we have one that fits your needs.

We pride ourselves for having exceptional people skills and management skills. Our art directors are able to work within culturally diverse environments. And since we’re based in the Philippines, communication is not a problem because we speak excellent English. In fact, most of our remote workers have English as their second language so you don’t have to worry about important matters getting lost in translation.

Hiring our remote art directors can help you save up to 70% in payroll costs without the corresponding loss in the quality of work. We train our people to “live inside the client’s business” in order to truly deliver what the client wants and needs.

So, are you finally ready to hire an art director? Let’s talk.

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