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Advertising agency art direction: graduate area of work

Often seen as the glamorous side of art and design, this role involves the creation and development of commercial ads for organisations.

Advertising agency professionals usually work in ‘creative teams’ of two – an art director and a copywriter. Art directors come up with the ‘visual’ to go with the copywriter’s words or vice versa. Images can start out as basic as stick men, and the concept is then presented by the creatives to senior agency creatives, including the creative director, who reject, shape or add to it. The creative team will then rework their concept until it is ready to be presented to the client.

The art director has a wider role than a graphic designer (also employed by advertising agencies). Whilst the graphic designer takes the art director’s brief and comes up with visuals to implement it, the art director oversees the whole advertisement from concept (creating the initial images and ideas) to client pitch (presenting their ideas to the client) and production (advising film crews on set).

The conditions

There’s a fair bit of grind to go with the glam. The advertising sector is notorious for its long, long hours, when creative teams have to burn the midnight oil to generate the creative ideas to client deadlines. Also, getting into this sector is very tough – the unwritten, but accepted, practice is for would-be creatives to take on unpaid work on campaigns in order to build their portfolio.

On the plus side, however, this sector is known for helping its own – with successful agency creatives frequently taking time out to advise aspiring art directors on their portfolios, and even championing candidates if they think their work is good. It can be hard to go back to the drawing board just after the fantastic idea you’ve nurtured for weeks is shot down by a client. That said, you are getting paid for spending all day daydreaming!

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