It is not an uncommon question, the difference between an Art Director and a Creative Director. In fact in some instances they may be interchangeable, particularly in smaller agencies where the role is more fluid. However, in larger agencies where both roles exist together, there are clear distinctions between the two.
Whether you are planning your career trajectory, or looking to recruit a new creative member to your team, it is worth considering what the two roles mean in most agency settings. Here I explore the key differences and share each role’s USP:
What Does A Creative Director Do?
Typically in a medium to large agency the Creative Director oversees the entire creative team, including any Art Directors. When working on new projects the Creative Director has a more visionary and strategic role, defining the creative concept for a brand or campaign. They will also be responsible for the agency’s creative direction, including recruiting team members, defining the agency’s brand and steering design philosophy.
Creative Directors steer the agency ship managing multiple teams and multiple projects, innovating but also keeping things on brand.
Perhaps one of the key differences between the role of a Creative Director and that of an Art Director is strategic. The Creative director is tasked with overseeing a campaign or project with specific business objectives from the client. This might be to raise brand awareness, increase sales, drive more traffic to the client’s website and so forth. The Creative Director’s role is to find the best solution to meet those objectives; working alongside the Account Director, and perhaps a Planner or Strategist.
The Art Director’s job is to create and execute the best design based on a creative brief given by the Creative Director with these strategic decisions already made.
Career Path For Creative Directors
Creative Directors come from a variety of backgrounds, although it tends to be a natural progression for Designers. However, other creatives such as Copywriters and Marketing Directors can also step into this role; it is all about having the creative brilliance and ability to deliver consistently, as well as a great understanding of the audience you are addressing.
Experience is obviously important to the role, but there is no set time frame from getting your first creative role to taking up the mantel of Creative Director. While your creative ability will be a factor in your success, the role of Creative Director is also about building the right environment for your creative team to thrive. Attracting the brightest talent to your agency; providing them with the right environment to do their best work; and keeping them interested; is just as important, if not more, than your own ability to create.
That said if you are working for a smaller agency your role is also likely to include some technical skills like copywriting and design. Here your role might merge with that of the Art Director.
The Key Role Of An Art Director
In a large agency setting the Art Director works with the Creative Director executing their concept or strategy. Of course, in many agencies it is not as clear-cut as this, Art Directors may also be involved in the ideas phase of a project, and a good Creative Director will be encouraging their creativity. However, the Art Director is generally presented with a specific brief from the Creative Director and generates ideas based on this. These go back to the Creative Director who then picks the best ones and sells them to the client.
Having received the OK on a particular idea the Art Director is responsible for putting this into production and managing all aspects of the creative process. Art Directors generally head up their own teams of Designers, Typographers, Illustrators, Photographers etc.
In larger agencies there may be several Art Directors (often paired with a copywriter) working on different campaigns, or responsible for a specific area of the project. For example, one Art Director may look after interactive, while another focuses on packaging. As well as managing a team and getting the best out of those you work with; the Art Director also needs to ensure that deadlines are hit and that projects stay within budget.
Although Art Directors will have excellent creative skills, their role is more about working with people than working on a computer or behind a camera. Collaborating with a team of Designers, being able to articulate clearly what you require from everyone involved is just as important as being able to use Creative Suite.
As you can see the role of Creative Director is generally a senior management role and therefore salaries for this position are higher than for an Art Director role. However, these titles are used in different ways at different agencies and therefore salaries do vary considerably across London. Consequently it is important to weigh up a role based on the actual responsibilities and salary, rather than just the job title.
Employers too need to be aware that their definition of a ‘Creative Director’ or an ‘Art Director’ might not be the same as the candidate’s in front of them. Ultimately job titles may give you an indication of a candidate’s aptitude, but only a thorough look at their previous roles and experience will tell you whether or not they are a fit for your role.
If you are looking for a creative role, or want to add top talent to your creative team, get in touch with me on 020 3116 0000 or email email@example.com.