Advice

*

Job Description: Art Editor.

Published

Art editors are responsible for the way a magazine looks. They present the words and images in a way that is easy for the reader to digest, with high visual impact.

In the highly competitive consumer magazine market, the art editor's role is essential to the success of a publication. The magazine's cover, in particular, must always look distinctive, to attract potential buyers.

Job Description, salaries and benefits

Art editors are responsible for the way a magazine looks. They present the words and images in a way that is easy for the reader to digest, with high visual impact.

The job covers all aspects of layout, design and photography and may include:

  • laying out pages for the magazine, often to tight deadlines
  • discussing design and layout ideas with the editor and other colleagues
  • commissioning photographers and illustrators
  • sketching out and designing the cover - which must always look distinctive to attract buyers
  • anticipating trends and setting the magazine's overall visual style
  • controlling the art budget.

Specialised computer software is used to design magazines. The art editor may do some of this personally, and may also oversee a team of designers and art workers.

Art editors generally work normal office hours, but may need to work extra hours at times. They work in offices or design studios.

Salaries may start at around £22,000 for a trainee art editor, and rise as high as £70,000 for a top art director.

Art editors have to be:

  • creative, with a highly-developed visual sense
  • adept with page design software and the internet
  • a strong communicator, able to brief others clearly on what is needed
  • confident in presenting ideas
  • interested in magazine trends and graphic design.

Art editors are employed on consumer and business magazines throughout the UK. There are many opportunities, but competition for art editor posts can be fierce. An impressive portfolio of creative work is at least as important as qualifications.

Most art editors start out as graphic designers or art workers. There are no set qualifications, but most entrants have a degree or an HNC/HND in graphic design, illustration or a similar subject. A foundation course in art and design can provide a good start. Mature entry is possible for those with experience in publishing or graphic design and knowledge of software programs.

Most training is done on the job. Art editors must keep up to date with developments in graphic design, including new software. Several professional organisations offer regular courses and conferences.

Art editors working for larger publishers may be promoted to art director or move to work on a higher profile magazine. Some may become self-employed, or move into related areas such as advertising or interactive media design.

What is the work like?

The job covers all aspects of layout, design and photography.

Day-to-day tasks may include:

  • laying out pages for the magazine, often to tight deadlines
  • discussing design and layout ideas with the editor and other colleagues
  • commissioning and briefing photographers on the style and format of shots required
  • commissioning illustrators to produce any graphics needed
  • choosing the best images to use, either from commissioned pictures or stock library photography
  • drafting rough sketches of the cover design for discussion, then producing the final layout
  • ensuring that the art elements of the magazine are delivered on time and within budget.

On a broader level, the art editor is responsible for:

  • setting the magazine's overall visual style
  • establishing design templates - so that the magazine always has a recognisable look, no matter who lays out the pages
  • anticipating trends, and presenting proposals to make sure the magazine's design does not become stale
  • redesigning the magazine for relaunch.

Almost all page design is done on computer. Specialised design software is used. Art editors now use the latest technology to send pages directly to press.

In some companies the art editor may do most of the layout personally. On larger publications, he or she leads and trains a team of designers and art workers.

Art editors must liaise closely with colleagues and freelance contributors, including writers, sub-editors and photographers.

Salaries for trainee art editors may start at around £22,000 a year.

Hours and environment

An art editor generally works typical office hours, Monday to Friday. Extra hours are sometimes required, especially when the magazine is due to go to press.

The work is based in an office or design studio. Most work is done on a computer screen.

Art editors may travel to oversee photography sessions or attend meetings.

Salary and other benefits

These figures are only a guide, as actual rates of pay may vary, depending on the employer and where people live.

  • Salaries for trainee art editors may start at around £22,000 a year.
  • After five years' experience, salaries may reach £37,000.
  • Top art directors, working for major publications, can earn up to £70,000.

Skills and personal qualities

An art editor needs to be:

  • creative, with a highly-developed visual sense
  • adept with page design software and the internet
  • a strong communicator, able to brief others clearly on what is needed
  • confident in presenting ideas
  • attentive to detail
  • good at working in a team
  • well organised
  • unfazed by criticism
  • cool and effective under pressure
  • able to manage budgets.

Interests

It is important to have an interest in:

  • changing trends in magazine publishing
  • graphic design and typography.

Getting in

Around 3,330 art editors work on UK consumer publications. Business magazines employ a further 2,500 art editors, some of whom work on more than one title.

Magazine publishers are based in major towns and cities across the UK. By far the biggest concentration is in London and the South East.

The magazine business is booming. New titles launch and others fold all the time. The growth of online publications has also boosted opportunities. However, competition for posts can still be fierce.

An impressive portfolio of creative work is at least as important as qualifications. It is a good idea to get some work experience with a relevant employer or experience on a student magazine before looking for a job.

Vacancies are found in the trade press, such as Design Week and Media Week, or national newspapers such as The Guardian (Mondays). Some jobs in design and publishing are filled through specialist recruitment agencies that match people with vacancies.

Entry for young people

Most art editors start out in a more junior role, eg as a magazine designer or art worker.

There are no specific qualifications for entry to this field. In practice, however, most art editors have a degree, a Foundation degree or an HNC/HND. The most relevant subjects are graphic design, illustration or similar subjects.

There are many of these courses at universities and art colleges across the UK:

  • for a degree, the requirements are usually two A levels/three H grades and five GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3), or equivalent qualifications
  • for HNCs/HNDs, students need one A level/two H grades in art and design subjects, a BTEC national certificate/diploma in a relevant subject, or equivalent qualifications
  • for BTEC national diplomas or certificates, students need four GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3)
  • it is possible to take a year-long foundation course in art and design, which will build up a portfolio of work that helps gain a place on a degree or diploma course.

It is possible to study to postgraduate level in specialised areas of graphic design and related subjects. Students normally need a first degree in an appropriate subject.

Entry for adults

It is important to have a track record and portfolio in a relevant area, such as publishing or graphic design, as well as up-to-date knowledge of computer software programs.

Training

Most training is done on the job. It is essential for art editors to keep up to date with new trends in the field, and with innovations in software. Employers may sponsor training courses in these areas.

Professional organisations, such as D&AD and the Periodicals Training Council, offer regular courses, workshops and networking events for members.

Art editors may apply for membership of the Chartered Society of Designers (CSD). Membership is awarded on the basis of an assessment of work completed. CSD offers a programme of Continuing Professional Development for members.

Getting on

Art editors working for larger publishers may be promoted to art director. They may advance by moving to a managerial role, or a higher-profile publication within the company's suite of magazines.

In smaller companies, promotion opportunities can be limited and advancement may mean finding a job with a different company.

With further training, it may be possible to move into a related field, such as advertising or interactive media design.

Experienced art editors with good industry contacts may become self-employed or set up their own design agency.

Further information

The Chartered Society of Designers (CSD), 1 Cedar Court, Royal Oak Yard, Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3GA. 020 7357 8088. Website: www.csd.org.uk

D&AD (Design & Art Directors Association), 9 Graphite Square, Vauxhall Walk, London SE11 5EE. 020 7840 1111. Website: www.dandad.org

National Society for Education in Art & Design (NSEAD), The Gatehouse, Corsham Court, Corsham, Wiltshire SN13 0BZ. 01249 714825. Website: www.nsead.org

Periodical Publishers Association (PPA), Queens House, 28 Kingsway, London WC2B 6JR. 020 7404 4166. Website: www.ppa.co.uk

Periodicals Training Council (PTC), Queens House, 55-56 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2A 3LJ. 020 7400 7509. Website: www.ppa.co.uk

Further reading

Creative futures - NSEAD

Your future in magazines - PTC

Magazines/journals

Design Week

Media Week

Publishing News

Comments

More Advice

*

Advice

Why grad teams should think twice about joining a small agency

Think Small. One of the greatest ad campaigns ever created. But forget cars, I’m talking about small agencies. I know what I would be thinking as a shiny new ad grad reading this, but hear me out fledgeling creatives. When you embark on your...

Posted by: Rickie Marsden
*

Advice

The copywriter’s toolkit - part 1: The secret archives

Building your library of spell books If there was a stereotypical mug for copywriters, it would have a slogan along the lines of ‘You don’t have to be a bibliophile to work here, but it helps!’ Actually, it would probably be...

Posted by: Mr. Write
*

Advice

Top 10 reasons to update your website

If you're responsible for the website of your business or organisation, it can sometimes be a case of out of sight, out of mind once it's up and running… you may only look at or amend one or two pages from time to time until someone points...

Posted by: Progression Design