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How to hire a great art director – 5 top tips

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Creativity is a wonderful and very personal thing, but it can also cultivate chaos if it’s not properly guided by the right pair of hands. Those hands often belong to the art director. This is the part of the team that guides the creatives and ensures a cohesive project, every time.

Who or what is an art director?

Whereas the creative director is generally head of the creative team and provides all the conceptual ideas behind a project, it’s the art director that fills in the gaps and takes care of the finer details.

Once the concept is on the table, art directors will typically be responsible for a team of artists and designers that will work together to shape the aesthetics of the piece. They will also get stuck in with hands on work, when required, and will rely heavily on technical skills to get the job done.

Leading a team of artists, art directors will determine which artistic elements to use; articulate the vision to their team; review and approve copy, designs, or photography; develop budgets and timelines; and determine how to best represent the creative director’s concept.

How to find and hire the right art director

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You can find art directors working in a vast array of fields, including advertising, on movie sets, in public relations firms, with theatre and TV producers and directors, or at book and magazine publishing houses. You can also, of course, find them right here at Creativepool.

But with so many to sort through, how are you supposed to figure out which art director is ideal for your business or project? Here are five top tips to keep in mind during your search.

1. Look for potential as much as past success

You should always hire the kind of people you admire and look to the future more than the past. Yes, a strong CV and portfolio shouldn’t be snuffed at but you might be able to see flashes of genius in an otherwise rather average portfolio. It might be that they have all the right skills but they’ve been waiting for the right opportunity (and person/company) to nurture those skills. Also, don’t discount the potential of an art director  that knows your target market

2. Think about more than just profit

The best art director for your creative campaigns will help your company see profits, and it’s naive to say that profitability isn’t worth consideration. But it’s just as important for any creative executive to have a vision, style, and passion that matches your company’s mission. Ask questions during the hiring process that can give you more personal insight into any potential hire. “How do you see your unique creativity complementing our company’s mission?” or “Where do you find your inspiration for art?” and even “What are you reading right now?”

3. Give them a test

Seeing a potential hire work in real-time offers valuable insight their creative skills. By giving open-ended problems during the interview process–whether in-person or as a “take-home” type of assignment–you’ll be able to assess how a person can conceptualize, strategize, and execute creative challenges. This will give you a much better idea of how a person’s individual technical and communication skills will work within your company. This is particularly important for art directors at advertising agencies, where building relationships with clients is of paramount concern.

4. Look for an extrovert

Some of the greatest creatives minds of all time have been incredibly introverted. But when it comes to art directors, shrinking violets won’t get you anywhere. For any leading position at an agency, for example, you need decent social skills. That being said, a good art director should be able to inspire great work and at the same have a team and clients follow them willingly into battle, so to speak. It’s all about the team; ego should be put aside. “When the team shines, so will you” is a good mantra. Extroverts are generally also better at managing stress and as the leader of a creative team they need to be comfortable with working hard for long hours in a high-pressure environment.

5. Time management is key

Look for an art director that can be open to influence and inspiration, of course, but also look for one that can actually manage themselves. Because if they can’t manage themselves, how can you expect them to manage a creative team? Knowing when and where to best invest your energy, when you need to get involved and when it’s better to be more hands off are key traits of the best art directors.

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Ultimately, there is no exact formula for what makes a good art director: it's not a discipline taught in design schools and there are no books or guides that define the steps to success. Every art director will have their own definition of what their role is and how they approach the job. It’s up to you to decide whether or not that definition and approach aligns with you and your business values.

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