Have you seen the job titles: Graphic Designer, Art Director, and Creative Director, but you’re not sure what the differences are? They each have different responsibilities but you can find each career option under the same agency – collaborating with each other. The one thing the various roles mentioned have in common is that they all involve overlapping creativity.
We are going to outline the boundaries between each role: The person that is responsible for guiding any given project is the Creative Director, with the Art Director driving the execution of the project, and the Graphic Designer offering their skills.
- Graphic Designer
Graphic Designers usually work on both print and web-based visuals. The principles that a skilled Graphic Designer can offer includes how to draw, render a logo digitally, what typography is being used, print layout, what colors compliment each other, contrast, repetition, alignment, proximity, and overall basic art skills and what tools to use to bring ideas to life. They use both manual (pen and pencil for example) and technical (adobe software) tools to render commercial and public artworks that contain a message. Posters, books, and websites are some of their products. In short, graphic designers are makers. They create visual art with the purpose of communicating a message. Graphic Designers working in the United States earned a median salary of $48,690 per year.
The work of a Graphic Designer is certainly different from that of an Art Director and Creative Director. The focus of an Art Director is on communicating and spearheading a strategy, concept, or idea that was given to them by the Creative Director – not so much on using their hands to bring their ideas to life, but to brainstorm and plan the best way to implement a design campaign to and delegate tasks to the Graphic Designers, Copywriters, Photographers and other Team Members, who all work together to bring the ideas to life. The Art Director assures brand consistency and that all other team members are on the same wave length. The Art Director oversees each stage of a project, from the point that an assignment as given to them, through the design team, into printing and distribution. If there’s no Creative Director, the Art Director will have the final say on a project. On the other hand- Creative Directors focus mainly on coming up with the original idea from the very beginning – and not on rending the idea nor on coming up with a plan to bring the idea to life. As you can see there are many checks and balances within the design industry. Creative Directors may also serve the position as CEO of a company – they have the final say in what is presented to a client and this vital position keeps the studio or agency’s design philosophy on track. The Creative Director oversees the entire team, which includes the Graphic Designer and Art Director.
- Art Director
To explain it another way: The work of Art Directors is totally different from that of Graphic Designers. Graphic Designer have more technical skills, where as an Art Director’s task to manage team members with a wide range of skills to come together to bring an idea to life. Another difference between the two positions is that Art Directors work in fashion, theater, and cinema to organize and plan the performances. Graphic Designers do not typically work in this field, except to design the promotional materials to attract an audience to the show. Although an Art Director understands the world of Graphic Design in order to communicate their needs, they don’t necessarily handle the design tasks themselves. They tend to delegate tasks to a team of Website Developers, Printers, Makeup Artists, etc. Art Directors working in New York in 2015 earned a median salary of $115,880 per year.
Their work is done in two phases: idea and execution. The idea comes as a result of brainstorming sessions with copywriters and other creative staff. Execution involves the coordination of the Graphic Designers and other Artistic Team Members and how to distribute their creations to achieve a goal. For an Art Director, Graphic Design is just one part of the machine they need to maintain. On the other hand – Creative Directors are focused on an even wider picture.
- Creative Director
Creative Directors may start off as Graphic Designers, Art Directors or Copywriters. They work in industries as varied as event planning, art, and cinema. Unlike an Art Director, their line of work goes far beyond in house operations. They are mainly focused on retaining clients and growing the business with the help of great designs. Essentially, the work of Creative Directors encompasses messaging, copywriting, art direction, and media distribution. They translate the marketing goals into a creative brief and they manage several projects and Art Directors at the same time. The Creative Director relies on intuition and understands the psychology of design and works to create an effective way to reaching consumers. Although a Creative Director’s forte is not always their technical skills, they should have the ability to write copy, design logos or choose typefaces, if necessary. As of March 2017, Creative Directors working in the United States earned a median salary of $114,937 per year, however this can vary widely depending on a variety of factors such as company size and industry.
Creative Directors play very different roles from that of a Graphic Designer and Art Directors. It’s possible that a Creative Director’s idea might not need the technical skills of Graphic Designer or the managerial skills of an Art Director to bring their visions to life – rather, their focus is to work with their team members to meet the business objectives as stated by the client.
There you have it!