5 Characteristics of a Successful Art Director

art director characteristics

  • Effective storyteller
  • Effective cross-media design skills
  • Brand understanding and leadership
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Conceptual abilities

Art directors, or as they are also sometimes called, creative directors, create the visual aesthetic and the marketing message behind advertising campaigns. They work in every industry from TV and movies to magazines to non-profits. Their vision, as well as their artistic and management skills, helps a team of creatives stay on brand. To accomplish this, these creative professionals must possess the following five characteristics.

Effective Storyteller

According to Rasmussen College, storytelling sits at the heart of an effective advertising campaign: As such, the creative director must possess solid storytelling skills. The art director is responsible for creating the brand story for the client. As such, storytelling ability counts as one of the critical characteristics of a successful art director.

Effective Cross-Media Design Skills

While many art directors start out with a background in graphic design, their job requires more than just art and design skills. Marketing messaging these days spans multiple platforms, including but not limited to, television, print and web platforms. The creative director may not have all of the skills required, he or she should have the ability to work and communicate with creatives across the spectrum. Solid cross-platform skills, as well as solid communication abilities, are also some of the critical characteristics that a successful creative director possesses.

Brand Understanding and Leadership

It is said that a successful art director is also an amateur psychologist. The person in charge of a company’s advertising campaign must understand the company and its brand and the psychology behind the brand. Further, the art director must have the ability to communicate the brand message to his or her team. That’s why leadership and the ability to communicate brand count as two of the most important characteristics that a creative director can possess.

Problem-Solving Skills

Every creative campaign comes with its own set of challenges. Effective art directors possess excellent problem-solving skills, according to the Creative and Cultural Skills website. These challenges come from any and all of the project’s elements: This could include design challenges, technology problems or cross-cultural communication issues.

Conceptual Abilities

To take a campaign from idea to final product requires the ability to conceptualize, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS). This process usually includes the art director making mock ups of conceptual art or storyboards, creating advertising copy and other creative elements. These tools help to communicate the creative director’s vision to his or her creative team. Possessing the ability to carry out these tasks in another important characteristic of a good art director.


While all art directors bring something slightly different to the table, they also possess a number of the same important characteristics. The possession of characteristics, like leadership, conceptual abilities and art skills, to name but a few, are just a few of the skills a successful art director possesses.

Would-be art directors can acquire these skills a number of ways. Many attend an art school and study graphic design, production design, illustration or something of that nature. They also get internships during their college years. Finally, they get jobs in the industry, like graphic design or creative writing jobs, and work their way up.

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