An artistic director organizes and directs the visual elements in all communication media, from films to television programmes, digital tools and advertising. Patrick Bézier explains that in the field of advertising, the artistic director is also responsible for the overall design of commercial advertising, whether digital or print. He is charged with a much more complex task than simply making the ad look good: his role is to make all the visual elements work to maximize the impact of the message.
The art director transforms art into a means of communication.
In the field of advertising, the art director is a creative partner of the copywriters, who are in charge of producing all forms of writing (scripts, legends, titles or slogans). Nowadays, these two professionals often work together in a very harmonious process, agreeing on common concepts and ideas before allocating their respective responsibilities. To some extent, they may even share their tasks: an art director may contribute to the written content, just as an editor may be involved in exploring different typographic styles.
The main misunderstanding around the term “art direction” itself is that many people, even among the experts, do not consider advertising as art. Indeed, it may borrow images from art or visually emulate distinct art schools, but in any case its ultimate goal is always communication. Even art becomes just a means of communicating the advertising message in the most effective and appropriate way.
The art director is, above all, a rule-breaker.
An art director often needs to break aesthetic rules to attract attention and create surprise. This does not mean that he should be a visual anarchist, but that he must know when to go against the received ideas to create a unique, original and creative product, capable of eliciting an emotional response from the audience.
Every design professional must be fully aware of the rules associated with visual communication, before starting to transgress them. In advertising, all rules can be challenged. Since the art director translates the original idea into a visual expression in order to achieve a satisfactory end result, the central concept must be convincing.
A great art director can never go so far as to improve bad publicity. As Patrick Bézier points out, “Advertising is like the structure of a building and the artistic director is the interior designer”. In other words, the artistic director will help an idea emerge rather than distort it.
Indeed, the artistic direction should be a window rather than a beautifully painted and papered wall. The art director should be simple and logical. He or she must have sufficient knowledge of the product and the market in which he or she wants to venture. The job of art director can be compared to a functional and comfortable means of transportation, the effect of the message conveyed and the reaction of people to the journey itself.