Do Art Directors Need To Draw?

Both terms, “art” and “director ” sound like a combination of two different industries. However, most beginners tend to interpret anything related to “art” as something that requires artistic skills like drawing or painting. Well, in the modern era, there are different arrays of fields in the creative industry and not all of them need to draw. 

If you’re confused as to whether drawing is an important skill for an art director, you’re about to find the answer. Along with answering your question, we will also walk you through different paths associated with the job description of an art director as well as what you need to do to become one. 

Does an art director need to learn to draw? 

Well, if we’re to answer this question in terms of the creative industry, then the answer is NO. This is because the job of the art director is to supervise and manage the aesthetic phase of a project. This includes graphic design, animation, and 3D modeling. 

Art directors work with different creative departments and their job is to ensure every department does a good job at their end. Now, a creative director is mostly confused for an art director such that they’re thought to mean the same thing. But that’s not true. 

Think of a creative director as the one that comes up with the visual idea and the art director, as the one that takes that idea and run it through series of processes that brings the idea to life. From this, you can tell that the role of an art director is mainly execution. 

Now, when it comes to drawing, an art director doesn’t need to know how to draw. It isn’t necessary but a bonus for those who do. This is because it will help them to communicate the visual idea better to the rest of the creative team. Having a skill like drawing brings an opportunity to venture into other field if the opportunity presents itself. 

If you will be interviewed for an art director job, drawing won’t be. a compulsory requirement. 

What does an art director do? 

We can’t explain the role of an art director without bringing a creative director into the picture. It’s like explaining what 3D animation is all about without introducing you to some of the tools you will be needing. 

Well, art directors and creative directors are mostly confused but the truth is, their roles are distinct and completely different. The creative director comes up with the visual ideas for the project while the art director help him conceptualize the idea. By this we mean, the creative director gives birth to the idea while the art director brings the idea into reality 

Art directors use their visual skill to oversee the process that brings the idea to life. He organises and leads the creative team which normally comprises of the graphics designer, animation artist as well as a writer who translates the benefit of the project into written words for the end user.

The art director manages the execution phase which includes art design, illustration, the conceptualization of ideas, setting a timeline for product execution, and finally rendering the idea on a screen. 

He also directs the team that handles the creation phase which includes modeling, rendering, animation as well as story boarding. Just as majority of those in the creative team don’t need to learn how to draw or code, the art director doesn’t need to do the same. 

The job description of an art director is quite diverse. They’re needed in different arrays of fields. In addition to the creative industry, they’re the backbone of several visual projects handled in advertising, marketing, movie production as well as architecture and branding. 

An art director needs to be a good communicator but his best weapon should be leadership skills. In several industries, he won’t be working alone. His job involves brainstorming with different creative department. He needs to possess a bit of man management skill to be able to steer every team to executing the idea and meeting up with deadline. 

Difference between a creative and an art director? 

This is the major question asked by individuals interested in both fields. Well, both job titles aren’t the same. We can say a creative director is a general title for individuals who engage in the creative aspect of every animation project. In some industries, a creative director not just come up with ideas for the visual, they also present the finished work to the client. 

Most times, an art director will work under the creative director. Thy both collaborate to execute the project rather than leaving it all for the art director to do. While the art director interacts with those in charge of the aesthetic part of a project, the creative director has to be in close connection with both the creative team as well as the video editors and the sound department. 

You can see that the workload of the creative director surpasses that of the art director. Most of the time, the outcome of a project is pinned to the skill of the creative director. In industries where a creative director is required, there’s always an opening for an art director since both professionals work hand in hand to meet the visual needs of the team. 

Skills a good art director should possess? 

We already know that an art director doesn’t need to learn how to draw or code to excel in his field. However, most of the skills that will take him to the top of his career, he has to learn them on the job. 

First, an art director needs to be able to understand the basic idea developed by the creative director and translate it to the execution team. This job involves tons of communication and ensuring each member of the team understands the message that’s being passed 

The art director also needs to be a team player. He needs to visualize the final output of the project before it’s been born. Most of the times, they ensure the team follows the description given by the client by laying out every details needed. 

Also, as an art director, you need to understand the role each department will play in executing the project. Such as who will handle the graphics, animation, modeling or storyboarding? If you’ve worked with the team at a stretch, you should know the right person to assign each job to. 

Motivation is needed and you need to keep each member on their toes to ensure they meet the deadline. It’s important to track the project of the team on daily basis and then report to the creative director. 

How does one become an art director? 

Most skill in the labor market needs an academic certification to stand a chance of landing a job. In the creative industry, your job isn’t tied to academic qualification. Most of the skills in the creative sector, are learnt out of school during your free time. To climb the ladder of an art director, you need to start below the ladder by picking one skill in the creative sector. 

This could be anything from 3D modeling and animation to graphics design. You won’t cut if you don’t build your portfolio. Secondly, to be considered as an art director in any company, you need to spend years perfecting your skill and delivering impressive results. 

No course in the university teaches you how to become an art director just as the likes of Copy-writing aren’t taught in school as well. Working in the job for several years will give you an insight into how things are done and how to better organize every project. 

Most companies are aware that an art director has to take care of a lot hence, they pick individuals with good communication and management skills for this role. Leadership skill is crucial for this job description and you stand a higher chance than those who do not possess it. 

Well, if your goal is to become the art director in your creative team, the best people to learn from are those who have “walk the-walks” themselves. You will learn quickly by connecting with other directors around you. Engage them in one-on-one talks if you have to. Art directors are great talkers and it’s easy to engage them in a conversation related to their industry. 


If your dream job is to be an art director, we advise you to get started by learning a creative skills. This is the only way you can get your foot in the door. Most companies seeking art directors only employ those with experience in the creative industry. They don’t see any need to employ someone who knows nothing about the visual requirement a company will need. 

Attaining the height of a creative director will take years but you won’t grow grey hair before that happens. While you keep on this path, you will engage in several interesting projects and the reward is worth the trouble.