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Friday 05| 2|03
Art Direction vs. Design

Jeffrey Zeldman waxes poetic over at A List Apart about the differences between Design and Art Direction. He also comments about the lack of Art Direction on the web.

I would have to agree - I have worked as an Art Director, as a designer and as a UI / IA person on the web and with software and I think the best art direction I have seen over the course of my career was in the ad agencies - where Art Direction is a practiced and learned craft. He is also correct in stating that they don't teach art direction in school. It is one of those things learned on the job - much in the same vein as apprentices used to learn from the master painters.


You started as a production person, learning from and taking direction from the designers and art directors. Then you moved into design (even if you had a degree from a school, you usually started in production), learning how everything comes together so you can design for it. Once in design you worked with art directors and creative directors - taking direction. Realizing and contributing to their vision - and yes it is about their vision as well as communicating the needs of the client. Only after putting in your time did you move into the AD role. Although I knew folks who would job hop to move up more quickly, it often backfired because they would try to direct a vision that was impossible to create since they didn't understand the production process.

I noticed that once I moved into the web and software, the vision role was often held by the marketing / product marketing folks or senior engineering. Designers were creative or functional - in the case of IAs and UI folks. But Design as a discipline, in this space, doesn't really graduate into the Art Director role in the traditional sense.

Too bad. We could stand to mature into the visionary role when it comes to the web and software. That's not to say that these people don't exist anywhere but in my (limited) experience, its the PMs who hold the vision.

Posted by erin at 12:55 PM | in Graphic Design

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