Design Director Job Description
Design directors oversee design and branding projects for clients, manage design teams, and develop and supervise design projects. Advertising companies, marketing agencies, automotive companies, interior design companies, and entertainment businesses hire design directors to work full-time office hours with few evenings or weekends required. Design directors are supervisors within a collaborative environment, and they primarily report to the account or art department director. Design directors work in offices but may travel to other offices, conference rooms, or restaurants to meet with various clients.
Design Director Duties and Responsibilities
A design director’s daily duties vary depending on the projects they’re working on and the size of their design team. However, there are several core job tasks associated with this career, including:
Develop Design Ideas
Design directors conceptualize design projects and come up with creative ideas based on specific client needs. They then develop strategic plans for these projects, determining how long they will take and what they will cost. They also create storyboards and mockups to give clients and design teams an idea of how finished projects will look.
Choose Specific Design Elements
Design directors choose specific design elements for various projects, and determine if text or additional elements should be included in designs.
Supervise Design Projects
Design directors oversee design projects. This includes managing staff members and monitoring projects to ensure they are moving forward on schedule and within budget.
Establish Design Teams
Design directors choose design teams for projects from the existing pool of company employees.
Participate in Client Meetings
Design directors meet with clients to determine what they want from their projects and what specific design elements they may wish to incorporate.
Design directors review feedback from clients, then design or alter projects to fit the client’s vision, brand, and business needs.
Design directors analyze market research, customer reviews, and other material to create more effective designs.
Collaborate with Sales and Marketing
Design directors collaborate with sales and marketing teams to ensure design projects are profitable.
Design Director Skills and Qualifications
Design directors use artistic and creative skills to visualize design projects, and employ analytical skills to choose and supervise the design teams that create these projects based on specific client needs. When hiring design directors, employers seek individuals who have these specific skills:
- Graphic design expertise – because design directors supervise design projects and come up with design concepts, employers look for professionals with graphic design skills
- Computer skills – design directors regularly use design software such as Photoshop, which requires excellent computer skills
- Leadership skills – design directors use leadership skills to manage staff and supervise projects from conception to completion
- Multitasking – design directors oversee multiple design projects at once, which requires good multitasking
- Communication skills – design directors use verbal communication skills to clearly explain design projects and the elements needed to create them
- Analytical thinking – design directors analyze data and determine how to incorporate their findings into design projects
- Time management – design directors use time management to keep projects on schedule and keep team members working within deadlines
Design Director Education and Training
When hiring design directors, an associate’s degree in graphic design, fine arts, advertising, or a related field is accepted by some employers, but many prefer a bachelor’s degree in one of these disciplines. However, some employers will accept candidates with past work experience and less formal education. Many design directors keep portfolios showcasing their past projects, which can make candidates stand out against others seeking the same job.
Little training is provided to design directors because these professionals must already meet extensive education and experience requirements. Usually, design directors begin performing their work duties immediately, though a short grace period may be provided to allow directors to become familiar with existing projects and clients.
Design Director Salary and Outlook
Data provided by PayScale shows that design directors in the advertising industry earn a median annual salary of $107,426, while those in interior design earn $93,352 per year. Information compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that art directors earn $92,500 in yearly median income. Art directors assume responsibility for visual styling in print materials, creating overall design ideas and managing design teams to create these visuals. The duties and education requirements for art directors and design directors are very similar. The BLS expects employment opportunities to increase 5 percent through 2026, a rate that is as fast as the national average.
Design directors receive comprehensive benefit packages from a majority of employers that include health insurance with medical, dental, and vision benefits. Life insurance and retirement benefits are typically provided as well. Paid vacation days, holidays, and personal days are included in most packages. In addition to salary and benefits, design directors may receive additional monetary bonuses for meeting or exceeding certain design goals.
Browse these books and websites to find job listings, explore career resources, search upcoming training events, and learn helpful work strategies:
Association of National Advertisers – visit this website to find training programs, webinars, upcoming networking events, and resources for design directors and other advertising professionals
Art Directors’ Handbook of Professional Magazine Design: Classic Techniques and Inspirational Approaches – find ways to incorporate classic design elements into modern projects with this book that provides tips, techniques, and useful solutions for art and design directors in all industries
AIGA: The Professional Association for Design – search for jobs, find professional development resources, and explore lots of content for designers at the AIGA website
Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills – this book helps anyone hone their creative skills with various exercises and challenges that make even the most difficult design problems easier to solve. The text includes brainstorming techniques used by top designers
Global Association for Creative Advertising and Design Awards – explore upcoming design events, find learning resources, and read blog content at this website for professional designers in all career fields
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