Understanding Art Direction & Why It’s Necessary


If the look of your website and graphics impede marketing goals, it could be because you are overlooking the importance of effective art direction. 

Without art direction, your overall brand may appear clunky and inconsistent, which could be off-putting or confusing to your target audience.

For example: the user experience may be miscommunicated and key information may be hard to find or understand. Or maybe your messaging might seem generic, appearing to come from different companies or campaigns. 

This struggle to convey your brand and marketing messages can largely impact your ability to attract and engage your audience in a meaningful way. 

In short, art direction provides the essential oversight of your company or client’s brand needs to create compelling marketing messages that attract the target audience. 

Still struggling to understand what art direction is and why it’s necessary? We are here to help. We will also explain what art directors do and show how art direction is used. Hold tight, and let's go!

What is Art Direction?

Art direction starts with creating an overall visual concept that develops your brand into a memorable brand identity.  That creative vision is developed into a set of brand guidelines that can be adopted by any designer as they produce content for various platforms. 

Art directors manage the creative process to ensure different artistic elements work together to create a unified message. 

That means art directors have to oversee design teams made up of: graphic designers, photographers, filmmakers, and copywriters. Whether for branding, content marketing, or advertising, the aim is to ensure that different media formats, including images, videos, graphics, and print, work together in unison.

When done properly, art direction will guide the target audience through your sales funnel by providing an unforgettable experience that elicits an emotional response, making them want to discover more and interact with the business, products, and services.

Why Is Art Direction Necessary?

Art direction ensures that the visual personality of your brand works together to deliver a compelling message that resonates with the audience. 

Without an art director responsible for ensuring that the customer’s journey is consistent, you will end up with a mixed and unfocused user experience. This can result in abandoned carts, frustrating click through experiences, viewer drop off, etc. 

Art direction is critical to avoiding these problems, and it does this by ensuring that:

“Art direction helps your brand know which suit to wear. Your brand has an image just like a regular person does. Showing up consistently in the marketplace as the same ‘being' is important.” 

What Do Art Directors Do?  

Art directors oversee design projects to ensure visual communications meet the design brief and align with the brand identity. That means they also have to direct and manage their creative staff to deliver the tone and visual goals of the project.

They are involved in all aspects of marketing, whether it's brand design, marketing campaigns, content marketing, or advertising.

It's worth noting that if there's no one in your organization with the art director title, it doesn't mean there's no one doing the job. Depending on the size and structure of the organization, responsibilities may be divided differently. 

In smaller companies, for example, the role may fall on the shoulders of a graphic designer or senior graphic designer, who may share the responsibility with other creative staff members.

In a larger organization, the responsibility for conceptual and bigger-picture tasks may rest with the creative director. A creative director has oversight over all creative aspects, visual and nonvisual. So they may create the overarching vision and work with the client to develop a design brief. In that case, the art director is more responsible for interpreting the brief, guiding the creative team, and managing the project. 

Creating and Interpreting the Artistic Vision

Art direction involves creating the overarching concept and interpreting the marketing brief to deliver the campaign message visually in the most engaging way possible. Creating the vision may be the creative or art director's responsibility, but either way, it involves experience, insight, imagination, and intuition to get it right.

It may also require market research to learn more about the target audience to ensure the campaign's style, tone, and mood will resonate with the audience. 

Overseeing the Creative Process 

Creative team collaborates on a design project at a planning meeting

Another key responsibility of the art director is to oversee the design process to ensure the artistic elements work together to deliver the desired core message or idea. 

That means art directors must explain the brief to the graphic designers and other creatives on their team to ensure they understand the client's goals. As the project unfolds, the art director has to oversee the team's work, to ensure all the visual assets align with the visual design brief, branding guidelines, and design principles.

The art director must continually review and provide feedback on their creative team's work. That means identifying and encouraging inspiring ideas to develop further.  

“The single most important thing an art director must do is provide their team with the correct information and feedback to produce the content they've been assigned.”

In practice, the direction of a project may change multiple times during its lifetime. 

The creative process always evolves, responding to new ideas, opinions, and circumstances. This may come from the client's end, new research or information, or inspiration from the creative team. 

So, art directors have to continually keep the design team, account managers, and clients in the loop, liaising between them to ensure everyone is on the same page and working toward the same goal. 

Different stakeholders may have different priorities. It's not unknown for a higher-up to send the whole project back to the drawing board! This is where diplomacy comes in. The art director will need to negotiate an acceptable solution. They may also have to argue for an increased budget to complete the project while maintaining their team's morale. 

Managing the Project

Graphic designer plans a webpage using a wireframe

Artistic directors will usually be responsible for project management, even if it's shared with others, such as creative directors and account managers. Managing a project involves setting goals, monitoring performance, and meeting client expectations. 

This requires art directors to be involved in the following:

What Skills Do Art Directors Need?

Art Directors are often hired after working for years in graphic design and related fields. They need great artistic insight, extensive experience in the area, management experience, and strong interpersonal skills to negotiate with all the stakeholders in a project. They also need to be able to interpret a client's wishes and expertly manage the creative and project management processes. 

Art Direction in Marketing

Art direction in marketing is telling the story to convey a message visually. Art and graphics are used throughout marketing, so art direction can be involved in every marketing field. Here are some examples where art direction is used in marketing.

Content Marketing 

Content marketing is about delivering compelling messages through storytelling using written and visual media. This could include creating layouts and designs for websites, blogs, social media posts, and email campaigns. It also involves working with different visual mediums to complement the text in telling the story. 

Here are some key areas of content marketing where visual content plays a crucial role in messaging and improving engagement:

Website design and blogs: Landing pages must be attractive and well-designed. That means they are clean and laid out logically to make it easy to navigate the site and improve SEO. They should also feature compelling images, videos, charts, and graphics, to engage the audience, encouraging them to explore the website further. This also helps to break up blocks of text to help improve the visitor's experience and make it more readable. Art directors will also be responsible for creating graphics for Call to Action pages that focus the attention on the CTA button and compel readers to click it. 

Social media: Whether videos, images, or graphics, arresting designs are critical to relaying the message and encouraging people to look at and engage with your content. Compelling visuals are also essential in grabbing the attention of algorithms to improve reach and engagement.

Email marketing: Art directors must ensure the email layouts and images engage the reader and encourage them to respond to CTAs. 

Branding and Brand Marketing: 

Art directors may be called on to create a brand identity, brand statement, and style guides. That may mean designing striking logos and style sheets that convey the culture and ethos of the company and appeal to the target audience. It also means selecting brand assets, including styles, typefaces, colors, hierarchy, and image guidelines. 

All assets used in brand marketing need art direction to ensure the brand logo and branded collateral are coordinated and aesthetically appealing, whether it's on packaging, caps, cups, t-shirts, or sweatshirts. 

Since every aspect of marketing should conform to the brand's identity, the art director needs to ensure visual messaging meets the guidelines.


Whether it's digital or print, the art director will work with the client's advertising team to ensure the visual elements convincingly convey the ad's message. While making a memorable impression is vital with all advertising, digital advertising also needs to compel the audience to click on the ad to buy the product or service or at least find out more about it.

Art direction is necessary for all areas of advertising. And that includes :


Art direction involves creating visions for branding and marketing and managing design projects to deliver compelling messages to target audiences. 

Without art direction, visual elements would appear unfocused with no guarantee that they would help to convey the central marketing message.

On the other hand, art direction ensures that brand and marketing assets align with the brand and design brief.If you need help with art direction or other aspects of marketing, our team is here to help. Request a free consultation to find out more about how we can help transform your marketing efforts. 


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Filed Under: Design

About Lindsey Perron

As Thomas’ daughter, Lindsey was introduced to the world of sales and marketing at an early age. Curious about what her dad did, Lindsey would jump at every opportunity to help and ride along on sales calls. Always quick to take charge and lead the group—a trait that has only grown with time—Lindsey was frequently told by her parents that she was destined to be a manager or CEO of some sort. While working toward earning her bachelor’s degree in human services from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Lindsey interned with the UW Office of Equality and Affirmative Action and served on several councils, which gave her the opportunity to develop her persuasive writing skills, researching skills, problem-solving skills, project management skills, and more. After working as the lead teacher of the 4-year-old room at the local daycare center, Lindsey decided to switch gears and join the Viral Solutions team. In her position, Lindsey is able to help clients think through an end goal and reverse engineer it into the steps needed to achieve it.

When she’s not working, Lindsey loves spending time with family, be it traveling somewhere together or just hanging out at home.