Directing Art
April 27, 2010 5:37 PM   Subscribe

Graduate degree in design = a career in art direction?

Given that the person in question has an undergraduate degree in a different field, is getting a graduate degree in (graphics) design a logical step towards pursuing a career as an art director?

Furthermore, how important is the number of years of experience in a graphics design position versus an advanced degree (with a suitable portfolio) for achieving this goal?

Alternatively, if said graduate degree was more focused on information design, what kind of jobs might one get as a result of completing it? What if the focus was on typography? Just a good ol' graphic designer position?
posted by howiamdifferent to Work & Money (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
working in graphic design is a more logical step towards pursuing an art director career. you need to work your way up to get to that level. i don't know how useful graduate degrees are. i think people just care about your work experience and portfolio. i am pretty sure work experience is more highly valued than an advanced degree. all the art directors i've met and worked under worked their way up from being lowly associate designers or what have you. all sorts of different (bachelors) degrees, too, from math to comp sci to english lit to philosophy. also most (good) graphic designers i know are largely self-taught if you're worried about the education part. if you have a natural design sense all the computer stuff is pretty easy to pick up. i'm of the opinion (having worked as a graphic designer- i'm now in illustration) that most good design is from intuition rather than schooling. i've met people who went through all sorts of fancy art schools and higher education design programs who are shit designers.
posted by raw sugar at 5:46 PM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


My brother went here - http://www.brandcenter.vcu.edu/ for a graduate degree in art direction and I think he would argue that it was well worth it to get a graduate degree. He has an awesome job, does amazing things and was just nominated for an Emmy for a commercial he worked on last year. He has been in the business for about 7 years. I definitely agree with raw sugar though that you either have the design sense or you don't, and no graduate program is going to teach you that part.

The site will at least give you some idea of what the curriculum is and what they think is important for you to know if you want to go into art direction...look in the "about' section. Good luck!
posted by fresh-rn at 6:18 PM on April 27, 2010


"Art Director" means a lot of different things in different industries, but yeah, raw sugar has it right. You generally work your way up over several years. I started in a position that was essentially a Junior Designer position, then got a promotion without a title change, then went on to be Senior Designer, and then Art Director. I just have a BFA.
posted by edlundart at 6:28 PM on April 27, 2010


It will depend on what type of work you do, and where you end up doing it, but in the advertising/marketing world (I'm a Creative Director at a firm that does predominately web design, and I've got a BA in....English) it's generally the case that experience/portfolio trumps credentials - An advanced degree will certainly not hurt you, but among my peers at least, grad school is almost exclusively for those who plan on shifting gears and teaching design.

For information design (especially in the interactive world) a Master's will be looked at a bit more generously, but you'll still most likely be brought in at a junior level without the experience part.
posted by jalexei at 8:33 PM on April 27, 2010


I have only second-hand data, but I worked at Parsons for a while, in what used to be the Design & Technology program (New School has mixed everything up now), and there were tons of people in there moving into or looking to move into Art Director positions, but the majority of those had some significant skills and experience already in the field. Not super useful data other than to suggest that experience is a requisite, degree or no, which supports what others are saying.

I get the sense a lot of folks were actually in that grad school to either meet more people and make connections, or kickstart a design career (i.e. they would not be able to jump into an Art Director position right after their MFA) if they hadn't had any prior experience and studied something else in undergrad.
posted by dubitable at 8:43 PM on April 27, 2010


Alternatively, if said graduate degree was more focused on information design, what kind of jobs might one get as a result of completing it? What if the focus was on typography? Just a good ol' graphic designer position?

A lot of folks studying information design seemed to get snapped up by web dev/design shops, and a few would start their own little design shops out of the gate--although this is tough, of course. I also saw people join larger organizations' web design groups, especially places with a big media presence like newspapers (ha) and tv companies. It seemed like a lot of the infovis folks were mad Flash programmers and would fall back on web work if they couldn't find jobs building really cool shit...and of course most people can't find that work most the time.

I can't speak to typography although I got to know a bit more about it after our dept. merged with Communication Design (which had massive typography cred from what I understand, with a lot of typography big shots teaching there, supposedly...again, I'm full of hearsay). I feel like people who specialize in typography are a bit...obsessive and crazy. In a good way, mostly. But this is all besides the point, sorry...
posted by dubitable at 8:52 PM on April 27, 2010


It seemed like a lot of the infovis folks were mad Flash programmers and would fall back on web work if they couldn't find jobs building really cool shit...and of course most people can't find that work most the time.

I meant to emphasize here: mad Flash programmers already.
posted by dubitable at 8:53 PM on April 27, 2010


I've seen quite a few people, who didn't have their undergraduate degree in design, get their masters in design and then start their career towards the bottom. For them, it's a way to enter the field, while not having to go through a bachelor's program all over again. nthing what others have said, regardless of education level, you have to work your way up to an art director.

Also, it's graphic design, without the "s". Little pet peeve.
posted by Sreiny at 5:47 AM on April 28, 2010


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