Some people want to become art directors, and others want to be creative directors. Perhaps you are wondering which position is right for you?

Well, we break it down so that you can figure out which career path is best for you.

The Art Director

The profession of “art director” is not exclusive to the world of movie posters. In fact, art directors are working in the whole industry of movie, tv, and theater production. But also in add agencies, publicity agencies, publishing firms, fashion projects, public relations business,  etc.

Where an art director works are not the only aspect of the job that can vary a lot. What an art director does can also mean significantly different things according to each project.

An art director creates designs for digital and printed results and sometimes paints, decorates, makes props, constructions, and sculptures, or even comes up with full-blown scenography sets. There’s also -as almost always in design and art- typography, sketches, and photography involved. 

To do those things in the best way possible for each project, first of all, an art director will listen to the creative director (we’ll get to that in a second!) and interpret the concept that is needed. Then will research, decide which artistic elements are better for each use, and organize the project’s development in relation to the time and money available for it.

Of course, just one person couldn’t be responsible for carrying along the whole art direction of a big project, so the art director is also in charge of managing a team of artists, explaining to them the vision that they must try to recreate effectively and following their developments, approving or rejecting them.

We go way more profound with this article, “Top 11 Skills You Need To Be A Movie Poster Art Director.” And, of course, many people ask if a degree from a university is required. Well, you will be surprised as you read this article, “Can You Be An Art Director Without a Degree?”

The Creative Director

So let’s say you started as an intern and slowly grew out of that beginner’s position by delivering outstanding results and executing clients’ briefs properly. You then became a junior designer and eventually got your dream job as an art director.

Where can you still go from there? Well, you can still become a creative director. As the job’s name indicates, this is the person in charge of the whole creative team (including the art director). 

The creative director has the first and the final communications with the client.

This means being the first to listen and interpret the client’s expectations for the product (movie poster, movie, book, magazine, etc.) and being the one who has the final say on what is presented to the client as the definitive result of a project.

The creative director takes the creative decisions and also most of the responsibility for them.

While other employees start working on the project after receiving directions, the creative director is there from the start, defining which directions will be given to the rest of the team.

Thus, this is also the person that keeps the bigger picture in sight at all times, which is a big difference compared to other designers and artists that take care of one specific aspect of the project in particular.

The creative director reviews the different parts of a project, judging the quality of that part itself and considering how it will work concerning all the other ones.

Again, this job position demands a lot, but the creative direction is a burden meant to be distributed on the shoulders of more than one person.

While the creative director makes a lot of decisions, the job is also done in constant interaction with a team of people that has influence and responsibility over the final product too. In the world of fashion, this team will involve photographers, managers, and magazine editors.

In the cinema industry, the team will have studio executives, producers, and movie directors.

In any work field, the creative director will have to be great at managing large groups of people and communicating with clients to get the best of their original ideas. 

A director directs. Directing means coming up with a vision, planning, following developments, solving unexpected issues, and reporting back to the client. A creative director also provides a creative vision and is willing to share and adapt that vision, taking into account the fresh and good ideas of other team members. 

If you really want to know all the details of becoming a creative director in the movie poster industry, you will have to check out this article:

Wacom Artist 2

So What Are The Main Differences Between The Two Jobs?

So far, we’ve seen a general introduction to the two different professions. Both of them are related to art production and design, but also communication. We’re going to see the differences between an art director and a creative director regarding those two pillars that the jobs have in common.

Skill for Art and Design

An art director is a person that not only has knowledge of art but also of design and aesthetics in general.

The primary responsibilities of an art director are to provide examples of how the visual aspects of the project have to look, how the aesthetic needs to be, and later to evaluate the productions of the other team members to make sure that they adapt to the provided examples. 

Understanding the elements and rules behind composition is as vital for the job as having a creative mind. Knowing about color theory is as needed as being innovative.

But more than anything, having the technical skills for technological art is mandatory. The main tools for art direction are Photoshop, Illustrator, and a Wacom Tablet Pen. These are unavoidable must-haves and must-know-how-to-use. The better you get at those, the greater your chance of becoming an amazing art director. 

It is also crucial for an art director to be proficient at photography and sketching because it involves communicating ideas for visual solutions, both to clients, superiors, and subordinates.

There’s no better way of doing that than through visual communication.

When it comes to art direction, having skills for art and design is an absolute necessity to deal with the job on a daily basis.

A creative director doesn’t have the same relationship with technical skills. Yes, this is, of course, a creative profession (it’s in the very job title!), and therefore, knowing a lot about art, design, and their most relevant concepts and tools are more than relevant.

If you’re going to be in charge of pointing out the issues in other people’s artworks and designs, you need to fix those issues yourself. Nonetheless, the most day-to-day aspect of creative direction is communication and team management. 

The most creative part of the job orbits around ideas: what does the client want? What would be the best way of accomplishing it? What design is good enough to be approved? How can a half-decent artwork become great? What good idea doesn’t really fit in the bigger picture and needs to be forgotten?

Those are the decisions that a creative director makes constantly, so knowledge of art and specially design is vital for the job. Still, most of the time, that knowledge is needed to theorize, build and share a vision. Most of the time, that vision will come to life through other workers’ technical skills. 


The cycle of any project that involves these two professions kind of goes like this: the client will express a list of necessities and aspirations, → the creative director will interpret these needs and present them to the art director and the rest of the team in the form of a general vision→ the art director again will analyze the information and will come up with ideas to make it come to life in specific examples of artwork and design, ideas that they will have to pitch to the creative director → the creative director will approve some ideas and modify or reject others → the art director will manage a team to develop the approved ideas → the creative director will present (and try to sell) the final product to the client → the client will almost inevitably ask for some revisions, and the whole cycle will be set in motion again.

As the ideas start materializing and parallel to that process, there will be feedback going back and forth between the client and the executives, those and the creative director, the latter and the art director, and of course, the rest of the team of creators.

Clear and compelling communication is essential to every link in that chain.

Art directors need to have communication skills to get the ideas past the creative director, and the creative director needs them to get the ideas past the client. Both have to learn to deal with rejection but on different points of the project development.

Final Products

There’s also another level of communication: that with the target audience of the final product.

We cannot forget that all industries involved with artistic and creative direction seek to reach a certain public through visual communication.

These are the teams responsible for presenting a certain vision to a client and the people who will buy it that the client is hiring them to create.

Sure, the art director needs to sell visual ideas to the creative director, and the creative director needs to sell visual ideas to the client, but in the end, all three of them need to think of those ideas as destined to the mass audience. If we take movie posters as an example, the final design will have to be understandable and appealing to an audience with very little time to appreciate it in detail.

The ideas behind them need to be very strong and very clear. Now you know which professionals are to be thanked for them!

Movie, Streaming & TV Industry

As you have probably guessed by now, much of our content focuses on the entertainment marketing side of art and design. You know, movie posters!

We are currently producing an excellent online tutorial on becoming a movie poster designer, but it’s not ready yet. We suggest signing up for our newsletter and checking out the free tutorials on our YouTube Channel. Those of you subscribed to the newsletter will be the first to be notified of the class release.