Ready to step up your game and become an art director within the movie poster making industry, otherwise known as entertainment marketing?
If you are a brand new art student in high school or a seasoned graphic designer working in a different industry, this guide will help you out to get a feel for what is required in this specialized field of art and design.
Ascend to Art Director
Art directors working for movie and TV poster agencies generally start as Interns and then work their way up to Jr. Designers. Then, when they have proven themselves proficient and capable of executing client briefs and making stunning poster designs, they are awarded the title of “art director.“
What position is after art director? Well, that is usually the creative director, the one who calls the shots and helps decipher and direct what the client, aka movie studio, is wanting for their film or TV show. If you are curious about the skillset for creative directors, then this article may be of interest:
Before we get too carried away let’s talk about the skillsets required to become the next great movie poster art director.
Art, Illustration & Design
This first one is pretty darn obvious. You will need to be artistic and understand the workings of good design and aesthetics. We are talking about color theory, hierarchy, cropping, balance, and execution.
Interpreting client briefs
Generally speaking, when working at a design agency, you will have a “kickoff” before starting any project. This is where the creative director goes over what the client is asking for. Usually, a brief will be given to the designers and art directors with what the movie studio marketing team is wanting.
You, as the art director, will need to understand what they are asking for. You may have an idea of what’s best for the particular movie, but if it doesn’t align with the brief, it’s not going to work. You really need to stay in bounds with what the studio wants.
Even though sometimes what a studio wants could be the lamest idea ever.
Never underestimate the power of typography. This is a major skill that will need to be mastered before becoming a true art director. Type can make or break a good poster design.
When you look at a poster, it is filled with type. We are talking about the title, the actor names, the copy, the release date, and even the billing.
Some assignments are dedicated to just movie and TV title designs. These are basically the logos for the film or TV show.
If you want to learn about the importance of typography then you need to read this article:
Let’s say an upcoming horror movie coming out in 9 months needs a title design, which can be known as a title treatment. Your creative director will probably want the design team to come up with 10-20 different title designs.
Should you use a serif or sans serif? Will a script style of font work? Or do you need to use a physical brush with lots of grit?
These are all questions that will run through your head that you will need to answer.
Without a doubt, you will need to be an expert in Photoshop. 90% of your day is spent working within Photoshop. Now under the skillset of Photoshop, there are plenty of skills you will need to get good at. Here is a quick list of absolutely needed skills:
- Masking images (fast)
- Working with perspective
- Understanding plugins and when to use them
- Color grading
- Pen tool
Those are the basics and if you can’t become proficient there is no way you can become an art director.
Personally, my main use for Adobe Illustrator is when I work with Titles and logos. Generally speaking, you may spend about 5% of your day in Illustrator. Some art directors use it way more than me, and they are by far better at this program than me too.
In my opinion, if you can get good at working with typography and some basic understanding of the program and how to use shapes, then you will be fine. That doesn’t mean not to get good at it.
If you are interested in becoming a great art director then learn Illustrator.
Wacom Pen Tablet
There is no way you can become an art director without being able to use a Wacom Tablet Pen. Every agency I have worked at uses them, and a mouse will not suffice.
They take some time to get used to but it’s a necessity. Go get one today if you don’t have one.
We go a lot deeper on the tablet subject in this article:
There are two reasons you need to be somewhat good at sketching.
Photo shoot ideas
In the early stages of movie poster design, the studios will ask for photoshoot ideas and general ideas. This means you will need to pose the actors and actresses how you would want them shot for a special shoot.
A special shoot is a photoshoot dedicated to shooting the photography used in the poster designs and marketing. It can include the actors, extras, and even props used in the film like guns and swords.
After you come up with rough sketch ideas they will be further enhanced by a real sketch artist.
Some design agencies like to see your poster idea in a rough form accompanied by art and design examples of treatment (scrap) before you are allowed to start building and designing the poster.
These sketches can be crude but the better and quicker you are at sketching the easier it is to get your design approved.
Time and speed
Working within this industry is fast-paced. You will need to have a good understanding of time management and be required to execute your artwork quickly. Generally speaking, you will be required to build on average 2-3 posters per day.
Having an awareness of deadlines fits in this skillset, too, as you will need to be aware when your designs are due to your creative director.
Kickoffs and meetings are extremely important. It’s wise to ask as many questions as needed before you start building and not after you have designed 3 posters.
Sometimes you will be required to sell your ideas in a group setting to your creative director. Ideas are key in this business, and you need to be able to articulate what you would like to create and why it makes sense.
If you aspire to become an art director you will have to learn to deal with rejection. A lot of it.
There are times when you may come up with 5 amazing ideas, and they all get killed by the creative director. This is where you can’t take it personally. It’s just a part of the business.
Get back to the drawing board and try again!
Revisions are when the client responds to your poster designs with their input and requests for changes. Some examples are changing colors of titles, moving around typography, switching the copy line, or even finding a different pose for a particular actor.
Sometimes the revisions can be a bit ridiculous but you gotta do what you gotta do.
The skill involved here is knowing how to interpret what they are asking to be changed and making the changes quickly.
Where to acquire these skills?
Here! We are constantly adding educational content that is specific to creating movie posters.
In fact, we are currently working on putting together an online course specific to learning how to become a professional movie poster designer in the entertainment marketing industry.
The cool thing is that these classes are taught by artists and designers working within the movie poster community and not some professor that has never stepped foot in a design agency. We will be teaching what is needed and not things that are a waste of your time and money.
Because these courses are currently in production we recommend that you sign up for our newsletter here so that you will be notified when our courses are available.
Here are two articles that will help you get started: