Art Directors: Salary Overview
Art Directors create the visual style for magazines, newspapers, TV, and movie productions.
They typically determine how to best present a concept visually, choose the design elements that will be used, review and approve designs and other graphics, talk to clients, coordinate their activities with other artists, develop detailed budget estimates, and present designs to clients for approval.
Depending on their field of employment, art directors may collaborate with graphic designers, producers, directors, and other creative crew.
Although they may delegate most of the work to graphic designers, photographers, or illustrators, art directors should also be proficient in a variety of design software.
As with any profession, salaries for Art Directors vary based on the industry, their employer, and their level of experience.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for Art Directors was $94,220 in May 2019 but the highest 10% earned more than $188,740 while the lowest 10% earned less than $53,240.
Having a nice portfolio and several years of experience may mean higher pay and better job prospects so if you want to start a career in this field you should start with an entry-level job that will give you the chance to learn and start working on a portfolio that showcases your visual design and conceptual work across a variety of multimedia platforms.
Art Director Salary by Industry
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most Art Directors (59%) are self-employed.
Some of them (12%) work in Advertising, while 6% of them work for newspapers, book and directory publishers, and specialized design services.
Only 3% of all art directors are employed in the Motion picture and video industries but this field typically offers the highest salaries.
According to BLS, the median annual wage for art directors who work in motion pictures and video industries earned a median wage of $121,830 a year as of May 2019.
The median annual salary earned by art directors employed in companies that provide advertising, public relations, and related services was $97,470 a year while those who work for the companies that provide specialized design services earned around $93,780 a year.
Art Directors employed by newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers earned a median annual wage of $82,270.
Self-employed art directors may earn less than those who are employed in one of the above industries but payments are higher for those who have a good reputation, an outstanding portfolio, and know how to use social media to promote their services.
Art Director Salary by Compensation Structure
Most art directors receive a salary but many employers also offer their employees bonuses, pension, social security, time off, healthcare coverage, and other benefits, depending on their experience, role, and skills.
Employers in some industries also offer profit-sharing to art directors.
According to payscale.com, art directors may earn anywhere between less than $1000 and more than $20,000 a year in commissions, between $1000-$8,000 in profit sharing, between less than $600 and $10,000 in bonuses.
Employment for art directors is projected to show little or no change from 2018 to 2028 but job prospects are expected to decline by 10% in the publishing industry as the demand for traditional print publications declines.
In order to have access to good job opportunities, you should also focus on creating intuitive and user-friendly designs for web and mobile platforms.
Competition is expected to be strong for this profession as many artists and designers want to move into art director positions after gaining a few years of experience.
If you’re a creative person who’s passionate about art and design and willing to adapt your vision across a variety of design platforms, a career as an art director can be a sound choice for you.
This profession will provide you not only with professional satisfaction but can also be financially rewarding if you have a strong portfolio.
* Based on information from the May 2021 salary report from the BLS. The figures represent accumulated data for all states of employment for Art Directors. BLS data represents averages and medians for workers at all levels of education and experience. This data doesn't represent starting salaries.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.