the importance of art direction.

attic rush
3 min readSep 21, 2020

If you have a team of designers, why do you need art direction? Art Direction delivers clarity and definition to the work; it helps ensure and convey that a specific message is in a specific tone that will resonate with the desired target audience.

Considering art direction as a necessary step, the work is considered by combining an understanding of art and design — evoking the right cultural and emotional reaction. After all, advertising stems from being able to communicate the emotional benefits of a product or service.

Could a pet food brand have established an emotional link without pulling the product into our lives? With art direction, Purina’s dog food became puppyhood, an ad, now a few years old, that makes you want to happy cry even today. Art direction is about evoking the right emotion, it’s about creating that connection to what you’re seeing and experiencing.

By contrast, design is the technical execution of that connection. Do these colours match? Is the line-length comfortable for long periods of reading? Is this photo in focus? Does the typographic hierarchy work? Is this composition balanced?

The truth is it isn’t a choice between having a designer or an art director; they work together to produce ads that are both visually stunning and emotive. Design is perfection in technique; art direction is about the important, yet sometimes intangible emotion that powers the design.

A Lis A Part looked at the difference between art direction and design:


Art Direction: Does this colour scheme fit the brand? Is it appropriate for the situation? Bright colours may not fit a sad message.
Design: Do these colours look good together? Are they vibrating? Is each colour the best choice for the medium, e.g., Pantone swatch for print, web-safe online?


Art Direction: What does this font convey? How do the letterforms themselves send the message without the actual words? Comic Sans might be too silly, but Helvetica might be too vanilla.
Design: Does my assortment of type sizes create the right visual hierarchy? Does this font have enough weights to be used in this context?


Art Direction: How balanced should this composition be? Balanced compositions are pleasing but often passive. Unbalanced compositions are often uneasy and unsettling but visually more interesting.
Design: Are my margins even? Is there a natural rhythm in the visuals that will guide a person’s eye through the piece?


Art Direction: How well do the visuals support and convey the mood of the brand? What is the message or story the design conveys?
Design: How well do the visuals align with the brand guidelines for logo spacing, appropriate typography, and colour palette? Overall, Art Direction is “Does it feel good?” whereas Designing is “Does it look good?”

Using an art director within your team of designers helps magnify your communications strategy and outputs. Art direction will determine the difference between a regular and brilliant creation.



attic rush

We build brands. By creating demand for products and services through unique, creative solutions, project by project.