I have seen both Art Director and Creative Director as titles, but I'm not sure what the difference is. Is one to do with visuals and the other with content? Are they more or less interchangeable? Do they have different responsibilities? Can you have both in the same shop?


Is one to do with visuals and the other with content?

An article published "Creative Director vs. Art Director":

Creative Director's Key Role

The creative director typically thinks through the early phase of the project to develop the concept. This director oversees the entire team, which includes the copy chief, photographer and art director. Many creative directors ultimately work their way up through the ranks to become partner or CEO. The creative director generally has the final say on what gets delivered to the client. This vital position nurtures the studio or agency's talent and also steers its design philosophy.

Art Director Key Role

An art director executes a strategy, concept or idea provided by the creative director. After the concept has been created, the art director is generally responsible for the stylistic look of the ad or design. He brainstorms with workers and provides direction and inspiration to the staff, which includes the graphic designer, sketch artists or typesetters. The art director helps maintain brand consistency. He oversees the project through the production department and other phases, including prepress and printing. The art director may have the final approval for delivery of the project if there is no creative director.

Joint Forces

The creative director relies on intuition and creativity to get the job done. He understands the psychology of advertising and works to create an effective vehicle for reaching consumers. Although a creative director's forte is not necessarily his technical skills, he can write copy, design logos or choose typefaces, if necessary. The art director relies on his technical skills to execute the project. Both roles complement each other.

Education and Pay

Both creative directors and art directors need at least a bachelor's degree in advertising, fine art or design. Creative directors may continue their education to prepare for the best job opportunities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for art directors in 2010 was $80,600 per year. In comparison, a creative director's median salary was $125,000, according to a 2011 AIGA/Aquent Survey of Design Salaries.

Source of the article from chron and there has been a discussion on the topic at Graphic Design Forum here ages ago.

Are they more or less interchangeable?

Art Directors at bigger studios or corporations often oversee just a particular segment of design or at least different teams. So you might have an art director for interactive design and another for package design. The Creative Director would oversee all these.

Do they have different responsibilities?

Can you have both in the same shop?


  • Great answer! The required degree and salary you mention under 'Education and pay', does of course depend on the country. I assume you specifically refer to the USA here.
    – paddotk
    Apr 10 '13 at 9:31

It all depends were you are sometimes its really just names and titles and they can be interchangeable.

Usually an Art director will work or lead other creatives (illustrators, photographers, designers, writers) to execute a concept or idea. Creative Directors are typically the person that sets the vision, & strategy for a brand, campaign or line. If you have both in a (big) company I think a Creative director can boss around multiple art directors.


I wrote an article exactly on this subject, let me know what you think.

As a sum up, I like to think of creative projects as music projects, I think this helps a lot understanding how each position plays out in a creative environment:

The Graphic Designer is a skilled musician, plays one instrument well – the guitar.

The Art Director writes a song and works with an orchestra of artists to execute it – guitar ( the graphic designer ) the piano ( the illustrator ) the drums ( video maker )

The Creative Director select the right songs, and work to make them consistent under one clear vision and create a full-lenght record.

More on:

http://www.joelesina.com/the-difference-between-graphic-designer-art-director-creative-director/the difference between graphic designer art director and creative director

  • 1
    Hi Joe, welcome to GD.SE and thanks for your answer. Could you please include the gist of the article in your answer here? That way, the answer is still of value to later visitors even in case the link breaks at a later time. Link rot is rampant, and the reason why we crack down on link-only answers like yours. Thanks for understanding! If you have any questions about GD.SE, have a look at the help center!
    – Vincent
    Jul 15 '16 at 8:45
  • Makes sense! Thanks for the feedback, I edited the comment in oder to give a better answer within GD.SE – Hope this is works better!
    – Joe Lesina
    Aug 24 '16 at 7:48

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