Becoming a 'commercial artist' is not a fashionable way to describe a career in advertising or design.
Nevertheless it's an accurate one. Not so long ago, you were considered to have sold-out if you squandered your creative talent on selling things. A great many advertising copywriters were frustrated novelists or poets and a great many art directors and designers were frustrated painters or sculptors. These people entered the communications business primarily to enable them to take home a regular salary. And surprisingly, they were accommodated - if not embraced - by the industry.
But today, there's room for dedicated professionals only.
In this new, small, complex and dynamic world, consumers are bombarded by a countless and ever increasing number of sales messages each day. The ability to jolt, charm, surprise an increasingly reluctant and sophisticated audience into a state of receptiveness has evolved into a specialised skill requiring relentless dedication and energy, to produce work that is always fresh, imaginative and inspiring.
I'm creative, but how can I be sure I'm suited to a career in advertising or design?The first requirement is that you have either artistic or writing talent. Then, whether you're considering copywriting, art direction or design, ask yourself the following ten questions.
If you answer 'yes' to all ten, you're almost certainly poised on the brink of an exciting, fulfilling, rewarding, roller-coaster-ride of a career.
1. Do I have an obsessive curiosity about people? Am I inquisitive about what they think and why they do the things they do?
2. Am I curious about products and about advertising?
3. Am I interested in what's happening in the world? (Do I have good general knowledge?)
4. Do I constantly feed my mind by reading widely?
5. Am I self-motivated?
6. Do I enjoy working with other people as part of a team?
7. Am I an achiever? Do I compete not only against my peers, but also against myself?
8. Am I persistent? Do I try and try again until I achieve success?
9. Do I have an appetite for hard work?
10. Do I have a sense of humour?
What exactly is an advertising art director?
Art directors conceptualise and execute advertisements and advertising campaigns together with copywriters, as creative partners. At the idea generating stage, these two disciplines often become blurred; sometimes the writer will have a great visual idea, and the art director may write a great headline. At the execution stage the art director's responsibility is for the visual elements of the ad or campaign and the writer's for the verbal.
Almost all art directors have a background in graphic design. They may become art directors simply because advertising appeals to them more than pure design, or because they develop an interest in broader communications than those embodied in graphic design. For example, they might have a particularly strong talent for the film medium.
As a graphic designer, what will I actually design?
The term 'graphic designer' originated in London during the early sixties when there was a movement that prompted a growing awareness of all forms of design and a preoccupation with 'good taste'. As the groundswell of interest and design awareness gathered momentum, art colleges ceased to train 'commercial artists' and began to train 'graphic designers'.
The standard of visual communications improved quickly and dramatically. Corporate identity programs, package design, environmental design, exhibition design, annual reports, brochures, posters, magazines all became noticeably more attractive as the fields in which the graphic designer could operate extended - and as his social and economic contributions to society gained widespread acceptance. Graphic design has, since those heady years, become progressively more business focused and competitive.
Today, design is more than an exercise in good taste and, whilst a particular designer's life experience, combined with his own unique and original talent, may still manifest themselves in his work, giving it a particular stamp of individuality, his self-expression must be tempered in the interest of effective communication.
The arrival of the Apple Macintosh computer during the late eighties has enabled the designer to increase his speed and efficiency whilst opening up an infinite extension of new executional opportunities. Unfortunately it has also brought with it a situation where a great many of today's 'designers' confuse computer-operating skills with communication skills and all round design competence. This has resulted in an explosion of mediocre and bad design which we can see around us every day.