Monday, August 1, 2016

Creative Professionals Who Hire Illustrators

There are many people in the communications industry that hire illustrators. The various job positions of these people and their level of authority and responsibility on assignments is important for illustrators to know for several reasons. Knowing who to approach for work, who recommends illustrators for assignments, who determines the suitability of an illustrator for an assignment, who originates an assignment, who guides the assignment process, who has creative/artistic authority for the work, who presents sketch concepts to the client, who represents the work on behalf of the illustrator, who negotiates the pay scale for an assignment, etc., are all very important.

© 2012 Don Arday.
These days, illustrators produce work for wide range of industries. Each of these industries has their own flavor of types of jobs such as creative director, designer, etc. This article will focus on the more traditional initiators of illustration assignments. However, there is a great deal of similarity when it comes to job content and responsibility across many other industries that utilize creative/artistic teams, such as the film, gaming, public relations, fashion, and broadcast industries to name a few. And people in similar job positions in those industries also hire illustrators.

Advertising Agency

Creative Director

The creative director position usually represents the top-level creative position in an advertising agency. Many creative directors are also vice presidents of their respective companies. A creative director is essentially the person who guides the overall direction of the creative content for clients as well as the agency. The creative director maintain a consistency of quality, feeling, personality, and style exhibited in the final work the agency produces as a whole by setting expectations for the creative team. A creative director is responsible for the creative output of the agency, management of the entire creative staff, client relations, determining project timelines, and aspects of the agency budget. The creative director is the presiding judge over concept development, layout and design, copywriting, and final production for every item the agency releases for use in media.

Creative directors can, and often do, assume the job roles, either in total or in part, for other members of the agency creative team. For instance, the creative director may decide to write the copy for an ad campaign and create individual ad concepts. And even though they are high up within their company, they can directly hire an illustrator for an assignment.

Art Director

The art director coordinates all the visual aspects that go into producing the components of an advertising campaign. The art director reports directly to the creative director for assignment guidance and approval of work. Art directors are responsible for the concept, layout, design, and visual style of print and graphic media including choice of typography, color scheme, picture element, and visual content. In addition, an art director involved with broadcast media assumes the added responsibility of styling and coordinating the components that are used in a time and motion based production such as a television ad or radio spot. The art director also oversees all collateral materials that might accompany an ad campaign such as brochures, direct mail, point of sale displays, etc.

To do all of this, an art director primarily directs. As opposed to being a producer, an art director serves as a decision-making coordinator of people and efforts that go into creating an ad. Art directors commission other professionals from a range of fields to produce the parts of a project that the art director then pieces together.

Art directors hire design firms to aid with the design components of a campaign, photographers to execute photography concepts, film and animation firms to execute time-based concepts, modeling and talent agencies to provide people subjects for concepts, stylists to acquire objects or choose locations for an ad production, and most importantly, illustrators to create finished art. Additionally, illustrators because they possess superior drawing skills, are hired at interim stages to aid in drawing concepts for presentation to clients, e.g., storyboards, ad layouts, character concepts, scenic drawings, etc.

Art Buyer

Many high volume agencies have a job position called art buyer. The art buyer researches and maintains a database of individuals and firms that create visual art. An art buyer acts as an internal or external consultant to an art director and/or creative director by recommending the talents of illustrators, photographers, animators, and artists. In addition to making art suggestions to the creative decision makers, the art buyer is the main point of initial contact with visual talent for the advertising agency.

Art buyers may work on recommending artist talent for assignment work or they may act to purchase works of art on behalf of an advertising agency or client. An art buyer is also involved in aspects of art workflow and financial budget.

Account Executive

An account executive (AE) serves as both as a salesperson of agency services and as an ambassador for the agency relationship to a client. The account executive oversees the administrative aspects of an advertising campaign. The AE coordinates the work of several divisions within the agency including the creative team, the marketing team, the media placement team, and the production staff. The AE works very closely with the creative director and art director to supply client input and feedback on the creative effort.

Although much less frequently than an art buyer or art director, an account executive may make recommendations, or forward those made by the client, concerning the choice of artistic talent, including illustrators.


© 2012 Don Arday.
Essentially an author of advertising content, the copywriter is responsible for writing all of the verbal components or “copy” in an advertising campaign. Copywriters also write scripts, marketing plans, creative strategy proposals, and other collateral materials related to an advertising campaign. A copywriter generates ideas and creative concepts. In many cases the copy content will drive the entire visual concept development of a campaign. In many ad agencies, copywriters are teamed up with art directors to jointly solve creative problems.

Due to the fact that copywriters are also involved with formulating campaign concepts, they are often consulted in regard to visual styles and talent choices. So, occasionally they weigh in on the hiring of an illustrator.

Graphic Design/Media Design Firm

Design Director

The design director is the design firm equivalent to an advertising agency creative director, and many studios use the title of creative director instead of design director. The design director in some design firms is also the firm’s owner. Design and media firms tend to be smaller in size and employ less staff than ad agencies. A design director usually has a strong background in the fundamentals of graphic design, concept visualization, ideation, visual communication, design production, etc. Design directors can draw and present ideas and visualize ideas digitally. Like creative directors, design directors influence the quality, feeling, personality, and style exhibited in the final work of the firm.

The design director oversees the creative output of the studio by managing the artistic output of the creative staff, Like an ad agency account executive, the design director also directly interacts with clients, sets project workflows and schedules, and determines project budgets including design firm fees.

Although design directors most often do not create the visual elements for the projects they work on, they are aware of the available pool of talent and hire freelance illustrators to produce art and picture elements that are complex and call for very specialized skills and expertise. Most often, they will make a recommendation to the designer who will then follow through by contracting the illustrator.

Senior Designer/Designer

Designers and senior designers work under the supervision of the design director and essentially perform the same functions. The main difference between senior designers and designers is that the senior designers generally deal with higher profile clients. They also handle more complex and difficult assignments. Designers are on par with ad agency art directors when it comes to responsibilities, and some design firms use the term art director in place of designer. One difference from an ad agency art director is that designers do create and produce visual designs that are incorporated into their assignments. Designers utilize graphic design practices, ideation, concept visualization, typography, and design production to produce work. The designer is also responsible for seeing the work though to completion, be it brochures, signage, packaging, identity design, etc., the list of assignment types is quite extensive.

Designers will often create stylized visual elements for the projects they work on. For more complex forms of art they hire freelance illustrators who are chosen for their particular abilities and style.


Design firms employ or contract writers to create the text for the work they produce. The working relationship between a designer and a writer can be a close one, but more often than not, the text and design are developed independently, one following the other. From time to time, writers are consulted about the visual direction of the work and who will be hired to produce the illustrations needed.

Publishing Company


The editor is the person chiefly in charge of controlling the content of a publication. This includes all visual content as well as editorial content. Although less of a creative person in a visual sense, the editor, never the less, has the right of approval for the visualization of the publication. This includes the layout and design, the use of typography, and the choice and conceptual content of visual elements, i.e., illustrations, photographs and graphical details. An editor establishes the editorial policy of the publication by determining its size, content and style. The editor sets publication workflows and schedules, and oversees the publication budget.

Editors work directly with a writer or staff of writers, even if it is a freelance writer. With regard to illustrators, the editor works indirectly through an art director or designer. However, the editor must approve the hiring of an illustrator or photographer, and the work they produce for the publication. Many editors are familiar with art talent, and will suggest the art director hire a particular illustrator.

Art Director

The art director at a publishing company is usually in charge of steering the visual aspects of a publication, determining the visual style, i.e., the look and feel of the publication, and content of visuals. The art director plans the use of space in a magazine or book such as the number of pages to be devoted to a story, article, or feature; and the general scale of, and number of, visuals to be used to accompany the text.

With regard to visuals, the art director acts as a liaison to the editor for all proposed visual ideas and sketches produced by freelancers or staff artists. Possessing the most familiarity with the styles and abilities of freelance talent, the art director chooses who will create the visuals needed for the publication. In book publishing, it is most commonly only one illustrator or photographer, but in the case of a magazine publication, a single monthly issue can provide freelance employment for dozens of illustrators.


The publication designer works very closely with the art director to produce the publication, and in some smaller publishing houses and magazines, the designer and art director are one in the same person. The designer takes over where the art director leaves off by determining the relationship of the visuals to the text, the style of typography, and graphical elements to be used to execute the layout of the publication. In most cases the layout decisions such as size of visuals, their pictorial orientation, and the number of images needed are predetermined before freelance talent is contracted. In this respect, designers also play an important role in selecting and contracting illustrators.  

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