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Lead Designer Vs Art Director

It takes quite a few creative designers and directors to make media projects successful. This article looks at several such positions and analyzes the differences and similarities of the two including their financial options.

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Comparing Lead Designers to Art Directors

Lead designers are usually the primary digital builders of websites, print items and multimedia productions. More often than not their main focus is creating popular digital materials for animation, television, film or video games. Art directors are in charge of a project looking over the shoulders of team members working on the specifics. Below is a comparison of these two differing professions and some vital information about the two.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary Job Growth (2014-2024)**
Lead Designer Bachelor's degree $73,560 (for all senior lead designers)* 4% (for all other designers)**
Art Director Bachelor's degree $89,820** 2%**

Sources: *PayScale.com (2017 salary), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Lead Designers vs. Art Directors

Lead designers are artistically responsible for a project from conception. The lead designer makes sure the concept meets the client's desires from start to end while collaborating with a team. For instance, a lead designer handles the initial design and makes sure function matches usage need. On the other hand, art directors are tasked with the overall visual development for magazines, television programs, films or video games. Art directors' experience helps guide other artists' progress with each production.

Lead Designer

Lead designers are the middlemen between two teams that starts with the client be it a publication layout, video or film, digital game or a website. They'll sit down with clients to listen to their needs, then collaborate with an art director to come up with a framework of ideas and a design strategy. After these ideas have seen a rough start, the designers work with art teams and give life to all the different levels of the design creation for final production.

Job responsibilities of a lead designer include:

  • Test and problem-solve technical aspects of a project
  • Stay up-to-date with the latest design and multimedia software
  • Coordinate special design projects like programming to team members
  • Mentor junior staff members in the creative process
  • Ensure deadlines are met and work is within the company's and client's specifications
  • Provide solutions to design dilemmas and technical problems

Art Director

The art director could be in charge of various visual art aspects of a project, such as animations, layouts, backgrounds, character concepts, and other ideas. These professionals take charge of design team members and they oversee and approve all the work done on the project. Often, they consult with the lead designer as a project progresses to make changes to fit the themes.

Job responsibilities of an art director include:

  • Consult with team members to determine best concept ideas
  • Manage all visual production: photographs, art, images, etc.
  • Supervise work between departments and artists
  • Present concepts and changes at various times to teams, clients, or executives

Related Careers

Industrial designers, like lead designers, work with various professionals including engineers or scientists designing new products for organizations that make truck parts, dryers, freezers and more. Multimedia artists and animators are somewhat similar to art directors working the visual aspects of a production, however, they have more experience in their field than their supervisors.

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