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Visual Development Artist Vs. Concept Artist

While seemingly similar, visual development artists and concept artists have different focuses and responsibilities. We'll explore both careers and highlight their respective educational requirements, job outlooks, salaries, and duties.

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Comparing Visual Development Artists to Concept Artists

Artists give us entertaining and beautiful designs to enjoy, but the art of visual development and concept artists do not end up in a gallery. These artists both enjoy seeing their work on display in places like films, cartoons, video games. Visual development artists are responsible for the atmosphere of a film or video game, and concept artists draw the ideas for characters and real-life architecture.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2017) Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Visual Development Artists Bachelor's Degree $65,300 (Multimedia Artists and Animators)* +6% (Multimedia Artists and Animators)
Concept Artists Bachelor's Degree $55,732** +2% (Craft and Fine Artists)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale

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Responsibilities of Visual Development Artists vs. Concept Artists

While both visual development and concept artists may work on similar media, their techniques and focuses are often very different. For example, visual development artists may create props or build backdrops for movies out of physical materials, and concept artists may use paper and pencils to draw detailed images of ideas. Similarly, both types of artists utilize storyboards to get a better understanding of their project. Visual development artists, however, will create items for marketing and publication, which branches out a bit more than the typical work of concept artists, who usually focus more on developing characters for films and video games.

Visual Development Artists

Using various techniques, including drawings and 3D computer programs, visual development artists work on films, video games, advertising, and publishing. They design film and book covers, as well as other marketing material, to convey the initial message or feel of the piece. This is true for films and video games as well, since these artists create the background, environments, colors, and lighting that accompany characters. It is necessary that visual development artists have a wide toolbox of design and drawing software to create graphics and animations.

Job responsibilities of a visual development artist include:

  • Researching an existing character or story via the Internet, novels, comics, or games
  • Drawing or painting a scene from the script of the film
  • Building scale models of scenes, backgrounds or characters out of various materials such as clay or Styrofoam
  • Editing the layout of text and visual elements on flyers, ads, and other marketing material

Concept Artists

Concept artists meet with film directors, game designers, architects, and other clients to sketch out ideas for projects. When creating a design for a building or character in a film or video game, these artists listen to the needs of their clients and take detailed notes. By researching the details of an upcoming project, including the location of a building, story of a character, available programs and materials, and budget, they are able to create life-like, two and three-dimensional representations. A concept artist should be open to feedback and apply changes suggested by directors or building designers.

Job responsibilities of a concept artist include:

  • Creating character storyboards based on screenplays and initial character designs
  • Using visual elements such as color and texture to make characters appear life-like
  • Keeping updated portfolios of previous projects that display their unique skills
  • Crafting materials for multimedia campaigns to help sell films and video games

Related Careers

As someone curious about a job as a visual development artist, you may also look into a position as a graphic designer, because both of these careers utilize technology to develop an artistic design. If a career as a concept artist captures your imagination, consider researching a career as an art director, as both of these positions require creativity and design knowledge.

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