Art Director vs Designer: Which are you?

Are you an art director or a designer?

I see lots of student books from people who call themselves one, but are really the other. Usually it's designers who want to wear an art direction hat.

Not that there's anything wrong with that - but if you apply for a job as one thing, and the employer is looking for that one thing, and your book doesn't show you're the one thing - then you're not going to get hired.

So you either need to change your title, or change your book.

Is my mind, I see it as Art Direction = Why and Design = How when looking at a creative piece. Art directors tend to think more strategically about the brand, the business and the concept, whereas designers are more about the look, the feel and the beauty of it all.

Not saying that designers aren't strategic or that art directors shouldn't focus on the details, but that's my quick litmus test.

Also, designers usually work solo while art directors pair up with a copywriter and are (in my opinion) more open to collaboration and feedback.

I asked my bff Google, and here are some snippets from an article I came across:

Art Direction and Design
from A List Apart

...Art direction gives substance to design. Art direction adds humanity to design...

...Art direction brings clarity and definition to our work; it helps our work convey a specific message to a particular group of people. Art direction combines art and design to evoke a cultural and emotional reaction. It influences movies, music, websites, magazines—just about anything we interact with. Without art direction, we’re left with dry, sterile experiences that are easily forgotten...

...Art direction is about evoking the right emotion, it’s about creating that connection to what you’re seeing and experiencing. By contrast, design is the technical execution of that connection. Do these colors match? Is the line-length comfortable for long periods of reading? Is this photo in focus? Does the typographic hierarchy work? Is this composition balanced?...

Here are a few suggestions on how to approach design and art direction, as you discern the differences in your own work:

Approaching art direction and design differently
Art Direction
Does this color scheme fit the brand? Is it appropriate for the situation? Bright colors may not fit a sad message.
Do these colors look good together? Are they vibrating? Is each color the best choice for the medium, e.g., Pantone swatch for print, web-safe online?
What does this font connote? How do the letterforms themselves send the message without the actual words? Comic Sans might be too silly, but Helvetica might be too vanilla.
Does my assortment of type sizes create the right visual hierarchy? Does this font have enough weights to be used in this context?
How balanced should this composition be? Balanced compositions are pleasing but often passive. Unbalanced compositions are often uneasy and unsettling but visually more interesting.
Are my margins even? Is there a natural rhythm in the visuals that will guide a person’s eye through the piece?
How well do the visuals support and convey the mood of the brand? What is the message or story the design conveys?
How well do the visuals align with the brand guidelines for logo spacing, appropriate typography, and color palette?
Does it feel good?
Does it look good?

Read the full article (it's really great) here

Here are some quotes from the article I really liked:

Design is about problem-solving, whether you are a designer or an art director. The two roles differ in that the designer is more concerned with execution, while the art director is concerned with the strategy behind that execution.”
Phil Coffman, Art Director, Springbox
Design is the how. It’s the foundation of all communication, the process and production of typography, color, scale, and placement. Art direction is the why. It’s the concept and decisions that wrap itself around the entire product.
“Outside of this, it’s involvement, perception, and politics.”
Jarrod Riddle, Sr. Art Director, Big Spaceship