Ask Esther // 35

Hi Esther,

I’ve been working as a freelance illustrator/designer/animator for 4 years since graduating university but have been seriously thinking about getting into advertising for the last two years… I often find myself drawing alternatives to advertisements I see or trying to think of better ways to convey messages I see and hear. I genuinely have an interest in becoming an art director one day, and I think the ways of interpreting and presenting ideas I’ve learnt during my time as an illustrator would be very applicable to the role of an art director.

I guess what I’m asking is, is there any hope of getting into the industry now? (I’m 28 and going back to uni is not something I’m too interested in!) if so, what would be the best route in there? I’m more than happy to slog away designing graphics and type and logos and characters (That’s what I do now anyway) and I’m proficient in almost all adobe software save flash, so is there some kind of entry level position as a designer I can apply for in an ad agency? even if its somewhere below junior art director, I guess I’m just looking for a foot in the door so I can get a real close look at what’s going on and whether it is the right thing for me after all?

Also would be good to know what people at ad agencies are looking for! I’ve seen a lot of people mention a ‘book’ which I’m assuming s a portfolio of ad work – how much work are employers generally looking for?

Hope you can help!

Many advertising Art Directors started out with a background similar to yours. Everything you have done to date is relevant experience and no, you don’t need to go back to University.

Keep your eye out for a budding Copywriter who has great ideas but no way of showcasing them. Your combined skills will form the basis of a hireable creative team.

Start out on your own by working on a book or portfolio of some of these alternative ads you’re drawing up. You will need to develop skills that apply to the strategic thinking and problem solving. Re-drawing ads is not the same as re-thinking them. So you need to try to get your hands on some actual briefs. Or write your own.

The other thing to look out for is that with your skills and experience as an illustrator and designer, that you do not spend too much time executing the visuals. It’s a distraction and very tempting to overpower ideas with your craft skills rather than highlight your thinking. Begin by going back to basics with a layout pad and a marker pen. Draw stick figures with hand drawn type. When ideas are ready for the next stage (ie putting together into your online portfolio), they should be simple and neat but not too painstakingly drawn up. They must be designed to be disposable as you constantly develop and improve.

If you are still solo and proficient across all the Adobe Creative Suite you could start to apply for jobs in the studio of any ad agency. Just getting into any department would be helpful to engineer your career towards art direction. Try the agencies with a Promo/Design/DM or any sort of specialised arm, who would see the value of your illustration and design skills.

Good luck.

You can ask Esther Clerehan anything about putting your book together, getting a job, what salary to ask for or what to do when someone steals your ideas. Go on, Ask Esther. There is no other creative recruiter with more experience to educate us on the art of the job hunt. You can email her here at junior at (wtf null@null lifeatthebottom

Written by Junior
Originally posted on: 28/02/2013
Category: Ask Esther
Tagged: .