How to Become a Magazine Art Director


When you encounter a magazine that stands out visually, you can probably thank its art director. Art directors are the managers responsible for the visual look of a magazine, from creating its covers and advertisements to choosing its various photos. Since it's a high-level management position, becoming an art director requires a solid education, good connections and experience in publishing or art directing.


  • Being an art director requires an appreciation and interest in art, including photography, graphic design and other visual arts. That appreciation and understanding can be self-taught, but typically, art directors start out by studying art, communications, photography or journalism at a four-year university. To prove you have the chops for a manager position, aspiring art directors might also obtain a Masters of Fine Arts or another higher degree, suggests the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Experience and Connections

  • Following your studies, pursue internships at magazines that interest you. Magazine subject matter runs the gamut from fashion to news, so if you're not sure what type of magazine will suit you, this will help you sort it out, suggests GQ Advertising's design director Rachel Gogel in U.S. News & World Report. Those internships will help you make connections that can land you an entry-level job as a photographer, graphic artist, or other professional in a magazine's art department.

Your Own Personal Brand

  • During and after college, it's also important to continually build your own personal brand. Keep a portfolio of the work you've done in college, during internships and on the job. Have a hard copy of your portfolio on hand should you attend interviews, but also maintain an online presence such as a blog or website, as well as having a LinkedIn profile and social media accounts on Instagram or Twitter. Not only will this help potential employers find out more about you, it will also help you network with people in the industry. Networking is key to success in the publishing world, reminds Gogel.

More than Just a Magazine

  • You have another reason to keep abreast of social media: It's going to be part of your magazine's efforts. No longer are magazines just magazines. Today, they're more of a brand, suggests InStyle creative director Rina Stone in an interview in MediaBistro's FishBowl NY. In the digital age, art directors still review the visual elements of the magazine and direct the activities of the art staff -- but on a typical day, they might also develop animations, strategize about how to integrate social media into a story, or brainstorm ideas for video content. With that in mind, you'll benefit by learning as much as you can about cross-platform publishing through online webinars, college courses, or working with a mentor within your industry.

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  • Photo Credit Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images
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