Advertising: Graphic Design vs Art Direction

Advertising, is a mysterious business. In my mind at least, advertising is an industry that no longer exists – it has evolved to become the business – or rather the art of – communication.

In this mysteriously attractive industry, there are people with fancy titles. When I was an art director, my parents could not understand what it meant or what I did for a living. All I could say was that my dad was pissed at the fact that his would-have-been-engineer-son had become a hippie, a total disgrace to the family.

When I proudly presented my first ever job that was published, he was even more crossed and quite disappointedly remarked that he didn’t send his son to the best school in the country to do that kind of thing for a living.

I didn’t see my parents for about 3 years thereafter.

Nope, I didn’t leave the country, but in my rebellious heart I didn’t find a reason to visit them – even for the new year holidays.

Yes, I could be an arse, sometimes. But, that attitude helped me immensely in the business, in the years to come.

Anyhow, there is a huge misconception about the titles in this business. In many places, Graphic Designers get automatically promoted to Art Directors, sometimes by virtue of their presence in the agency, long enough.

Art Direction requires a different skill set to that of a designer. There are many who successfully acquire the above, but some fail miserably.

Here’s an example of an ad that appeared in one of the industry magazines in the Middle East, clearly done by a designer:

The same ad, if it were to be given a touch of quick “art direction” below:


  1. Ah, advertising. It'll always be a mystery to me. :D

    Glad to know you'd be down for the match. Maybe we'll bump into each other. :)

  2. well, advertising is mysterious field but the fact is that it is providing high career and high money at the moment.

  3. I had a great time reading your articles about advertising in Sri Lanka. And I laughed quite a bit when I saw the following in one of your articles.

    "As far as I know, the only design school in Colombo that produces decent graphic designers is the one next to the Cricket Club Café."

    It isn't next to the Cricket Club Cafe anymore. And I happen to be a student there.

    Cheers! :]

  4. Anonymous, thank you. Yes I noticed a while ago that the school has been relocated. That said, I also liked the new shop that's there.