5 Tips for Art Director Portfolios
January 10, 2024

5 Tips for Art Director Portfolios

Crafting an art direction portfolio? See the 5 tips that Freelance Creative Directors Dídima Arrieta Martínez and Dan Ahern had for this art director.

Sarah Latz

When students discover art direction is a possible career, one of the first things they do is Google “how to become an art director.” And the first thing they see is this:

Who knew Google could be so wrong?!

You absolutely do not need a bachelor’s degree OR previous work experience to become an art director.

The only thing Art Directors need is a strong art direction portfolio. 

You can find art director schools in many places and forms. Online art direction programs are one of the fastest and most affordable ways to break into creative advertising.

But still, it can be a big investment to go to any portfolio school program. So at book180, we try to provide resources for people who are out there building their art direction portfolios on their own. One way we do this, is with our video advertising podcast called 2RightAngles. Every episode, we feature two creative industry leaders discussing their current favorite work out in the world and reviewing a junior creative portfolio together.

One of the best things you can do when building your portfolio is to look at other people’s work. Add to that watching how creative directors review a portfolio and what they would change about it, will help you approach your art direction campaigns with even more creative smarts.

Recently, we featured and reviewed the art direction portfolio of Junior Art Director Monica Melber. Monica is located in Kansas City and is looking for her first Junior Art Direction role. She’s open to anywhere! And there were so many key takeaways that Creative Directors Didima Arrieta Martinez and Dan Ahern left us. 

Art Direction Tip 1:

Show off your humorous instincts when you can. A student book should be fun to read and look through. Visualize how your videos will look. Consider what the reveals and twists will be. Remember to add funny bits and personality. They’re getting to know you as well as your work.

Art Direction Tip 2:

Everyone always wonders how many executions to put in a student campaign. The answer is: the amount that will help open up the door of possibilities to the creative directors reviewing your work. You don’t have to spell everything out for creative directors and recruiters. You just have to keep it simple, open the door, and get people seeing the potential. Make them want to come up with new ideas for the campaign too. You know you have a strong idea when creative directors say “or what if you did this with it?!”

Art Direction Tip 3:

Remember to elevate the art direction whenever you can. Look at how things like hierarchy of the type, visuals, and logo, is reinforcing your big idea. The biggest statement you’re making should be the biggest thing on the page. Sometimes you don’t even need a headline or tagline, if the idea and art direction are strong enough. And if you have stellar element of design in your campaign, make sure it’s a consistent element throughout the campaign. 

Art Direction Tip 4:

Life gives you so many limitations, remember that in a studio book, it’s just your book, and anything is possible.  Think of a cool ideas. Don't think about whether those cool ideas are 100% practical. That’s going to be a producer’s problem.

Art Direction Tip 5:

We’re in a simple phase of advertising—returning to simple, traditional advertising. Nowadays people are doing a thousand things, looking at their phone, looking at their computer, all at the same time. You’ve got to keep things very simple—where they see it and get it right away.

You’ve got to practice that now, while you can, because once you’re in the real world, every client will want 14 different messages and it’s really tough to pull it back on the core ideas. So practice on focusing on the core ideas now. 

When the idea is so clear and simple, it allows you the freedom to create more art direction executions for it. You can have fun. Don’t overcomplicate ideas. Keep them simple, and as an art director, remember to bring your executions back to the idea.

Creative Directors will only laugh at the headlines, and enjoy how well the design is crafted, if they get the big idea first.

Watch the full episode of 2RightAngles on YouTube.

A huge thank you to Dídima Arrieta Martínez and Dan Ahern, Freelance Creative Director Team in Spain.

D+D | https://dan-didima.com/

And an even bigger thank you to Monica Melber, Junior Art Director in Kansas City, MO | https://www.monicamelber.com/.

Your art direction portfolio made it easy for us to give feedback!

If you would like your portfolio reviewed on 2RightAngles, reach out to us at hello@book180.com.