Welcome to Ask An Art Director


#1

Look. I know what you’re thinking.
Because I’m thinking it too. Who the hell do I think I am? What makes me an authority on being an art director?
Originally, when I was writing pieces for CG Society last year, I wanted to take a lighthearted poke at the industry I’ve worked in for my entire career. It’s full of really interesting people, and some of the things we take for granted in the videogame industry, I can’t imagine happening anywhere else. Also, we can sometimes take ourselves a little seriously, so I wanted to take a little air out of those tires, to at least remind myself that in the end, we just make games.
But re-reading those columns recently, I noticed that they bordered on snarky. Some of them had actually crossed the border, gotten their Green Card, and become permanent residents of Snarky. So I wanted to try it again. But this time, I wanted to actually relay some of my experience in the industry. Over the last 6 or 7 years, I’ve spent some of my time working with newer art directors. People who wanted to take that next step in their careers, but weren’t sure how to get there, or what to do once they got there. So I’ve talked with them, shared my experience, and tried to help them grown into the role of art director. That was the origin for this column. The questions, I’m just gonna admit, I made up. But they ARE composites of all of the questions I’ve tried to answer from new art directors.
And now, for some caveats, for all of you who are reading this thinking, Yeah, but you still haven’t answered the question: Who the hell do you think you are?
All I have is my experience. And this column is solely based on my own experience over the last twenty plus years in games. And while that is an insanely long time, as some of my younger, jerkier colleagues like to point out, it doesn’t mean that I’ve experienced everything in the industry. I’ve never worked for a mobile game developer, for example, a huge part of our industry now. I’ve never worked for a small, independent startup. The smallest studio I’ve been a part of was 50 people. All of this is relevant to my answers, because different studios require different things from their art directors. Some studios don’t even NEED an art director. They just require a solid principal artist who can set the visual direction for a project through his or her own work, and inspire those around them.
In my experience, though, once a team gets beyond a certain size (let’s say, 5 artists) that team needs someone whose value is in defining the visual direction, communicating that regularly to the team, and making sure that everyone’s working towards it.

ANYway. I’m starting to give away some of my future topics! Some of which will be:
Who Died and Made YOU Art Director? (About new art directors finding their place and their voice.)
Which Kind of Art Director Should I be?
Always Practice Safe Art Direction: Use a Concept
Doing Vs. Directing

I hope you find these more useful than snarky. That being said, I’m still me. So expect a LITTLE snark. And a few cartoons.
And if you have any burning questions you want to ask an art director, like where did you get those thick black framed glasses, or What the hell does “Make it more cheddar-y” mean, ask away! I’d love to field some actual questions too!