Where do all the AD's hide?


So I’ve been working on a rather small development team for the last 5 years or so. I’ve always been the Lead Artist and been the one responsible for the final say regarding the art in our games. But I’m an animator, and I went to school for animation, so i have never felt qualified to be the AD…even when asked. I have always felt like our games would be so much better if we had that visual guy that really had a great sense of shape and color and could really keep our look consistent. I’ve always looked at TV or Film and seen the work of AD’s on projects there and thought…“they have it right…the AD is actually a visual guy, responsible for the visual aspects of the show”. Typically, at the companies I’ve worked for, we have hired or promoted people into the AD position that are really just managers…more like Line Producers. So after the first couple years of convincing management that the AD should be a visual guy and not be a manager, I was given the go-ahead to hire someone for that position. So now you have myself, and 2-3 other talented Leads that are looking for someone to be the AD. A couple years go by and we realize, this is impossible…they don’t exist. Where do these people hide out? Our goal is to find someone with strong traditional skills, someone that could fill the “Art of” book with concepts and paintings. Ideally they would be great at Environments and Characters…but most tend to focus on one or the other, so just having a bit of one with a focus on the other is probably the best we could hope for. But honestly, we’re tired of looking, these people just don’t exist anymore…they’re either happy where they are at, or they want to just work as freelance artists, or they want to stay in Film/TV etc. I used to work for Sony and it was hard enough trying to fill that position there…now i’m at a smaller company that is rather new…so i’m sure it will be even more difficult. Not sure what else to say, but I just am curious what other people are doing to find these people…or who they are working with as an AD and how they came to fill that position. Sorry for the rant, but i’m tired.


I don’t think companies hires an AD right off the bat (with few exceptions of course) an AD is often someone inside the company that begun working as a concept artist or other forms of artists.


Yea, you always see lots of job postings for art directors. Im sure there are tons of companies that are willing to shell out some good money for a really talented guy that can take charge and make their game look amazing. However, I think most of these guys already have jobs. Hope one quits and that you can pay him an absurd amount of money?

Art directors should get paid HUGE amounts of money. HUUUUUUGE. They should also be famous. Like directors. AND MONEYSSSSS. MONIES!

(I wanna be an art director.)


Yeah that’s the problem, you scour the web looking at work and finally come across someone that is perfect…only to find out that they are currently working for Disney Feature in the Visual Development department and have been in the Union for 18 years. Not a chance of enticing someone away from their pension and retirement and benefits…even if the project and salary are fairly attractive.


So after the first couple years of convincing management that the AD should be a visual guy and not be a manager

I think you’ve kind of answered your own question. I think the root of the problem is that despite the fact that the visuals are so important, there is a subtle disregard for the ‘soft’ skills involved in creating good art. I worked for years as an illustrator creating cover art for Science fiction and fantasy novels, but when I approached games companies for work I found that they could not see past my lack of experience with graphics software packages- they simply couldn’t take seriously anybody who didn’t know how to use photoshop.


In clam-shaped bunkers under the sea. :slight_smile:


nah, i’ve looked there…good seafood, but no AD’s. :wink:


But at this point we actually HAVE convinced them that the ‘soft’ skills are the important thing…now the problem is finding the talent. What i’m finding out more and more, is that in order to fill your top positions, you have to go out of your way to recruit the talent. Posting job requests on gamasutra and cgtalk and creativeheads will only fill your inbox with a significant amount of underqualified applicants. Every now and then you come across a gem, but the amount of work it takes to find that gem is staggering…and it’s not like i don’t have job responsibilities outside of recruiting.


I was like… assistant director? Isn’t that more of a live action thing…?


No doubt your artistic skills are far more important than your software knowlege, but I’d have a hard time taking you seriously too if you couldn’t use photoshop. It takes all of a couple days to learn. And if this were a project that involved 3d animation, I’d expect you to know 3d programs as well. You can’t critique other people’s work properly if you can’t even do what they’re doing, and have no idea how they’re even doing it.


When you say, “can’t even do what they’re doing”, are you talking about matching their skills, or producing art the same way (using the same programs, etc)?


I’m an AD, and I gotta tell ya, if/when I leave my job, they’ll most likely ask me to help them find a replacement–it’ll be very hard. This is not tooting my own horn in any way at all–simply that AD’s are hard to find, period, let alone a good one. It’s taken me 17 years to build my career up to being a studio art director.

An AD is not just a production veteran that knows the pipeline very well, and can use the essential softwares at an expert level.

An AD is not someone who just knows how to draw/paint/design at an advanced level.

An AD is not someone who is simply knowledgeable about a wide range of styles, genres, mediums.

An AD is not just someone who can schedule, budget, and enforce milestones.

An AD is not just someone who is on top of what new tools are available for improving the pipeline.

An AD is not just someone who understands the big picture and can work with producers, CEO’s, director of technology, creative director, marketing, publishing…etc at the highest level to establish the visual look of every single product coming in and out of a studio.

An AD is not just someone who can carry himself in a manner so when meeting with clients, publishers, investors…etc he could be pursuasive when discussing the visual aspects all projects at the highest level.

An AD is not just someone who knows how to utilize the right external resources (arthouses, freelance contractors), but also know how to manage them.

An AD is not just someone who can nurture and inspire a team of artists.

An AD is not just someone who can pass on his own knowledge and skills so younger/less experiencd artists can benefit from his expertise.

An AD is not just someone who other artists on the team respects because he walks the walk, not just talk the talk.

An AD is not just someone that knows how to use each artist on the team to their strengths, or how to take care of them so they are happy when working on projects.

An AD is not just someone who has the ability to spot potential, and task artists with something they’ve never done before, simply because he knows they can do it if given the right amount of encouragement and direction.

An AD is not just someone all the senior managers and top level personnels respect and rely on, and would feel lost without.

An AD is not just someone who instinctively knows what works visually and what doesn’t, or what is appropriate/effective and what isn’t for any given project.

An AD is not just someone who knows how every aspect of the visuals should look–from user interface, retail box advertising, in-game graphics, concept art, animation, logo design, to font choices.

An AD (a good one) is all of those things combined. That is why it’s so damn hard to find a good AD. Most candidates applying for AD positions only have a few of those qualities, but not all. Many are not good artists at all, but can manage. Others are great artists but can’t manage or lead. Also, a good AD for one project may not be the right person for a different project, though some are very versatile, but they are rare. If an AD can go from something like a hardcore action/realistic title, to a wacky cartoony title, to a charming/cutesy casual title, to a stylized anime-influenced title, then he’s a damn good AD (assuming he has all the other traits mentioned).

I still have areas where I need to work on myself–for example, I taught myself just enough 3D so I can direct others efficiently, and can help out with production when needed, but I do not focus on 3D and still have a lot more to learn if I want to become an “expert” at it. At this point I find that having 2D skills is much more effective because I can simply mock something up by drawing/painting quickly, or paintover 3D renders, and it gets the message across to everyone how things should look–you cannot do it that fast with 3D.


If thats not tooting your own horn then God knows what is! :slight_smile:


Well, you know, clients, partners, investors…etc could be reading this. I can’t look too shabby for their sake. :smiley:


an AD is a advertisement about anno domini :smiley:


Lunatique, it’s great that you can fulfill all those requirements but in my experience a lot of those things are usually shared between producers, supervisors, leads and art directors. The AD should know pipeline and 2d/3d tools to the extent that they can communicate with the artists but doesn’t usually need to be an expert, the leads and supe take care of that. Scheduling, budgets, client relations, etc is usually taken care of by producers (minus the art brief)

A lot of your other points about inspiring the team, looking for talent and leading are true but ADs mainly just have to have a badass eye. And yes, that is hard enough to find :slight_smile:



AD is title aimed for someone who is able to express continuity in their design and as so act as a support for other artist by setting up visual milestones. Often this is a job well carried out by conceptual artists but is by no means restricted to that group.

The fact that the graphics industry is full of people with pretentous made-up titels I don’t really put much interest in the title itself but what the individual is capable of. There is really no lack of ADs out there today, you just have to know what you are looking for and look at the work that is being done, because the right guy might just not have the AD title set up anywhere in his resumé.



We know what we’re looking for and we don’t even bother looking at the resume unless their portfolio suggests they are qualified. These people are very rare and very hard to find. Finding somebody that’s 3 years out of school and has some decent character concepts is not that difficult. Finding someone that can paint beautiful concepts of fantastical environments AND can incorporate cohesive characters into that world, is not so easy. Then add to it the fact that they have to be willing to relocate to San Diego or be local, and have to be willing to work at a rather new company without an established name. I’m sure Insomniac and Bungie have some great applicants, that’s not the case for newer development houses.


After looking at his portfolio I’d have to say he’s justified in “tooting” his own horn. Great work!


That’s usually the case, and I’d much prefer it that way, but for various reasons I end up having to take on a lot of stuff. For example, producers are supposed to budget and schedule a project, but how do they know what art tools, resources, number of man hours…etc? And what solutions will cost us the least and benefit us the most? I would have to sit down and go through the entire art asset list with them and determine X number of character will take this long to model/texture/rig/animate, X number of props would take this long to make, that rendering solution will give us the look we need in less time but cost a bit more, that can’t be done because it’ll take too long and cost too much, and that cinematic will probably take this long with this many artists…etc.

And I gotta do this for multiple projects all at once since we both publish and develop, so there are 1st party, 2nd party, and 3rd party games I have to keep an eye on. We have several producers, each producing multiple games, and I’m often in meetings back to back because they all need my input on various projects.

When I started down the road of art directing, I thought I’d hate the management aspect, as I’ve always seen myself as a creative person first and foremost, but as it turned out, I don’t hate managing, and sometimes enjoy it (when the people involved are a joy to work with. When they’re not…well…).

I’m kind of a glutton for punishment though. Since I’m also a composer and our company does not have an audio director, I sort of volunteer to do that. I would review all cues turned in from composers working for us, give them critique, meet with them, pick out temp tracks, give suggestions on how to orchestrate a certain mood…etc. Producers love it because I can give feedback in composer’s terms that our composers will immediately understand, as opposed to non-musicians trying to describe something in vague and abstract terms that can be easily misinterpreted.

At my previous job (when I worked with Stahlberg) I also wore multiple hats–I was the writer/director, art director, and audio director. I loved every minute of it. :smiley: