M.AD Art Direction Grads Talk About Their Work

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Art Directors can seem intimidating. It is, after all, a special set of skills that makes a real star AD: drive, focus, idea generation…the list goes on. And on a personal level, many can seem extraordinary: bursting with creativity, dialed into the cultural zeitgeist…and yet able to focus their output in a commercially viable way. Their art-minded businesspeople…or artists with a flair for business. Either way, they manage to balance both.

Now that’s not to say Art Directors should be unapproachable. On the contrary: the openness and attitude of many of these creative wizards makes them wholly open to answering questions about their process.

That being said, for a young creative, it can be difficult to get access to really high-level pros. That’s what so much of the M.AD promise is about breaking down the barriers of social spheres and connecting youngsters with potential to the experienced mentors they can learn from.

In that spirit, we reached out to a few of our leading Art Direction grads and asked them to tell young creatives what Art Direction is all about.

Here’s what they said:


As you can see, one of the really magnetic aspects of art direction as a career is the variety and possibility. In fact, that’s probably the most commonly cited piece of excitement we get from our students when they express interest in making Art Direction your future.

As Kien Quan puts it, “It really depends. One day we’re doing television, one day we’re doing billboards…one day we’re doing social media. But the fine line is that we are the visual stronghold behind a message”.

How’s that for a quick summary?

If there’s one thing our speakers wanted to emphasize, it’s how the output will vary (different mediums, different brands, different stories) but the tools of an Art Director are constant: vision,

In the words of Alex Ohannessian, “experiences…installations…films…everything you see has to have an Art Director at some point influence it.”

What Do Art Directors Love About Their Jobs?

As Jessica Shriftman says, “I love working with masters in their craft…the high of coming up with an idea.”

Right there, in one sentence, is so much of what makes Art Direction special. How many jobs allow you to work every day with artisans, business moguls, craftspeople, storytellers, etc…all of whom are likely world leaders in their respective industries. And Art Direction doesn’t just allow you to do that—it’s an essential piece of the job.

That collaboration is so much of what results in the other brilliant outcome of working as an AD: non-stop ideas, every day. Jessica is right: that experience of coming up with new and exciting ideas, often through electric conversations with your creative partners, is a genuine natural high.

And the best part? It’s a virtuous circle. Just ask Jay Savsani: “That cliched sort-of lightbulb moment is the feeling that perpetuates the drive to continue creating.”

It’s like the drive that fuels an addict’s self-destructive behavior (your brain seeking a reward)…but that energy is harnessed and propelled in such a brilliantly productive way.

It’s that constant cycle of creative magic that leads to the really exciting phenomenon: in the words of Jayanta Jenkins, “you never have the same day twice”.

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