Creativity is a way of life…but making creativity into a living can seem daunting — particularly when you don’t have an educational or professional background in art. If you are a non-professional artist who is eager to turn your artistic talents into a career, you’ve come to the right place. Together, Artrepreneur and Creative Circle have put together this comprehensive article series to support budding artists in the early stages of their art careers. In this article series, you’ll find valuable information on building and maintaining a career in the creative space. We cover topics including career paths, preparing for interviews, using social media to grow your footprint, networking, and much more. Both Creative Circle and Artrepreneur are committed to being here for you throughout your career.
A CREATIVE PATH IN PRODUCTION
You may not have heard of Wieden+Kennedy, Leo Burnett, or TBWA, but chances are you’re familiar with Nike’s Dream Crazy campaign with Colin Kaepernick, Always’ “#LikeAGirl” ad, and last year’s Apple ad that channeled exactly what it was like to transition to working from home during the pandemic, respectively. Ad agencies are the powerhouses behind campaigns used by organizations, brands, and even individual people. There are a lot of moving parts and roles at agencies, but some of the most hands-on work is in production.
Before jumping into a career in production, it is important to understand the campaign workflow. The initial idea and vision of a campaign are developed with the Creative team, who after meeting with clients and understanding their needs, put together a pitch. This pitch includes the objective of the campaign, the style sheet or brand guidelines, the look and feel of the campaign (including scripts), and needs across photos, illustrations, and videos.
From there, the pitch goes to the production team, where a team of illustrators, animators, graphic designers, layout designers, and type designers create the mockup for the script, which typically includes a storyboard, animatics, and typographic treatment. From there, the Creative team will typically hire a freelance artist to create the final art for the piece, whether it’s a photo, video, illustration, or another medium.
TYPES OF JOBS
Production artist roles can vary between agencies, but the roles are generally the same and all require strong drive, communication skills, and the ability to work in a fast-paced environment.
Digital production artists prepare images for campaigns for various sizes, formats, and platforms. With a strong design background, they should understand layout, typography, and be able to retouch images or fix other artwork issues. A digital producer oversees the development and design of a digital campaign and its various forms, including websites, social media content, banner ads, video end cards, etc.
On the other hand, print production is all about printed materials from mailers to brochures to posters to manuals, to stationery, and more. Print production is all about understanding layout, sizing, color, sharpness to ensure the printed materials look their best and work according to the brief/creative vision.
Nowadays, the role of the art buyer has been incorporated into other roles, but it’s still crucial to any campaign. The art buyer essentially procures or commissions images to be used in the campaign, negotiates fees, secures rights and clearances—all while staying on budget. Being an art buyer requires staying on top of visual and artistic trends, maintaining strong relationships with talent and other agencies, strong negotiation abilities, and a good eye.
A commercial photographer takes photos to capture the product according to the campaign’s vision, being sure to align the image with the brand guidelines. A photo stylist works with the art director and the photographer to style the photos within the brand guidelines, using props and keen set design to help construct the composition of the photos, and properly showcase the product at hand.
The production or studio coordinator ensures that the production is going according to plan, communicating between teams, keeping track of updates to the schedule, and ensuring the materials are delivered on time, in a smooth and efficient manner. The coordinator usually reports to the production manager, who oversees the personnel and schedule of production. It’s about putting teams together, keeping those teams on task, and making sure the production runs smoothly. The production director oversees the entire production, managing the team, ensuring that the vision of the project really comes to life to the best of the team’s ability within the budget and timeframe.
Every campaign is truly a team effort, the result of multiple departments working together: from Accounts liaising with the client to strategy understanding the best ways to connect to their target consumers to Creative bringing the concept to life, to Media leveraging the campaign on various platforms. Working on a campaign means being able to juggle your responsibilities while fielding input from various departments and clients, all while trying to uphold the vision of the campaign.
Those who work in production typically have a background in design, communication, art, or production. But having a strong, detailed portfolio that showcases previous projects and campaigns you’ve worked on, as well as context for your roles in these campaigns is also crucial. But on top of that, scoring a campaign gig comes down to being an excellent communicator and an efficient worker. Being able to liaise well with managers, other departments, and clients is key, and so is timeliness. It’s all about balance: translating the expectations of the client, the vision of the creative director, and the timeline of all the teams is crucial to finding success at an agency.
This article was co-created by Creative Circle. Creative Circle is an award-winning recruiting and consulting company representing digital, creative, and marketing professionals. Our job is to make your job easier, whether you’re hiring, building a team, or searching for your next role. Together, we can solve your biggest challenges. Special thanks to Melissa Rogers, Senior Brand Manager of Creative Circle.
Sam Mani writes about work, creativity, wellness, and equity — when she’s not cooking, binging television, or annoying her cat.