jacket-108Art Direction Explained, At Last! by Steven Heller & Veronique Vienne does a phenominal job of answering the question I know I’ve asked so many times, what is it that art directors do? This book does an amazing job of walking you through the technical aspects of being an art director. You also get a glimpse into the process of art directing as 10 art directors attempt to self direct, and the visual essays submitted are truely inspiring! If you still have questions about what art direction is and what art directors do after this book, it’s time you do some soul searching…

An increasing number of people, who call themselves art directors, function as ‘impresarios’… multidisciplinary, talented individuals who are able to actualize a vision from beginning to end.

Penned by two highly successful art directors, Art Direction Explained, At Last! is divided into four sections:


Section 1 starts with several chapters that address the technical aspect of art direction (five easy read chapters) followed by an art director test. 002-104 Section 2 is where it gets interesting with nine different case studies where we get a glimpse into the mind of an art director.  From “The Alluring Art of Allure”…

Allure is a slippery term. For some it connotes elegance in the extreme, for others it means sublime simplicity. Kiehl’s, the quircky cosmetic and sundry brand, builds its allure on tradition–an old-style drugstore approach to packaging that is almost antidesign.

007-104 For section 3, Auto Art Direction, the mood of the book seems to temporarily shift directions. The matte papers turns to glossy and it almost feels like you’re browsing through a giant book of idea generating spreads… for good reason. Auto Art Direction includes thirteen visual essays where ten art directos and three illustrators art direct themselves. The end result is a beautiful collection of visually moving assignments and a glimpse of what it’s like to practice art direction as a profession. Cristoph Niemann & Nicholas Blechman contributed an insanely entertaining and insightful set of illustrations titled “The Illustrator’s Guide to Art Direction”. Section 4, Nuts and Bolts, reels us back in from our creative journey through self art direction and provides some key nuggets of knowledge like “What Do We Call Ourselves?” where the many different art director titles are exlpained in detail. “Handy Art Director Sayings” offers up a straight forward translation for sayings often heard coming from your favorite (or least favorite) art director. My personal favorite has got to be…

‘Experience is not useful in this business.’ — The less you know, the more we can exploit you.

This “translation” really resonated with me within the context of Art Direction Explained, At Last! 003-105

…As this book attempts to emplain, people who embrace this career path are multitalented individuals who dabble in everything…

Technical: Art Direction Explained, At Last! by Steven Heller & Veronique Vienne Published by Laurence King Publishing, 2009

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