As Paul Craven notes below, "You’re hired for your skills and aesthetic, not your ego." As your magazine’s new art director, there’s a balancing act between making your mark and making friends. Magazines are indeed constantly evolving, yet the art director must rely on teamwork to get the full range of magazine design and production accomplished. Here, Craven shares his hard-won suggestions on what do first when you nab that top art spot.
Art Director, Travel & Leisure Golf
One of the most crucial things is the relationship between you and your editor. You both need to be on the same page visually with the magazine and respect each other’s opinions. I have friends who haven’t been so lucky and end up hating their job.
Delegate the work properly. Learn to let people breathe and be creative and not be afraid to add to the mix. Sometimes you’ll get a surprising solution. Get to know your staff, their personalities and what motivates them. It’s new for you but it’s also new for them and everyone is going through some sort of change with you taking over the helm. That doesn’t mean compromising your vision. You need to learn which battles to fight. If your design is good, it should be doing most of the work for you. I know some art directors who only battle. Leave your ego at the door and do what you do best;design.
Learn how to manage yourself. With the new job, you’ll take on more responsibilities and if you don’t manage it correctly you’ll be pulled in many different directions, then things will start falling apart in front of you. Get a grip on your workflow;especially the meetings which take so much of your time.
Making your mark depends on the situation; does the magazine need immediate help or does it need freshening up? For my situation, I felt the magazine was in a good place but just needed some initial tweaking. Eventually it will evolve (some things sooner) but I think this evolution will come with the way I design the pages. It’s a more organic approach. You’re hired for your skills and aesthetic, not your ego. And lastly, enjoy it, this is what you’ve worked so hard to achieve.