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Effective Art Directors: Gaming’s Something Something

Effective Art Directors: Gaming’s Something Something

By Ben Cammarano

[In a detailed feature, Microsoft Game Studios' Cammarano documents the five major traits that make the video game art director truly effective, from partnerships through unlikely inspiration.]

The game industry has reached a crossroads, where the demand for creative, unique IP and immersive experiences is becoming a priority for many studios, rather than your classic tech demo or iterative, licensed project.

“Quality” is the popular (and somewhat ambiguous) term to help measure a franchise’s success, and a number of teams have done a better job of defining it than others.

One of the key roles important in making this happen is that of the art director. It’s a relatively new role when compared to other creative industries like advertising or film.

It’s even defined differently among game companies: art lead with technical experience, lead artist who can script, art director but must be hands-on, publishing art director with program management skills, etc. Art director turnover is high and it can be hard to find the right mix of creative, technical, and management experience.

I’ve had the privilege of working for, with, and managing effective (and not-so-effective) art directors. I’ve also learned the hard way that those lacking certain qualities will make developing successful experiences that much harder.

The goal of this article is to share my perspective on what separates the average Art Director (AD) from an Effective Art Director (EAD) in this challenging, evolving and exciting industry. Let’s take a look at five of the most common traits:

1. Proactiveness

2. Building Bridges: Forming the Right Partnerships

3. Less Detail, More Big Picture

4. You’re Only As Good As Your Artists

5. Look Outside the Norm for Inspiration

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