Wms & Co. / AmassBlog
Exquisitely Practical Tools for Your Life and Your Desk

art direction

JP Williams

i mentioned previously that i take photo after photo of found gloves. as my daughter grew, she became my spotter. “dad,” she’d say, “there's a good one.” how did she learn which one was a good one was? i must have articulated the finer points of a run-over glove. having a child has it rewards and one of my favorite memories is of hearing my daughter answer this question: "what does your dad do?" "he's an art director." "what does an art director do? "well, he knows when a picture is good or not." how about that. do i really? i guess that's as good as any explanation i've heard. when i first came to new york and had the opportunity to work as an art director for bergdorf goodman, i attended a new york dinner with models, art directors, photographers—a serious fashion crowd. i was excited. they were all consumed by their work and life, as i was. since i had lived in the city only for a short while, i was as green as green could be. this scene and its myriad levels of sophistication intrigued and intimidated me. i was seated next to a fashionable blonde and, when she asked what i did for a living, i replied that i was a graphic designer. at the time, i was designing an identity for bergdorf's new men's store. i asked what she did. "an art director." "what’s the difference?" i asked naïvely. she looked at me coldly and blankly and said, quite seriously, “the difference is a graphic designer takes a photograph, places it on a page and puts white space all around it. an art director takes that same photo and bleeds it on all four sides." i laughed; she didn't. when i saw this cartoon in the new yorker years ago, i cut it out and added it to all the others i have saved over the years. the memory of all this came back to me upon seeing the cartoon. it’s certainly another explanation to consider.

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The illustration is priceless. Thanks for sharing your stories with us.
Suhail Amarreply
Wonderful story and especially hilarious drawing, too bad we see such witty stuff less and less these days. Thanks :)
Ha! I am tempted to email this to some of my former art directors... Enjoyed your story as well. :)
i like your stories very much, thanks for sharing. good bye!
good story. kids are usually more eloquent when it comes to defining anything. they looks at things with a clarity i can only envy.
Great story. I once taught graphic design. Now that I'm getting a higher degree I find most of the classes being taught by former fine arts majors with the same pomposity as the design director in your story. I'm proud of what i do, but my love of graphic design has never required me to look down on any other aspect of the field.
[...] look what i found today in the street. look what i bought at the flea market.’ i once posted a cartoon from the new yorker about art direction. to this day, i still struggle to answer the [...]