VCU logo
Master’s Program

Art Direction

Mockup of out-of-home ads in subway station for krazy glue
Griffin Drew (Art Direction, 2022)

Art Directors create and curate the visual expression of a brand.

Often working alongside copywriters, they come up with concepts and ideas to solve creative challenges and then bring their vision to life through their eye for design and visual storytelling. They create everything from brand identities to brand communications and multimedia content and have a strong foundation in design principles, typography, color, photography, and production.

If you want to be an Art Director—or maybe someday a Creative Director—at ad agencies, in-house creative studios for brands, content studios, or tech startups, the Art Direction concentration is for you.

You might be an Art Director:

If this sounds like you:

  • You prefer to communicate visually—through art and design
  • You totally nerd out over different fonts; see fonts as different voices, accents, and personalities; recognize the power in choosing a font
  • You are the go-to friend for all-things design, aesthetics, and decor
  • You care more than most people about how something looks and feels
  • You have a burning desire to create things and bring something to the world that wasn’t there before

If a day in the life of an art director sounds fun:

  • Curating and creating the look and feel of the creative work
  • Creating media for all mediums—TV spots, streaming ads, print ads, out-of-home ads, social media content, and more
  • Creating logos, brand identities, and branding guidelines
  • Conceiving great PR ideas and stunts that win attention for brands
Student work mockup of ads for FedEx where iconic buildings in cities are shown as an outline in between the Fed and Ex of the logo to represent where FedEx can take your packages overnight

Art Direction at the Brandcenter

Studying Art Direction prepares you to hit the ground running as an Art Director at ad agencies, in-house creative studios for brands, content studios, or tech startups.


You will not only perfect your craft in Art Direction, but you will also work collaboratively with your classmates across concentrations.

Here’s what you’ll do on all-concentration team projects as an Art Director, as well as what your teammates will do:

What each concentration does on all-concentration team projects


  • Using business insights from creative brand managers and consumer/cultural insights from strategists, develop creative ideas to solve business challenges, engage consumers, and bring brands to life
  • While copywriters generally focus on writing and art directors generally focus on visual design, most CW/AD teams collaborate on all creative aspects


  • Focus on a client’s business, category, and competitors
  • Lead internal, cross-functional teams
  • Ensure creative work meets business objectives; evaluate ROI when possible


  • Develop and design digital products and/or physical experiences where brands and people interact
  • Focus on the user experience for the product or experience they’re designing
  • Provide guidance and ideas regarding new/emerging technologies


  • Focus on consumers + culture
  • Lead research efforts (develop a research plan, conduct field research, and analyze results)
  • Turn research data into insights; develop strategic direction and work with creative partners to create concepts/work inspired by strategic direction

Here’s what your sixty weeks will look like:

Semester 1 (Fall) / Weeks 1-15

  • The Business of Branding (All concentrations)
  • Creative Thinking (All concentrations)
  • Visual Storytelling (Art Directors + Copywriters)
  • Problem Solving for Art Directors
Semester 2 (Spring) / Weeks 16-30

  • Concept Development (Art Directors + Copywriters)
  • Craft for Art Directors
  • User Participation Platforms (Art Directors + Experience Designers)
Summer Between Your First and Second Years / Internship

A summer internship is not required, but we’ll give you the tools to help you land a great one at agencies and companies doing some of the industry’s best work. See Placement for more about internships.

Semester 3 (Fall) / Weeks 31-45

  • Brand Experiences (All concentrations)
  • Creative Fusion (Art Directors, Copywriters, and Strategists)
  • Portfolio Development (Art Directors + Copywriters)
  • Experimentation (Art Directors, Copywriters, and Experience Designers)
Semester 4 (Spring) / Weeks 46-60

  • Innovation (All concentrations)
  • Persuasion (Art Directors, Copywriters, and Experience Designers)
  • Advanced Portfolio for Art Directors
Mockup of an ad for Chupa Chups


Here are the prerequisites for art direction applicants and all applicants:

Prerequisites for Art Direction Applicants

Art Direction applicants should be able to:

  • Think creatively and critically
  • Think visually
  • Understand visual hierarchy 
  • Demonstrate personal history of creative outputs (illustration, graphic design, photography, fine art, film, animation, etc.)
  • Understand what brands stand for
  • Have an appreciation for the details and craftsmanship that make something great
  • Work within a larger team and embrace collaboration

 Art Direction applicants should have:

  • Some working knowledge of at least one or more of the following Adobe applications: Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign, Adobe After Effects
  • Some knowledge of layout, design, and typography
  • Proficiency in Google Suite, Office Suite
Prerequisites for All Applicants

All applicants should be curiouscreative, and collaborative.

All applicants should be able to:

  • Think creatively and critically
  • Enjoy working and fully participating in teams
  • Manage time effectively and meet project deadlines
  • Relate to others and embrace open communication

All applicants should have:

  • Experience collaborating in a group
  • An enjoyment of creating/making
  • Professional ambition and drive
  • A bachelor’s degree

Art Direction Chair

Headshot of Tom Scharpf

Tom Scharpf

Chair & Professor, Art Direction

Ready to apply for Art Direction?


Apply for our two-year, full-time master's program for art direction, copywriting, creative brand management, experience design, and strategy.

Not yet ready to apply?

Take the first step and join our list of potential students. We'll keep in touch to learn more about you and help you learn more about our program.

Explore the concentrations


Copywriters craft words to tell stories that create ultimate impact.

Creative Brand Management

Business-, people-, and leadership-savvy, Creative Brand Managers lead client and agency teams to accomplish business objectives through creative solutions.

Experience Design

Experience Designers use the principles of human-centered design to develop digital products and physical experiences where brands and people interact.


Strategists use their powers of curiosity about people, culture, and brands to drive strategy for advertising and brand communications.