Excuse me—which way is the art at?

And speaking of directing art, tell me your trade secrets!

  • Where do you go to find free or nonspendy photographs?
  • How do you get ideas for photographs to illustrate stories that are, let’s say, totally and completely nonvisual? Are there tricks you use when you’re wholly uninspired?
  • How do you find that photo that you know exists but that’s just refusing to come up, no matter what keywords you use to search for it?
  • Where do you go to find illustrators?
  • How much guidance do you give to illustrators—to what extent do you just let them do their arty thing?
  • Do you generally deal with agencies or go directly to the artists?

We’ve mostly been using Creative Commons–licensed Flickr images, Associated Press photos, Photofest, Mary Evans Picture Library (which doesn’t seem to work with Firefox on the Mac—grrr), cheap stock places like iStockPhoto, behemoths such as Corbis and Getty, and specialty archives such as USHMM. I’ve recently started trawling through the listings at PhotoServe, but I haven’t yet used anything from any of the agencies I found there. I’d also somehow never heard of the mega-agency Jupiter until last week.

We haven’t hired any illustrators yet, but we’d love to. Some illustration agencies I’ve been looking at are CIA and Riley. Also, the DrawMo! del.icio.us dump. Any advice or recommendations are welcome (the only illustrations I’ve ever commissioned in the past are maps for fantasy books; I’m not sure that’s the look we want).

Heeeeelp meeeeeee!

What does an “art director” do?

Beats me. I’ve never worked with one in my life, but now this is my job title, so I’m trying to figure it out. What do you think it means?

My job so far seems to break down as follows:

  • 60 percent art wrangling, for print and Web. This includes photo research, chasing down permissions, cleaning up and sizing art, making more-or-less templated graphic doo-dads, and assembling stuff into online galleries.
  • 30 percent layout, which is to say, picking up templates (or tracing PDFs, when files aren’t handy) made by someone else, for stuff like invitations, postcards, business cards, and a sixteen-page semiannual magazine. There’s a single house font family and a very narrow house color palette, so very little “design” enters the equation. Print production and distribution management for same.
  • 10 percent Web, um, review. We’re in the final weeks of a relaunch, so we’re looking at a lot of new page designs. I’m neither designing nor managing; just mostly trying to help with quality control.

I’ve done this kind of work in the past, mixed in different proportions, under titles like “program associate” or “program director” or “webmaster” or “managing editor.” It’s not like my title matters to me—I’m going to do the work that needs to be done, regardless—but I do suspect that other people have expectations of what an AD does or knows how to do, and I have no idea how my skills and experience relate to those expectations.

Have you ever been or worked with an art director? What does the title mean to you?