A great article at A List Apart by Dan Mall on the differences between art direction and design. I know for a while I wasn’t sure what the differences were outside of heirarchy in studios and agencies.
What is art direction:
Art direction brings clarity and definition to our work; it helps our work convey a specific message to a particular group of people. Art direction combines art and design to evoke a cultural and emotional reaction. It influences movies, music, websites, magazines–just about anything we interact with. Without art direction, we’re left with dry, sterile experiences that are easily forgotten. Can a New York subway ad about the homeless provoke you to donate money? Why do you want to beg Clarice Starling to turn around, even though you know she can’t hear you? How do candles transform a regular meal into a romantic evening? Art direction is about evoking the right emotion, it’s about creating that connection to what you’re seeing and experiencing.
By contrast, design is the technical execution of that connection. Do these colors match? Is the line-length comfortable for long periods of reading? Is this photo in focus? Does the typographic hierarchy work? Is this composition balanced?