Read as Tara Wasmer talks about her career as an Art Director. Find her at www.twhcollectibles.com and on her Twitter feed in the sidebar of this interview.
What do you do for a living?
I’m an Art Director for a scale model company called TWH Collectibles.
How would you describe what you do?
The best word would be ‘evolving’. My focus is constantly changing depending on where projects are in the production process.
What does your work entail?
It entails everything from managing projects at the factory and designing box artwork, literature inclusions and other project-specific marketing materials. I also design advertisements, do photography and manage the social media websites.
My work involves creating the document that instructs the factory which paint colors to use and what to paint where. This document also provides any necessary logos and decals. I also manage this process to make sure the factory accurately portrays this document.
What’s a typical work week like?
Lots of emails, meetings, and phone calls in order to maintain communication between others in the company and our contacts at the factory. It is very fast-paced… a lot can happen in one day, so it’s important to be on the same page. That is really the only predictable and consistent part of my work week.
How did you get started?
I started out working for a promotional products company. The owner and CEO began to create a sub-company within that made diecast models (now known as TWH Collectibles). From there TWH branched off, and I was one of the employees that went with.
What do you like about what you do?
I like all of the variety. I really have gained a ton of experience at this job. I am NEVER bored.
What do you dislike?
I dislike not having as much control as needed with our factory in China. It is very frustrating when they don’t communicate efficiently with us… And yet there’s nothing much we can do. Ideally we would have someone over there full-time, but we instead just have to make lots of groundwork with them when our engineer goes over there a few times per year.
How do you make money/or how are you compensated?
I am salaried.
How much money do Art Directors make?
There are few Model Art Directors out there and most of them are not in the United States. Most Art Directors work for Ad Agencies and get paid significantly.
Art directors can get paid anywhere from $40,000 to six figures depending on where you live and the kind of company you work for. Top ad agencies pay top dollar for good art directors. When you are in more of a niche market in a smaller city, you are likely to get paid significantly less than that.
How much money did/do you make starting out?
Probably around $30,000 to $40,000.
What education, schooling, or skills are needed to become an Art Director?
An Associate’s or Bachelor’s Degree in marketing and/or graphic design. Skills necessary would be a good eye, detail-oriented and creativity.
What is most challenging about what you do?
Meeting deadlines is the most challenging. On any given day I have anywhere from 5-10 things to do. Usually half of those things is urgent. It can be a bit of a juggling act.
What is most rewarding?
The most rewarding is seeing my work come to life. To see a finished, printed box or an advertisement in a magazine never gets old.
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
You have to have tough skin and not take criticism personally. Make sure to take mental and creative breaks!
How much time off do you get/take?
I now get 15 days of vacation each year. I also have the flexibility to work from home if needed.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
That we sit and play with the models every day. In reality, I don’t even have a single model set up in my home… I see enough of them at work!
What are your goals/dreams for the future?
It would be great for TWH to become the Apple of the model making industry. I’ve seen this company come a long way, and I’d like to see it go to the next level.