Being an art director is great. It’s a job that allows you to create, help other businesses and build a reputation. Don Draper...need I say more? But I have noticed that there are a not a lot of sites built for the guys and gals who design and build our digital world. Yes, there are a ton of tutorials, blogs and inspiration lists, but what about sites that you can go to and get something fun and informative out of it? Take a look at this list of sites for the art director. There is a combination of fun, usefulness and innovation in this list, so I hope you find at least one site to bookmark and come back to everyday. Some you may know, others you may not.
Think Vitamin: Started by Carsonified in 2006, this blog for designers and developers by designers and developers has become one of the best sources for tutorials and editorials surrounding the web design community. With its own podcast and a new creative learning section called “Treehouse,” Think Vitamin has become one of the go-to places on the web for those who want to learn more about being a creative professional.
Contrast Rebellion: The most important thing about designing for the web is making sure you can understand the information you are presenting (we all know the yellow text on blue background rule). But this oftentimes interferes with the aesthetics of the site we would like to design. This website will remind you that typography’s main goal is to make text readable.
United Pixelworkers: Let’s face it, art directors don’t get the credit they deserve for being hardworking, dedicated, “nose to the grindstone” employees. But it should. Designers and coders create and build one of the modern wonders of the world -- the Internet. Every pixel on your screen has more than likely been crafted by hours of thought, coffee, pizza and manpower. Take a look at this clothing company designing items for the hardworking men and women who are single-handedly building the web as we know it.
Code Racer: Finally, a game about building websites! This site, which describes itself as “a multi-player live-coding game that teaches you how to build a basic website in less than five minutes” is worth a mention on this list. Sign up and hopefully we can play together soon.
Ban Comic Sans: I know what you’re thinking: How can an art director go after a font that has been around since I was wowed by Paintbrush in 1994? Well, the answer is that I don’t HATE Comic Sans. I just hate how it has been elevated to the point of Arial and Helvetica as a font that is suitable for any situation. If you’re a typography nut like I am, you already know what I’m talking about. If not, just take a look at this site and you will think twice before using this font to make a “Keep Out” sign.
Shirt.woot: I know there are a lot of shirt design sites out there, and although I guess I could say that teefury.com is an honorable mention, I think that Woot does it right. Shirt.woot is a site that gives the average Art Director/Graphic designer a shot every week to enter the site’s design “derby.” They give you a topic, and you interpret that topic and create a kick ass shirt design. Not only is the community large, but they are also good critics and very supportive. And even if the highest you ever get is 25th place, it’s a great exercise for creativity each week. Besides, you can always be assured to find some great shirts for 10 bucks.
Lost Type: It would be great if you could always pay what you want. Dinner and a movie would cost me about $15 when I go out with my wife, and season tickets for the St. Louis Cardinals would maybe set me back $1,500 (probably have to split that with some friends). This of course isn’t the world we live in, unless you’re talking about typography! Lost Type is a Co-Op foundry where designers can put their fonts up for download, and you can pay whatever you want for them. All the funds go to the designer of the fonts, so Lost Type is on par with sliced bread for font designers. Although you can type in $0 for a free download, it would be nice to give them at least a buck.
Paper Critters: We were all kids once. And more than likely you had a favorite toy at some point in your life. And if you’re like 95% of the art directors I have met, you have something on your desk that needs at least a 10 minute explanation about why its on your desk and not in your nephew’s toy chest. This site takes desk decorating to a new level. Image you could design, print, build and share an awesome piece of desk decor for free. Check out Paper Critters to create a unique piece for your workspace that will inspire you, and have others admiring you.
Cage: The concept of lost in translation has always bummed me out a little. Thinking that an idea can suffer because it isn’t communicated well is a frustrating battle for any person, but especially a designer. Being able to present your work well is essential to have your message heard and understood, but sometimes there are barriers preventing this. For example, having IE6 not be compatible or using a certain file type that people can’t open properly. This is where Cage comes in. It’s a free and easy way to present ideas the way you want, and what you see on your screen is how people will view it on their screen. It’s a great way for both freelancers and companies to present mockups and track feedback from clients or project leaders. I’m a little surprised that it hasn’t caught on more, but I think it’s only a matter of time.
Kickstarter: Art directors are artists at their core. They are people who want to create. And although advertising is a great career, some may have other interests and desire other outlets for their creativity. Enter Kickstarter, a place where creatives can pitch ideas and get funding for those ideas. Just looking through all the concepts, and looking at how much people believe in the ideas is not only good for inspiration, but it is also good to see that people still believe in creative thinking — some are even willing to take a chance on it.