It takes one helluva lot of skill, experience and responsibilty. I am so far away from all of these things, it seems like such an impossible feat and looking at these job descriptions, I don’t think I’ll ever get there.
In 3dsmax, making boxes is about all that I’m proficient at, at the moment. How depressing.
Anyway, Art directors have a lot more on their hands; it’s a surprise they get any sleep at all. They get a lot more control over art direction though, which is very desirable as long as you know where you’re going with it. They also have to lead the people; it’s a job that relies heavily on communication and efficiency in all areas.
Qualities would include being good at solving problems, making decisions and obviously communicating well. All of this is on top of the experience they expect you to have, your in-depth knowledge of current 2d and 3d software and, of course, your skill as an artist.
I think the job would be quite similar when working with films also. Many films have their own distinct style whether it be through colours, lighting, settings, characters etc. and the same can apply to games.
Team Fortress for example has a distinct cartoon-style, which personally I don’t like, or maybe it’s lack of female characters. Ok, so it’s a macho cartoon style game with a well thought out colour palette and original, easily identifiable characters.
Using the film we recently watched as an example, City of Lost Children had low key lighting in sickly, saturated colours throughout, as well as the cast of odd characters including Ron Perlman leading with his imposing presence.
To sum up, being an Art Director requires a person with the abilities to lead and direct and also have the desire and passion to do so. People who wouldn’t be comfortable with this responsibility would have less to strive for in a career except to improve in the job in which they are currently employed.
I did however, read about Radical Entertainment and how they made a position of ‘guru’, so this person would not have to manage people but still have more acknowledgement of their skills and ability to impart their knowledge to others through mentoring which I think is a very good idea and more accessible to those of us without natural leadership skills.