Hello! :D Thanks for reaching out and asking. Of course it’s not a weird question! Art Direction is one of those jobs that just takes a lot to explain because it’s not self explanatory, so I totally understand.
First things first… I’m an advertising Art Director. Some people get really confused because they think of like… “movie” Art Directors, and that’s not what I do at all. Being an Art Director means thinking up concepts for an advertising campaign, executing these ideas, and overseeing the process in which these campaigns are produced. Your job is to basically come up with an idea for a campaign, make it (usually in the computer using programs like Adobe Illustrator, Adobe inDesign, and Adobe Photoshop), and make sure everyone else who works on it with you is on the same page you are.
I think being an Art Director is really great. It’s a career that’s fun and different from a lot of other jobs. One thing I really love is it’s a job that allows you to be an artist, and you get paid great money for it. And in this day and age, there aren’t many jobs out there that let you be artistic and make a decent living off of it. Usually the environment you work in is great too. A lot of agencies are super casual and friendly and are open to whatever you need.
All they need in return is great work. Being an Art Director means you have to be willing to give 110% of your effort every day to make great work. It’s not really a job that you can walk in and think “i’m not feeling it today” and not make anything that day. You have to be able to make stuff every single day. Sometimes, it requires you to stay late at work, or even stay over night. It all just depends on each project. Every project is different, really. So every day is different.
To get to be an art director, you should probably think about going to a school and either majoring in advertising, or if your school offers a graphic design/art direction program, it’d be better to go with that. The fundamentals of being an Art Director is learning Graphic Design. The better of a designer you are, the better your ads will be and the better companies you can work for. At school, you’ll work towards making your portfolio book. When you graduate, you should have a book with 5-10 pieces of work in it that you are proud of, and when you go to interview, you’ll show your potential employers this book. Your book speaks for you, and shows what kind of skills you have!
Now, some people start training to be an Art Director in school and realize they’re just in it for the design part and not the conceptual idea part of the job. And that’s fine. In that case, I would suggest moving over to a graphic design program. Graphic Design is more producing logos, brochures, annual reports, designing magazine layouts, product packaging, etc, while Art Direction is advertising (billboards, magazine ads, commercials, direct mail, digital ads, etc.). Like I said, Art Direction is graphic design to some extent. The difference is that in Art Direction, you take the skills learned in graphic design, and apply them into conceptual ideas that communicate your message you are trying to tell to your audience in a creative way in order to SELL a product or service.
Here is an example of some stuff you could do. This is an ad I worked on while in school for Miracle Grow All-Purpose Plant Food:
Also, if you’d like a visual idea of the job, watch Mad Men! It’s kinda a bit exaggerated at some points, but the general idea is there, so that might give you an idea.
… I know that’s a really jumbled response. Did that help define Art Direction any clearer? Let me know! And I hope Art Direction is right for you, and, if not, that you find the right career for your future! :3