A Snapshot of the Field: Visual Development Artist Jobs

Visual development artists work in almost all forms of creative entertainment—including video games, TV series, feature films, and animation.

In other words, visual development (visdev) degrees are quite flexible. But what do visdev artists do, exactly?

Most generally, visual development requires you to create the look and feel of a piece of media. Visdev work takes place pre-production, before the concrete decisions are made and passed along to professionals down the production pipeline.

Concept art generally falls under the umbrella of visual development, for example. So does character design, props and environment design, lighting design, and key art design. Storyboard artists are also occasionally lumped under visual development, though this depends on whether you consider storyboarding part of pre-production and how your employer defines your job duties.

Project by Visual Development student JJ Song
Project by School of Visual Development BFA student JJ Song

Though the demands of visual development artists jobs are wide-ranging, most if not all visdev artists possess the below skills:

  • An understanding of animation, illustration, and graphic design concepts
  • A solid grasp of digital art tools, such as Photoshop, Maya, InDesign, and more
  • A mastery of a variety of art styles, both 2D and 3D
  • Experience in team settings
  • Knowledge of the production process

The Many Possibilities for Visual Development Artist Jobs

As mentioned before, visdev students have a world of options before them once they complete their visual development degree. Some industries that visdev students end up working in include:

  • Animation for TV series and feature film
  • Non-animated TV series and feature film
  • Game development and design
  • Advertising
  • Web and mobile app design
  • Graphic design

Within these industries, you can also take on a number of roles, such as:

  • Art Director
  • Visual Development Lead
  • Concept Artist
  • Character or Costume Designer
  • Game Asset Designer
  • Environment or Props Designer
  • Matte Painter for Live-Action Film
  • Lighting or Color Key Designer
Project by Visual Development student Shannon Munayyer
Project by School of Visual Development MFA student Shannon Munayyer

It’s worth noting that most visdev artists end up working in the motion pictures and video industry. Hence, many visdev classes that you take will often prepare you for related fields, though what you learn is transferable.

For instance, think about the color theory that you’ll explore in your visual development program. Coupled with the illustration techniques you’ll gain, you could draw book covers for the publishing industry.

In addition, your experience with different animation techniques and programs can help you thrive in web and mobile app design, since many companies are starting to incorporate moving graphics.

Career Growth and Trends in an Expanding Field

The flexibility of a visual development degree not only allows you to step into many industries as a qualified professional, but it also helps ensure employment stability for the long term. After all, if you can’t find employment in one field, you can always take your skills to another.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, earnings for visual development artist jobs can cover a wide range from one job role to another. Some related careers and salaries include:

  • Multimedia artists and animators – $72,520 median income
  • Art directors – $92,789 median income
  • Graphic designers – $50,370 median income

Employment for multimedia artists and animators is projected to grow bigger between 2016 and 2026 with an expected growth rate of eight percent. This growth can be attributed to rising interest in video games, movies, and other forms of creative entertainment. Meanwhile, employment for those in art and design occupations as a whole is expected to grow four percent—so the specific niche or industry that you choose can potentially affect your earnings.

Explore your options with our School of Visual Development page, or request more information here.

On the other hand, if you’re ready to join other artists and designers at Academy of Art University, get started on your application today!

Header image by student Ryan Andrade.