Lou Holtz, the legendary football coach who is a commentator on NFL games these days wanted to play football in college. Trouble was, he was skinny and had to wear glasses. He was a fourth string guard, but decided to learn all the other positions as well, to increase his chances of playing when someone got hurt.
Harry Mackay told this story in his latest book on salesmanship. It is also a great analogy for why students who want to be art directors should also perfect their copywriting skills.
You never know when you'll have to jump in.
It won't be long before you'll be asked for your ideas for an ad, and a layout without a headline probably won't do the trick.
Even more important, it's a matter of self-defense. What if you're teamed up with a writer who can't cut it? What are you going to do? Tell on him? Do a bad ad? You can't, because your boss and everyone else will think it's the best you can do and judge you by it. And you'll have another ad you can't put in your book. No, you'll have to write it yourself.
It works the other way around, as well. I began my professional life in advertising as a copywriter, and to this day I could be perfectly happy sitting at a table coming up with ideas and writing advertising. But as a creative director, I not only had to make judgements about ads and commercials, but had to direct the layouts, too.
When you show your portfolio of work to a creative director, she'll be reacting to the ads and ideas, not just the layouts. It's human nature. If your work is any good, it's hard to separate the two. It will be judged either very good, or not, and you may never be asked which part is yours.
One caveat, however. When you apply for a job, don't say you'd like to be either a writer or an art director, you don't care. The agency will be in need of one or the other, so say what you're the best at, and explain what else you can do.
As a creative director, I've won a number of awards for art direction, but that was because of default. De fault of an art director who wasn't very good.