Much of today's creative artwork goes virtually unnoticed. Although it's everywhere -- in the mail, in magazines, on the subway wall -- most people probably don't think twice about where it came from. The Art Directors Club of Metropolitan Washington opened its 34th annual exhibition of advertising, editorial art and graphic design Monday in the Atrium of International Square on K Street, offering a chance to view posters, calendars, newsletters and advertisements as art. The show graphically illustrates how Washington's top design minds, while working under deadline pressure, turn out things of beauty on the way from drafting board to magazine spread.

Open to the public through July 8, the juried exhibition features 183 pieces of the best local work in all the communications arts, including illustration, photography, typography and graphic design, chosen from more than 2,100 entries submitted by designers from the Washington, Baltimore and Richmond areas.

"It's not a show of fine arts," said exhibition chairman Carol Winer. "It's graphics, which is an art form in itself. But graphic art has to sell. The fine artist paints what he sees and feels. Graphic artists have to fill a need and please a customer. So they're operating under more constraints."