The Ultimate Guide to a Graphic Design Education

Are you a computer whiz with a creative bent and an eye for detail? Do you find yourself examining the designs you see on Web sites, magazines, and billboards, and think, “I can do that better!” or, “I want to learn how to do that!” If so, graphic design might be the career path for you. It’s a field that combines art with technology into one awesome package. You’ll work with the most advanced design software and digital media tools to create logos and letterheads, branding illustrations, Web graphics, greeting cards, CD covers, brochures – anything that creates a connection through visual communication.

Sound interesting? Are you ready to get started on your graphic design training? Below you’ll find the information you need to learn more about a graphic design education.

Graphic Designer Educational Requirements

Depending on your career path, you can earn an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, or even a master’s degree in graphic design. With an associate’s degree, you can work as an assistant or in technical support, but many companies and design firms require a bachelor’s degree in either graphic design or a related field.

If you choose the four-year track, a bachelor’s degree offers a mix of design classes and liberal arts classes. You’ll work with other motivated, enthusiastic students to learn the tools and technologies that will help you succeed. Sample courses include:

  • Principles of Design: Learn all about traditional design principles and practice including layout, typography, composition, and much more.
  • Computerized Design: Discover how to bring your ideas to life with the help of your computer and the software that runs on it.
  • Printing Techniques: Acquire the skills necessary to print full-color flyers with fancy graphics or how to adjust color and intensity for the best image quality.
  • Commercial Graphic Production: Designers in the commercial field need to learn the ins and outs of working with a design team. Learn how to enhance your collaboration skills and productivity skills.
  • Animation Principles: Study how to create lifelike animation, 3-dimenional graphics, and stunning visual effects – all from your computer screen.
  • Studio Art: Create your own portfolio, learn about artists’ tools, techniques, and inspirations, and discover new artistic talent.

Top Graphic Design Schools

There are many traditional and online schools that offer graphic design degrees. The path you choose depends on your academic and career goals. We’ve provided a sampling of some of the best fine arts schools for graphic design:

  • Rhode Island School of Design
  • Yale University
  • Maryland Institute College of Art
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Virginia Commonwealth University

Materials Needed for Success

Graphic designers have many tools and technologies at their disposal. What tools and technologies you choose to use depends largely on the type of messages you want to create. However, a few standard “utensils” are needed to get your started:

  1. Sketchbook: A sketchbook allows you to record your ideas and observations. Take it with you wherever you go. You can doodle and create graphic diaries for future projects.
  2. Computer: You’ll need a reliable and fast computer, either Mac or PC will do. However, some designers prefer one over the other for various reasons including software options, ease of use, screens, virus and malware, warranty and support, etc. Bottom line: Both Mac and PC will do the job and run the programs you need. Personal preference is the only factor.
  3. Software: Adobe CS5 is currently the must-have software bundle for graphic designers and is available in both formats. CorelDraw Graphic Suite and Xara Designer Pro 7 are also powerful software packages.
  4. Printer: A good printer is essential, and a really good printer is worth its weight in gold. If you’re working on brochures, logos, flyers, and other printed materials, especially if working as a freelance designer, you’ll want to verify color selection and resolution to ensure your client’s message is communicated the right way. Printed color does not always match screen color!

Skills Needed for Success

You need more than computer skills and fancy software aptitude. Make sure your fit for the field by assessing your skills and identifying gaps:

  • Education: Employers often look for applicants who have completed an accredited bachelor’s degree program in graphic design or related field.
  • Artistic Ability: Just because you’re good with computers does not mean you can design. Artistic ability is a must!
  • Time-Management Skills: Designers typically work on multiples projects simultaneously, each with a different deadline. This can be tough for those
  • Teamwork: Not all graphic designers work in teams, but if you find employment at an interactive agency or a commercial design firm, chances are you’ll need to be proficient in this area.
  • Communication Skills: While you might be able to design the most impressive graphics, can you accurately communicate a client’s desired message? Being able to listen and comprehend a client’s goals and present them back is by far your key to success.

List of Online Graphic Design Schools

Graphic designers are responsible for conveying messages through digital communication. They create graphic content for brochures, magazines, newspapers, packages, practically anything that can be printed or viewed on-screen. If you enjoy working on computers and have a good eye for color, animation, and Web design, pursuing a degree in graphic design might be an appropriate choice. You’ll learn the necessary skills and receive the right training to work in this creative and challenging industry. What’s more, you’ll learn cutting-edge digital imaging techniques that put you at the top of your field. Not only are graphic design classes available online, but in some cases you can earn your entire degree without any campus time required! Below are some online programs from accredited universities.

Full Sail University — Full Sail University offers several web and graphic design degrees including: a BS in Web Design degree teaching students concept, code, and how-to publish your own standards-based content for a variety of formats; a BS in Graphic Design teaches students to work within specific creative demands while producing high-end design work in a variety of different formats; an MFA in Media Design a curriculum that explores the tactical and collaborative planning behind design.

Art Institute — An AAS in Graphic Design from the Art Institute Online provides instruction on the skills and techniques of computer graphics, electronic imaging and production using scanners, digital cameras and computer-based hardware and graphic software essential to begin a career in the design field. The Art Institute also offers a BFA in Graphic Design for those students who want to enter the fast-evolving field of Multimedia and Web Design, and preps graduates for careers involving the Internet with a focus on marketing and design.

Click here to learn about more graphic design colleges.

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