Graphic designers create images, designs, and materials to help clients communicate with the public. Graphic design training programs give future designers the theoretical and technical knowledge they need to build successful design careers.
From corporate logos to book covers, the work of graphic designers is all around us. These images play a key role in product marketing and advertising, so graphic designers must listen carefully to clients' needs and create designs that send the right message. For any given project, a graphic designer might complete the following steps:
- Determine the client's needs and desired message
- Identify the needs of consumers
- Consider social, cultural, and psychological factors of the target audience
- Select fonts, colors, images, layouts, and other visual elements
- Use computer design software
- Incorporate text from copywriters
- Present final design to clients and address necessary changes
Completing the above steps requires more than artistic talent. Graphic designers need to understand the principles of communication, design, business, and marketing to work with clients, and they need the technical know-how to create designs using computer software. Formal training through a graphic design degree program can prepare you for the multifaceted world of graphic design.
Graphic Design Training: Degrees and Coursework
The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits approximately 300 art and design schools, most of which offer programs in graphic design. Depending on the curriculum and length of study, a graphic design training program can lead to the following degrees:
Associate's Degree: An associate's degree in graphic design takes approximately two to three years to earn and can qualify you for an assistant graphic design or technical graphic design position. If you already have a bachelor's degree in another subject, an associate's degree or certificate program can give you the technical skills you need to transition into graphic design.
Bachelor's Degree: A bachelor's degree in graphic design is required for most graphic design positions. Bachelor's degree programs typically take four years to complete and they are offered through colleges, universities, art institutes, and professional schools.
Graphic designer training programs expose you to the principles and technical skills that make up visual communication. Specific course offerings vary by program, but most graphic design bachelor's degree programs require courses in the following subjects:
- Studio art
- Principles of design
- Commercial graphics production
- Computerized design
- Printing techniques
- Web site design
- Art history
- Cultural studies
By taking both liberal arts and technical design classes, graduates of graphic design training programs are fully prepared to respond to the demands of clients.
Prerequisites for Graphic Design
Some graphic design training programs are more competitive than others, but most graphic design schools require applicants to meet the following requirements:
- Graduate high school or earn a GED
- Complete one year of basic art and design (in high school or elsewhere)
- Demonstrate artistic ability through submitted sketches or other materials
Graphic designers should have a passion for visual art and an eye for design. They must also be willing to learn new technology, work with others, and listen to clients' requests.
Graphic Design Career Outlook
As advertisers and computer design firms increasingly rely on graphic design to reach customers, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects the demand for graphic designers to grow. From 2008 to 2018, the BLS expects employment of graphic designers to increase by 13 percent, about as fast as the national average. Job prospects should be especially strong for graphic designers with animation and Web site design experience.
Most graphic designers work in the design departments of advertising, printing, and publishing firms, though some run their own design companies and perform freelance work. In 2009, graphic designers earned a median annual salary of $43,180, according to the BLS.
If you want to build a creative career, graphic design is a growing field that can help you put your talent to work.
Resources for Graphic Designers: