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Graphic design is the perfect industry for artists who enjoy using color, shape and other visual effects to captivate consumers. Business owners are always tinkering with how to best communicate their brand to the world; graphic designers are commissioned to draw inspiration from a business and create one-of-a-kind graphics, logos and icons, among other visual tools, to help draw in clientele.

A career in graphic design offers flexibility, making it an attractive option for students who wish to be self-employed or who enjoy supplementing their 9-5 job with freelance work; Forbes listed graphic designer as one of the best freelancer careers. In this guide, you will find an introduction to sample courses, specializations, degrees and the career outlook for graphic designers.

Sample Courses

In today’s technology-rich society, it’s important for students to have access to courses that teach a variety of software programs like Adobe Illustrator, as well as the use of vector illustration and imaging. Courses vary from program to program, but students can expect to take classes like Brand Identity Design, Design for Dynamic Media, and Type and Image in Motion, all of which are part of the Rhode Island School of Design’s curriculum.

Possible Specializations

In many programs, students will be given the freedom to create a body of work that represents an area of graphic design that they identify with the most, commonly referred to as a specialization. Your specialization may include typography, logo design, or any other application common to a graphic design professional. Post-graduation, your specialization may help you secure a position with a company that can use your particular expertise.

Degree Types

In the field of graphic design, experience and artistic ability are valuable; however, the majority of companies prefer applicants to have at least a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design or a related field like fine art. In the next section you will find a list of the basic tiers of graphic design education, along with the job opportunities available to each type of degree holder. However, keep in mind that certificates in graphic design are also available.

An associate degree will offer an introduction to the field of graphic design. Students can expect to take prerequisite classes like math, science and composition, as well as courses on the basic principles of design, including color, texture, line and shape. Currently, there are few schools offering an associate in graphic design ; however, Parsons School for Design made the top 10 on U.S. News and World Report’s best graphic design programs in 2012. The Parson’s program, based in New York City, offers an online and on-campus version, both of which provide the education necessary for a student to gain entry level work in the graphic design industry.


A bachelor’s in graphic design will qualify graduates for a large swath of graphic design positions. In a bachelor’s program, students can expect to study subjects similar to those offered at the Rhode Island School of Design, which include communications theory, anatomy of letterforms, design history and color.


A master’s in graphic design is a great option for students who wish to begin conducting graduate level research in the field of design. Master’s grads are also eligible for certain teaching positions at the high school and junior college level. Students should expect to be in a master’s program for approximately two years. During that time, students will create a professional portfolio based on courses in advanced design theory.

Ideal Candidates for Graphic Design

Graphic designers are well known for being creative, but they must also foster other, equally important skills, such as the execution of personal style, the ability to work under pressure, the desire to network with industry professionals and the ability to take criticism and grow from it. A graphic designer will be commissioned to create logos, graphics and icons, and, when working for a design firm, will often be commissioned to improve upon an existing brand. Given all of the above, designers must also possess above average communication skills since they will frequently interact one-on-one with clients.

Because a large number of graphic designers are self employed. these professionals must rely on their own motivation and work ethic. They must also be willing to learn the basics of operating a business, including filling out tax and employment paperwork and pitching themselves to new clientele.

Career Pathways

The field of graphic design is attractive because it features flexibility and good pay; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). graphic designers made an annual median income of $44,150 in 2012. Students have a variety of careers to choose from; take art director, which, according to the BLS, earns a median annual salary of $80,880. Some fields available to graphic design graduates include desktop publishing, web development and industrial design, to name a few.

In addition to the information in this guide, it may be helpful to research professional organizations, OpenCourseWare and a variety of books, journals and industry magazines for information on the growing field of graphic design.

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What is graphic design?

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    What is graphic design?

    Illustration: Able Parris

    Graphic design, also known as communication design, is the art and practice of planning and projecting ideas and experiences with visual and textual content. The form of the communication can be physical or virtual, and may include images, words, or graphic forms. The experience can take place in an instant or over a long period of time. The work can happen at any scale, from the design of a single postage stamp to a national postal signage system, or from a company’s digital avatar to the sprawling and interlinked digital and physical content of an international newspaper. It can also be for any purpose, whether commercial, educational, cultural, or political.

    Design that’s meant to be experienced in an instant is the easiest to recognize and has been around the longest. For over a hundred years, designers have arranged type, form, and image on posters. advertisements. packages. and other printed matter, as well as information visualizations and graphics for newspapers and magazines. Motion graphics are equally predetermined and crafted, but are meant to be experienced over a fixed time span, such as for the opening credits of a movie or an online video meant to accompany a newspaper article.

    The design of books and magazines also has a long history. Whether physical or digital, these are objects that are meant to be enjoyed over time, during which the reader has control over the pace and sequence of the experience. In books, the content usually comes before the design, while in magazines, the design is a structure that anticipates written and visual content that hasn’t yet been created. Some commercial websites or exhibition catalogues also fit in this category, as do digital or physical museum displays that show information that doesn’t change. All have fixed content, but the user or reader determines their own path through the material.

    Many designers also produce systems that are meant to be experienced over time, but aren’t confined to the making of objects. Wayfinding. which is a form of environmental graphics. refers to the branding and signage applied throughout and on buildings. While each sign or symbol in a public or private building is a work of design, they’re all part of a larger system within the building. The design of the system—the relationships between all of those parts—is where the designer brings value. Similarly, while all of the artifacts of a commercial or institutional brand. such as a business card. sign. logo. or an advertisement are individual expressions of design, how those are experienced together and over time is the design work. No part of it has been created without considering the others, or without thinking through how a target customer will encounter and then develop a relationship with that brand.

    Designers are also responsible for interactive designs where the content is fluid, sometimes changing minute to minute, as well as interfaces that help users navigate through complex digital experiences. This work differentiates itself by adding another element: responding to the actions of the viewer. Editorial design for web and mobile is the most tangible example of content-driven work in this area, including publication websites. mobile apps. and blogs. Some design involves the presentation of streaming information, also known as data visualization. Other designers work on digital products. which are digital services or platforms that can be brought to market. Product design for web and mobile is related to software design. Sometimes different designers work on the user interface design (UI). which mostly refers to the individual layouts of pages, and the user experience design (UX). or the total experience of the user as they move through a website or app.

    Type design carries aspects of almost all of these things. While the form of a single letter has meaning, a typeface, like a brand, is also composed of the relationships between characters that work together to create meaning. And like software, typefaces are licensed and can be installed on individual computers.

    Depending on the scale of the context in which a designer works, the work may include one, some, or all of these things in the course of a year. Larger companies, agencies, teams, or studios may lean towards specialization, while smaller studios and groups may need to have each individual capable, if not an expert, in multiple areas.

    Design jobs

    Depending on the business context and stage of career, designers can find themselves with a number of different job titles. Within many publications, institutions, or agencies, a junior designer will typically rise to a senior designer. then art director. and then creative director. Depending on the industry served or the medium, the junior designer may be called a graphic designer, UI/UX designer, visual designer, motion designer, digital designer, web designer, animator, production artist, or graphic artist. For advice on how to find an entry-level position, please see How to Find your First Job in this guide.

    At the mid-level, the title may be more specific: information designer, interaction designer, product designer, environmental graphics designer, information architect, package designer, exhibition designer, experience designer, or content strategist.

    At the executive level, designers occupy positions such as owner/founder, executive creative director, head of design, or chief creative officer.

    Then there are those who work with designers in related positions like production coordinators, front-end developers, marketing coordinators, project managers, producers, strategists, and copywriters. There are no centralized definitions or certifications for these titles, so they’re constantly evolving, and the more rapidly changing the industry in which the designer works, the more rapidly titles and definitions will change. Scale plays a part, too; the more designers on a team or in a company, the more the number of distinct titles will multiply.

    Presenting Sponsor

    Together with AIGA, Adobe is creating innovative programs that give members a voice, nurture young designers and actively engage the creative community in dialogues about the important issues in the fields of design and technology. The alliance between AIGA and Adobe is a long-term partnership dedicated to advancing design and the use of technology across creative industries as well as understanding and highlighting the impact of design on the economy and society. Learn more about Adobe.

    Juliette Cezzar is an Assistant Professor and Associate Director of the BFA Communication Design program at Parsons / The New School. where she was the Director of the BFA Communication Design and BFA Design & Technology programs from 2011-2014. She established her small studio, e.a.d. in 2005. While books anchor the practice, her work has spanned a variety of media for clients such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, RES Magazine. The Museum of Modern Art, Vh1, The New York Times, Eleven Madison Park, and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Art, and Planning. She is the co-author of Designing the Editorial Experience with Sue Apfelbaum (Rockport) and author-designer of Office Mayhem (Abrams), Paper Pilot. Paper Captain. and Paper Astronaut (Universe / Rizzoli). She holds an MFA in Graphic Design from Yale University and a professional degree (B. Arch) in Architecture from Virginia Tech.

  • Graphic Design Degrees: What Coursework is included in a Typical Graphic Design Program?

    Graphic Design Degrees: What Coursework is included in a Typical Graphic Design Program?

    Did You Know. Full Sail University offers online degree programs in computer animation, game art, and game design? Learn more about Full Sail University's online programs.

    What Does Graphic Design Mean?

    Also called graphic art, graphic design is the process of using color, type, illustration, animation, photography, and various print and layout techniques to create visual solutions to communications problems (www.bls.gov ). Graphic designers develop designs for newspapers, magazines, advertisements, corporate reports, journals, books, and other publications. Graphic design is also used to create marketing materials, signs, displays, and packaging as well as material for multimedia projects, web pages, and interactive media.

    Because graphic has changed dramatically over the years (thanks to advances in technology and the Internet), the curriculum for graphic design degree programs has changed as well. Today’s graphic designers must be familiar with the latest and greatest computer graphics and design software. They must also have the technical skills needed to keep up with technological advances and upgrades to software programs that seem to occur almost daily.

    Coursework for Graphic Design Programs

    Graphic design degree programs are readily available at art and design schools, technical schools, traditional colleges, and specialty schools. In fact, the National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits about 300 postsecondary institutions with programs in art and design. More than 100 of them offer a Bachelor of Art (B.A.) in Graphic Design, a Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) or a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Graphic Design. For graphic designers interested in teaching or research positions, some of these schools even offer advanced degrees such as an Master of Art (M.A.) or Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) in Graphic Design.

    Whichever path you choose, each degree program will require the successful completion of a variety of foundation, core, and liberal arts courses. If you haven’t already, students will also be required to master a number of different software packages used in the industry. Coursework for a typical graphic design program may include Art Orientation, Introduction to Visual Arts, Foundations 2D, 3D and 4D, Digital Imaging, Drawing, Computers in Visual Arts, Art History, Photography or Digital Photography, Introduction to Graphic Design, Typography, Graphic Design Process, Graphic Design: Collaborative Process, Graphic Design History, Graphic Design Pre-Press, New Media, and Package Design.

    Software courses may include Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop, Quark XPress, and other graphic design and painting tools. Students may also take additional courses such as Information and Publication Design, Experimental Typography, Visual Identity Systems, and Environmental and Exhibition Design. Please note that course titles may vary slightly from school to school.

    After all course requirements have been completed, students will have an opportunity to enroll in an internship program. Some internships offer payment, while others offer college credit. In addition to an internship, students will have the opportunity to complete a portfolio of his or her best work. Both the portfolio and internship are invaluable tools that the student can use to secure a position in the industry.

    What Can I do with a Degree in Graphic Design?

    Graphic designers may find work at large advertising agencies, publishing companies, graphic design firms, web design companies, or consulting firms. Positions are also available at art schools, technical schools, traditional colleges, community colleges, and career schools. Some designers also work on a freelance basis from their own private studios or onsite. Just a few job titles include junior graphic designer, middleweight graphic designer, senior graphic designer, art director, creative director, web designer, design consultant, magazine layout editor, gallery owner, instructor, and professor.

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    Multipurpose Postcards - When I was still a kid, my grandma always received postcards from our relatives from other countries. I was always fascinated by the photos that these postcards contain. They are printed in glossy paper and you can actually write your message to its recipients at its back. Postcards have been widely used as a means of communication. They are commonly sent during special occasions such as Christmas, New Year, Valentine’s Day, graduation, birthday and many more. I know, even for once in your life, you also have received a postcard that made you smile and appreciate how beautiful the world really is. Why did I say this? Well, it’s because it’s always good to know that our distant loved ones still think of us and they can actually express that to us through the use of postcards. With a postcard, we also get to appreciate the world more because it features places which might be impossible for us to visit yet it’s being made possible by it.

    3 Ways to Gain and Keep Customers Using Postcards - In today’s competitive (sometimes cutthroat) marketplace, savvy business owners need to constantly look for ways to get and, more importantly, keep their customers. When used properly postcards offer a great opportunity to do both.

    Postcards: Simply Amazing! - When you are going to hold an important event, whether for business or personal reasons, using postcards is an effective means to promote such occasion. Aside from this, postcards can also be used as reminder messages from your physician because they are more economical compared to writing an entire letter. This means of communication still has lots of other purposes to serve and that is why many people have ventured into the postcard printing business as a primary source of income. At present, postcards have become an innovative way to convey your message to your friends, relative, clients, business partners, and many more. Postcard printing has also become a big hit especially online. One reason why online postcard printing has been widely acceptable is due to the fact that it has lots of advantages. As what I mentioned earlier, a postcard can be really personal when it’s used as thank you notes during weddings, charity events, and other occasions.

    Direct Mail Postcard Rules - It’s a fact that your customers are your best leads. This means that the most likely people to purchase your products and/or services are the ones who have paid for them before. It’s also a fact that it costs far less money to keep a customer than it does to go out and get a new one. These are the two reasons that using direct mail postcards to keep in touch with your customer database is a must. There are a few rules to follow when marketing to contacts in your company database.

    Digital Variable Data Printing - Digital variable data printing has opened up some of the most creative opportunities in used in the industry of digital printing. It has provided an additional means of printing things. However, enough knowledge is required is you want to have quality outputs. So this article will tackle some tips on how to go about digital variable data printing. In digital variable data printing images are likely to come out differently when printed. The reason for this is that sometimes the resolution of the supplied images may be too low resulting in a not so great image. Nonetheless, there are cases wherein the resolution of the images supplied is too high. In this case the resulting image will tend to have more data on it. Most digital printers are at 600 dpi nevertheless your digital variable data printing provider can give you specific specs for images that you want printed.

    The Ultimate Printing Solution - At present, most businesses and companies in the market find various means to achieve effective marketing and generate tremendous sales and profits. One way is through the use of different promotional materials such as flyers, posters, catalogs, brochures, postcards, business cards, and many more. In considering these marketing tools, you are also tasked to find the perfect printing solution that can help you achieve your marketing goal. With the present demand on the different sorts of advertising materials, printing companies have also mushroomed from almost all parts of the globe. Say in your area, you can always expect at least one printer to provide you professional printing services whenever you need them. They truly help businesses to choose the best printing solution and to print in large amount of printing jobs. After all, printing has certainly lots of purposes to serve.

    What Makes Full Color Format Poster Printing Services Unique? - Large format poster printing is a sure and efficient way to generate full-color, high quality and oversize graphics. Generally, the graphics involve in this type of printing are larger than 11" x 17". Prints are enhanced with lamination or mounting for more arresting appearance. Generally, large format poster printing is done with the use of large format inkjet color printers. These printers are usually 60” wide with ultra-violet pigmented or dye based inks and 1200 dots per inch for good quality indoor/outdoor printing. Large format poster printing uses rolls of paper, poster wood, strength bond, photo gloss, photo satin, wet adhesive back vinyl and vinyl banner as primary printing material. Aside from these materials, printing companies are also using backlit film, fabrics and fine art canvas.

    Online Printing Madness - Through the years and with the Internet as a continuous cornucopia of information, online printing has become a biggest part of all businesses and companies for their marketing and advertising needs. With the existence of the latest printing technologies, printing of flyers, posters, catalogs, postcards, business cards, and many more that reflect the reputation of your business or company has become easier and more convenient. Also, various printing services have been offering excellent quality printing options at affordable rates.

    The 12 Most Common Newsletter Design Mistakes - Your newsletter’s success depends on its design. An attractive, easy to read newsletter encourages readers to pay attention to your message. However, cluttered, hard to read newsletters discourage readership – no matter how good the ideas contained inside. Before they begin to read your newsletter, your clients and prospects will be judging the value of your ideas by your newsletter’s design. Effective design pre-sells your competence and makes it easy for readers to understand your message. Design also helps set your newsletters apart from the competition.

    How to design a newsletter - Newsletters are a great way of keeping your customers and prospects informed of new products and events surrounding your business. As with every other piece of marketing literature, once you've designed a standard format template. future newsletters can be designed and produced very quickly. You don't need a high spec PC running the latest Desk Top Publishing software - MS Word will allow you to design a quite acceptable document, although your design options will widen if you use one of the higher end packages such as CorelDraw or Adobe Illustrator.

    10 Surefire Ways to Add Sizzle to Your Brochure - Businesses rely on brochures as their front line in communicating their products or services. Yet according to Shannon Cherry, APR, many find them not as successful because they underestimate the skills and resources necessary to publish attractive and effective materials. “Most people forget a brochure is important because it represents you to the world and reflects your image,” says Cherry, president of Cherry Communications, a public relations and marketing firm that helps businesses, entrepreneurs and nonprofit organizations be heard. “But the best brochures do more than impress,” she says. “Effective copy and design can intrigue, inform, convince and capture customer business just as an effective salesperson does. Brochure effectiveness is linked to an audience-appropriate marketing strategy that drives the design process.” Cherry shares the following top ten list of hints can help your brochure put its best foot forward

    The Brochure Making Process - For businesses, having an effective marketing campaign is really a difficult thing to have. In fact, there are lots of promotional materials in the market today namely: flyers, posters, brochures, catalogs, postcards, business cards, etc. The production of these materials is such a challenging task for the business people but it is now being made easy for us by the existence of various printing companies that actually take charge of the conceptualization, design and printing of these materials. Brochures are powerful. They can persuade consumers to purchase what they need from a certain store. But they only become powerful when they are created uniquely and accurately to represent your business in the market. The making of these marketing tools is a collective process among competent writers, designers and printers. They are the people behind the creation of an effective brochure. You are also part of them because you are actually the one that provides them the specifications of the brochure.

    The Power of Brochure Design - Basically, brochures serve lots of purposes. It can be used for marketing, during a special occasion, or in general business. Because of this, it is important to focus on the quality of the brochures that you’ll produce. It has to be professional-looking for clients to be interested in spending time to go over its content. It has to achieve its purpose of motivating people to do business with you. And, having a great brochure design can really make it worth remembering. Brochures are intended to let other people know about you and your company even before they get the chance to meet you and talk to you. They actually serve as a handy marketing representative in your behalf. The produce great impact for your products and services thus bringing in more and more customers as time goes by. They can really be considered as the most powerful marketing tools in the market.

    Double the Effectiveness of Your Company Brochure - Let's face it - most brochures go straight into the bin. But if you know the big mistake to avoid, as well as the secret to make people keep your brochure - and read it, over and over again - you're laughing. The big mistake I'm talking about is that brochures too often focus on the company itself. They describe, in great detail, the company's commitment to excellence, how pro-active the company is, how many awards the company's products or services have won and how innovative they are. Prospective clients, of course, couldn't care less.

    All I Really Need Is a Brochure - How many times have you thought that all your business needs is a nice brochure? Nothing fancy, just something to pass out at trade shows. It would surely solve a lot of your sales problems. You may even think it shouldn't cost much. It would look great printed on the new office color printer, right? Unfortunately, nothing in life or business is quite that easy. Many small businesses rely on brochures as their first form of sales communication but find them unsuccessful because they underestimate the skills and resources necessary to publish effective and attractive materials. The appearance and content of brochures and other sales material are so important because they represent your company to customers, suppliers, investors and employees. This is the first impression and, basically, your sales materials are your company in many people's minds.

    The Marketability of Brochures - Brochures are generally used to give clients or customer some necessary information regarding the products, services or events of a business or company. They can describe the benefits in buying something from a company and can also present pictures for better understanding. Similar to the other advertising materials, they are also designed to generate more sales and profits for a business, and create interest among consumers. Basically, there are lots of options when it comes to brochure printing. The type of product or service you are advertising must be presented in the most attractive and interesting manner possible to draw the attention of your readers. Therefore, you have to consider your target audience in the production of your brochures. You might need to incorporate more colors and a compelling design in the brochures if you want to capture the interest of your target clients.

    6 Tips How to Make Your Brochures and Promotional Materials - It takes a reader just a few seconds to decide whether the brochures and flyers they are reading are getting their attention. When planning your promotional materials, flyers, brochures and websites, here are just a few ways to stimulate the reader’s interest in what services or products you have the following items.

    6 ‘Must-Have’ Elements of an Effective Brochure - Most brochures that businesses put out today end up doing little to impact the sales of that business. By applying the 6 must-have elements listed below you will transform you brochure from trash can lining into a powerful sales tool.

    Does Your Brochure Pass the Test – or Is It Headed for the Trash? Part Two - In part one of this article we discussed the importance of the look or appearance of your brochure. The look or image that your brochure conveys is vastly important. In fact, the appearance will determine how most people form their initial impression of your company. But, the message on your brochure is just as important. Ultimately you need to say something of value in your brochure if you want it to move people closer to the sale. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to ensure that your brochure has the right message.

    Does Your Brochure Pass the Test – or Is It Headed for the Trash? Part One - The decision on whether or not someone will read your brochure is usually decided in the first 5 seconds they look at it. What kind of message are you communicating in that five seconds? Will you make a favorable impression with your prospect? Will you move your prospect closer to the sale? There are really only two key elements that will determine how well your brochure is received by prospects. These two elements will ultimately make the difference in your brochure being a tool that makes you money, or just something else that costs you money.

    Perfect Company Brochure for Your Growing Business - It is necessary for a business to have its unique way of attracting customers and retaining old ones to gain stability and raise profit. Brochures are one of those campaign and marketing printed stuffs that will help you along the course of your expanding business. The company’s brochure and other printed marketing stuffs play a decisive role in inviting new customers, maintaining the current ones and earning more and more profit for the business. The printed materials will be there for you incase you are out of reach so, it is a must that it looks presentable with qualities that would definitely speak of you.

    Promotional Brochures on the Rise - With lots of promotional and marketing tools that continue to come out one after the other, brochures are still one of the best means to advertise a company’s products or services. By definition, brochures are single-sheet informational materials that are printed on one side or both sides with no fold, folded in half, thirds or a custom fold. We can take note that in this competitive corporate world, a brochure can definitely help a company to stand out from among its competitors. In the Internet, you’ll find lots of different colors and designs for your desired brochures. There are also lots of brochure printing services at affordable rates. When you decide to use brochures for your company, you will certainly experience lots of benefits. All of us know that brochures can build your company’s image or identity, promote an important event or occasion, advertise a new product or service, and update product specifications. Aside from these advantages, there are still hundreds of other purposes that brochures can serve. It’s for you to find out about these benefits.


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