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Graphic Design

Program Description

Just the Facts

Graphic Design. A program that prepares individuals to apply artistic and computer techniques to the interpretation of technical and commercial concepts. Includes instruction in computer-assisted art and design, printmaking, concepts sketching, technical drawing, color theory, imaging, studio technique, still and life modeling, multimedia applications, communication skills and commercial art business operations.

This program is available in these options:

  • Certificate / Diploma
  • Associate degree
  • Bachelor's degree
  • Graduate Certificate
  • Master's degree

High School Courses

See the high school courses recommended for programs in this career cluster:

See the high school courses recommended for programs in this pathway:

Additional Information

Educational programs in graphic arts cover such a wide range that your program might not even be called graphic arts.

"It's confusing to many," says Bill Barrett of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design. The field covers such areas as "communication design, visual communications, graphic design, graphic communications, computer graphics, etc., not to mention subareas like packaging, advertising, art direction and the like."

Educational requirements vary. Some occupations, such as industrial design, require a bachelor's degree. For other design professions, a two- or three-year program that awards a certificate, diploma or associate's degree in design is sufficient.

Four-year university programs generally cover art and art history, computerized design and basic engineering, among other topics.

The National Association of Schools of Art and Design has accredited over 240 American post-secondary institutions with programs in art and design.

"Design is a huge field, which allows for many types of designers," says George LaRou, associate professor and director of new media at the Maine College of Art. "You may find that your love of music, for instance, leads you to work for a record label where you design covers and booklets for CDs.

"Of course, there is the web, where many of our students have found careers as interface designers, interactive artists, etc.," he says.

Take art classes in high school (or even outside of school). Computer skills are also important -- many graphic arts programs use Mac-based platforms.

"Graphic designers work with such a wide range of projects that every academic experience will be of some help in their development," says LaRou. "Critical thinking and the ability to express oneself in writing are invaluable skills to a designer. Basically, every course you take in high school is important."

It's important to be well-rounded. "Balance is the key," says Paul Saikia. He is the coordinator of the graphic design major at York College of Pennsylvania. "We need artistic people who are not just artsy-fartsy weirdos. A good graphic designer is very much in touch with what is happening in society, very observant."

Besides tuition and books, you'll likely have to pay for design materials.


Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Artists and Related Workers

American Institute of Graphic Arts
Get the latest art news here

Graphic Arts Education and Research Foundation
Stay up on news and information in the graphics industry

National Association of Schools of Art and Design
Great FAQ section for students and parents


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