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.
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.
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.
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.
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.