Earning an on-campus or online bachelor's degree in graphic design prepares graduates for entry-level positions like website designer, art director, and multimedia artist and animator.

These programs provide the skills and training needed to design and create text and graphic images. Aspiring graphic designers learn about color design and content creation for different types of media.

Read on to learn more information about the benefits of a bachelor's in graphic design. This guide covers many helpful topics, including potential courses, common concentrations, and viable career paths.

Learn More About Graphic Design Careers

 

What Is Graphic Design?

Graphic designers create digital designs to help communicate messages and brands. These professionals also work in gaming industries to make the visual elements of video and computer games. Graphic designers often work as part of a communications team.

Graphic designers need knowledge related to areas like multimedia design, marketing, and product development.

What Are the Best Graphic Design Programs of 2020?

Rank School Location
1 Bellevue University Bellevue, NE
2 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA
3 California Baptist University Riverside, CA
4 Southern New Hampshire University Manchester, NH
5 Midway University Midway, KY

Should I Get a Bachelor's in Graphic Design?

Graphic designers typically need a bachelor's degree to qualify for entry-level positions in the field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that graphic designers earned a median annual salary of $52,110 in 2019.

Graphic designers can find work in fields related to communications, web design, marketing, and video game design. They can work as freelancers or as part of a larger creative department. Most designers work in an office setting.

Students who earn a bachelor's degree in graphic design develop skills in design layout, photo editing, and digital illustration. Students gain competencies in color and image selection and learn how to design different kinds of media, including print and digital graphics.

Some designers focus on website design, while others enter fields like video game design, creating environments and characters. Graphic designers can also pursue managerial positions as art directors.

What Will I Learn in a Graphic Design Program?

The curriculum of a graphic design program teaches students how to design graphics for multimedia applications. Students learn the basics of color theory, typography, and digital imaging. These courses help prepare graduates for entry-level positions like designer and production artist.

The following section provides a few sample courses and concentrations that students may encounter while earning an on-campus or online degree in graphic design.

Courses

Graphics and Layout in Print Media

Students learn about the theory and practical application of design for print media. Many instructors use Adobe Illustrator to demonstrate key design principles like shape grouping and grid and system creation. Students learn how to design logos, symbols, and typefaces.

Basic Design and Color Theory

This course teaches the fundamentals of color in design, including balance, proportion, and emphasis. Students learn to use digital tools to explore the interplay of basic visual elements, such as texture and space. This course also explores color theory through real-world examples in advertising campaigns.

Typography

Typography covers the history and language of type usage in digital and print media. Students learn about character recognition, manuscript specifications, and legibility. This course shows students how to use type as an individual design element and how to combine type with images.

Desktop Publishing

This course introduces students to Adobe InDesign and teaches the fundamentals of communications and software design. Students learn to combine the best features of professional design and word processing software by attending lectures and completing design projects.

Digital Graphic Design for the Web

Students learn about the communication and marketing capabilities of the web, while also exploring the best ways to design documents for web-based applications. This course covers design strategies, template usage, and graphics optimization for desktop and mobile apps.

Concentrations

3D Modeling and Animation

This concentration prepares students to work on video games, animated movies, and animated web content. Students learn how to design 3D wireframe models and animate character functions. This concentration also teaches design programs like the Adobe Creative Suite.

Web Design

This concentration combines design skills with digital media knowledge. Students learn how to conduct usability tests on mobile and web platforms and improve the user experience. This concentration also teaches valuable skills in marketing and communications.

Editorial Design

Editorial design focuses primarily on print design. This concentration teaches students how to create page layouts and cover designs for publications. Students learn different design methods that can catch a reader's attention.

Logo Design

This concentration teaches students how to express corporate brands through color, shapes, and text. Students examine real-world examples of successful logos and branding campaigns, learning how to translate a company's mission and message into a visual medium.

Sustainable Design

This concentration allows students to explore issues of social change and environmental sustainability through graphic design in print and digital media. Students explore case studies and learn to draw attention to important social issues through their design.

What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Graphic Design?

Earning a degree in graphic design prepares graduates for entry-level positions in marketing, communications, and game design. Below, readers can find five examples of common graphic design careers. For more information about potential careers and the career outlook in the graphic design field, please visit this guide.

Art Director

Art directors oversee the production, layout, and style of design projects for print and digital media. They often manage a team of graphic designers and other artists, coordinating efforts between different departments and professionals to make their vision a reality.

Web Designer

Web designers need both graphic design experience and technical knowledge. These professionals work on the functionality of a website and add graphic design elements to make websites visually appealing. These designers usually take direction directly from their clients.

Production Artist

Production artists often work as part of a production team. After an art director determines a creative direction, production artists bring that vision to life, providing graphic material. These professionals need excellent communication skills.

Logo Designer

Logo designers specialize in branding — a form of marketing that allows companies to express their mission to their clientele through design. Designers create logos that must remain unique and memorable for maximum effectiveness. These professionals need excellent communication and research skills.

Marketing Specialist

Marketing specialists conduct research for businesses and help them determine if their brand, logo, or other marketing efforts will reach their customer base. These professionals can shape the direction of a company's branding and suggest overall design changes.

How to Choose a Graphic Design Bachelor's Program

When deciding where to pursue a bachelor's degree in graphic design, applicants should always look for institutional and programmatic accreditation. Schools should be accredited by an approved accreditation body. Additionally, many of the best graphic design programs hold recognition from the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.

Applicants should also check the school's list of available specializations to ensure the program offers courses that can help them meet their academic and career goals. For more information about the best online bachelor's programs in graphic design, please visit this page.

How to Get Into a Graphic Design Bachelor's Program

Applicants must meet each college's general admission requirements, which may include a minimum GPA and standardized test scores. Many graphic design programs ask for letters of recommendation and an additional portfolio of art or completed projects. High school students typically submit self-directed work rather than samples from an internship or job.

However, admission requirements differ depending on the college. Aspiring graphic designers should always check each program's requirements before applying.

 

How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's in Graphic Design?

Full-time students can complete a bachelor's degree in graphic design in four years. However, part-time students take longer to graduate.

Additionally, students who transfer in with some college credits or a completed associate degree can move up their graduation timeline by a year or more. Some colleges also offer accelerated learning programs that allow students to take more credits in a shorter period.

Graphic designers do not need licensure from the state to practice. However, these professionals may pursue independent certification covering design applications, such as Adobe or Adobe Illustrator through Adobe's website. These credentials can help professionals boost their employability and earning potential.

How Much Does It Cost to Get a Bachelor's in Graphic Design?

The total cost of a bachelor's degree in graphic design typically ranges from $50,000-$150,000. However, the type of college (public vs. private), the location of the school, and a student's residency status (in-state student vs. out-of-state student) can all impact the cost of an education.

Some schools charge all online learners the same tuition (regardless of residency), while others may actually offer lower tuition prices for online programs. Readers should always research tuition policies before applying.