Graphic Design Courses

by Genevieve Carlton
• 6 min read
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Graphic designers create engaging visual material that appeals to viewers. Graphic design courses train learners for careers in graphic design.

Graphic designers need a creative eye and technical skills. A bachelor's degree in graphic design or a graphic design certificate prepares students for careers in the field. In addition to enrolling in graphic design programs, prospective designers can launch their careers by taking graphic design classes.

Graphic designers create custom logos, design mobile app interfaces, and build packaging designs. Many graphic designers work in marketing and advertising. Others specialize in web design or motion graphics. Graphic design programs introduce learners to multiple types of graphic design.

Types of Graphic Design

  • Marketing and advertising
  • User interface design
  • Packaging design
  • Motion graphics
  • Web design
  • Branding
  • Editorial and publishing
  • Typography

Most graphic design courses combine practical skills with creative thinking. Learners create projects, exhibit their work, and build portfolios. Since graphic design requires collaboration, classes also incorporate group projects and client-based assignments.

Associate and Bachelor's in Graphic Design Course Overview

An undergraduate degree in graphic design introduces learners to foundational concepts in the field. An associate in graphic design emphasizes basic concepts in design, color theory, layout, and typography.

A bachelor's in graphic design offers additional training in common design software, interactive design, and design theory. Graphic design bachelor's students may specialize in areas like UX/UI design, web design, or print design.

This section introduces common undergraduate graphic design classes. In addition to these courses, graphic design majors must complete general education classes and electives.

Bachelor's Degrees in Graphic Design

BFA in Graphic Design

Curriculum Focus:

A bachelor of fine arts in graphic design provides a well-rounded art education through graphic design, drawing, illustration, and other fine arts courses. Students typically complete studio courses that emphasize creative approaches.

Good Fit for:

  • Students focused on visual and creative arts
  • Graduates seeking careers in graphic design or fine arts fields
  • Undergraduates planning to earn master of fine arts (MFA) degrees

BA in Graphic Design

Curriculum Focus:

A bachelor of arts in graphic design introduces students to core graphic design skills while delivering general education courses in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Graduates can pursue careers in the graphic arts or other fields.

Good Fit for:

  • Students seeking a well-rounded liberal arts curriculum
  • Graduates with career goals beyond graphic design and production art
  • Transfer students with prior general education credits

Associate and Bachelor's in Graphic Design Classes

Graphic designers create attractive logos to draw in customers. Branding and logo design courses teach students how to develop a visual style for brands by choosing colors and typography and crafting imagery that stands out among the competition. Students create logos, business cards, and other branded designs. In design history classes, learners study the evolution of graphic design, dating back to prehistoric cave paintings. Enrollees explore changing styles, the impact of new technologies, and cultural changes in design. Visual design can encourage interactions between the viewer and the piece. Interactive design helps increase sales conversions by designing websites or product packaging in an appealing way for consumers. In this course, majors examine interactive layouts, colors, and platforms as they relate to design. Undergraduates complete projects individually and in teams to create custom advertisements, product packaging, logos, and websites. In design studio classes, students critique their classmates' work to strengthen their composition and creative skills. Design theory classes introduce learners to color theory, layout design, logo design, and other elements of graphic design. Coursework covers terminology related to design, user interfaces, and digital design. Students also examine the differences between physical and digital design. A growing number of graphic designers work in digital imaging. In this course, enrollees learn to create digital designs, from the layout to publishing. Students also explore interactive media, web design, and multimedia design. The course builds familiarity with digital imaging software. Graphic designers often rely on drawing skills to create illustrations or mockups. In drawing courses, learners explore artistic concepts and strategies for drawing. Assignments train students in traditional and digital drawing, including modeling approaches, rendering methods, and expressive techniques. Many graphic design programs begin with an introductory course covering key principles in design. Students learn about design foundations, print and digital production, design techniques, and design theory. Coursework prepares learners for specialized graphic design classes. Graphic designers create product packaging that appeals to consumers and communicates information about the product. In packaging courses, students learn to select graphics, typography, and colors that connect with consumers. The course also covers marketing strategy and branding. Graphic design majors study different typefaces and learn about font use in graphic design. The course covers the history of type, typographic design, and selecting types. Learners might also design custom typefaces

Master's in Graphic Design Course Overview

A master's degree in graphic design offers graduate-level training in branding, product design, multimedia design, and typography. During a master's program, graphic designers build on their creative and technical skills. Degree-seekers take courses in motion graphics, visual storytelling, and user experience/user interface (UX/UI) design. Many programs offer concentrations in UX/UI design, web design, and illustration.

Graduate students will hone their creativity in studio classes and complete project-based master's theses. Graphic design programs typically require a bachelor's degree for admission. Candidates without degrees in art or design can still apply to master's programs if they have design portfolios or work experience.

Master's Degrees in Graphic Design

MFA in Graphic Design

Curriculum Focus:

An MFA program emphasizes creativity through studio classes, critiques, and a master's thesis. Coursework emphasizes technique and artistic skill.

Good Fit for:

  • Graphic designers focused on creative arts
  • Students who want a studio-heavy environment that includes workshopping and critiques
  • Graphic designers willing to invest a longer amount of time into their programs

MA in Graphic Design

Curriculum Focus:

An MA in graphic design builds strong technical and critiquing skills through its curriculum. Graduate students complete more theory courses in MA programs than in MFA programs.

Good Fit for:

  • Graphic designers seeking the fastest route to graduate degrees
  • Students who want a more theoretical approach to the field
  • Designers interested in online programs that may not offer MFAs

Master's in Graphic Design Classes

In design studio courses, graphic designers create projects from conception through completion. Working with critique partners, they refine their designs, adapt to project needs or client input, and complete group projects. Design studio courses help MFA students choose thesis projects. MFA students complete thesis projects to culminate their degrees. In a design thesis and exhibition course, graduate students create projects in their specialty areas. They critique work from other graphic design students and exhibit their finished projects in a thesis show. Many graphic designers specialize in motion graphics. This course provides advanced training in animation for commercials, music videos, and broadcast graphics. Topics include motion graphic composition, visual storytelling, and sound. Compelling graphics draw viewers in with narrative elements. This class develops advanced visual storytelling skills. Grad students examine storytelling through mediums like graphic novels, board games, and infographics. Learners also explore visual language and contemporary visual storytelling. Graphic design degree-seekers study web design while learning mixed media design techniques. The class covers core web design skills such as HTML and CSS. Topics also include 2D and 3D design, creating dynamic content, and design project management.

Graphic Design Certificate Curriculum Overview

A graphic design certificate offers a focused curriculum that builds career-ready skills.

Unlike a degree, where students take general education courses, certificate programs only include courses in the focus area.

Learners gain experience with core software programs like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. Most certificate programs take about one year to complete. Common courses in a certificate program include:

  • Design fundamentals
  • Color theory
  • Design software
  • Layout design
  • Digital design

After completing graphic design certificates, graduates can pursue careers as graphic designers, web designers, and UX/UI designers.

Non-Degree Graphic Design Course Resources

Learners do not need to get a college degree to take graphic design courses. Many organizations offer graphic design classes to help learners strengthen their skills without formal degrees.

For example, colleges and art schools, along with online academies like Udemy, Coursera, and edX, offer courses in graphic design. Learners can also pursue free graphic design courses to launch their careers or develop additional skills.

Common Questions About Graphic Design Courses

What Type of Education Do You Need to Be a Graphic Designer?

Most graphic designers hold bachelor's degrees and know how to use design software. Some professionals complete graphic design certificates or bootcamps instead of degrees.

Does Graphic Designing Require Math?

Many graphic design degrees require some math courses. Graphic designers benefit from understanding symmetry, perspective, measurements, and color theory, all of which require some math skills.

Is a Graphic Design Certificate Worth it?

A graphic design certificate can help students build a portfolio and launch their careers. A certificate develops technical skills and builds familiarity with graphic design software.

Can I Be a Graphic Designer if I Can't Draw?

Yes. Some graphic designers specialize in illustration or hand-drawn mockups., but the field does not require strong drawing skills. Most graphic designers use software to complete their job duties.

Genevieve Carlton holds a Ph.D. in history from Northwestern University. After earning her doctorate in early modern European history, Carlton worked as an assistant professor of history at the University of Louisville, where she developed new courses on the history of science, Renaissance Italy, and the witch trials. Carlton has published five peer-reviewed articles in top presses and a monograph with the University of Chicago Press. She also earned tenure with a unanimous vote before relocating to Seattle. Learn more about Carlton's work at genevievecarlton.com.

Header Image Credit: vgajic | Getty Images

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