In the field of design, computer skills are more important than ever. Students considering an associate’s degree in design studies – one of the fastest online associate’s degrees available – may be wondering what computer skills will benefit them the most in their future careers as well as what programs, if any, they should learn prior to enrolling in a degree program. Prospective students should learn to use general office and professional software, including basic word processing software and email programs, so they can succeed in their college studies. Other computer programs that are needed in design careers, such as computer-aided design software, desktop publishing software, photo and video editing software and web design and development software, can be learned during your education in design studies.

General Office and Professional Software

What Computer Programs Should I Learn Before Starting a Degree in Design Studies

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There are some computer programs that are valuable to understand no matter what your occupation is. It’s important to know how to use basic office and word processing software, and basic spreadsheet software, such as Microsoft Office Suite or Google Docs and Google Spreadsheets. Additionally, you should be able to use standard email software, since most designers use email for work purposes daily, and to know how to use Internet browser software. Additionally, knowing how to use financial accounting software, project management software, presentation software and customer relationship management software can all prove valuable for aspiring designers of all kinds.

The Internet may play an important part in getting work, especially as a self-employed designer. You may benefit from developing a strong professional website that includes a portfolio of examples of your past work.

Computer-Aided Design Programs

No matter what career direction you choose to pursue with your degree in design studies, you will need to be familiar with computer-aided design, or CAD, computer technology. Different design fields use different types of CAD programs. There are fashion design CAD programs, graphic design CAD programs, interior design CAD programs, architectural CAD programs and many more.

Aspiring fashion designers will benefit from being familiar with patternmaking software and specialized CAD programs such as Fashion Toolbox, StartingAClothingLine.com Digital Fashion Pro, CLO Virtual Fashion Marvelous Designer and C-DESIGN Fashion, according to O*NET. For graphic designers, SignCAD Systems, Bentley MicroStation and Dassault Systemes CATIA are some standout CAD programs. Among interior designers, some of the most important CAD programs include Autodesk Revit Architecture, Autodesk Architectural Desktop and Vectorworks Designer.

Although having advance familiarity with these programs is valuable, you don’t have to know how to use CAD software before beginning your associate’s degree in design studies. You should have the opportunity to learn the basics of CAD software during your studies.

Desktop Publishing Software

For developing print materials, specifically, you will benefit from learning how to use desktop publishing software. Although content is increasingly published in a digital format, skilled designers of print layouts are still needed for purposes of brochures, advertisements and magazines, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. Some examples of popular desktop publishing software programs used in professional design work include Adobe InDesign, Microsoft Publisher, QuarkXPress, Adobe FrameMaker, Adobe PageMaker and Adobe Distiller.

To be able to share publication designs with clients who may not have these software programs, familiarity with document management software like Adobe Acrobat is also useful.

Photo and Video Editing Software

Being able to manipulate photos and images is crucial to refining your designs, whether those designs are logos, articles of clothing or interior spaces. Programs like Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Creative Cloud are prevalent in all areas of design occupations. Graphic designers often use programs like Adobe FreeHand and CorelDraw Graphics Suite, while interior desires often use iPhotoMEASURE and fashion designers are more likely to use Autodesk SketchBook Pro, Lectra Prima Vision Print Repeat and Corel Painter.

Being able to create videos can also help aspiring designers, particularly graphic designers and interior designers. Programs like AXON CINEMA 4D are popular in both career fields. Interior designers may be asked to learn Autodesk 3ds Max, while graphic designers should become familiar with software like Adobe AfterEffects, Adobe Premiere Pro, Apple iMovie, Apple Final Cut Pro and video sharing platform YouTube.

To help with the audio portion of video creation, it can also help to learn music or sound editing software programs such as Avid Pro Tools.

Web Design and Development Software

Not all graphic designers also do web design work, but having these skills can advance the scope of the services you are able to provide and the work you are qualified to do. Some of the web page creation and editing programs a graphic designer should consider learning include Adobe Dreamweaver, Adobe Macromedia, Adobe Flash Player and social media sites Facebook and LinkedIn. Becoming proficient in web platform development software like Adobe ColdFusion and Drupal, as well as programming languages like Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), Extensible Hypertext Markup Language (XHTML), Dynamic Hypertext Markup Language (DHTML), Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and JavaScript, can prove beneficial.

Whether graphic designers should perform the work of coding websites or leave that work to web developers more highly trained in programming languages is a matter of debate in the industry, but basic foundational knowledge of HTML and CSS is widely appreciated.

Additional Resources

What Career Path Do I Have Ahead of Me With an Associate’s in Design Studies?

What Is the Difference Between a Master’s Degree in Design Studies and Design Management?

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