Graphic design goes by many program names depending on the particular school’s degree. The American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) attests to this with their list of degree titles:
- Graphic design
- Communication design
- Communications design
- Visual communications
- Visual communication design
- Interaction design
- Advertising design
- Multimedia design
In order to decipher these different degree terms, you must look at each prospective school’s curriculum to see what best suits your aspirations. As you review each program, AIGA suggests that you keep these questions in mind:
- Is there a sequence of courses that build on each other to deepen knowledge in an area?
- If so, what proportion of courses will teach what you intend to learn?
- Would you want to take those courses?
- Is the definition of design and proposed methods of teaching consistent with your goals and learning styles?
Here is a synopsis of the more prominent degrees you’ll encounter in your search programs in graphic design and related fields. We have incorporated examples of coursework from various bachelor’s degrees. This is done to illustrate some of the subjects you should see with each of these degrees.
Bachelor of Science
This degree program is to provide a comprehensive understanding of the field of design – from print publishing to interface design. Your education will help you hone real-world skills such as media integration, advertising, and branding.
Media integration focuses on the implementation of engaging and interactive content for web-based designs. Students will learn how to integrate this content by utilizing various industry-standard programming languages and authoring tools.
Another example is a Bachelor of Science in Digital Media and Design. Different name, but a similar curriculum that focuses on graphic and Web design, digital media, analytics and communications. Examples of the digital media/design core subjects are photography, writing for digital & mass media, digital marketing, web page design, advertising design, and digital layout.
Bachelor of Arts
There are programs that refer to their degree as a bachelor’s degree in graphic communication. Despite the name, you will receive training in graphic art and design, computer graphics, communication, business-oriented writing, and publication. You’ll become well-versed in the language of design and adept at the Adobe Suite of software, including Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Premiere, After Effects, and Flash.
An arts program may emphasize portfolio development. The goal is to assemble a select body of work for web presentation that demonstrates knowledge of color, typography, composition, and design. Projects are designed to synthesize and refine basic design skills. Emphasis is on gathering the elements of a cohesive portfolio and presenting a personal body of work. The portfolios are also a means to apply skills (in areas such as motion graphics, typography, digital media, illustration, and commercial design) acquired through your coursework.
There are schools offering a choice within their Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design & Media Arts program. For example, the selection of a concentration in either 3D Modeling & Animation or Web Design. The former explores the stages of game models, including observational and conceptual drawing. You will master the basics of modeling using a wide range of techniques. You will create hands-on projects using emerging technology in animation. Graduates will be able to take on jobs in game development, advertising, marketing, virtual education and other fields that use graphics to provide spectacular interactive experiences.
The web design concentration works with Adobe Creative Cloud to conduct usability testing on multiple platforms and interfaces, from mobile phones to tablets to desktop computers. In addition, you will study interactive animation, digital publications, video, and other rich media.
Bachelor of Fine Arts
These programs train students in 2D and 3D design, publication design, digital photography, and many other areas of graphic design. Students will also gain foundational knowledge in interactive designing and professional practices. When you build a strong understanding of art history, you can better grasp the critical elements of design such as typography, design principles, page layout, and image manipulation.
Graphic design courses in a Fine Arts program will expand on design skills, including a brief history of typography and printing. Other topics may involve page layout design principles, the design process, page layout, image manipulation software, and visual hierarchy.
You may also explore digital imaging. Training in a professional image editing software application is crucial to the development of a graphic and media designer. The ability to create, manipulate, edit, and create digital images from photos and other digital media is invaluable in the graphic design and related professions.
There are numerous accredited schools offering bachelor’s degrees in graphic design online. The benefits are in the cost and time savings while earning your degree. It also affords you the convenience of continuing to work while you study. The online programs include the same curriculum and subjects as you would receive in a residency program. For example, a School of Visual and Performing Arts has a 100% online Bachelor’s degree in graphic design.
What else should I consider?
Accreditation is a factor. Not just the school’s accreditation is important, but also the program’s accreditation. As you’ve read, there is an array of degrees and institutions from which to choose. You may want to consider those colleges/universities accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art & Design (NASAD).