On the island of Sulawesi, in Indonesia, an hour’s drive north of the bustling port of Makassar, there is evidence of graphic artists. There are, scattered on the walls, stencils of human hands outlined against a background of red paint. Dr. Maxime Aubert, a geochemist and archaeologist, used a technique he developed to date the painting. He found that it is staggeringly ancient: at least 35,400 years old. That likely makes it the oldest-known example of figurative art anywhere in the world—the world’s very first picture. Could this be a form of pre-historic graphic design?

The Professional Association for Design (AIGA) defines graphic design, also known as communication design, as the art and practice of planning and projecting ideas and experiences with visual and textual content. The form it takes can be physical or virtual and can include images, words, or graphics. It can be intended for a small number of people, such as a one-off or a limited-edition book or exhibition design. On the other hand, millions, as with the interlinked digital and physical content of an international news organization, can see it. The ancient cave painters of Sulawesi most likely intended their artwork to be viewed by a small group.

Today, graphic design schools focus on computerized art and web design as well as digital imaging, drawing, comic book design, and graphic design for film or television. Many students complete a bachelor’s degree in graphic design at a school of art or at a liberal arts college to meet these requirements. In graphic design courses, students learn techniques such as printmaking, computerized design, commercial graphics production, typography, and more. In many graphic design colleges, students also learn about art history and studio art to create a more balanced education.

Examples of Classes

This is a random selection of courses taken from various U.S. colleges offering a Bachelor of Arts or Fine Arts in graphic design.


Typography is defined as the theory and practice of letter and typeface design. It is an art concerned with design elements that apply to the letters and text on a printed page. As opposed to images, tables, or other visual enhancements.

Design with Color

This studio course offers students the opportunity to design with color in a variety of media while researching and studying color in use (in existing works of art, design, film, and architecture).

Visual Narrative

This class addresses the possibilities and limitations of the integration of word, image, video, and sound as they relate to problem-solving in visual communication.


This studio course focuses on the use of digital imaging techniques for communication purposes. In graphical imaging, the emphasis is on the manipulation of created images in order to achieve special effects through rotating, stretching, blurring, resizing, twirling, and other changes to the original image.

Drawing and Building Form

Students study form in both two-dimensional rendering and three-dimensional building through drawing and building objects. More advanced classes involve the study of three-dimensional design expands to encompass meaning construction, composition, and research.

Design for Communication

Students become familiar with the broader discipline of the field through the construction of abstract design concepts, layout, symbols, and sequential systems. The class involves the exploration of conceptual thinking and the integration of typography with imagery.

Advanced Studio

The class stresses iterations and presentation skills as students learn how to navigate the crucial relationship with the client. Students work within realistic industry deadlines and adhere to specific current production requirement. They also practice and realize both hard-copy and digital presentations.

These examples of classes provide an overview of what to expect in an undergraduate program. In addition to the curriculum, there are other factors relevant to a school’s list of courses. To determine the right graphic design college, you need to consider why you want to enroll in a graphic design program. Are you looking for a graphic design college that will offer intense education on graphic designing for websites? Perhaps you have dreams of finding professional success creating graphic design artwork for clothing, such as t-shirts. Maybe you see yourself creating innovative and exciting graphic design work for marketing brochures and branding as your ideal career path.

If it is graphic design for the internet, then make sure there are many different opportunities to learn about designing for the internet, rather than just one class.


Most importantly, a college level education ensures that graduates are adequately prepared to deal with clients in a business setting. The college experience teaches students the basic principles of presentation and fosters a sense of overall professionalism. You should graduate with the skills to use software such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, QuarkXpress, and other technology-based software tools.

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