Graphic designers convey visual messages, which is why they are sometimes called communications designers. Their work appears in print and digital media such as magazines, brochures and video animation. Using computer software and the skills they can learn in graphic design school, graphic artists select, edit and lay out design elements such as images, text and decorative touches.
Attending a vocational or technical school to study graphic design can provide you with the basic technical training that is typically required to create materials for advertising and marketing or design work necessary to produce publications. As a trained graphic artist, you might focus on a specialty such as developing product packaging, corporate brand design or visuals for webpages used in online sales or marketing promotions.
Specializations for graphic design school students
Educational programs for graphic design careers teach conceptual and technical skills, but you need to have artistic talent to benefit from the training. Once you have learned and put into practice the basic concepts of graphic art, you can decide to specialize in areas such as these:
- Environmental graphics, including signs and exhibit design
- Editorial design for annual reports and publications
- Advertising or promotional design
- Logo/corporate identity design
- Interactive Web design
Experienced graphic artists in advertising and marketing organizations may advance to positions as art directors. Some also choose to teach courses in a postsecondary graphic design program.
Certificate and degree programs in graphic design
Technical schools offering training in graphic design may offer some or all of these types of program options to their students:
- Vocational certificate -- Students typically study the basics of illustration, Adobe Illustrator, graphic design, typography, color theory, logo design and Photoshop
- Undergraduate certificate -- Similar to vocational certificate coursework plus drawing and design and composition
- Associate degree -- Approximately two years of full-time training usually covers graphic design courses included in the certificate programs plus English composition, HTML and CSS programming, computer technology, art history, psychology, marketing, business and technical writing, Dreamweaver, layout, packaging, portfolio development and a capstone project
- BA or BS in Graphic Design -- In addition to courses similar to those in the associate programs, a bachelor's degree in graphic design typically includes courses in motion graphics, digital and multimedia design
- Master's degree -- Two-year graduate programs in graphic design involve studio work, research, readings and a final project to help experienced designers with a bachelor's degree reach the next career level with their master's degree
Salaries and employment growth projections for design careers
Employment growth for graphic designers is expected to be 7 percent nationwide from 2012 to 2022, a bit slower than average for that of other occupations as projected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov). However, the following states are expected to have the highest growth rates for graphic designers during the same period, according to Projections Central:
- Utah: 28.3 percent
- Oregon: 19.4 percent
- Arizona: 19 percent
- Washington: 18.6 percent
- Texas: 17.5 percent
Median salaries nationally for graphic designers as of May 2013 were $44,830 with the top-paying jobs in metropolitan areas like San Francisco and Washington, D.C. The top 10 percent tier made at least $79,260 and the lowest 10 percent made $26,690 or less. The median salary for art directors was $83,000 for the same period. States that currently employ the most graphic designers are California, New York and Florida.
Graphic artists are employed in a great many industries, not just in advertising and marketing agencies. Many medium to large companies have their own marketing departments, and an employee with graphic design skills can be a welcome addition even to a small business. If you are visually creative, willing to work hard to hone your skills and play well with others, you might be pleasantly surprised at how many opportunities there are for trained graphic designers.
BA in Graphic Design, American University, http://www.american.edu/cas/graphic-design/BA-DSGN.cfm
Graduate Graphic Design, Otis College of Art and Design, http://www.otis.edu/graduate-graphic-design
Graphic Designers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/graphic-designers.htm
Graphic Design Certificate Programs, Sessions College for Professional Design, http://www.sessions.edu/graphic-design
Graphic Design, Undergraduate Programs, Fashion Institute of Technology, http://www.fitnyc.edu/2306.asp
Graphic Designers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes271024.htm
Projections Central, State Occupational Projections, Long-term projections through 2022, http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm