A graphic design education and curriculum is unlike nearly every other field in higher education. Instead of spending time taking notes from lecturers or performing experiments in labs, design students are learning primarily through interactive seminar and studio sessions.
Graphic design courses center on developing solutions using tools of the trade, type, composition, images and the placement of these within the allocated space. Study is hands-on using everything from hand illustration to photography to computer aided constructions. Graphic design courses are nearly always focused on projects instead of theories or specific subject material.
Early in the education process there are courses in fundamentals but as the student progresses, instructor’s work to develop the budding designer’s ability to bring out design principles in visual mediums. The basics or fundamentals are often described as building students’ visual vocabularies.
Just as English majors study composition, prose and poetry, designers learn about textures, colors, spaces, lines and planes. Together these forms make up a designer’s dictionary, so to speak. How all of these work together in a piece that conveys a message with symmetry and proportion is the challenge of the graphic design student.
Graphic design courses train students to analyze the structure and form of the objects that are used in daily life. Those pursuing a career in this field generally possess a keen eye for how items function within a space and design instructors develop student’s abilities to create visual communication pieces that have structure, order and harmony within all of the pieces. Visual theories and perspective, while abstract and interesting, are the doorway to the practical side of graphic design courses.
A sample of graphic design courses found in both online and campus-oriented degree and certification programs covers the gamut of visual media. Print design for publications used to be one of the hallmarks of graphic design and still is relevant today, despite the emphasis on online publications and websites. Coursework in this area delves into the structure of a print message, how the information is placed on the page and the selection of typeface and images.
Book and poster design is an area of graphic design courses that most people have never given much thought about. When the typical person grabs a best seller off of the bookshelf, little do they know that there is a designer behind this work as well as an author.
Book design is not only what is on the front and back covers, but the selection of the typeface for all of the text. Posters are everywhere, from presidential election campaigns to announcements of events and exhibits to the flyers posted on the local grocery store wall. The design of packaging is often the bread and butter of design careers.
Courses in this area cover the myriad of functions that make up a package design, such as storage and protection as well as identity, branding and display. Display design is a similar area where the graphic design student learns the creation of objects that function in an exhibit or conference type setting. The world of graphic design courses is as interesting and varied as careers in this field. For those who are visually-oriented graphic design study unfolds a world of challenges and possibilities.