Free Online Lectures and Courses for Graphic Design

Graphic design is the perfect industry for artists who enjoy using color, shape and other visual effects to captivate consumers. Business owners are always tinkering with how to best communicate their brand to the world; graphic designers are commissioned to draw inspiration from a business and create one-of-a-kind graphics, logos and icons, among other visual tools, to help draw in clientele.

A career in graphic design offers flexibility, making it an attractive option for students who wish to be self-employed or who enjoy supplementing their 9-5 job with freelance work; Forbes listed graphic designer as one of the best freelancer careers. In this guide, you will find an introduction to sample courses, specializations, degrees and the career outlook for graphic designers.

Sample Courses

In today’s technology-rich society, it’s important for students to have access to courses that teach a variety of software programs like Adobe Illustrator, as well as the use of vector illustration and imaging. Courses vary from program to program, but students can expect to take classes like Brand Identity Design, Design for Dynamic Media, and Type and Image in Motion, all of which are part of the Rhode Island School of Design’s curriculum.

Possible Specializations

In many programs, students will be given the freedom to create a body of work that represents an area of graphic design that they identify with the most, commonly referred to as a specialization. Your specialization may include typography, logo design, or any other application common to a graphic design professional. Post-graduation, your specialization may help you secure a position with a company that can use your particular expertise.

Degree Types

In the field of graphic design, experience and artistic ability are valuable; however, the majority of companies prefer applicants to have at least a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design or a related field like fine art. In the next section you will find a list of the basic tiers of graphic design education, along with the job opportunities available to each type of degree holder.

Associate

An associate degree will offer an introduction to the field of graphic design. Students can expect to take prerequisite classes like math, science and composition, as well as courses on the basic principles of design, including color, texture, line and shape. Currently, there are few schools offering an AA in graphic design; however, Parsons School for Design made the top 10 on U.S. News and World Report’s best graphic design programs in 2012. The Parson’s program, based in New York City, offers an online and on-campus version, both of which provide the education necessary for a student to gain entry level work in the graphic design industry.

Bachelor’s

A bachelor’s degree will qualify graduates for a large swath of graphic design positions. In a bachelor’s program, students can expect to study subjects similar to those offered at the Rhode Island School of Design, which include communications theory, anatomy of letterforms, design history and color.

Master’s

A master’s degree is a great option for students who wish to begin conducting graduate level research in the field of design. Master’s grads are also eligible for certain teaching positions at the high school and junior college level. Students should expect to be in a master’s program for approximately two years. During that time, students will create a professional portfolio based on courses in advanced design theory.

Ideal Candidates for Graphic Design

Graphic designers are well known for being creative, but they must also foster other, equally important skills, such as the execution of personal style, the ability to work under pressure, the desire to network with industry professionals and the ability to take criticism and grow from it. A graphic designer will be commissioned to create logos, graphics and icons, and, when working for a design firm, will often be commissioned to improve upon an existing brand. Given all of the above, designers must also possess above average communication skills since they will frequently interact one-on-one with clients.

Because a large number of graphic designers are self employed, these professionals must rely on their own motivation and work ethic. They must also be willing to learn the basics of operating a business, including filling out tax and employment paperwork and pitching themselves to new clientele.

Career Pathways

The field of graphic design is attractive because it features flexibility and good pay; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), graphic designers made an annual median income of $44,150 in 2012. Students have a variety of careers to choose from; take art director, which, according to the BLS, earns a median annual salary of $80,880. Some fields available to graphic design graduates include desktop publishing, web development and industrial design, to name a few.

In addition to the information in this guide, it may be helpful to research professional organizations, OpenCourseWare and a variety of books, journals and industry magazines for information on the growing field of graphic design.

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Graphic Design Journals & Trade Magazines

  • Journals

    • Codex: The Journal of Letterforms

      This print publication is dedicated to showcasing academic and professional commentary, analyses, and samples of typographical work.

    • Graphis

      This New York-based international journal showcases portfolios from masters working in the advertising, design, illustration, and photography industries.

    • Process Journal

      This quarterly periodical gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into the lives of graphic designers, delving into their studios and creative methodologies.

  • Trade Magazines

    • Communication Arts

      This must-read print and digital publication has been running since 1959, with features, profiles, and news articles that focus on graphic arts, interactive ...

    • Eye Magazine

      The quarterly print issues of Eye feature critiques of prominent graphic design work, industry trends, and examples of excellent student work.

    • HOW

      Get immersed in the facets of business and self-marketing with HOW's tutorials for budding graphic designers and interactive artists.

    • Print

      The glossy pages of Print Magazine pay homage to the arts of book design, graffiti, typography, and commercial branding.

    • Smashing Magazine

      Smashing Media is responsible for publishing several industry textbooks and producing a digital magazine featuring design tutorials, expert interviews, and ...

    • Specky Boy

      This digital magazine covers a wide gamut of design tips and features, from print design proofing techniques to critical interpretations of company logos.

Graphic Design Grants & Scholarships

  • Grants

    • National Endowment for the Arts Design Grant

      Deadline: July 24

      Award Amount: $10,000 - $100,000

      NEA grants are issued specifically to artistic organizations that plan to use the funding for design projects that promote community engagement or improved habitable spaces.

    • The Minted Design Grant

      Deadline: N/A

      Award Amount: $4,000

      These annual design grants are issued to students at the undergraduate and graduate student levels specializing in design arts.

    • VCUarts Undergraduate Research Grants

      Deadline: November 25

      Award Amount: An average of $2,500 per project

      Virginia Commonwealth University offers undergraduate graphic design students with funding opportunities for creative projects.

  • Scholarships

    • Buick Achievers Scholarship

      Deadline: February 28

      Award Amount: $25,000

      This annual scholarship program is open to engineering, technology, graphic design, and business majors who are interested in the automotive industry.

    • CBC Spouses Visual Arts Scholarship

      Deadline: May 1

      Award Amount: $3,000

      The Congressional Black Caucus is awarding 10 scholarships to prospective college students planning to major in visual arts.

    • Franchise Services, Inc. PIP Scholarship

      Deadline: May 1

      Award Amount: $2,000

      This scholarship is offered to graphic communications students enrolled at California Polytechnic State University.

    • Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation

      Deadline: April 1

      Award Amount: $2,000 - $5,000

      This organization offers over 200 scholarships annually for undergraduates pursuing a degree in graphic design or printing.

    • Signs Now Broward Scholarship

      Deadline: May 1

      Award Amount: $2,500

      The Electronic Document Scholarship Foundation (ESDF) issues this funding to students minoring in graphic design at Nova Southeastern College.

    • Worldstudio AIGA Scholarships

      Deadline: March 28

      Award Amount: $2,000 - $5,000

      These scholarships are granted to low-income and/or minority graphic design students at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Graphic Design Internships

  • CIA Graphic Design Specialist

    Deadline: N/A

    Undergraduate students will be expected to collaborate with instructors to craft interactive training materials for employees at the Central Intelligence Agency.

  • CloudKid

    Deadline: N/A

    Sophomore and senior undergraduates interested in strategic branding should explore this opportunity, which focuses on interactive materials and rebranding initiatives.

  • Humane Society Publications

    Deadline: N/A

    Animal enthusiasts and activists studying graphic design can work with the Human Society in Maryland to produce educational print materials and presentations.

  • National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine

    Deadline: N/A

    Graphic designers with a web background can get a paid internship helping this research organization create study guide templates.

  • Noise 13

    Deadline: N/A

    This 3-6 month paid internship will give graphic design juniors and seniors a chance to work on packaging, print, and web design projects in a branding company.

  • Spin365 Creative

    Deadline: N/A

    Students can work on print projects, company branding, and trade show exhibits with this Boston-based design firm to earn college credits.

  • The Civic Canopy

    Deadline: N/A

    This Denver-based nonprofit is offering students a paid internship experience to collaborate with clients on community based web projects.

Graphic Design Student & Professional Organizations

  • Student Organizations

    • American Institute of Graphic Arts Student Groups

      This professional network also has student chapters in over 200 colleges across the United States, devoted to academic networking and post-graduation career ...

    • Kappa Pi

      This international art fraternity release two publications a year, The Sketch Pad and The Sketch Book, to recognize and showcase member work.

  • Professional Organizations

    • American Institute of Graphic Arts Design

      Members gain access to a professional network of over 23,000 designers and students, exclusive publications, job listings, and retail partner discounts.

    • Graphic Artists Guild

      This organization advocates for continued education and higher employment standards within the graphic design industry.

    • Icograda

      This international communication design organization contains an excellent reference library on best practices, case studies, intellectual property, and graphic design training materials.

    • National Association of Photoshop Professionals

      Graphic designers that rely heavily on computing work can find extensive libraries of Photoshop tutorials, webcasts, and live coaching options on the NAPP website.