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Best Online Degrees in: Graphic Design

Editor’s Picks: Online Schools for Graphic Design

Value
The award for best value of a graphic design bachelor's degree goes to the Academy of Art, which has a return on investment (ROI) of 5.6%, according to PayScale.com. That number increases to 6% with financial aid, which 29% of enrolled students receive. For the cost of tuition, Academy of Art students receive a comprehensive education and access to a number of helpful tools and services, many of which they can use even after they graduate.

Flexibility
Herzing University's online graphic design bachelor's degree receives the award for flexibility, as it has been noticed by CliffsNotes for having A-level academic flexibility. At Herzing, students can plan school around their lives, rather than having to make their outside responsibilities conform to a class schedule. In lieu of being required to attend to assignments at a specific time, students are given a due date and a window of time during which they can complete the project at their convenience.

Career Support
Full Sail University has a career support system that goes beyond career counseling, and therefore receives the award for best career support. Full Sail University's Global Professional System (GPS) equips students with the tools and skills they need to succeed in the working world by implementing professionalism throughout the student's educational career. It also provides ongoing career help after graduation, according to its website, and gives alumni the opportunity to audit classes for free, which allows them to stay current with technological developments.

Financial Support
Due to its ranking of No. 1 on the Online Education Database, Stevens-Henager College's graphic arts bachelor's degree is recognized for providing superior financial support to its students. The college awards aid to 100% of its student body, and ensures that all students get a fair chance at acquiring an education.

Technology Support
Though most online colleges provide their students with access to technology, Full Sail University stands out among all schools that offer online bachelor's degrees in graphic design. Its superior technical support has gained College Prowler's notice, where it ranks No. 10 for the best tech support among 970 higher education institutions.

Student Engagement
Though the Academy of Art may have ranked No. 83 on U.S. News & World Report’s top schools for student engagement and assessment, its large list of student activities makes it stand out among colleges and universities offering bachelor's degrees in graphic design. It has a traveling expo and other in-person events, which makes Academy of Art the winner of the best student engagement and activites award. The Academy also has strong faculty involvement, according to U.S. News & World Report, which helps keep students engaged in their course work.

Library and Research Support
Academy of Art receives the award for best library and research support for having a library that is easily accessible over the Internet. Students have the option of searching for books and periodicals by subject lists, which is helpful for major-specific research projects. In addition, the Academy also provides a staff directory and an ask-a-librarian page.

Learning Support
Academy of Art has multiple options for learning support, which are easy for students to access. Because it provides language, writing, academic, and educational services, the Academy wins the award for best learning support among schools that offer online bachelor's degrees in graphic design. The Academy's website provides instructions for accessing these services.

Faculty Credentials
Academy of Art cares about having a faculty body of knowledgeable instructors that are skilled in teaching online classes, and that's why it has received the award for best graphic design school for faculty qualifications. Rated No. 50 among schools for faculty credentials and training by U.S. News & World Report, the Academy requires online instructors to receive training in how to conduct online classes. The Academy finances that training, and 39% of its instructors have at least two years of online teaching experience.

Faculty Accessibility
The award for best graphic design school for faculty accessibility goes to Academy of Art, for having a strong faculty involvement in students' education. According to U.S. News & World Report, instructors respond to student emails within 24 hours, and track student sign-ins to ensure that students are participating in their classes. The Academy also has a faculty-to-student ratio of 22-to-1, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Small class sizes help instructors stay involved in their students course work.

Alumni Engagement
Full Sail University remains committed to its students even after they graduate, and therefore has earned the award for the best graphic design school for alumni engagement. The alumni network provides career resources, like resume help and job searches, as well as networking opportunities to help graduates interact with professionals within their fields. Alumni also have the opportunity to interact with each other through discussion boards and personal profiles.

Prior Learning Options
Herzing University provides multiple prior learning options for class credit, and therefore wins the award for this category. Its website provides a brochure, which outlines the many options students have to earn credit. They include credit-by-exam, credit for military training, and the opportunity for student to showcase what they have learned from their experiences through various media.

New Online Student Orientation
Academy of Art wins the award for best graphic design school for new student orientation. Its website provides various tutorials and orientations, for new and current students alike, which are always available. Rather than having students travel to get oriented to online learning and the academic support options offered by the Academy, Academy of Art provides easy access to student resources over the Internet.

Explore a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design

Graphic designers combine facets of art and technology to communicate ideas that inspire, inform, or captivate consumers. Graphic designers play a dominant role in creating advertisements, brochures, magazines, album covers, and websites. They work with text and images alike, meticulously selecting the type, font, size, and color that will convey a compelling message according to their own personal vision. In school, design students will learn about the conceptual and technological development in the fields of digital imaging, photography, and illustration. In the workplace, they will have to combine feedback from various sources to create a distinctive image. Online graphic design programs require approximately 120 credit hours, but this varies by program.

Class Curriculum

Graphic design students must develop an extensive knowledge of both art and technology, but they must also understand the business world, including marking and production, since they will work closely with business executives. Students will work with several paining and graphic design tools and software, including Adobe InDesign, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, and Quark Xpress. They will take classes in the principles of design, color theory, computerized design, website design, interactive design, and creative advertising.

  • Typography. Students will take several classes in typography, which is the art of organizing letters in space and time. Introductory classes will focus on the history and anatomy of type, while advanced classes will allow students to experiment with motion-based interactive type.
  • Visual Systems. Students will learn about structural and organizing elements such as grids, modules, proportion, progression, symmetry, and rhythm. Students will work on projects that emphasize the dynamic relationships among content, form, and context.
  • Branding. This course will explore the comprehensive branding process to help students gain an understanding of how design and communication define an organization's message or product and impact its performance. Students will learn about the brand positioning process, strategic thinking, brand case studies, integrated brand communications, and target audiences.

Students will work on several projects in areas such as book design, poster design, identity design, magazine design, and film graphics. They will develop their own voice as designers and artists, and their learning will culminate in a final project that taps into their strengths, interests, and experience. Students will graduate with a portfolio of their designs from classroom projects, internships, and other experiences. A strong portfolio is heavily weighed by employers.

Building a Career

Upon completing a bachelor's degree in graphic design, students can apply for entry-level positions with advertising firms, design firms, publications, and corporations. Many graduates become freelancers who take on projects with multiple companies. Eventually, design consultants and editors may advance to supervisory roles as chief designers and creative directors. Individuals in this industry will have to remain up to date on the latest software developments to remain competitive. Some graduates may opt to pursue a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in graphic design, after which they can teach at the university level.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage of graphic designers was $43,500 in May 2010. Individuals in this industry will face competition for available positions, since many highly skilled individuals are attracted to this career, and those who have experience with website design and interactive media will have the best job prospects. Individuals should note that BLS estimated salaries are subject to variation, and that they will fluctuate depending on the size and success of the design firm or corporation, as well as the individual's level of experience.

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