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The Step-by-Step Path to Becoming a Graphic Designer

If you want to become a graphic designer, you should have a healthy dose of creative flair coupled with extensive computer skills with industry-standard drawing and photography applications such as Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, and layout programs such as InDesign or QuarkXpress. And most likely, you may need to complete an associate's or bachelor's degree in graphic design to be seriously considered for most entry-level positions.

What You Can Learn at Graphic Design School

Graphic design schools teach studio art, the principles of good design, computerized design, commercial graphics production processes, and printing techniques and procedures. You can usually complete an associate's degree from a community college or professional college in two to three years. There are many graphic design schools online where you can take coursework tailored to your schedule. If pursuing a bachelor's degree in fine arts or graphic design, additional coursework in art history, english and creative writing, cultural studies, communications, and marketing and business will prove helpful throughout your career.

Where to Find a Graphic Design School

The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits about 300 post secondary institutions with degree programs in art and design. In addition to community colleges and four-year universities, there are many accredited online graphic designs schools as well. A comprehensive list of graphic design schools in your state is a just a click away.

Best Graphic Design Schools

Some of the more well-know graphic design schools include:

  • The Art Institute of Dallas
  • Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia
  • Collins College in Phoenix
  • Columbus College of Art and Design in Ohio
  • Maryland Institute of College and Art

    What to Look for in a Graphic Design School

    Ideally you should find a school that offers a degree in visual communications or graphic design that can teach you the fundamentals of creating masterful design from typography to layout. Find one that's right for your budget and situation. Speak with admissions counselors at different schools and find out if they offer scholarships or grants.

    Technical Knowledge for Graphic Design

    Since computers took over and re-shaped the art of design, knowledge of the fundamentals of design software is key to being competitive. Successful graphic designers are tech-savvy computer experts. The programs used to create today's layouts are extremely feature-rich and knowledge intensive. To successfully become a graphic designer, you should know how to use a variety of layout, illustration and photo-manipulation programs, as well as Web authoring programs and coding languages to pursue Website design.

    Still Think You Have the Chops to Become a Graphic Designer?

    Education aside, it takes a certain amount of artistic skill to become a graphic designer--and it's not an easy path to follow. If you are simply not good at design, you may never advance past basic ad design or newspaper graphics work. Still, there are plenty of jobs available in both those fields, and your contributions will be a much-needed part of the advertising or editorial processes.

    Ancillary--But Extremely Important--Graphic Design Skills

    Graphic designers typically work as part of an editorial or advertising team--making good communications skills as essential as artistic flair and technical know-how. Oftentimes, you work with other designers under a manager or Art Director. And if you want to become a freelancer, you should be able to communicate well with your potential clients.

    Also, you must be able to handle critique of your work and be willing to accept criticism to improve your projects. Graphic designers serve others, and as such it's your job to create good design that makes your publisher or clients happy.

    Salary Expectations for Graphic Designers

    Initial salaries are often meager, but they improve as your skill set defines your career path. Of the 209,290 graphic designers employed in the U.S. in 2008, half earned $42,400 per year. The top 10 percent earned almost $75,000.

    Building Your Job Interview Portfolio

    Once you've established a quality portfolio, show it off with a nice portfolio case or other creative way to present it when applying for jobs. Many companies require electronic submissions or a link to an online portfolio, but eventually you'll need to bring those pieces into a personal interview. And if you want to freelance, these are the pieces you'll be showing to potential clients to convince them that you're the right person for the job. The presentation and quality of your portfolio ultimately could determine your success.

    An education is the first step to become a graphic designer--and there are many graphic design schools waiting for your admissions application.

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