Graphic designers create brochures and ads to promote products or services. They produce logos for products or businesses. They create visual designs for company reports and other print materials. Some graphic designers work on design and layout for magazines or other publications. Others work on website design. They choose the colors and images, and design the layout of the website.
Graphic designers usually use computers to do their work. They begin a design project by talking to the client or supervisor. They prepare sketches or images according to the client's needs. Graphic designers draw a sample of the proposed layout, or create the layout on a computer. They present sketches and layout to the art director or client for approval.
Once approved, graphic designers proceed with the project. They select the style and size of the font. Sometimes they take photos of the layout for approval by the client or supervisor. They collect all the materials and present the finished design or product to the client. In some cases, they give detailed instructions to other workers who will help with the project.
Some graphic designers work in television or film. They may design the credits that appear at the beginning or end of a television show or movie. They may create storyboards for film production. Storyboards are drawings that show the sequence of the story to be developed on film.
- Understand written information.
- Write clearly so other people can understand.
- Speak clearly so listeners can understand.
- Listen to others and ask questions.
Reason and Problem Solve
- Think of original, unusual, or creative ways to solve problems.
- Think of new ideas about a topic.
- Develop rules that group items in various ways.
- Analyze ideas and use logic to determine their strengths and weaknesses.
Manage Oneself, People, Time, and Things
- Manage the time of self and others.
- Check how well one is learning or doing something.
Work with People
- Change behavior in relation to others’ actions.
- Be aware of others’ reactions and understand the possible causes.
Work with Things
- Analyze needs and requirements when designing products.
Perceive and Visualize
- Imagine how something will look if it is moved around or its parts are rearranged.
- Have a high level of social contact. They regularly talk to supervisors and clients.
- Communicate by telephone, e-mail, and in person on a daily basis. They communicate less often by letters and memos.
- Are responsible for project outcomes and results. Designs must meet client needs and expectations.
- Regularly work in a group or as part of a team.
Physical Work Conditions
- Usually work indoors.
- Must be sure their work is exact. Errors could cause clients to need to reprint brochures, for example.
- Make decisions that affect clients and coworkers on a weekly basis. They make most decisions with consulting a supervisor.
- Set most daily tasks, goals, and priorities without consulting a supervisor first.
- Abide by strict deadlines on a daily basis. This makes the work environment fairly competitive.
- Generally work a set schedule.
- May work part time or full time. Most work full time, however.
- May work overtime to meet deadlines.
Wages and Outlook
United States $45,900
Minnesota | Very large employment | 2.0% Growth | High Annual Openings
United States | Large employment | 6.7% Growth | High Annual Openings
Animators and Multimedia Artists
Page Layout Workers
Producers and Directors
Set and Exhibit Designers
Programs of Study
Graphic design programs prepare people to convey ideas and feelings using images and words.
This program includes topics such as:
- Design and layout images and text
- Basic art principles, including color theory, design, and drawing
- Digital arts
- Photo and film manipulation
- Advertising and commercial art
- Prepress and printing technique
- Technical drawing
Internships allow students to develop skills at companies or organizations. Some graphic design programs require students to develop a portfolio or complete an internship.
Students begin to develop their professional portfolio during college. This includes samples of work from team projects and independent projects. Projects completed during their senior year and internship are important to their portfolio.
Most community colleges and independent art schools offer an Associate of Arts (AA) degree program in graphic design. An associate degree program usually takes two years to complete.
Many independent art schools, colleges, and universities offer Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree programs. A BFA usually takes about four to five years of full-time study.
Several universities offer Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degrees in graphic design. A MFA typically requires two years of study beyond a bachelor’s degree.
A few schools offer a doctoral (PhD) program in graphic design. Doctoral degree programs usually require two or more years of study beyond the master’s degree.
Proprietary schools, colleges, and universities all offer this program. If you want to study at a proprietary school, you can prepare for this program of study by completing your high school diploma or equivalent. If you want to study at a college or university, you can prepare for this program by taking the following courses: four years of English, three years of math, three years of social studies, and two years of science. Some colleges also require two years of a second language.
For this program, schools recommend that you know how to use a computer and the Internet. In addition, many programs require you to submit separate application materials in addition to your general college application. Usually you have to complete preliminary art and design courses, write a personal statement, and submit a portfolio of drawings.
Below is a list of high school courses that will help prepare you for this program of study:
- Art Appreciation
- Art History
- CAD Design and Software
- Commercial Art
- Computer Graphics
- Computer-assisted Art
- Drawing and Painting
- Graphic Arts and Printing
- Principles of Advertising
- Printmaking and Graphics
This program typically includes courses such as:
- Ad Design
- Animation (Motion Graphics)
- Business Management
- Calligraphy and Lettering
- Color Theory
- Computer and Digital Graphics
- Desktop Publishing
- Drawing and Sketching
- Graphic Photography
- Printing and Publication Design
Most programs require you to submit a portfolio of design projects at the end of each course or academic year. Portfolios are reviewed by faculty to ensure that your skill level is increasing.
Graduate study in graphic design typically includes:
- Required courses
- Thesis (master's degree)
- Portfolio review (master's degree)
- Preliminary exams (doctoral degree only)
- Dissertation and dissertation defense (doctoral degree)
A bachelor's degree from MCAD includes
- Introduction to Graphic Design
- History of Graphic Design
- Digital Production
- Graphic Design
- Professional Practice
- Advanced Graphic Design Seminar
- Senior Project
- Publication Design
- Narrative Design
- Design Systems
- Web and Screen
- Animation, Video Graphics, and Special Effects
- Art and Fine Arts, General
- Commercial and Advertising Art
- Computer Graphics
- Desktop Publishing and Digital Imaging
- Digital Communication and Media
- Educational and Instructional Technology
- Fashion Design
- Game and Interactive Media Design
- Industrial Design
- Multimedia and Intermedia
- Printing Technologies
- Visual Design
- Web Page and Multimedia Design
Art Institutes International Minnesota
Concordia University, St. Paul
DeVry University - Edina
Minneapolis College of Art and Design
Saint Mary's University of Minnesota - Winona
St. Catherine University
University of Northwestern
Minnesota College of Art and Design
- Size and Location - MCAD is located in Minneapolis, Minnesota and there are about 600 undergraduate students that attend MCAD
Admission Requirements -
- Application fee of $50.
- Submit official high school transcripts and transcripts from any colleges or universities that you've attended. If you did not complete high school, submit your general equivalency diploma (GED) scores along with your official high school transcript. High school transcripts are required for all transfer students except those who have previously earned a bachelor's degree.
- Official ACT or SAT test scores are required for applicants unless waived by the MCAD Admissions Office for special circumstances. Standardized test scores are not required for international applicants or transfer students who have successfully completed at least 12 college credits.
- One letter of recommendation is required from an art instructor, guidance counselor, advisor, or employer in support of your application.
- One- or two-page statement, 400–600 words in length, specific to your program of interest.
- Submit your portfolio online at mcad.slideroom.com, specific to your program of interest.
- $42,340 total
- $32,550 tuition
- $6,810 on campus room & board
- $2,780 books and supplies
- $200 fees
- $50 application fee
Financial Aid -
Federal Pell Grants
Awarded to students based on demonstrated financial need.
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants
Awarded to students based on demonstrated financial need. Priority is given to Federal Pell Grant recipients. Grants range from $100 to $2,000.
Minnesota State Grants
Awarded to students who meet criteria set forth by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education Grant. Grant amounts are dependent upon annual appropriation levels established by the State of Minnesota.
MCAD Opportunity Grants and Renewable Opportunity Grants
Awarded by MCAD to students who show demonstrated financial need. Students must complete the FAFSA by March 15 to be considered.
MCAD Distance Grants
Awarded to out-of-state students with expected family contribution below $10,000. Students must complete the FAFSA by March 15 to be considered.
Tuition Exchange Awards
Participating colleges and universities make funding available to dependents of faculty and staff.
Yellow Ribbon GI Education Enhancement Grants
This program is a provision of the Post-9/11 Veteran’s Educational Assistance Act of 2008, also known as Post-9/11 GI Bill.
Admissions Merit Scholarships
Students who submit all required application materials to the college by the application deadlines may be eligible.
MCAD's Admissions Merit Scholarships recognize student achievement and talent. The scholarships are granted each year for a total of eight semesters of full-time attendance, provided students meet the maintenance requirements of the scholarship outlined in the notification letter.
This competitive scholarship program is open to all entering undergraduate students, and scholarships are awarded based on the strength of the applicant's admission file in relation to the applicant pool.
Annual MCAD Merit Scholarships
This scholarship competition is for students who are currently enrolled full time in a degree-seeking program. Students are notified of the competition requirements and deadlines each spring. A minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 is required to enter. Competitions are judged by MCAD faculty.
Special Competition Scholarships
ARTS and the Scholastic Art Awards are national competitions for which students may earn scholarships that MCAD then matches. To receive a matching scholarship, applicants are expected to place as a gold key winner at the national competition and to be admitted to MCAD. These are need-based funds and are awarded on a funds-available basis. Please consult your high school art teacher for more information.
Alumni MCAD Legacy Scholarships
This is a total scholarship of $8,000 over four years ($2,000 per year). Children of MCAD alumni who have completed an undergraduate degree program are eligible for this scholarship.
- $7,570 Efﬁciency/One-Person Furnished
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- $4,600 One-Bedroom/Two-Person Unfurnished
- $7,940 Small One-Bedroom/One-Person Furnished
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- $3,760 Two-Bedroom/Four-Person Unfurnished
- $6,440 Small Two-Bedroom/Two-Person Furnished
- $5,750 Small Two-Bedroom/Two-Person Unfurnished
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