What do the Best Graphic Design Schools offer?

The core responsibility of a graphic artist is to take information and present it in a visual way that is both accessible and pleasing to the eye.

Creativity and a flair for the unique are two of the most desirable attributes in a graphic artist. Those who are able to picture the world through visual cues will best succeed in this career, after training at one of the top graphic design schools. Those that get an education at one of the best graphic design schools will be a cut above the rest.

Suppose you are the type of person who enjoys putting together images, designing unique graphics or just creating an unusual piece of art that speaks to people on different levels. If that sounds like you, a career in the graphic arts may be in your future.

What is a graphic artist?

A graphic artist is someone who works in the graphic design or graphic arts industry. They use their talents and skills to help put together things like advertisements for companies, including both electronic and printed media. This can include brochures and television advertising campaigns.

Some graphic artists also can design logos and even be responsible for designing the layout of the credits that appear before and after television programs and movies.

Graphic artists also can do web design, illustration for books and other printed media, and even branch out into various specialized areas of the graphic arts such as environmental graphics for businesses and government agencies. Graphic artists also can be in the field of photojournalism or film editing.

“It’s a growing field, so who knows what’s around the corner,” said Nancy Jean Rose, a graphic arts professor at the Butler County Community College in Pennsylvania. “This is a field that is so wide open that we don’t know what will happen because of emerging technologies.”

Jon Shumway, a professor in the graphic arts department at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania, said graphic artist is a broadly-used term that encompasses many skills.

“It generally refers to the commercial use of graphic design for promotional purposes, such as advertising,” he said.

Is A Career In Graphic Arts Right For You?

Not everyone is suited for a career in graphic arts. A major first step is to have an interest in the visual and visual production of ideas. A graphic artist should be able to express themselves well in a visual nature.

“If they like the challenge of being assigned a project that they oversee from start to finish, then they will flourish in this business,” said Shumway. “There can be some stress involved, because there often are tight deadlines and long hours. It can be high-stress and demanding at times, so you should be able to work well under those conditions.”

Rose agreed with that assessment, adding that she can always tell which students are cut out for the career by how hard they work in class and in their internships.

“In addition to working hard, you should also love technology,” she said. “The nature of this business is changing every day, and a lot of the new aspects lean toward using existing and developing technology.”

Shumway said students should not get too hung up on new technology. Even though the field is constantly changing and new technology makes it exciting, students who do not have the basic concepts of design will not do well in the business in the long run, he said.

“With the technology push, some programs out there are overlooking the basic foundations of design, like drawing and painting,” he said. “Those that focus on digital often can’t draw or sketch very well, and those are skills that are important when you find yourself competing in a field full of qualified people.”

Education Options

“More education isn’t going to hurt a person,” said Shumway. “I clearly come down on the side of a liberal arts education, especially in an economy like this, because it makes you more broad and flexible.”

Shumway said in some associate degree programs, there is too much of an emphasis on technology, leaving out the basic fundamentals of graphic design like drawing and sketching.

“It’s not that I don’t think digital tools have their place, they do. But these digital tools are in a constant state of change . . . through the course of their career, they will be continually updating their skills.”

Having a strong foundation in the concepts behind visual creation is a standard that will never change in the industry, Shumway said. “Students who have a strong background in those skills will never get lost in the shuffle. Students who draw well, who paint well, understand the knowledge of color and design. They are the ones who ultimately tend to be better across the board and the more adaptable ones.”

Shumway said a program like that at SRU is open and flexible and allows students to design their education based on the visual language concepts involved in graphic arts. It also allows them to choose a specific concentration, such as digital arts or photojournalism, for instance.

Rose said the type of degree a student earns should depend on their overall career goal. The program at the community college is a two-year, associate degree program that focuses on preparing students for the growing field of graphic design.

“Our program would allow them to go right into the field,” she said. “It depends on what they want to do with their degree on whether an associate or a bachelor’s degree is right for them.”

If a student's goal is to hit the ground running when they get out of school, then an associate degree program like hers is a good fit for them, she said.

Rose said by the time students have graduated from her program, they have hands-on experience and projects for their professional portfolios that will help them land jobs. “They also will have experience dealing with printers, and that helps them in the real world.”

Shumway said the program at SRU doesn't require students to do an internship, but it encourages it and will even help students arrange one if they so desire.

Neither Rose nor Shumway were very supportive of online degree programs, adding that the personal interaction between student and professor is necessary for success.

“Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the idea,” said Shumway. “The interaction that occurs between a student and faculty member gives the faculty a better sense of the student’s skills and abilities. Online programs leave out that personal style factor that a professor can observe in person with a student.”

Ultimately, students have to decide what their overall career goal is, as well as their financial status, before choosing a program. Choosing an accredited program is always a wise choice, because those programs have gone through rigorous examination by an outside accrediting agency to make sure it is sound.

The National Association of Schools of Art and Design has accredited roughly 250 programs in art and design. According to the association, many employers are now requiring graphic designers to be familiar with computer graphics and design software. Graphic artists also must be willing to keep up with new trends in technology, either through training programs or on their own. The best graphic design schools help you with these trends and provide the tools you need to succeed.

Finding A Job

When deciding if a career in graphic arts is right for you, the job field should be closely examined. Is there a need for graphic artists in the current economy? Can I survive on the salary of a graphic artist?

According to salary charts for the field, an entry level position in the graphic arts field usually starts around $34,000 a year. More experienced artists can earn up to $60,000. A median range is $48,400. As with any career, salary is commensurate with experience and education level, and urban areas tend to offer more jobs with better salaries.

Shumway said the bachelor of fine arts degree is considered a professional degree in graphic arts, and those who are “in the know” value the degree. Associate degree holders should be prepared with a strong portfolio if they wish to compete and succeed, he said. Earning the degree at a top graphic design school is obviously something that will help immensely.

Rose said the rate of employment among her graduates is very high. “They come prepared with portfolios that contain award-winning projects. They are definitely prepared to compete for jobs.”

According to Occupational Employment Statistics data, the industry is expected to grow by 10 percent in the next few years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics supports similar data.

Article by Shari Berg, SmartSchoolFinder.com