2. Education

Two years at a good commercial art school, no matter what the tuition is, beats five or more years hacking around on the fringes of your chosen profession. The hills are filled with talented designers who barely scrape out a living because they lack the fundamental education that will transform their lives and their careers.

There are many people of all ages who would love to have a successful career in graphic design, but simply “don’t know what they don’t know.”

Graphic Design offers a rich tapestry of print, broadcast, web and multimedia opportunities. With the proper training, you can work in one or all of these areas. Education is about giving yourself options, and options equal FREEDOM.

I have prepared a short list of items that require graphic design; it is by no means complete. For those new to the profession, you can understand very quickly that there is no shortage of things to do. For those of us who have been around for awhile, here is a brief reminder of how wonderfully varied our field is:

  • Corporate Identity
  • Annual Reports
  • Brochures
  • Magazine and Catalog Design
  • Retail Advertising
  • Business-to-Business Advertising
  • Newspapers
  • Environmental Signage and Directories
  • Typography
  • Direct Mail
  • Packaging
  • Posters
  • Manuals
  • Invitations
  • Broadcast Graphics
  • Movie Campaigns
  • CD Covers
  • Animation Graphics
  • Web Sites
  • Multimedia
  • Billboards
  • Wallpaper
  • Point of Purchase Displays

The trained professional can freelance or find staff positions at any or all of the following companies:

  • Advertising Agencies
  • Architects and Builders
  • Cartoon and Feature Syndicates
  • Consulting Firms
  • Computer Companies
  • Design Firms
  • Education Facilities
  • Engineering Firms
  • Fabric Design Companies
  • Government
  • Greeting Card Companies
  • Medical Companies
  • Motion Picture and Film Companies
  • Newspapers
  • Non-Profit Organizations
  • Packaging Companies
  • Print Shops
  • Public Relation Firms
  • Publishing Firms
  • Retailers
  • Sign Companies
  • Television Stations

You see? Options. There are many art schools that offer both two-year and four-year degrees/programs. What in the world will you learn? Below are the curriculums for both the two and four year programs at The Colorado Institute of Art. There are many other schools with fine programs; I use CIA as an example because I am a 1976 graduate of that fine institution. When I owned my agency, I hired several of their graduates, and I can vouch for their quality and reputation.

***Courses in the Major – Associate Degree Program

  • Art Direction
  • Color Theory
  • Corporate Identity
  • Digital Illustration
  • Digital Imaging
  • Electronic Design
  • Fundamentals of Design
  • Fundamentals of Drawing and Perspective
  • Graphic Design Applications
  • Layout
  • Life Drawing
  • Print Production
  • Product Graphics
  • Typography
  • Career Development
  • Portfolio
  • Computer Applications
  • History of Art & Design

***Courses in the Major – Baccalaureate Degree Program

DESIGN & DRAWING

  • Advanced Print Production
  • Advanced Typography
  • Advertising Design
  • Art Direction
  • Collateral Design
  • Color Theory
  • Corporate Communications
  • Corporate Identity
  • Digital Illustration
  • Digital Imaging
  • Electronic Design
  • Fundamentals of Design
  • Fundamentals of Drawing and Perspective
  • Graphic Design Applications
  • Layout
  • Life Drawing
  • Package Design
  • Print Production
  • Product Graphics
  • Promotional Design
  • Publication Design
  • Senior Project Typography

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

  • Business Law
  • Career Development
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Fundamentals of Business
  • Group Dynamics
  • Portfolio Project Management

APPLIED RELATED EDUCATION SUBJECTS

  • Computer Applications
  • Fundamentals of Computer Animation
  • Fundamentals of Multimedia
  • Fundamentals of Video
  • History of Art & Design

May I see a show of hands as to how many of you think you’ll be able to cobble together this kind of education from reading newsgroups and surfing the web??? An education of this caliber is valuable far, far beyond what you’ll pay for it. For our impatient youth who are tempted to “just skip it” in favor of diving right in — two years or four years isn’t that long, and it will make an enormous difference in who you can work with and for.

Fred Did It — So Can You
For those of you who think it’s too late, I still take classes to improve my skills, and I see people in their 30′s, 40′s, 50′s, 60′s and even 70′s who are right there with me. An anecdote: Before I attended The Colorado Institute of Art, I completed the two-year Commercial Art program at the Community College of Denver. There was a man in his early 40′s (I’ll call him Fred) who was a photography major. He had spent 20 years of his life raising a family and working as a chemical engineer. He was a quiet, uptight guy with a beige station wagon and a crew cut, and he stood out like a sore thumb (in art school in the early 70′s everyone had hair down to their ass). Still, he was a nice guy and we liked him. Apparently, his family was “mad” at him for chasing his dream. He had been doing photography as a hobby for quite awhile with little support from them (according to him). It was fun to see him blossom. In two short years (and people in their 40′s know how fast two years go by), Fred had annual report clients and he had quit his chemical engineering job, he had hair down to the middle of his back, a neck full of gold chains, a white Pontiac convertible GTO and never less than two little cuties in the front seat with him. ART SCHOOL, baby!!! OPTIONS. FREEDOM.

“Making your way across France without knowing how to speak French can be challenging and fun. But wouldn’t you enjoy it more if you knew the language? It’s the same with design. Once a basic design education is in place, you can communicate with other designers, see things that you don’t see now, and use or discard suggestions with confidence. Your challenges become making good design better, rather than making bad design halfway acceptable.”

Best, Dan

Let’s assume your “design skills” education is in place, or soon will be. Let’s move on to your portfolio…

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2 Responses to “2. Education”

  1. Arthur FixNo Gravatar says:

    Great inspirational reading Dan! I come back time after time to get re-invigorated. Thanks for this great information. By putting your advise out there, I think your helping many designers by offering up solutions to some common design business related stumbling blocks.

  2. Dan TurnerNo Gravatar says:

    Arthur, thanks for your comment; I’m happy you are invigorated! Education is still a cornerstone in a successful design career. I am seeing a lot of career-changers these days; generally people who are successful in other creative fields (fine art, gallery owners, event planners) who want to be graphic designers. They are talented, sharp, ambitious and want to know the secret shortcut to success. Education!

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