First impressions are said to make the best impressions. Whether we’re talking about business, industry giants or even people, everyone wants to put their best foot forward in every case. The world today, harsh as it may sound, runs at a speed rivaling that of Usain Bolt’s and so, no one really has time for second chances! Businesses, these days, are judged by customers at the very first glance of their new advertisements or promotional strategies. Considering that the human mind only takes 10 seconds to form an impression, let’s thank the universe that we have graphic designers to help out!
Graphic designing as a career has caught on in the last decade, and how! The industry is expected to grow 4% by 2026, with at least 300,000 new posts opening up in the US alone for graphic designers. Businesses have identified the importance of graphic designing the world over, and are ready to pay anywhere between $300-1,000 for a logo. No wonder then, that graphic designers make some of the most competitive salaries in the market, earning an average of around $50,000 annually, with an average raise of around $2,900 a year. And even better, graphic designers have the same demand whether they work for an institution or choose to freelance. Should you choose to be your own boss, you can still earn an average of $24 per hour for your work.
Whether you’ve always wanted to learn graphic designing or chanced upon this article and got persuaded by our statistics to switch career paths, you’re going to need to know how to acquire these skills. That’s where we come in, with our review of the best online courses for graphic design. We give you the lowdown on the top 4 courses offered by various platforms on the internet; you’re definitely going to be better equipped to make a choice after you’re done with this article. Ready for some enlightenment?
Online Graphic Design Courses vs Traditional Schools
Before we go on to our actual review, we’re going to address the problem of school vs MOOC, because whether you’re a beginner or you’re serious about a career in graphic design, you’ve probably faced this dilemma. Well, fear not, we’re here to help!
As you probably already know, MOOCs are massive open online courses. These courses became a huge deal in the previous decade due to their open and free nature (literally and figuratively) and ease of accessibility. Basically, any interested learner anywhere could learn anything, provided he or she had a good internet connection and of course, the desire to learn. Reputed colleges the world over jumped onto the MOOC bandwagon, offering amazing courses free of cost or at very low prices. Soon, companies joined in, offering their own courses, recognizing MOOCs as a valid qualification and partnering with online platforms to recruit employees who have successfully completed MOOCs.
Therefore, MOOCs are a great option because they offer:
- Flexible schedules
- Learning at your own pace, whether faster or slower
- The option of studying anywhere, anytime
- A wider variety of colleges and courses to choose from
- Simultaneous enrollment in as many courses as you wish
- Literally free, especially when compared to admission costs and fees of traditional colleges
- Recognized and accredited programs
- Literally no eligibility requirements for potential students
Though there are some disadvantages such as the lack of peer interaction and the feeling of a community, no face-to-face interaction and the challenge to stay self-motivated, the pros far outweigh the cons, as evidenced by a whopping 101 million MOOC enrollments in 2018.
If you’re just finishing high school and intend to seriously pursue graphic designing as a career, a school may be a better option. However, if you’re unsure about graphic designing and want to first see what it entails, a MOOC is a great, no-cost option. MOOCs are also great for those switching careers mid-path or those want to learn without quitting their current full-time employment.
And Now, the Courses!
Now that we’ve gotten all that we need to out of the way, let’s talk about the best online courses for graphic design.
Top 4 Best Online Graphic Design Courses
These are the best online courses for graphic design, all thoroughly reviewed to ensure that you find the perfect one for your needs and skill level.
Graphic Design Specialization Certificate — CALARTS
The “Graphic Design Specialization Certificate” offered by Coursera is a very stable stepping stone on your path to becoming a successful graphic designer. Students are introduced to the skills required for good graphic designing by being taught the process, context, communication through typography and the making of images and a branding project that can later be used in a portfolio to finish off with.
As the course page states, the aim of this specialization is “to equip learners with a set of transferable formal and conceptual tools for making and communication in the field of graphic design”. In order to achieve this goal, the following courses are taught in the specialization to develop the skills of visual and branding communication, graphic design, typography and the knowledge of art history:
- Fundamentals of Graphic Design
- Introduction to Typography
- Introduction to Image-Making
- Ideas from the History of Graphic Design
- Brand New Brand
Self-paced, the course is the perfect option for beginners, taking around 6 months for completion. Students can view the course material during the 7-day free trial and on paying the subscription fee, access lectures, quizzes, and earn a verified completion certificate. They can either opt to do the whole specialization sequentially or choose a single course from the program to start with. The subscription can be canceled at any time.
Offered by the California Institute of the Arts, the course is taught by its School of Art faculty, namely Michael Worthington, Louise Sandhaus, Anther Kiley, Gail Swanlund and Lorraine Wild.
Fundamentals of Graphic Design – CALARTS
The first course in the graphic design specialization discussed above, the “Fundamentals of Graphic Design” aims to teach students the basics of the field and build a strong foundation for a good career. Comprising video lectures, practice exercises and practical projects, the course’s goal is to impart students with various techniques of making images (including the finer details such as shape, patterns, colors), typography and composition and visual contrast principles.
Though the 4-week 14-hour course is designed for beginners, a basic knowledge of Adobe programs such as Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign is recommended. The following syllabus is followed in the duration of the course:
- Fundamentals of Image-Making
- Fundamentals of Typography
- Fundamentals of Shape and Color
- Fundamentals of Composition
Taught by Michael Worthington of the California Institute of the Arts, the course is free of cost.
Graphic Design – University of Colorado Boulder
Offered by the University of Colorado Boulder and taught David Underwood, this course is the second course offered in the “Effective Communication: Writing, Design and Presentation Specialization”. Employed as a means of skill development in employees by over 70 companies worldwide, this 7-hour course equips students with the skills to create killer PowerPoint presentations, reports and resumes. Though course assignments need to be completed using presentation software (PowerPoint, Google Slides or Apple Keynote), students will be given the chance to explore tools such as Illustrator, InDesign and Adobe Photoshop.
This free beginner-level course offers the following modules:
- Getting Started
- The Blank Canvas
- Tricks of the Trade (such as contrast, sublimation, repetition, and tension)
- Revision and Distance
Graphic Design Basics: Core Principles for Visual Design – Maryland Institute College of Art
The last course on our list (in no particular order) is this Skillshare offering from designers Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips in association with the Maryland Institute College of Art. The “Graphic Design Basics: Core Principles for Visual Design” has a rather wordy title but enough and more course material to match. The 35-minute class aims to walk students through 5 fundamentals of graphic design.
The course contains the following modules:
- Introduction (to the 5 principles)
- Symmetry vs Asymmetry
- Demo (where students are expected to create their own work applying the previous lessons)
Since using Skillshare itself requires a monthly subscription ($8.73 billed monthly or $5.23 amounting to an annual one-shot payment of $63), the course can’t really be deemed free of cost. However, since subscribing gives you unlimited access to Skillshare’s library of over 55,000 courses, it’s well worth the price paid!
Final Thoughts on the Best Online Graphic Design Courses
Like we said earlier, graphic design is one of the top-ranked careers today and it has fantastic future potential. The professionals in this skill-based field are in high demand, with more and more small and large-scale companies recognizing the importance of graphic design in branding, promoting, advertising and selling.
If you’ve wanted to gain a strong foundation in graphic design with a minimum investment of money, look no further than the 4 courses above. Being the largest MOOC provider on the internet, it’s no wonder that Coursera dominates the list. This forerunner of MOOC platforms imparts quality education in all its courses; be aware, though, that specializations require a monthly subscription of anywhere between $39-89 and as courses are priced by the institutes offering them, this may fluctuate. However, only specializations as a whole are chargeable; the courses offered as part of them are all free of cost, as a rule. Additionally, Coursera offers financial aid to deserving students.
Skillshare, on the other hand, requires a monthly subscription to be able to use the platform. This makes it a more substantial investment than Coursera. However, as we mentioned earlier, you can access all their courses with this subscription, making the course practically free, if you think about it! Offered by two very distinguished individuals, the course is short, precise and the perfect graphic design primer!
So, there you have it! The best online courses for graphic design! You can’t go wrong with any of these courses, so don’t wait to enroll. Good luck!
If you want to discover even more learning opportunities, then be sure to take a look at our list of the best online courses. Thanks for reading and as always, have a great day!