Introduction to Graphic Design

graphic designThe art and craft of graphic design is a long-established tradition in human history. Various forms from previous centuries include: prehistoric pictographs, ancient hieroglyphics, illuminated manuscripts, coats of arms, letterpress printing with movable type, hand-painted shop signs, neon signs, and propaganda posters. Fast forward to today’s interactive media!

Graphic design is everywhere – you see it on billboards, movie posters, book covers, magazines, newspapers, websites, apps, games, product packaging, advertisements, public service announcements, infographics, company logos, business cards, etc. The average person sees approximately 3,000 pieces of design or marketing materials every day. No matter what it is, someone has to choose the fonts, colors, and layout.

Graphic design is the process of combining text and images to make a visual impact and communicate a message to the viewer. This includes commercial artwork intended to sell a product or service to the consumer, as well as all kinds of non-commercial presentations, technical illustration, instruction manuals, ebooks, web pages, etc.

Course Overview

If you enjoy art, have an eye for good design, and would be interested in shaping how people engage with information and ideas, consider taking an elective course in graphic design. This will give you a hands-on introduction to the technical and creative skills involved in the design field.

For example, you will learn the fundamentals of art and design including tools and techniques, the elements and principles of design and layout, color theory, lettering and illustration, etc. Supplies needed for design studies usually include: pencils, pens, colored pencils, watercolors, markers, drawing board, T-square, triangle, circle and oval templates, masking tape, ruler, and paper.

You don’t necessarily need any special software to get started, but it certainly would be beneficial to gain technical skills in using design programs. Traditional art tools can also be integrated with technological tools to create mixed media art projects.

Course Benefits

Taking a graphic design course in high school can prepare students for college and equip them for design work once they graduate. It will enable students to create a portfolio of design samples to show scholarship committees or college admissions officers. Design firms, publishing houses, and advertising agencies often require a bachelor’s degree in graphic design, art, or visual communications.

However, going to design school isn’t required in order to be a freelance or self-employed graphic designer. If you’re diligent and you have the ability, you can develop your expertise through independent study. The best way to land a job is by showcasing your talent and skills through your portfolio, and convincing clients of your knowledge and passion for design work.

Getting a head start on graphic design in high school can help you gain entry to the college or career of your dreams. Even if you decide not to major in design or become a graphic designer, anyone can obtain useful skills from a taking a course in graphic design. The tips and techniques that you learn will come in handy for creative projects in other classes, for personal use, or just for fun.

Course Links

Homeschool Course Outline: Exploring Graphic Design – A homeschool mom put together an elective course outline for a 15-year-old student interested in graphic design. It’s made for the student to work through at his or her own pace, by exploring each of the following topics:

I. Introduction to Graphic Design
II.Career Exploration
III. Graphics Design Education
IV. Graphic Design History
(Note: she missed a couple of great resources: Design History and History of Graphic Design.)
V. Introduction to the Elements of Graphic Design
VI. Introduction to the Principles of Graphic Design
VII. The Design Process
VIII. Real World Graphic Design Application
IX. Learning from Professional Designers
X. Developing Your Skills
XI. Putting Together a Portfolio
XII. Participate In Online Communities
(Note: she doesn’t list any examples for this last one, but consider DeviantArt and Flickr.)

Top Online Graphic Design Courses – If you do plan on going to design college, then spend some time deciding on the right school for you. You may want to consider online professional programs as well. Or for the brave of heart, do it without formal schooling. This site provides an overview of the wide range of graphic design courses available: college degrees, self-guided courses, and MOOCs/Open Courses.

What types of activities and courses have you used as electives? Leave a comment and we may include yours in a future column!


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  1. Hi! Homeschool mom to a 14 year old boy. This is an awesome publication!

    1. Thank you, we’re so glad you like it!

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