Basic Design: Coursework Summary

Essential Information

Students desiring basic design knowledge and skills can find certificate or associate's degree programs in the field. Such programs might focus on graphic design specifically or be in the broader field of art. Students usually complete studio art courses and do projects, and programs may involve the development of a portfolio.

Certificate and associate's degree programs in art or graphic design usually include fundamental courses that introduce students to 2-D design elements, including color, line, texture and form, as well as teach them how to use graphic design software. Students also take courses to learn to create drawings and use color in their designs.

Here are some topics commonly covered in basic design courses:

  • Color
  • Texture and form
  • Graphic design software
  • Typography
  • Composition

Graduates of these programs may find entry-level jobs in desktop publishing; however, they may need to complete a 4-year bachelor's degree for greater employment opportunities in design. For example, aspiring graphic designers usually need a bachelor's degree related to graphic design, while aspiring multimedia designers usually need a bachelor's degree in a field such as animation or fine arts.

List of Common Courses

Drawing Course

This is a beginning course covering the basic elements of observational drawing and emphasizes the techniques of shape, line, perspective, composition and sense of space in creating 2-D drawings. Students will typically be introduced to a variety of mediums, and assignments may include both freehand as well as mechanical methods.

History of Art and Design Course

This course examines historical change in the visual arts field, including the evolution of key artists and art forms, materials, methods and design principles. The impact of cultural and societal changes on the artist is explored as students evaluate historical changes in architecture, sculpture, paintings, graphic works and other artifacts.

Design Fundamentals Course

The basic design elements of 2-D art are presented; this includes line, color, shape, form, texture and space. Students learn the organizational principles involved in the design of all visual compositions, including variety, emphasis, unity, balance and contrast. The impact of change within each principle is discussed, in terms of how different decisions by the designer can add interest to a focal point within their design and highlight a hierarchy among specific elements.

Color in Design Course

This course is focused on the theory of color and its importance as a key element of design. Use of the color wheel, including concepts such as analogous and complementary colors, is reviewed as it relates to its potential impact on visual compositions. Students may also explore the psychological and social connections that color has in our society.

Introduction to Graphic Design Course

The field of graphic design is introduced as well as the terminology used in the industry. Courses vary in both technical content as well as the use of common graphic design software. Typically, courses will introduce and evaluate letterform as an example of how design change impacts visual perception.

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