Online visual communications programs, also referred to as graphic design programs, are available at the bachelor's degree level. These can be fully online, hybrid learning programs, or involve a limited residency. Online programs require graphics software and a computer with large storage capacity. A bachelor's degree is typically the minimum educational qualification required to work as an art director. Art directors may decide to earn a master's degree to advance their creative or managerial skills.
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Bachelor's Degree in Visual Communications
A bachelor's degree in visual communications combines general education courses with a concentration in visual arts, which includes courses in multimedia, print design, web design, imaging and design theory. These courses develop students' general problem solving capacities through the use of communication skills, critical thinking and simple logic. Synergistically, these courses create the skills needed to prepare students to work as art directors.
Information and Technical Requirements
Programs in visual communications may be offered as limited residency, hybrid learning, or fully online. Students who enroll in online courses should possess basic computer literacy and have access to computer hardware, appropriate software packages and Internet connectivity. Graphic programs take up a large amount of memory, so students should ensure they have the necessary storage capacity.
Software requirements vary by school, but may include graphics programs such as Adobe Photoshop or InDesign, and interactive learning environments, such as Blackboard. Students may also need individual applications such as Adobe Acrobat, Quick Time and Flash.
Common Visual Communication Courses
Visual communication courses assist students in developing a heightened sense of color, perspective and composition, which can then be applied in various media.
Graphic Design for the Web
A graphic design for the Web course instructs students in the design of Web pages in hypertext markup language (HTML). Students also learn to use Web design software such as DreamWeaver and Expression Web. Other topics include cascading style sheets (CSS), user-friendly navigation and creating an aesthetically pleasing interface.
A typography course familiarizes students with terms like 'leading' and 'kerning.' Instructors also teach students about font design, font families and how to specify the type needed for a given text.
Photography and Digital Imaging
Students in a photography and digital imaging course first learn the elements of traditional analog photography and gain instruction in composition, color, focusing, lighting and other factors considered when creating a desirable photograph. The class then moves on to digital photography. Digital images are especially useful in that they can be easily manipulated with software such as Adobe Photoshop.
Art directors may find work in advertising, public relations, publishing, film or Web design. Most of the jobs for art directors in the U.S. are located either in California or New York. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists the median annual salary for an art director as of May 2015 as $89,760 The BLS also projected that job openings for art directors would increase by two percent, slower than the average for all occupations, from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov).
Continuing Education Information
Art directors who wish to get ahead in their field may want to pursue a master's degree in arts administration or arts management. Such programs provide the project management and leadership skills required of higher level art directors.
Those who are interested in studying visual communications online can find bachelor's degree programs offered in a variety of fully online and hybrid formats. This fulfills the minimum education requirements to become an art director, though continuing to study at the graduate level will improve career prospects.