Online Digital Design Degree Program Overviews

Get info about online programs in digital design. Read about program requirements, course topics and degree levels, and check out career and continuing education options.

Essential Information

Associate degree programs in and related to digital design are commonly available, though online options may be limited. While some institutions will offer online options in digital design programs, opportunities may be rare outside of private, for-profit institutions. However, there are a variety of titles that may relate to digital design, so there could be some flexibility depending on the title of the program chosen.

Online degree programs may be more commonly available at the bachelor's degree level, though these programs may be designed as completion programs, or they may be intended for working professionals already in the field. Like associate degree programs, these may vary widely in title and in specialization within the field.

With any of these programs, the student may be required to have specialized digital design software, digital photography equipment or other related software and equipment.

Associate Degree in Digital Design

An associate degree is a good place to start an education in digital design and begin building a portfolio. Most associate programs focus on Web graphic design, beginning with the fundamentals of typography, color and symbols. Identity and branding are also crucial concepts, along with HTML and other textual elements. Students practice their skills through creating Web pages and multimedia projects.

Graduates have a solid knowledge of design software and theory. They start a portfolio of their work, which is essential for all professional digital designers. They may continue their education with a bachelor's degree or find employment in a multitude of digital design positions.

Program Information and Requirements

Associate programs are usually completed in about two years. Students attend classes and submit assignments online, interacting with their instructors and classmates via live discussions and e-mail. Online programs may be presented through Blackboard or other distance learning systems that offer 24-7 access and technical support. Some schools have their own online learning environments.

Standard tools include a computer with high-speed Internet access and e-mail, plug-ins, such as Adobe Reader and Flash Player, speakers, printer and a software suite, such as Microsoft Office 2007. In addition, students may need specialized digital design programs, like Adobe CS4, which includes Dreamweaver, Flash and Adobe Photoshop Elements.

List of Digital Design Courses

Digital design theory and concepts instruction is paired with hands-on practice to prepare students for real-world work. Students participate in both solo and team projects.

Introduction to Digital Imaging

Students are taught the basics of creating and presenting digital images on the Web. Specific skills include the use of special effects and color as well as optimization and editing of images.

Animation on the Web

Web animators operate within the constraints of the medium. This class trains students in the use of formatting, timing and file size to produce optimal effects. They also explore the techniques of both automated and user-mediated animation.

Digital Publishing

Students learn teamwork through several media production projects, including an e-book, CD/DVD cover and magazine cover. Each student cycles through the team roles of designer, illustrator, production artist and pre-press artist.

Digital Storytelling

Movies, websites, iTunes and podcasts are studied as a means of individual expression. The techniques learned reinforce design concepts presented in introductory design classes.


Bachelor's Degree in Digital Design

Multimedia has become the new messenger of the business world, whether it is advertising, entertainment, branding or Web content. To prepare students for multimedia careers, bachelor's programs enhance knowledge of digital systems, tools and techniques with the logic and critical thinking learned through general education. Art theory of both 2- and 3-D forms the foundation for studying printed images, typography and animation graphics and for creating intuitive, interactive experiences for computer users.

Students practice their design skills using video, film and the Web. Bachelor's programs also provide plenty of time and guidance to develop the all-important artist portfolio, which evolves and is useful throughout the digital designer's career. With this comprehensive education, graduates are ready for employment in most sectors of the digital industry.

Program Information and Requirements

An online bachelor's program in digital design can be completed in about four years. Some schools offer an accelerated, 3-year degree. Class format is the same as for an associate degree, including e-mail and live chats with faculty and students. Lessons may be accessed at the student's convenience.

A computer with access to high-speed Internet, e-mail and plug-ins is required. Digital design courses may also call for a digital camera, webcam and scanner, plus a high level of graphic memory. Studio equipment, such as lighting materials and a camera tripod, are other possibilities. Some schools offer students a complete package of hardware and digital design software tools at a discount.

List of Digital Design Courses

Baccalaureate classes emphasize learning by doing, giving students the opportunity to design and complete a wide range of projects. Projects can be used as part of a portfolio as well as helping students develop a personal artistic identity.

Branding and Identity

Students explore what makes a brand effective through looking at some of the most famous brands and their impact on culture. To understand the branding process, students invent their own corporate brand and campaign.

Art in 3-D

Using cutting edge tools, students learn the principles of 3-D graphics on the computer. Techniques include texturing and modeling. Projects may be added to the student's portfolio.

Graphics in Motion

Students learn how to create videos with digital effects using industry-standard software and methods. Morphing, blue screen, motion and storyboarding are among the techniques presented.

Audio Digital Design

This class presents the basics of audio production in various media, such as the Internet and DVD. Students practice the design and assembly of audio, then test for compatibility with their chosen format.


Career Information for Graduates

Digital designers are considered multimedia artists and animators by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and are found in the artist category. There is usually keen competition because so many people want the creative freedom and autonomy provided by the artistic professions. As of 2014, more than half of working multimedia artists and animators were self-employed (www.bls.gov)

At a projected growth rate of 6% from 2014-2024, employment of multimedia artists and animators will grow as fast as average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. With an associate degree, there are opportunities for positions in almost any industry (www.bls.gov). The choice of specialties includes Web designer, branding consultant and animation artist. Many jobs, however, require a bachelor's degree due to the skill level needed.

Those holding a baccalaureate degree are projected to have the most diverse opportunities. They will be in demand as movies, TV and videos continue to become increasingly sophisticated. Demand should also grow in the areas of science research and mobile technology, although some lower-level jobs are being outsourced to other countries. As of May 2015, there were 30,240 multimedia artists and animators employed in the U.S. Individuals with video and motion picture jobs earned average an annual wage of $73,270, while those in advertising made $65,480 (www.bls.gov).

Continuing Education Information

Continuing education is vital in a profession with such rapidly changing technology. Both certificate programs and individual courses in topics, such as advanced digital imaging and animation, are readily available to help digital design artists stay ahead of the game.

There are a limited number of associate degree programs, and a much larger number of bachelor's degree programs, all available online, in the field of digital design. These programs integrate technology and artistic creativity to prepare students for careers in advertising, entertainment or web-branded content.


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