Hybrid programs in visual communications that allow some coursework to be completed online are available at the associate and, more rarely, bachelor's degree levels. Visual communications associate degree programs introduce students to graphic design concepts, often with a heavy focus on the use of computer design technology. Schools may offer a variety of concentration areas like 2-D and 3-D animation, illustration or Web design. Curricula may include career preparation and portfolio development. Certain courses may require students to be on-campus. Students looking for a fully online program can complete media communication programs at the bachelor's level.
While offered partially online, sometimes only one or two classes from the entire visual communications degree curriculum will be available online. In these cases, on-campus class attendance might be required according to a specific schedule, though students could complete online courses at their own pace.
Online coursework necessitates a computer with reliable Internet capabilities. Programs might utilize a discussion board system, like Blackboard or ANGEL. These systems allow students and faculty to interact and discuss assignments and topics related to the program. Distance learning classes often better fit more independently inclined learners.
Visual communication programs often include drawing classes and explore the principles of good graphic design and the use of computers as a tool to create quality designs. Students may create a portfolio of their work or complete a comprehensive design project to demonstrate learned skills. These courses often include a lecture component and a lab component where students explore presented topics and gain hands-on experience.
Students explore the meaning of symbols, colors and shapes and their relationship to a design space. Contrast, shape and space are explored in the context of design, along with their psychological meanings. The class also considers the historical developments of design.
Involves learning programming languages (including XHTML, CSS and HTML) and using programs (like Adobe Dreamweaver and Photoshop) to create websites.
Includes training in the step-by-step process to creating images in graphic design programs. The impact of typography may also be covered.
Covers the pre-publication process for digital imagery. Students learn the different steps involved in printing an image and potential issues, along with exploring color separation and how it affects an image.
The graphic design field is a common employment area for graduates of a visual communications degree program. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a bachelor's degree is required for many entry-level positions (www.bls.gov). However, the BLS mentions graduates of associate degree programs may qualify for positions as graphic design assistants or else in a strictly technical role.
As of October 2016, a salary survey by PayScale.com showed $33,402 as the average pay for with 1-4 years of work experience with an Associate of Applied Science in Graphic Design.
A 2-year degree in visual communications may qualify graduates for direct transfer to a 4-year program in the field. Many schools offer bachelor's degrees in visual communications or graphic arts, although they are rarely offered online. Securing a bachelor's degree may open further career opportunities.
Students can take hybrid programs in visual communication in which they complete some courses online and others on-campus. In these programs, students are exposed to the principals of graphic design and using a computer as a tool in creating these designs.