What Does it Mean to Study Graphic Design and Multimedia?
Many professions are becoming increasingly computer-oriented, and the field of graphic design and multimedia is no exception. As the world advances technologically, the traditional working materials of the graphic designer such as rulers, pencils and lettering stencils are being replaced by highly efficient computer programs. This new technology has not rendered the graphic designer obsolete, however. Instead, it serves as a new tool for the designer to employ in his or her craft. Becoming a graphic design and multimedia major means learning to be creative with the use of this technology, and learning to adapt to all the other changes that can manifest within the field.
Types of Graphic Design and Multimedia Degrees
Graphic design and multimedia as a discipline exists at the crossroads of art and technology. So, if you want to improve your skills in this field, you should look for a graphic design degree program that includes both basic art education along with instruction on how to use software.
While you can find such programs in traditional schools, many institutions also offer online degree programs in graphics and multimedia. The prerequisites and admissions guidelines are similar to on-campus educational models. However, coursework is conducted online in order to make completion more convenient and attainable for students who may need to work full-time or take care of their family.
As you explore the prospect of becoming a graphic design and multimedia major, consider the following levels of available degree programs:
Associate Degrees in Graphic Design and Multimedia
Although students who earn a two-year graphic design degree usually learn enough of the basics of computer art to qualify them for entry-level positions, this degree type is often a stepping stone to a four-year program. Despite that, an associate-level program in this field can still help students to understand how art and technology can be used to create graphics and design elements that are used in our everyday lives.
Since associate degree programs are meant to be a ground level introduction to basics for graphic design and multimedia majors, courses you may encounter in your program include:
- Photo editing
- Corporate design
- Digital publishing
- Technical writing
- Computer applications
Bachelor's Degrees in Graphic Design and Multimedia
Graphic design and multimedia degree programs offered at a bachelor's level typically take four years to complete. Generally speaking, coursework requires an in-depth study of humanities with an emphasis in art and design. In addition to core courses in English, math and science, students are expected to study art history and learn from trained graphic artists and experts who design websites, video games, and graphics programs. Coursework often involves extensive time in the studio or computer lab, executing projects and learning from feedback and critique given. Courses you may see during this program can include:
- Introduction to print media
- Graphics and layout in print media
- Web design
- Digital graphic design
Master's Degrees in Graphic Design and Multimedia
Master's degree programs in graphic design and multimedia take the basics that students should have learned in an undergraduate degree program and dig deep underneath them to illuminate the underlying ideas and principles that make this field possible. During a master's degree program, you may study concepts such as the relationship between art and the human mind, or how viewers interact with media, or how graphic design has changed over time. This can help students better understand how to create graphics and multimedia designs that can inspire feelings of entertainment, motivation, terror, awe… the list goes on.
Because of the industry has moved away from traditional design work and toward the use of technology and software, master's programs are increasingly offered in a web-based, online format. Courses you can expect to take during a master's program, be it brick-and-mortar or online, might include:
- Publication design
- Interactive design
- History of graphic design
- Multimedia function and theory
- Video game design
What Can You Do with a Degree in Graphics and Multimedia?
While majoring in graphic design and multimedia can lead to a promising career in a number of wildly different industries, there are several particular careers that students in this discipline frequently pursue. If you're thinking of earning a graphic design and multimedia degree but aren't sure where you would like it to take you, consider the following job options:
Writers and Content Providers
A writer, sometimes called a "content provider" for the content they create for their employers, produces text meant to be inserted into a design. The text must accurately convey the feeling or message of the site or advertisement it is being featured on, but must also be effective as a design element. This may involve word count limits, font usage, forced line breaks and other requirements. Experience in relevant design software is typically a plus in these occupations as well.
- Writers and editors typically need a bachelor's degree to find salaried employment. However, it may be possible to find freelance work even without a college degree.
- Writers and editors in very specific fields may opt to become certified. For example, the American Grant Writers' Association (AGWA) offers the Certified Grant Writer credential.
Multimedia Artists and Animators
Multimedia artists work with storyboards to compose motion pictures, advertisements and animated features. A "storyboard" is a series of images that outline the sequence of a video or animation, showing how the finished product is planned to flow before work even begins. This field is a direct extension of the fine arts and requires facility with drawing and composition, as storyboards are often drawn by hand. Storyboards can serve as a guide to colleagues that are working on other aspects of the same project, such as special effects artists and actors.
- Most multimedia artists earn a graphic design and multimedia degree or a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as art.
- Certification is not common for these professionals.
Graphic designers work with their clients and colleagues to create graphical and design-based elements in order to meet a goal, such as selling products or convincing viewers of a message. They use computer software and their own artistic skill to conceptualize and create new elements for their clients and their audiences. These professionals have versatile application -- they may work for advertisers, or with video games, print media or online media companies. Many are also self-employed, working as freelancers or consultants.
- Graphic designers usually earn a bachelor's degree in graphic design or a related field.
- Certification is not common for graphic designers.
Art directors act as a project manager during various parts of the creative process, but their overarching goal is improving the overall look of the final product. Larger projects, such as films and animation, require the efforts of many professionals with varying skills. The art director's job is to unify all the different pieces made by all these different professionals into a cohesive product. As a result, the skills of the art director include the ability to multitask and retain a total vision of a project. Complex image manipulation is usually involved, and the mastery of software programs such as CAD is a must.
- Art directors typically need a bachelor's degree, although master's degrees are also common.
- Certification is not common for these professionals.
Computer programmers are fluent in one or more computer codes, the languages that structure computer programs and enable them to function. Programmers need to be creative, innovative and proficient, often with both PCs and MACs. Visual Basic, Java and C++ are some of the common languages used in this profession. While computer programmers need to in-depth computer education that is often not covered in graphic design programs, the creative approaches and emphasis on the viewer that can be learned through graphic design can be useful assets in the programming world.
- Most computer programmers get their start with a bachelor's degree, although master's degrees are also common. Some employers may also hire computer programmers with an associate degree.
- Many computer programmers become certified in specific programming languages.
Sound Engineering Technicians
It takes great skill and sensitivity to compose and manipulate sounds, and the audio layer can make or break a multimedia project. Sound engineering technicians, more colloquially called "sound mixers," use high-tech equipment to record, alter or even create music, voices and other sounds. They may record live performances or events, mix and layer existing recordings, or compose their own soundtracks and sound effects using sound design software.
- Sound engineering technicians need hands-on experience in order to find entry-level work. An associate degree in this field may also be helpful.
- Many sound engineering technicians choose to become certified by the Society of Broadcast Engineers.
Film and Video Editors
Through the use of video-editing software, film and video editors take apart recorded video footage and splice it back together into a finished product. TV shows, films, music videos, documentaries, even features such as news or sports games -- video editors can manipulate the footage of any of these, adding cuts, transitions and/or special effects to turn ordinary footage into a director's vision. Many film and video editors also take on a creative role during the filming process, suggesting camera angles or shots that help the film achieve its artistic goals.
- Often film and video editors come from a post-production background, either with experience in analog or digital film-making. They typically earn a bachelor's degree before beginning work.
- While certification isn't typical in this career, many film editors choose to become certified in specific types of film editing software.
Associations and Organizations
As you continue on the path toward becoming a graphic design and multimedia major, it can help to familiarize yourself with the associations and organizations that promote the interests in your field. Here are a few important organizations you should be aware of:
- The Society of Broadcast Engineers -- Through the Society of Broadcast Engineers, professionals can earn eight broadcast engineering certifications, two operator certifications, and one broadcast networking certification. They also offer networking opportunities and continuing education courses for professionals in this field.
- The Professional Association for Design -- This important organization focuses its efforts on art advocacy and professional engagement. They also work to connect professionals with job leads and networking opportunities.
- Graphic Artists Guild -- The Graphic Artists Guild offers membership opportunities as well as links to resources that can help graphic designers hone their skills. They also host webinars that can help you stay aware of changes within the industry.
- Industrial Design Society of America -- The Industrial Design Society of America connects industrial designers with educational opportunities and resources in their area. A job board is also available, as are regular conferences.
- International Council of Design -- This organization offers news, resources and tools for professionals in the graphic design and multimedia space. Regional meetings are available for members as well.
- Art Directors, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-26 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/art-directors.htm
- Broadcast and Sound Engineering Technicians, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-26 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/broadcast-and-sound-engineering-technicians.htm
- Computer Programmers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-26 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-programmers.htm
- Film and Video Editors and Camera Operators, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-26 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/film-and-video-editors-and-camera-operators.htm#tab-1
- Graphic Design Associate Degree, Penn Foster, https://www.pennfoster.edu/programs-and-degrees/web-and-graphic-design/graphic-design-associate-degree
- Graphic Designers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-26 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/graphic-designers.htm
- Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design, Liberty University, http://www.liberty.edu/online/masters/fine-arts-graphic-design/
- Multimedia Artists and Animators, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-26 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/multimedia-artists-and-animators.htm
- Online BA in Graphic Design, Southern New Hampshire University, https://degrees.snhu.edu/programs/ba-in-graphic-design?
- Writers and Authors, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-26 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/writers-and-authors.htm