Graphic designers are an integral part of virtually every industry across the globe. A designer has put their hand on most of the visual elements you see throughout the course of your day, from products to advertisements and websites.
Someone interested in a career in graphic design has the opportunity to pursue many different career paths, such as illustrator, creative director, production artist, art director, a brand designer and many more. Designers will also find jobs available in many different industries, which is one of the most attractive aspects of this career. New graduates will have more luck finding work in larger metropolitan areas, but there are job opportunities for those who would prefer a more rural working environment.
Designers face a competitive market, but for those that thrive on competition, a career as a graphic designer can be especially rewarding. Due to the industry being competitive, prospective designers will need a solid design education to stand out from the crowd.
Before you pursue a career, you will need to research what type of program you are interested in and what kind of degree you want to obtain.
What is Required?
There are no requirements for graphic designers to obtain a formal post-secondary education or any particular certifications. Still, with such a competitive market, all prospective graphic designers would benefit heavily from a proper education.
Many designers will also find that employers prefer hiring someone with a degree. It guarantees that the new employee will be starting with a certain amount of knowledge and experience.
What to Look For
- Personalized Support
When you know you’re facing a competitive market once you leave school, you want to get as much out of your program as possible. Part of this is working with instructors who are passionate about the success of their students.
- Internship Opportunities
One of the most important aspects to consider when choosing a program is whether or not they offer students the opportunity to complete an internship during their studies. Internships offer invaluable industry experience.
- Content Variety
Finding a program that offers instruction in traditional mediums and modern technology is essential when working in a constantly evolving industry. Having the flexibility to adapt to a client’s interests will also be valuable to employers.
- Proper Facilities
Taking a tour of the campus and department is vital to ensure that your classes are being conducted in the proper facilities. Lecture auditoriums just don’t cut it for students pursuing practical studies.
Top Schools in the State
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville is the largest in the state. Fayetteville is located in the seat of Washington County and is the second-largest city in Arkansas.
The university offers students both a BFA and an MFA in graphic design. Both programs expose students to traditional media as well as modern technologies. Students complete a rigorous program that teaches them to experiment with conceptual design and become critical thinkers and problem-solvers in the competitive design industry.
During the BFA program, students are exposed to courses such as studio foundation, typographic systems, human-centered design, design for complexity, design tools and concepts, history of graphic design and many more.
Students must declare their major and complete a foundation of courses before being accepted into the BFA program. To be considered, students must submit a portfolio for review and must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0. Students have the opportunity to complete an internship during their studies giving them invaluable industry experience before graduating.
Arkansas State University, Jonesboro
The university is located in Jonesboro, which is the fifth largest city in Arkansas. The city is located in the Northeastern corner of the state on Crowley’s ridge.
The BFA program is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). The program allows students to focus their studies in graphic design with a focus on print and digital production or with a focus on web design and other digital applications.
Over the course of their four years at ASU, students gain a foundation of general art skills as well as the chance to learn skills in design technology, typography and layout, web design, advertising design and branding, just to name a few.
Students must complete 120 credits over the course of the four-year program. Students who are interested in pursuing their MFA must pass a review in their third year. All students must maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.75 or higher and must pass their review before applying to their fourth-year classes. In their final year, all students must complete an internship which is an excellent way for them to gain industry experience.
University of Arkansas, Fort Smith
The university is located in Fort Smith, which is the third-largest city in the state. The city has a population of just under 90,000 people and is situated on the Arkansas River in the Northwest corner of Arkansas.
The BS in Graphic Design program is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). The program affords students the chance to learn in a professional studio setting in small class sizes that allow for lots of one on one interaction.
During their four years at UAFS, students have the opportunity to learn a variety of design-related skills, including the following subjects, Digital Imaging, Drawing, Typography, Digital Illustration, Print and Publication Design, Packaging Design and Identity Design.
Students must complete 120 credits during their four years at the university. To successfully complete their degree, students must maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.75. Students must also prove their financial literacy by completing FIN 1521 Personal Financial Applications (or approved substitution) with at least a C grade. During their third year, the very valuable opportunity to complete an internship as one of their electives is on offer as part of the program.
Southern Arkansas University, Magnolia
The university is located in the town of Magnolia, which sits in Columbia County in the Southwestern corner of the state. The town is on the smaller side at just over 11,000, so it may appeal to students who prefer a more rural environment.
The Communication Design BFA exposes students to the skills needed to produce graphic design for print and other mediums. They will also learn skills in new digital formats for print, mobile and web design for the advertising and corporate community. The program teaches students to understand the civic and ethical impact of art.
During their four years, students are exposed to many different subjects such as Graphics Software Applications, Layout and Production, Typography, Package Design, Illustration, and Communication Design to name a few.
Students must complete 120 credits during their four years at the university to receive their degree. Upper-level students are encouraged to participate in an internship to gain valuable industry experience before graduation. All students learn skills in the latest technology, which prepares them to work in a constantly evolving industry.
University of Central Arkansas, Conway
The university is located in the state’s most populous city of Conway. The city boasts a population of just over 66,000 people and is the county seat of Faulkner County.
The BFA in Studio Art with an emphasis in Graphic Design emphasizes integrating fine art skills with technical skills and design thinking. Students learn in a professional studio environment equipped with iMacs and all the latest design software.
During their time at the university, students are exposed to many design subjects such as Drawing, Illustration, Graphic Design, Color, Contemporary Media in 3-D and Emergent Art.
During their four-year program, students are exposed to professional designers, illustrators and artists. Additionally, they are encouraged to submit work to competitions and galleries in the community. Students must apply to the BFA. Program in the spring of their sophomore year and pass an interview to advance. They must maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.5 and a 3.25 major GPA to be accepted. Students have the opportunity to complete an internship in their senior year.
Salary Expectations and Career Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) graphic designers in Arkansas can expect to make an average of $40,340 per year or about 19.40 per hour. This is lower than the national average of $53,380, so getting a proper education will be necessary for those looking for higher earnings. With time and education, some designers in the state can make up to $67,860 per year. The areas of Fayetteville, Little Rock and Fort Smith report some of the highest earnings in the state.
In terms of outlook, the projected job growth for graphic design is higher than the national average at eight percent. This field won’t go away soon, as virtually every company in the country has some need for a graphic designer. This percentage translates into about 210 new openings across the state every year from 2018 to 2028. Getting into the graphic design industry during this time is a positive step for recent graduates and those looking to transfer in the near future.