How to Become a Graphic Designer in Colorado?

Colorado is one of the most scenic states in the country. Students who love nature, athletics and outdoor inspiration can immerse themselves in academic opportunities in classrooms with surprisingly small student-teacher ratios. And when it comes to learning graphic design, Colorado has excellent options for students to pursue.

What You Need to Become a Graphic Designer in Colorado

Colorado is currently experiencing a population boom. An increasing number of people nationwide are choosing to live there due to its career and lifestyle opportunities. The boom in population is also creating a wealth of new markets, and graphic design is in high demand.

Usually, those seeking a career in graphic design start out with a degree. While not compulsory, a bachelor’s or master’s degree show prospective employers that you’re serious about your career, have passion and drive, and the know-how to best utilize the latest design software and theories.

Career Outlook for Graphic Design

The median salary for graphic designers in Colorado is $70K, with a base or starting rate of $48K. Graphic designers can earn additional income as well, including commissions, tips and cash bonuses.

Students pursuing a graphic design degree at any of the colleges or universities listed below will are poised for success in careers such as video editing, game design, marketing, motion graphics, freelancing, art directing, and more.

The Best Graphic Design Schools in Colorado

If you’re looking for schools located in thriving, artistic communities with multiple campuses, strong foundations in the arts and career-focused programs, look no further – graphic design programs in Colorado promise a foundation in design while setting students up for success outside of the classroom. These programs, in particular, are notable for being accessible with both on-campus and online options.

While Colorado may not be the go-to location when it comes to the latest innovations in design, the communities serve students well in terms of inspiration and career preparation. There’s inspiration and innovation everywhere you look, and students also have active social lives.

University of Colorado Denver

The University of Colorado has been thriving since 1912 when the University of Colorado Boulder decided to extend into Denver and offer courses in the area. Over the next fifty years, the Denver campus expanded to include 34 programs at undergrad and graduate levels. 

These days, the university has an 18:1 student to teacher ratio and over 110 majors. Among those majors is the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Arts, with emphasis on Digital Design – a four-year degree program. Alternatively, students who aren’t quite sure they want to pursue a graphic design career can minor in Digital Design in less than a year.

This program is only available on campus, so prospective students will need to be ready for the urban area that the university is located in – and very attached to. It’s marketed as a screen-based program offering hands-on education in graphic design, interactive media, motion graphics, branding and user experience design. Students will focus mainly on innovation and the ways digital technology can impact culture.

A portfolio review is necessary for those who decide to major in the Digital Design focus. If you’ve decided to transfer to the University of Colorado at Denver as an undergrad student, you have the option of pursuing an accelerated program. This program combines Junior and Senior years into a single year. It requires close collaboration with Digital Design professors, includes portfolio creation, and involves innovative strategies for success.

Colorado Mesa University

Founded in 1925, Colorado Mesa University offers a variety of master’s, bachelor’s, associate and certificate degrees and levels. The current enrollment is close to 11,000 students a year, so it’s by no means a small campus. Students just graduating high school will find a message in Mesa University that resonates; replace a lifetime of wondering with a lifetime of progress.

Located in Grand Junction, Colorado, the school draws students who take inspiration from the stunning nature around them. Mesa University strives to bridge the gap between liberal education programs and professional programs, setting students up for moving quickly into the workforce and effective change on a global and intercultural level.

The Graphic Design Program is available as a BFA or a minor to tag onto your major of choice. Students interested in the BFA can expect an intensive focus on design supported by visual arts, with a foundation in general studies. The program highlights web design, typography, and conceptual and critical thinking. As the university believes in creating lifelong students in life, they set their courses up to encourage approaching design with a questioning attitude and willingness to learn.

The university houses a Graphic Design Mac lab outfitted with Mac computers and the latest graphic design software. While not required, they strongly suggest that those majoring in graphic design invest in a Mac computer to maintain a productive lifestyle throughout their education.

All courses in the Graphic Design Program require prerequisites, and prospective students should be ready to meet with advisors to map out their academic course load.

Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design

The Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, or RMCAD, was founded as a private for-profit institution by Philip Steele, a well-known educator and illustrator. Steele believed in creating a community of creatives, and since then, the college has maintained that mission.

The student-faculty ratio is 10:1, with both in-person and online courses offered for convenience. For students considering RMCAD as an option, be aware that they do not currently offer on-campus housing. Instead, the Office of Student Life is available to help prospective students find room and board outside of the campus located in Denver.

Graphic Design is one of ten on-campus courses offered at RMCAD. The college focuses on combining art and business seamlessly so that students get the best of both worlds. The program focuses on design software, typography, UI/UX, presentations, visual storytelling, and interacting with real-world clients, all essential to anyone pursuing a career in this industry.

The degree requires 123 credits ranging from studio electives to foundational courses. With courses available both online and on-campus, it won’t be hard to fulfill your foundation requirements for this program.

Courses specific to the Graphic Design program include Adobe software and digital SLR camera education. RMCAD aims to shape well-rounded individuals ready to tackle the competitive field of graphic design in the real world. Student work in the program ranges from fashion to branding, menu design, app illustration and more.

Colorado State University

Colorado State University encompasses eight colleges to create one of the nation’s top public research institutions and universities. They offer both undergraduate and graduate courses as well as online courses for those looking for flexibility in their academic career.

The Graphic Design Program, available as a major concentration or specialization, lives under the College of Liberal Arts. Colorado State focuses heavily on the importance of visual communication in our communities and emphasizes design theory, history, problem-solving, and cultural understanding.

Colorado State graphic design students also have the opportunity to interact in the Colorado International Invitational Poster Exhibition, an opportunity to present the world’s most distinguished poster artists and designers in an exhibition. Students in the program work closely with the artists to prepare and install an exhibition, gaining real-world experience in real-time.

On-campus, graphic design majors will roam the 4,000 square foot facility made up of studio space and computer labs. Mac workstations are available to all students with current versions of Adobe Creative Suite and other relevant media software. Unlike other graphic design programs, students aren’t required to have their own laptop; the university provides units for checkout. Other opportunities for experimentation in your graphic design academic career include a Digital Fabrication Lab equipped with 3D printing and laser cutters and the Nancy Richardson Design center.

The program is also supported by the university’s Foundations Program, an inclusive curriculum that allows students to engage with peers and be curious about disciplinary boundaries. Internships and service learning are available both on and off-campus, and students leave the program with strong, individual portfolios to launch their careers.

Colorado Mountain College

While not the most recognizable name on the list, Colorado Mountain College is an attractive choice for graphic design students. The college emphasizes the importance of low student debt. Their tuition averages $8K less in student loans than the average 4-year student in the state. But lower cost doesn’t mean less attention; the student-teacher ratio is 13:1; a public college that feels private.

The path to graphic design at CMC is a little different, beginning with an associate degree in Graphic Design and ending in a BAS or Bachelor of Applied Science. While this might initially seem confusing, the program is designed to give students essential skills in graphic design as well as management and leadership.

Courses range from photography to digital media and focus on subjects like color theory; print technology; interdisciplinary roles in marketing; billing, budgeting and legal issues; and cultural, social, political, environmental and historical aspects of design. Students graduate with a portfolio geared toward the career market.

The BAS aspect of your academic career at Colorado Mountain College will give you the skills needed to demonstrate effective communication, apply marketing practices to specific instances, manage contracts and projects, advance your career and more. The BAS program is set up to enhance what you learned and earned with your associate’s degree.

The Graphic Design Program is offered at both the Glenwood Springs and Spring Valley at Glenwood Springs campus and includes both on-campus and online courses. There is no travel necessary to the other campuses so that students can feel secure in their routine with Colorado Mountain College.