Pathways to a Graphic Design Career in Indiana

When you become a graphic designer in Indiana, you’re a strategic problem solver who can work for various industries, from marketing and journalism to fashion and architecture. Your job requires the ability to craft clear visual communication between your client and their specific audience. These days, the field leverages advanced technology a lot, especially computer-aided design. This is why success as a graphic designer demands mastery of technical skills and proficiency in specific software applications.

Typical Graphic Designer Roles

Your primary role as a graphic artist is to develop effective communication design. Once you’ve been assigned a project, you’ll usually begin with a creative process that entails researching a brand and its audience to understand the goals and context of the project. You may utilize appropriate techniques like metaphors or schematics to translate the concepts you’ve developed into visuals. Your final product will be delivered on the client’s preferred medium, such as print, web, or advertisement.

Here are some exciting fields to work as a graphic designer:

  • Journalism: This job entails working closely with news article writers and editors to help spruce up stories with attractive graphics. Your excellent designs can feature in online or print publications. 
  • Fashion: Applied creatively, artistic elements in fashion can make a world of difference in a buyer’s eye. The fashion industry utilizes these enhancements every day to add visual appeal to otherwise dull garments.
  • Web design: Graphic designers develop stunning visual elements like images, fonts, and logos to enhance the aesthetics of a website. This role doesn’t require technical skills like HTML or CSS.
  • Marketing/advertising: Your ability to create eye-catching visuals with elements like typography, color, and drawings will be handy in this graphic design role. Supplement that with consumer trends, public relations, and marketing familiarity, and you’re ready to create highly effective ads for any campaign.

Other common graphic design applications include:

  • Book cover design
  • Social media posts
  • Art exhibitions
  • Product packaging
  • Posters
  • Banners
  • Billboards
  • Motion graphics (for graphic designers familiar with computer animation)

Graphic Design Degree Programs in Indiana

A bachelor’s degree is the minimum you should aim for to boost your employability as a graphic designer. To be on the safe side in Indiana, choose any graphic design course that is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Here are three reputable institutions of higher learning that offer these degree programs in the state:

Purdue University, West Lafayette

The College of Liberal Arts at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, offers two main graphic design degree programs. These are:

  • Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Visual Communications Design (VCD) and
  • Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Visual Communications Design

These programs prepare students for well-paying roles in fields like advertising, web design, user experience design, and data visualization.

BFA in Visual Communication Design

This four-year undergraduate program begins with the basics, including fundamental theories, art history, and visual computing. Sophomore-year courses are structured to help you develop your graphic design skills with a focus on key areas like analytical methods, color theory, form and typography. Take your first and second-year art and design work seriously, as it will be subject to selective review before letting you proceed to the upper-level phase (junior and senior years).

Coursework over the final two years includes web design, professional practice, and internships. To get your NASAD-accredited BFA degree at Purdue University, you’ll need a graduation GPA of 2.0 and 126 credits of coursework. Expect to pay about $20,022 each two semesters, including $9,992 in tuition fees, if you live in Indiana.

MFA in Visual Communication Design

An MFA in graphic design should put you at the top of the game and simplify access to employment in the industry. You can attain this qualification with the three-year post-graduate VCD program at Purdue University, which incorporates plenty of research and production-focused coursework. If you’d like to “earn as you learn” and gain practical graphic design experience while you’re at it, you may apply to the Teaching Assistantships opportunities open to qualified MFA students at the university.

Admission requirements for the MFA program include:

  • A cumulative GPA of 3.0 in a recently attained undergraduate degree
  • A graphic design portfolio, including 20 of your most recent projects
  • At least three credit hours in Western art or design history

Ball State University, Muncie

The Ball State University (BSU) School of Art is accredited by NASAD to teach graphic design through its visual communication BFA program. You must first be accepted into the institution before signing up for this undergraduate art course. Admission requirements include:

  • Indiana Core 40 Diploma (the average GPA for accepted students is 3.5)
  • Extracurricular activities like sports or playing an instrument
  • SAT or ACT test scores

The first year of art studies at the school covers core subjects like art history, drawing, graphic design, and multi-dimensional techniques, including 4D art. You must complete these units with a grade C or better to be considered for the BFA degree in visual communication. You also have to submit a portfolio of original artwork that you created as a freshman at BSU.

After you’ve passed your portfolio review, you’ll spend the next three years building problem-solving skills and learning how to apply those in the mainstream and digital media creatively. Take full advantage of the program’s door-opening Studio 165+, a university-owned design firm that offers BFA students early exposure to real-world design problems. During the immersive art studio sessions, you’ll gain professional experience and get a chance to establish important local connections through community engagements. These can substantially boost your career prospects soon after graduating. 

Tuition fees per semester for all undergraduate programs at BSU are as follows:

  • $326 per credit for fewer than 12 credits:
  • $4,217 (fixed) for 12-18 credits
  • $4,217 (fixed) for 19 credits and $326 for each additional credit

Indiana residents living on campus sometimes pay as much as $10,000 or more each academic year for meals and accommodation at BSU.

Indiana State University, Terre Haute

At Indiana State University, you can major in graphic design via a BFA or BA program, both of which are NASAD-accredited. Before joining any of these undergraduate art courses from high school, you must first be admitted into the university after satisfying general requirements, including:

  • Indiana Core 40 Diploma with a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5
  • SAT or ACT scores
  • Official high school transcripts

The BFA Program

The BFA in graphic design degree program at Indiana University requires that you complete 18 credits of fundamental coursework, including drawing, visual arts, and 3D design. Upon completing a portfolio review in your fourth semester, you may progress to the next phase of your BFA education in visual communications design. The entire curriculum constitutes 81 credits, 54 of which must come from graphic design-related courses, including:

  • Graphic design principles
  • Web design
  • Marketing graphics
  • Digital art
  • Photography

To graduate with a BFA in graphic design at the university, you should attain a minimum GPA of 2.20 in all major courses and 2.0 overall. Making the most of the available state-of-the-art facilities, including graphic design and art studios, can help you meet or surpass these academic success benchmarks. 

General undergraduate tuition rates for Indiana residents at the university are as follows:

  • $337 per credit hour for fewer than 12 credits
  • $4,659 for 12-18 credits per semester
  • $5,416 for 19 or more credits per semester

Other applicable costs include,

  • Housing ($7,346 per year)
  • Meals ($3,836.00)

Graphic Design Jobs, Salaries and Career Outlook

According to recent aggregate salary data by, graphic design jobs in Indiana pay an average base wage of $18.30 per hour, more than twice the state’s minimum wage requirement. For greener pastures, however, head on over to the suburban city of Carmel, north of Indianapolis. Graphic designers there make nearly $21 per hour on average. In the state capital, Indianapolis, you may earn roughly $19.50 per hour. There’s no doubt Columbus is one of the nicest places to live or start a family in Indiana. But the county seat of Bartholomew has one of the lowest pay rates for graphic designers in the state (pays $12.86 per hour).

Here are some reputable Indiana-based employers to keep an eye on as you figure out your graphic design career path:

  • Control4: Based in Indianapolis, this company develops smart home technology. Its graphic designers make more than $40 per hour on average.
  • AT&T: The world’s largest telecommunications provider has significant investments in Indiana and pays its graphic designers about $34 per hour.
  • Digital People: Graphic design roles at this staffing agency for marketers and content creators attract an hourly wage of $28. 

Projections show that the number of people working as graphic designers in Indiana will hit 5,230 in 2028. The state’s annual growth rate of 4% over the next few years signals better tidings for these creative experts. If these industry projections come to pass, the state should create 2,650 new graphic design jobs in the next five years at a rate of 530 a year. The forecasted growth rate for the profession is 3% nationwide, which is slower than the national average.