How To Become a Graphic Designer in Iowa?

Graphic design is visual communication through images, compositions and words to create visual messages. Graphic design has one purpose: to transmit information through pictorial means.

As the world advances, becoming one of digitization and high consumerism, graphic design has become more prominent and influential in advertising. It influences the way we relate to products and has the power to motivate and inspire people to buy things. This is why graphic designers are indispensable to marketing and branding. You can see the work of a graphic designer in sports logos, movie titles, websites, product packaging, book layouts, street signs and many more.

What is a Graphic Designer?

A graphic designer is a person that transforms thoughts and ideas into a visual concept in the form of logos, books, magazines and other media. Graphic designers find ways to articulate information through pictorial means. Graphic designers use artistic principles and scientific tools to do this.

As a graphic designer, you can work in many sectors in different capacities. You can work as a digital illustrator in print media, publishing agencies and marketing companies. You can also create art that can be sold, such as in NFTs.

Admission Requirements for Graphic Design Programs in Iowa

There’s no set requirement to be a graphic designer in Iowa. For the most part, you need software skills and talent. However, to acquire these skills and technical know-how, you may decide to get into a college’s arts and graphic design program. This will expose you to several valuable courses for graphic design and incorporate other useful courses such as research and process, communication, branding and data visualization, all of which give you a more in-depth knowledge of art and design. By getting a graphic design degree, you may also have more opportunities and work options. The National Association of Schools of Arts and Design (NASAD) serves as the body that accredits graphic design programs in the US.

In Iowa, there are a few school options where you can take a graphic design course, and the requirements vary depending on the school. However, a portfolio is necessary to apply to any of these schools. Your portfolio is a collection of the best graphic design jobs you have done. Even if you do not have designs you made yourself from scratch, you could redo popular designs by adding your touch. That may be enough to catch the eye of any admissions committee.

Usually, in graphic designing, you will need to understand certain software and tools, including SketchUp, Adobe Photoshop, Canva, Adobe Illustrator, etc. As you get more professional, you’ll need more tools, and you can decide which is your go-to software depending on your preference, style and type of design. You could learn to use these tools online and practice to get better. 

Even though many jobs prefer the traditional degrees, you can also do online courses in your free time for self-development. Some platforms where you can get these courses on  Skillshare, Coursera, and FutureLearn.

Some of the Best Graphic Design Schools and Programs in Iowa

Iowa State University – Ames, IA

This state university offers a four-year program in graphic design that teaches design through the organization of visual and verbal information. In this school, you learn through a concept-based model. In your junior year, you will do a graphic design practice with real-life clients such as Special Olympics, Habitat for Humanity and Campfire Girls. By your senior year, you will do a summer internship or study abroad.

Areas in graphic design where you will be taught include web and e-commerce, packaging, typography, publication, 3D animation and multimedia. You are awarded a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree after completing the four-year program and at least 124 credits. To apply for the program, you should have a cumulative GPA of 2.0.

Simpson College – Indianola, IA

At Simpson College, you will learn how to combine the practical use of signs, text and images to communicate a message or experience. While at this school, you will develop critical design thinking and creative problem-solving to incorporate the latest software programs to create designs.

You will be taught how to approach graphic design from concept to development when you start the program. You will also study the principles and techniques for drawing. Simpson College also partners with several organizations, such as Des Moines Menace Soccer Team, DLH Grafx and Gateway Dance Theatre, where you will be able to get internships. You will have to submit letters of recommendation, a personal essay, and your portfolio to apply.

Grand View University  – Des Moines, IA

In Grand View University’s graphic design program, you will learn the basics of a good design, including lettering and image editing styles. You will also learn to use cutting-edge computer programs for graphic designers. The emphasis of this program will be on the importance of sound design and proficient computer skills.

You can also intern for local agencies. In addition to graphic design, you will learn additional skills such as writing that will help you be better at graphic designing.

To apply to Grand View University, you should have at least a 3.2 GPA on a 4.0 scale and an SAT score between 910 and 1100. When you get accepted to the school, you complete your foundational art courses and then apply to get the graphic design as your major.

University of Northern Iowa – Cedar Falls, IA

The University of Northern Iowa offers a BA in graphic design. This program is ranked 42nd in the country under graphic design programs. You will have the skills and materials necessary to compete for design positions after graduation from this school. You will also learn conceptual and technical problem-solving skills to enable successful and meaningful visual communication.

The program also focuses on the latest trends and technology in graphic design. The coursework will include identity systems design, user experience design, motion graphics and web and interactive design. The labs on campus are fully equipped to teach you all you should know as an undergraduate. To get accepted into the program, you will need an application fee of $50, proof of English proficiency, a portfolio, educational transcripts from all your attended institutions, submission of your SAT or ACT score, a letter of recommendation and a personal statement.

St. Ambrose University – Davenport, IA

You can enroll in a graphic design program at St. Ambrose University. The degree program allows you to learn from professional designers. It also encourages exploration and growth as an artist, whether you plan to pursue a graduate program or start working immediately.

In this program, you will learn color and form choices and how to analyze the needs of clients and respond. The courses you will be taught include typography, web design and branding. You will also acquire a strong foundation in the arts that will help you in your design practice. To apply for the program, go here.

Outlooks and Salary for Iowa Graphic Designers

Iowa is part of the North Central division in the United States that pays its graphic designers the least. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, graphic designers in Iowa earn an average of $43,040. This is below the federal average by nearly $10,000. However, the standard of living in the state is 16.3% lower than the national average.

Years of experience can affect how much you will earn. If you have up to 10 years of experience, you could earn up to $22,000 more. Also, in the city of Des Moines in Iowa, your pay can get as high as $58,666 per year, which is above the national average of $54,680.

Areas where you work also affect how much you could earn. If you work as a freelancer and have big clients, your payment could be way above the federal average. So always take the estimates with a grain of salt.

Working as a Graphic Designer in Iowa

The world is structured to make it easier to get jobs as a freelancer, so you can sign up and work on freelance platforms such as Upwork, PeoplePerHour and Fiverr. This allows you to get remote jobs anywhere in the world.

With Web2, the demand for graphic designers increased. However, with Web3, graphic designers will be indispensable to the internet. Web designers and UI/UX designers are more and more in demand. You can choose to get an extra certification to help you penetrate newer markets. You could also work in an animation studio, advertising and marketing. Currently, here are some of the job listings in Iowa.

  • Graphic designer, Pearson, Des Moines, $50,000 per year
  • Marketing graphic designer, EquiTrust Life Insurance Company, West Des Moines, $53,200 per year
  • Graphic designer, McGrath Family of Dealerships, Cedar Rapids, $34,100 to $43,1000 per year
  • Graphic Designer, Mitterra, Remote, $49,1000 to $62,000
  • Marketing Graphic Designer, State of Iowa Talent Gateway, Des Moines, $22.39 to $33.47 per hour
  • Graphic Designer, The UPS Store, Sioux City, $12.5 per hour
  • Graphic Designer, Ho-Chunk, Sioux City, $30,400 to $38,600 per year
  • Graphic Designer, Competitive Edge, Des Moines, $57,000 to $72,000 per year
  • Graphic Designer, Renewable Energy Group, Ames, $49,300 to $62,500 per year
  • Graphic Designer, Iowa Information Publishers and Printers, Sheldon, $14 -$17 an hour.