How to Become a Graphic Designer in Michigan?

A career in graphic design is a good option if you enjoy being creative and working with technology. The industry in Michigan isn’t proliferating, but projections indicate there will be more jobs for graphic designers in the state in the coming years.

To become a graphic designer, you need some degree of education and training but no specific certifications or licensing. A great way to get started in this career is to find and enroll in an accredited, highly-regarded graphic design program in Michigan.

What is a Graphic Designer?

A graphic designer creates images, advertisements, logos, and other visual concepts that communicate certain ideas, brands, and values. They use software programs to create their designs. These include digital illustrators and drawing programs, photo editing software, and layout software.

Graphic designers work for design companies, in advertising and marketing departments, and for print and publishing companies. Many are self-employed and offer their services on a freelance, contract basis.

What You Need to Become a Graphic Designer

Graphic design is not regulated and requires no specific credentials. Many employers prefer to hire designers with a four-year degree in fine arts, graphic design, or a related field. Most important is to have training and experience in both art and software programs used in design.

If you are still in high school, take classes in art, design, and computers. After graduation, look for a school or program in graphic design. As you learn how to be a designer, keep a portfolio of your work, which will help you get a job or clients later.

The Best Graphic Design Schools in Michigan

Michigan is home to several schools accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art & Design (NASAD). NASAD sets standards for educating artists and designers, including graphic designers. Accreditation is important because it sets standards but also because it ensures students get the quality education promised by an institution. For the best outcomes, choose an accredited school or program for your graphic design degree.

College for Creative Studies (CCS), Detroit

CCS is a stand-alone, private art and design school in Detroit. Founded in 1906, CCS has played an important role in the culture, art, and education community in the city for more than 100 years. With fewer than 1,500 enrolled students, you’ll enjoy small class sizes and excellent staff-to-student ratios.

CCS offers several degree options for students interested in graphic design. Undergraduate degrees for future graphic designers include:

  • Advertising design
  • Communication design
  • Entertainment Arts, including animation, game design, and digital film
  • Illustration
  • Product design

A degree from CCS in fine arts is a good starting place for graphic design, whether or not you select a concentration like advertising or communication design.

CCS is a small, selective, and world-class art school. Prospective students should be prepared for competitive admissions. While you do not need to take a standardized test, the application process requires high school transcripts and a portfolio of creative work. The average GPA of incoming freshmen is 3.46.

The University of Michigan School of Art and Design, Ann Arbor

Michigan’s Stamps School of Art and Design includes a BA in art and design and also offers students a minor in art and design. Stamps offer a unique, tight-knit art community within a large, public university. U of M has had an art department since 1910. It evolved over the years into the comprehensive School of Art and Design.

Today, the school aims to educate students to be interdisciplinary artists and designers skilled in creating a variety of types of art. The curriculum focuses on multiple disciplines and is based on research, inclusion, diversity, and equity.

Undergraduate students can choose from two different degree programs. The Bachelor of Arts in Art and Design includes more academic courses. The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art and Design focuses more on studio courses and requires fewer academic credits in other areas. Both are suitable for a future in graphic design.

To be considered for either program, you must submit an application, a portfolio with 12 to 15 pieces of your work, a high school transcript, and standardized test scores. High-achieving students admitted to U of M with a household income of less than $65,000 can now qualify for free tuition to any program, including art and design.

Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo

Students admitted to the Frostic School of Art at Western can select the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in graphic design. The Frostic School is named for famous Michigan artist and Western benefactor Gwen Frostic. Known for her block prints, Frostic was one of Western’s most successful graduates and made one of the school’s largest bequests.

Thanks to her bequest, students here enjoy professional facilities and a world-class staff consisting of working artists and designers. The graphic design degree program teaches students to create the full range of design products: promotional materials, educational materials, logs, books, packages, and more.

In addition to classroom and studio learning, students must complete an internship before graduation. This helps them hone their professional skills in a real-world setting. To apply, candidates must complete include a statement of intent, references, and a portfolio of work.

Current tuition for the art school is $991 per semester for 12 to 15 credits. Additional fees apply for more credits. The school also has over $300,000 in scholarships available.

Lawrence Technological University, Southfield

Lawrence Tech is a leading university in the Detroit area that focuses on using technology to solve real-world problems. Founded in 1932, the university received assistance from the Fords, who offered a space near their Model T assembly plant so that the Lawrence brothers could realize their dream of an innovative, tech-driven school.

Today, students at Lawrence Tech can major in graphic design and benefit from a curriculum that focuses on developing professionals in the industry. Students here are guided to develop a unique creative point of view while also developing all the technological and design skills needed to be successful.

Students complete an internship for real-world experience. This experience, along with coursework, prepares graduates to work in publishing, marketing, web design, animation, user experience design, user interface design, brand design, and other areas of design. For admission to the program, students only need to apply to Lawrence Tech. You do not have to submit a portfolio.

Ferris State University, Kendall College of Art and Design, Grand Rapids

The Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD) has been educating future artists and designers for nearly 100 years. Founded in 1928, the school was established by a bequest left by Helen M. Kendall, the widow of a Grand Rapids furniture designer. Since then, the school has sought to fulfill Kendall’s mission to nurture creativity, support innovation, and educate young people.

Among the many programs available at KCAD is a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. The program is hands-on and based in studio work. It includes instruction in design fundamentals as well as technological tools. There is a strong focus on innovation, exploration, and making.

Prospective KCAD students must submit an application and schedule a review of their portfolios. You must also submit transcripts, but standardized tests are not used in the admission process. The current tuition rate for a studio program is $1042 per credit hour.

The Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills

Located in the suburbs of Detroit, Cranbrook is a free-standing and professional art school for graduate degrees only. Consider Cranbrook if you already have a bachelor’s degree. The school accepts students from all backgrounds and does not require an art degree for admission.

The Master of Fine Arts program at Cranbrook is studio-based, self-directed, and focused on making art and developing portfolios. The departments relevant to graphic design include 2D design, 3D design, 4D design, and print media.

To be considered for admission to the program, you must submit an artist statement, a resume, transcripts, letters of recommendation, and your portfolio of work. Tuition, not including fees, is approximately $40,000 per year, but scholarships are also available.

Salary and Outlook for Graphic Designers

Nationwide, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), graphic design is growing by 3%. The BLS projects about 7,300 new positions by 2030. The median salary for a graphic designer in 202 was $53,380 per year and $25,66 per hour.

In Michigan, the median hourly wage for professionals in art and design is $22.89, but the top earners make more than $32 per hour. Total careers for art and design are dropping in the state, but overall, graphic design positions continue to grow slowly.

Consider a career in graphic design if you love to create but also enjoy working on computers. Graphic design is a versatile skill you can use in many industries, for varied employers, or as a freelance designer. Michigan has several schools and programs that can start you off on a successful career path in this industry. Choose one that is accredited and that meets your needs as a student.