How to Become a Graphic Designer in Utah?

What Do Graphic Designers Do?

A career in graphic design can take many forms across a wide variety of industries. Essentially, graphic designers use visual art to communicate a particular message or create branding for a company. Maybe that looks like designing a company logo, a website, printed marketing materials or the cover of a novel. The options are endless.

Graphic designers often find great success in the advertising, marketing and public relations industries. While the projected growth rate of the graphic design career is only 3%, there are hundreds of job openings and ample work to be had. As of 2021, the average annual salary of a graphic designer was about $50,710 but you can expect $30-$40,000 if you’re just starting out.   

What You Need to Become a Graphic Designer?

A degree isn’t always necessary when pursuing a career in graphic design. While available as both undergraduate and graduate degrees, graphic design can also be pursued through certification programs as well. It’s possible to grow a career as a self-taught designer and find success through freelancing. However, you become a more marketable candidate for hire if you hold a degree or certification, as having gone through professional training or an accredited academic program often builds trust with potential employers.

Getting a degree can help you hone in on specialized niches within the field, give you opportunities to have your work constructively reviewed and critiqued, and connect you with the right people to jumpstart your career. Finding the right path is essential since there are a variety of mediums and theories to work with depending on how you choose to grow your skills.

The Best Graphic Design Schools in Utah

When you’re looking for the best places to pursue graphic design, it’s important to take into consideration accreditation, pre-requisite requirements and career building opportunities.

The National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) is an organization that works to establish standards that undergraduate and graduate students need to meet in order to demonstrate mastery in an artistic field. Attending a nationally accredited program can be helpful as they’ve already been vetted by NASAD and can give you a bit of an edge in the job market due to their competitive and robust programs.

That said, accreditation isn’t everything. You have to find the program that meets your needs and another way to determine if you’re making the right choice is by reviewing each program’s faculty and staff. Maybe you want to work with a specific artist or within a particular genre. Research both the tenured and visiting faculty to see what their interests and backgrounds are so that you can find the best fit for you. The most important thing you’ll want to have is a stellar portfolio showcasing your work, so make sure that you choose a program that will give you every opportunity to develop one that will make you stand out to potential clients.

NASAD Accredited Programs:

Brigham Young University

Brigham Young University (BYU) currently enrolls about 34,700 students and is a private research university nestled in Provo, the fourth-largest city in Utah.

BYU is among the top schools in Utah when it comes to graphic design, offering a competitive BFA program that’s only open to 40 students per cohort. In order to be accepted into the program, students must first apply to BYU, declare a pre-Graphic Design major, and take the required pre-requisite courses. Students who pass the portfolio review and are granted pre-BFA status will be required to complete foundational courses and then apply to the BFA professional program through another portfolio review. Once accepted into the BFA program, you’ll complete the required courses as well as an internship in order to graduate. Those course feature subjects from typography to motion, interactive design, branding, illustration, art, history, and more.

If you’re currently in high school and looking to bolster your application to the graphic design program, BYU suggests that you take any and all art classes that are available to you. Doing so will build out your portfolio and your foundational knowledge before applying to the BFA. BYU also encourages students to apply for talent or departmental scholarships and awards. If you receive an award or scholarship, you’re automatically given pre-BFA status and could bypass those initial steps in the BFA application process.

Utah State University

Utah State University (USU) is a public land-grant research university located in Logan and home to the largest residential campus in the state with about 20,000 students living on site.

When it comes to graphic design, USU offers a wide variety of art courses that result in undergraduate degrees like a BS, BA and BFA or graduate degrees through an MFA program. For undergraduate students who want to focus on graphic design specifically, USU recommends the BFA program, which allows students to select a particular emphasis to study. To get into the BFA program, students must first apply to USU. Once accepted to the university, students will be admitted to the art pre-program. From there, students submit an art portfolio for review and, if the review is favorable, they’ll progress through the BFA program, declaring an emphasis and taking advanced coursework. The program focuses on courses in typography, symbols, layout, trademarks, and all forms of design for print and publication.

USU’s Art Department also offers the most study abroad opportunities out of all other departments on campus. Students can study around the globe from places like Korea, Switzerland, Scotland and Germany to build up their international network, which can come in handy when applying for jobs.

Weber State University

Weber State University (WSU) currently enrolls about 29,400 students and is a public university in Ogden that overlooks Great Salt Lake.

The BFA at WSU requires incoming students to declare a general art major and take foundational art courses before scheduling a mandatory advising meeting with the departmental chair. After admittance to the BFA program, students select their chosen emphasis and continue through advanced coursework. The studio classes range from visual fundamentals to typography, art history, and developing skills in the Adobe Creative Suite.

Some of the highlights of the WSU program include networking opportunities with successful alumni in the field as well as the chance to participate in the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) portfolio review in Salt Lake City, which often leads to offers for employment.

Southern Utah University

Southern Utah University (SUU) is a public university located in Cedar City. The school’s enrollment has increased drastically over the last few years and now hosts over 13,000 undergraduate students. Because SUU is on the smaller side of the universities listed, it could be a great option for those looking for a more intimate campus feel.

SUU offers both a BFA and a minor in graphic design. In order to be accepted into the BFA program, students will have to pass a Foundation Review after completing 24 Art and Art History credits. This review will determine whether or not the student will need to repeat courses, be rejected from the program, or move forward to pursue the BFA. Coursework is project-based and focuses on web interactivity, print publications, branding and packaging.

Another option that SUU offers is the ability for students to finish their degree in a condensed three-year schedule by taking advantage of summer semesters. This could be especially beneficial for those looking to jump into the job market as soon as possible while still developing the skills they need to be successful.

Non-Accredited Programs:

The University of Utah

The University of Utah (U of U) is a public research university in Salt Lake City that enrolls over 35,000 students and yet still maintains a student to faculty ratio of 18:1, the lowest of all public schools in the area.

U of U has recently begun transitioning their BFA in Studio Art with an emphasis in graphic design to a new Graphic Design BFA that spans four years. This transition began in 2019 and is expected to be completed by the end of 2022. As it stands now, incoming students meet with an academic advisor to declare their major and can advance through to the second year of the program by maintaining their grades and submitting a portfolio for review. If accepted, students then move through their second year, will need to pass a year-end review, and are given instructions as to how to continue into their third year of the BFA program.

The coursework in this program covers a range of artistic foundations from visual design principles to image-making, typography, conceptual and critical thinking. The benefit of being involved in a newly established program led by veterans in the field is that students will likely be part of a cutting edge curriculum.