Communicate Through Art: The Graphic Design Major

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You always excelled in art class, but one day you realized that unless you’re Margaret Keane, selling paintings just won’t cut it—you need a career that uses your artistic skill set to fill your wallet. As a graphic design major, you spend four enjoyable years learning how to hone your talents for art and communication by creating exciting projects and building a killer portfolio. Eventually, those Jedi mind tricks (aka crazy design skills) help you bring in a sweet paycheck.


Rather than sitting and listening to lectures each week, graphic design majors work hands-on to learn how to communicate and interact with the world visually. Essentially, they enjoy four years of creative freedom. During their final semester, they go back, revise and even re-do some of their previous work—then bam, they graduate with impressive portfolios. Possible projects include reading a magazine article and creating five or six pages of illustrations that match the message of the article or even creating designs for a faux product.


1. “Buying books is more like a suggestion – you’re not taught out of them or expected to read and be tested on it. So that’s easily hundreds of dollars a semester save.!” – Samantha DeMott, James Madison University Class of 2010, Graphic Designer at Six Half Dozen

2. “I feel truly blessed that I stumbled into graphic design…The great thing about graphic design is that there are so many avenues to go down. You are constantly learning because each project is a new adventure.” – Susanna James, University of Florida Class of 2011, Senior Designer at Pause for Thought

3. “A big benefit of majoring in graphic design is that I learned the key fundamentals of design, ranging from the history of design to basic design terminology, characteristics of typography and different types of layout structure. Learning these design basics helped shape and prepare me for the design field after college.” – Kendra McHugh, University of Arizona Class of 2011, Graphic Designer at Six Half Dozen


1. “You have to show ALL your work to an entire class of people, even when it’s unfinished or not your best, and have people publicly tell you what you did wrong. The idea is that having more opinions helps you understand how other people see your work, which is a good lesson, but brutal nonetheless.” – Samantha DeMott, James Madison University Class of 2010, Graphic Designer at Six Half Dozen

2. “I found that the projects you create in college don’t give you a sense of how design in the working world works. Most of the projects I worked on throughout my design classes were not even remotely close to the kinds of projects you work on in the working world. I found that I learned way more about design and the Adobe suite programs once I got a real graphic design job after college.” – Kendra McHugh, University of Arizona Class of 2011, Graphic Designer at Six Half Dozen

3. “There wasn’t really a business aspect to the program. Your entire college career culminates with a huge focus on your portfolio….You need to know what to charge, how to set up an invoice and how to network to get those jobs in the first place. I think it would have been helpful to gain some of that knowledge while still in school and be prepared for what comes after getting your first job.” – Lindsey Andrews, James Madison University Class of 2010, Senior Designer at Penguin Group


Finally, you get to prove to all your friends and family that art leads to an amazing career, as your work appears virtually everywhere and truly makes an impact. While avoiding repetitive tasks, you get to collaborate with co-workers and at other times flex your own graphic design muscles with individual projects.

1. Graphic Designer

Graphic designers produce the images that we instantly connect to ideas and messages. When you see a sign with only an “H” on it and immediately think hospital, give credit to a graphic designer. Their work appears everywhere, including logos and branding, websites, signs and advertisements.

2. Book Cover Designer

What’s the first thing you notice when looking at a book? Book cover designers create the beautiful, eye-catching artwork that makes even the most infrequent readers pause and think about buying a book.

3. Web Designer

Everyone needs a website to market businesses or even themselves these days, so they hire web designers to produce a sleek and attractive website. Graphic designers use their skills to create awesome-looking and engaging sites.

4. Package Designer

In an instant, a well-designed product tells you everything you need to know. Package designers want people to make impulsive decisions by packing products in ways that make them jump off the shelf and leave the store with you.

5. Art Director

Art directors work in a wide array of fields including advertising, marketing, TV, film, video games, fashion and publishing. They decide how images get presented to the target audience and how they appear in popular media. Put down that controller for a minute and appreciate the art that went into that $60 video game; you paid for it.

Nick is a senior English major at Boston College. The three ways to his heart are Survivor, the Baltimore Orioles and Zac Brown Band.

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