Graphic design combines art and technology to create and communicate visually compelling and impactful messages and ideas to audiences. If you’re interested in this creative and rewarding field, a graphic design bachelor’s degree will help you build the skills and tools you need to excel in creating logos, websites, videos, motion graphics, and so much more.
But if you’re working and have family and other commitments, earning a degree may seem impossible as an adult. One way to get the flexibility you need is to pursue your studies online.
Now you might be asking, “Can I really get a graphic design degree online?” That’s a question Chris Stagl often answers for prospective students as the Assistant Chair of Art and Design and an Associate Professor of Graphic Design at Troy University.
“The majority of the students that come into the program are nontraditional students,” Stagl says. “They have full-time jobs, they have families, and they have other obligations. They’re taking courses at night or on the weekends to finish a degree or to get a degree in a new field. When they ask me, ‘Can I study graphic design online?’ My answer is a resounding ‘Yes.’”
Stagl, who holds an M.F.A. from Florida Atlantic University and a B.F.A. from the University of North Florida, joined TROY’s faculty in 2020 to help build its online Bachelor of Science in Graphic Design degree program. He’s confident TROY’s online degree delivers the same high-quality education as the in-person program on the Troy Campus.
The Online Alternative for Adult Learners Seeking a Graphic Design Bachelor’s Degree
According to Stagl, it’s the flexibility and accessibility of the online graphic design program that makes it especially attractive to adult learners.
“It’s 100% remote,” says Stagl. “There are no set days and times for meetings. So you do your work at your own pace. Depending on your professor, you might have a week or longer to work on your projects. Just this morning, I was posting projects in our course management system that are due in two or three weeks’ time, giving students plenty of time to balance life and college.”
Stagl also highlights how the online program can provide an expedited route to graduation — and ultimately careers, helping to answer the question, “Are online graphic design courses worth it?”
“Many of our students already have transfer credits in place for their general education classes, so now they are just taking their core design classes,” says Stagl. There are five terms per year, and each term is nine weeks long. So if you take two to three classes per term and already have your general education courses in place, you can move through the program rapidly and a bit quicker than a traditional on-ground degree.”
A Graphic Design Bachelor Degree with a Creative and Collaborative Online Space
As a student in TROY’s graphic design program, Michael Azar hopes to use his degree to access a management position with his employer when he graduates in 2024. Azar says online learning was the only way he could complete his graphic design bachelor’s degree.
“As a working adult with a family, there was zero chance I would have been able to finish my degree on a campus while pursuing my career,” he says. “To be able to do it online, and in a field that I truly love and enjoy, has made all of the difference in my success.”
Even in an online format, TROY’s graphic design bachelor degree offered a collaborative and creative space, Azar says.
“If you are a creative person, you need a creative environment to thrive in,” he shares. “This program provides that creative space. If you are not able to be on campus due to work and family responsibilities, the online program is a great way to finish your degree.”
Although students have to be committed and self-motivated, Azar describes the learning process at TROY as incredibly rewarding compared to his previous college experience straight out of high school.
“I finally realized that school does not have to be painful,” Azar says. “I have learned so much from TROY’s talented and caring faculty. They’ve encouraged me to challenge myself and given me invaluable advice. I’ve learned not only about the creative side of design but also the business aspects of the industry. This is something that artists don’t usually consider until that knowledge gap becomes a problem.”
Can I Study Graphic Design Online and Feel Engaged? At TROY, “Yes.”
Students who worry the online environment isn’t conducive to student/faculty engagement can be assured they’ll have a positive experience at TROY, Stagl says. That’s because faculty aid the collaborative process by making themselves readily available to students.
“The program offers completely asynchronous (self-directed) learning, but we also run live sessions where people can log on and engage with the faculty and other students in real time,” Stagl explains. “These live sessions aren’t mandatory, but they are all recorded and made available to students who can view the videos and ask questions when they have the time.”
Stagl explains most communication between students and faculty occurs via email or on Microsoft Teams.
“A lot of times, students will email me, and they’ll say, ‘Hey, can we jump on a video call for a few minutes and discuss that project?’” says Stagl. “I do that a lot for my students.”
Students are required to upload videos to support their projects and the faculty provide their feedback via videos, he adds. “Just this morning, I made 16 videos for my students. I reviewed their projects, while screen recording, and provided detailed and personalized constructive criticism for them individually.”
Stagl establishes TROY faculty never want students to question, “Are online graphic design courses worth it?” That’s why the faculty work hard to make themselves available to students beyond delivering relevant and comprehensive courses.
“Our online faculty are extremely accessible,” he shares. “Everybody is very fluid in their approach. If you’re an online student, you can potentially see a faculty member any night of the week.”
Industry Software: The Centerpiece of TROY’s Graphic Design Bachelor’s Degree
Industry technology and creative thinking are the centerpiece of TROY’s Graphic Design Bachelor’s Degree. By earning the graphic design bachelor’s degree online, TROY students are well prepared to work in today’s remote environments, Stagl maintains.
“A lot of companies hire remote employees,” notes Stagl. “I think that the past two or three years have really shown us that many people can work remote successfully. This is especially true in a field like graphic design, where technology has advanced lightyears ahead of where it was a decade ago.”
As graphic design technology evolves, TROY’s faculty strive to ensure the online degree program reflects the needs of the industry.
“We are constantly checking that the outcomes are still 100% relevant to today’s industry, updating where necessary and removing any redundancies,” he shares. “This is such a fast-moving industry. We have to be sure our students can make industry level creative and be prepared for the realities of this field when they transition to their creative career.”
After earning their graphic design degree at TROY, students will have developed skills in technology that is widely used in the industry. That includes the Adobe Creative Cloud Design Suite, which has Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Adobe Premiere, Adobe After Effects and other emerging technologies as a part of it.
TROY faculty, he explains, employ a variety of techniques to teach students how to use today’s graphic design software.
“If we are teaching Photoshop, for example, we’ll share short videos of us using the software and explaining what we are doing. We also have conversation posts where students will respond to videos or other resources we have created, talking about what they liked or what they didn’t like about it and how they feel it will help them take their work to the next level.”
Students also have the opportunity to explore some more specialized software, such as 3D printing, augmented reality, and app development software as well.
Minimum Technology Requirements for the Online Graphic Design Bachelor’s Program
The use of industry-standard software means students require a minimum level of technology to participate in the program. For example, Stagl says, they need a computer with at least eight to 16 gigabytes of RAM because software like Adobe can’t run without at least eight gigabytes.
Stagl advises prospective students planning on a career in graphic design to invest in technology before they’re out in the real world.
“They don’t need to make an investment in high-spec technology, but we don’t want them to buy tech they’ll quickly have to replace either. You can’t get a Chromebook and think that you’re going to use that for four years and then transition into the industry with it. That’s just not going to happen, while a decent machine, it’s not built for this.”
As well as a decent computer, students will require additional technology and materials, such as an external drive and an analog or digital sketchbook. “They need to have something that they can create with every day,” he says.
Students will also need some basic art supplies, and for those interested in following a more digital direction, Stagl recommends they have a digital, mirrorless camera that can host a variety of lenses, versus just a cellphone camera.
Are Online Graphic Design Courses Worth It?
Azar believes that earning his online graphic design degree at TROY was 100% the right approach for him.
“Being able to finish my degree in a field I find interesting and enjoyable while doing it online and working full time has been exactly what I needed,” says Azar. “My employer is very supportive of my future career goals, and I am only months away from finishing my degree. The future is bright again.”
To anyone asking, “Can I study graphic design online?” Azar says he is proof that they can.
“There will always be someone with a degree competing with you for your dream job,” says Azar. “Don’t get excluded before even shaking hands. Find a program you love and just dive into it.”
Learn More about the Graphic Design Bachelor’s Degree
Are you asking, “Can I get a graphic design degree online?” Explore the online Bachelor of Science in Graphic Design at TROY to learn how this is a viable option for busy adult learners like you.