Graphic design students stop for a class photo at the Herzing College Toronto campus
Students interested in graphic design training have a very wide—even overwhelming!— range of educational options in the Toronto Area.
From four-year university programs to "learn-at-your-own-pace" online courses, students must consider their learning preferences, time constraints, and career goals when comparing diverse design schools.
Some applicants believe that given how rapidly the field of graphic and web design is changing, shorter, more intensive training makes the most sense. They are eager to learn the fundamentals, secure an internship, and cut their teeth in an entry-level position. The strategy is to continue learning on-the-job, while earning an income and enhancing their professional portfolio.
This post is for students leaning toward those shorter, non-university training options. To help with the decision-making process, we've boiled down some of the key elements to consider when comparing college design programs.
3 Questions to Ask When Evaluating Graphic Design Colleges
With their focus on fast entry into the workforce, private career colleges offer some of the most intensive graphic design programs available.
These programs are typically less than one year in length, and aim to equip students with the skills needed to secure entry-level positions at marketing/advertising agencies, corporate design departments, television stations, and media production companies.
By comparison, public college graphic design programs cover a broader range of theory and technical skills, but require a commitment of three full years (examples include George Brown, Seneca, Humber, and Centennial colleges).
Whether opting for fast-track, intensive graphic design training—or a longer, more traditional program—students should consider the following questions when evaluating graphic design colleges:
1. Does the graphic design program come with a guaranteed internship?
Internships are crucial for several reasons. They offer graphic design students valuable work experience before they graduate, and a competitive edge when applying for jobs after the program. Internships can also be a foot-in-the-door at a local business; students may be offered contract or full time jobs at the end of their placement, providing a smooth transition from school to workforce.
Not all public design colleges guarantee an internship. Often, students must achieve a certain grade point average to qualify, and in some cases, must approach employers to secure the placement on their own. In the case of private career colleges, not all graphic design programs actually include an internship. If gaining work experience is important to you, this is a crucial question to ask before committing to enrollment.
2. What is the graduate employment rate for the design program?
This question speaks to the "value" of the college's diploma, and to what extent it is respected by local employers. Whether public or private, the college you select should reveal their graduate employment rate for the graphic design program. You should find it posted on the website, in the program description section. Students should prioritize design schools with a graduate employment rate of more than 80 percent.
3. Are graduates willing to recommend the graphic design program?
When browsing design school websites, students should look for detailed testimonials and endorsements from program graduates. Look for recommendations that go deeper than a short, general quote. These success stories should include details on why the training was effective, how it led to rewarding employment, and other key details that set the program apart from the competition.
Coursework to Expect from Reliable Graphic Design Colleges
Reliable graphic design programs effectively combine training on the most relevant computer software with design theory and conceptualization strategies.
When comparing options, look for a complete list of graphic design courses on the school's website. The following instructional areas in particular should be highlighted:
- Adobe suite of design applications (Dreamweaver, Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, etc.)
- Digital typography
- Graphic design projects/portfolio development (designing responsive websites, brochures, print advertisements, solving common design communication problems, etc.)
- Career support/entering the workforce (resume development, job search strategies, mock interviews, etc.)
Combined Graphic Design and Web Site Design Training
Some college programs separate graphic design from website design training, and deliver them as two distinct programs. However, since designers are often asked to use skills from both disciplines at work, some schools are beginning to run combined/dual programs, offering comprehensive instruction in both areas.
Naturally, a combined program will take longer to complete—but is undoubtedly a smart choice for students who want to diversify their skills, and broaden their employment options after graduation. Look to the program page of the school website to determine whether the combined/dual option is available at that particular institution.
Interested in learning more about what graphic/web design training entails? Looking for one-year graphic design schools in Toronto?
Consider Herzing College's Computer Graphic Design program, delivered at the Toronto campus (Eaton Centre Galleria Offices). Training includes the most relevant design software, a six-week internship, and the option to combine the program with Herzing's Web Site Design diploma.
Visit the program page for a complete list of design courses, student testimonials, potential career paths—or to chat live with a knowledgeable advisor. We'll help you get started!