Hero Image

Graphic Design

Graphic design is the most widespread form of visual language used to communicate with an audience. The creative individual who is able to speak this language has the ability to inspire, persuade, and provoke. Graphic design students at Southern are creative individuals who desire to communicate with purpose. As a student, you’ll be given the tools and opportunities to cultivate your unique skills, abilities, and style in a Seventh-day Adventist Christian educational environment. You’ll emerge with real-world experience and a professional portfolio and be well-equipped to make an impact on the world around you.

Example project

This video highlights a student's graphic design project from 2018. The student created the visual identity for a fictitious music festival. The project also included posters, event signage, swag, app and website design, and more.

What Makes a Graphic Designer?

Graphic design is a rapidly growing and ever evolving industry, and though highly competitive, it’s an exciting and rewarding career. Top designers in the field are passionate about design, love what they do, and are committed to adapting to new technology and industry trends. They have something to say and possess the drive and focus necessary to create quality work and thrive in the industry.

Designers don’t always use computers. It’s a blast to manipulate things with Photoshop or layout magazines in InDesign. However, most designers also have an affinity for creating things by hand. That could mean they enjoy drawing or sketching, printmaking, paper quilling, hand lettering, collage, and so much more. They figure out ways to bridge the analog and digital worlds.

Even though designers typically enjoy art-marking, they are creating for a different audience than a fine artist might. Designers are working to persuade or inform their public about a particular idea or topic. They solve problems and make communication accessible for their target audience.

Each day, we are surrounded by design, from ads to apps, posters to packaging, websites to wall graphics. Because our world is so reliant on design, there are many opportunities to immerse yourself in the professional world of design. You could work in a boutique agency doing a little bit of everything, or become highly specialized in branding and logo creation, UX/UI, or typography. Who knows what platforms might develop in the future! The need for highly skilled craftspeople is vast.

The daily life of a designer, however, isn’t always about making pretty things. There are brainstorming meetings that happen with the creative team, client pitches, emails to answer, phone calls to return, and many other tasks to balance. This is true whether you’re working for yourself or an agency. Many other skills come into play, including, but not limited to: communication; interpersonal skills; overall dexterity, conflict management; timeliness; and staying on task, on budget and on schedule. Developing these skills while in college helps you prepare for the “real world.”

All that hard work can result in some pretty amazing connections and opportunities. A designer can impact thousands of people and the way they experience or think about an issue, brand, or product. The feeling of sending a book to print and seeing it on the shelf months later; driving by a billboard you designed; or holding a package in a big box store that you art directed is exciting and rewarding.

The bottom line is that when it comes to developing work, the best graphic designers are well-rounded individuals, empathetic to the world around them, who can assimilate and prioritize information and effectively communicate a story through image and word.

Launching a Career in Graphic Design

Designer salaries vary according to geography, experience, and design specialty. An experienced art director or senior interactive designer in a large city may earn upwards of $100,000 a year, while a young BFA designer at an entry-level position in a smaller market may start at $32,000 a year. The designer equipped with the necessary character, creative drive, and comprehensive array of both hard and soft skills has the potential to advance further and earn more.

Agencies and studios have various levels of hierarchy and job titles within their corporate structure—interns, production artists, junior designers, senior designers, art directors, and at the top, creative directors. A more accurate salary range can be determined by researching national salary surveys from organizations such as:

Show Your Work!

A strong portfolio is crucial for any graphic designer. In each course throughout the program, you will create projects and refine them, in order to hone your design skills and build the pieces to include in your portfolio. Throughout your education at Southern, we’ll work with you to develop a website and curate your body of work, so by your senior year you are ready for job hunting. During your studies, every final product should be refined and added to a portfolio that shows off strong conceptual skills, expert typography, and creative use of color, image, etc. The quality and depth of your portfolio creates the sizzle that shows potential clients or employers how well you’ll handle their design needs, from logos to posters, and from web to print. The most common ways to show work in the current market are through your print portfolio and online platforms such as a personal website and popular social media outlets. For example, one of the typical ways to get new clients today is via Instagram.

Don’t delay in getting your work out there! Many students work on freelance projects while they are in school, allowing them to gain some extra cash, along with invaluable real-world experience. You can start your own website and Behance, Instagram, and Facebook pages that feature your designs and your process at any time—and there’s really no time like the present.

Which Degree is Right for Me?

For graphic design majors, Southern offers five degree options. Additionally, we offer a minor that can complement a wide variety of degree programs. Each is taught from a Seventh-day Adventist Christian worldview and tailored for a specific professional purpose. 

Graphic Design, Bachelors of Fine Art (BFA)

The BFA is the standard degree for the graphic design professional. A BFA graduate from Southern is fluent in visual communication, prepared for the ever-changing technology landscape, and well-rounded in the diverse skills needed to thrive in a collaborative studio setting. From the origins and fundamentals of design to the specifics of graphic design specialties, the program is modeled after the professional workplace, allowing students to hone their skills and creative voice in an immersive hands-on environment.

View Degree

Graphic Design, Bachelor of Arts (BA)

The BA degree is intended for students who want to combine graphic design with another academic concentration. It integrates the basics of design yet allows students to replace advanced design courses with a wide complement of academic interests and general education courses. A minor and foreign language courses are required, allowing BA students the flexibility to augment their art studies and diversify their skill set. The BA student is prepared to enter the workforce as a junior designer or continue toward an advanced degree program. The following is a list of some suggested minors that complement a career in graphic design:

  1. Computer Science
  2. Marketing
  3. Photography
  4. Creative Writing
  5. Business
  6. Advertising
  7. Public Relations

View Degree

Graphic Design, Associates of Science (AS)

An AS graphic design degree is a two-year overview of graphic design foundations and technical tools. Students graduating with an AS are prepared for entry-level production work or to continue toward a four-year degree. When paired with a BA or BS from a related field, the graphic design AS degree allows students to prepare a hybrid of skills for a multi-disciplined career. 

View Degree

Web and New Media (BFA)

The BFA in Web and New Media prepares students for work in digital design. Students in this program build a skill set that includes the visual problem solving, research and design thinking of graphic design, UX and UI design, paired with the logical and systematic reasoning necessary for front-end coding. 

View Degree

Public Relations and Graphic Design (BS)

The Public Relations and Graphic Design degree is offered through the School of Journalism and Communication. It is a hybrid degree that blends the writing and marketing skills required for public relations with the creative skills of graphic design. Graduates with this degree have gone on to pursue careers in communication, marketing, social media management, project management, event planning, and more in corporate, nonprofit, hospital, or denominational settings.

View Degree

Graphic Design Minor

The minor in graphic design is built for the student with creative interests and a desire to explore new concepts, increase technical acuity and diversify their field of study.

View Minor

Scholarships, Grants and Design Competitions

As a college graduate, you can expect to earn about 66 percent more during your professional career than you would striking out on your own with a high school diploma Collegeboard.org. It pays to invest in a college education. Receiving some help along the way can, as well. There are many options when it comes to scholarships, grants, and design competitions. The following is a partial list to help you get started:

SAU Grants and Scholarships

Southern offers a range of grants and scholarships. If you haven't already looked into Southern's scholarship opportunities be sure to visit the following link to get more information:

SVAD Create Scholarship

The Create scholarship is a creative, competition-based award, unique to the School of Visual Art and Design. The competition is open to new freshman who have applied and been accepted to Southern. Submit up to 10 pieces of your creative work, and you could win up to $8,000 toward your tuition in the School of Visual Art and Design. Learn more and submit some of your work!

View Create Scholarship

Other Scholarships

Not everyone qualifies for the scholarships below.

Transferring to SVAD?

Have you already started a degree in graphic design or related field at another university? If you’re considering graphic design at Southern,we’d love the opportunity to talk with you. Whether you’ve already taken some art courses or just a few of your gen eds, we’re here to help you through the process as you prepare to continue your academic journey with us.

Transferring general education courses from another institution

To transfer general education course credits you have earned, either at your current university or perhaps as Advanced Placement (AP) credit in high school, you will need to provide Southern with a copy of your transcript. If those courses match with Southern’s general education requirements the courses will be transferred in and count toward your degree progress.

Transferring art courses from another institution

Transferring art courses taken at another institution requires a formal review and approval process. To initiate this, review the completed coursework portfolio from these courses must be sent to the department. The submitted portfolio must include all coursework products and associated materials for each art course completed at a previous institution. A review committee will assess all transfer requests on a per-course basis by examining syllabi, course descriptions, projects, and completed assignments in order to determine if the course taken elsewhere is commensurate with a comparable SVAD course offering. This assessment is conducted in order to confirm that courses completed at previous institutions have adequately prepared a student to succeed in subsequent SVAD courses. Transfer credit must be approved by this review process before a student may register for classes in the SVAD.

If there is insufficient portfolio material to demonstrate your skill level, or the coursework taken elsewhere has not adequately prepared you for future SVAD courses, you may be required to register for remedial coursework as specified by the portfolio review committee.

How to submit art course content for transfer review

In order to receive transfer credit for any studio-based art course, the review committee must assess the following course components:

  1. Course description
  2. Course syllabus
  3. All completed projects (as listed in the course syllabus)
  4. Exercises and process work

Digital submissions are preferred and may be submitted via email to art@southern.edu. Physical copies may also be submitted but must be dropped off in person or mailed to the department at your own expense.