Finding the Best Online Graphic Design Courses in 2021

Be a professional visual content creator by learning graphic design. In this guide, we walk you through the top 10 paid and free online graphic design courses. Learn the theories, techniques, trends, and everything about design.

Through these courses, you will not only get to grips with graphic design but with a variety of programs as well. You can then hone your graphic design skills and build your professional portfolio with your very own design projects.

What Is Graphic Design?

Graphic design is the discipline of creating all kinds of digital art, motion graphics, 2D and 3D animation, and more through design software. It combines shapes and texts to create designs that will be attractive to the target audience. Not only should graphic designs be visually pleasing, but they must also clearly communicate the intended message.

The Best Online Graphic Design Courses of 2021

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As a graphic designer, you can take on diverse projects. So, you may do magazine layouts, create visuals for videos, or design websites. Having added skills by learning how to code in CSS, HTML, and JavaScript to create dynamic websites goes with the territory.

Below are some courses from different massive open online course (MOOC) providers that you can consider. Each course offers something special that matches your specific needs.

Computer Graphics by UC San Diego via edX

Price: Free
Length: 6 weeks (6-12 hours per week)
Certificate: Available for $99

University of California San Diego offers a computer graphics course that focuses on creating 3D images. The course is intended for intermediate learners with previous experience in creating graphics.

This means that you will need to know computer programming prior to taking the course. This will make it easier to pick up the modules that include writing lines of code to create 3D images and scenes with lighting. The main program used in this course is OpenGL.

Creative Coding by NYU via edX

Price: Free
Length: 14 weeks (8-10 hours per week)
Certificate: Available for $249

This course offered by the New York University via edX is made for beginners who want to learn how to code for graphic design. You will experience working on different projects such as 2D graphics, animation, plus image and video processing.

Some of the topics that you will cover include an introduction to the basics of 2D drawing, understanding programming, and even data visualization. Here, you will also learn how to code using JavaScript and p5.js. The course will end with a final graphic design project submission.

Graphic Design Elements for Non-Designers Specialization by University of Colorado Boulder via Coursera

Price: $59 per month via Coursera Plus ($399 per year)
Length: 4 months (4 hours per week)
Certificate: Available

This specialization course on graphic design elements by the University of Colorado Boulder is made for non-designers or beginners. Here, you will start with the foundational knowledge of graphic design elements, color and image theory, layouts, and more. There is a special session on typography as it is a crucial part of graphic design.

You will deal with using software to create a layout as required. The applied learning project at the end expects you to design simple business cards, flyers, advertisements, brochures, or outlines for a website. This course tackles both print and digital design.

Graphic Design Masterclass by Udemy

Price: $9.99 (subject to change)
Length: 25.5 hours, on-demand video
Certificate: Available

As one of the top courses under graphic design in Udemy, this course covers everything under the sun. First, you will master how to use Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and InDesign. This would then be useful for projects like branding and logo design for business use.

Through this course, you will gain a deeper knowledge of typography, design theory, layouts, and more. The skills that you can gain will be useful if you intend to go down a social media manager path or anything related to digital marketing.

Graphic Design Specialization by CALARTS via Coursera

Price: $59 per month via Coursera Plus ($399 per year)
Length: 6 months (3 hours per week)
Certificate: Available

This specialization course by the California Institute of Arts (CALARTS) through Coursera has five modules under it. You will start with the fundamentals to understand the principles of graphic design and other related foundational skills. The next course is an introduction to typography which deals with letters and language in visual form.

The course on image-making deals with the putting together of photos or images to create an effective design. Then, you will move on to the history of graphic design to see which practices are still being used today. Finally, the last course is a special project on creating a brand for an imaginary company.

Intro to the Design of Everyday Things by Udacity

Price: Free
Length: 2 weeks
Certificate: Not available

Falling under Udacity’s Principle of Design category, this two-week course is an introduction to design with a heavy focus on programming. This course will help you get to grips with different programming elements to create dynamic designs for web or mobile app use.

One of the main activities involves the creation of a new interface for TimeBank, which is a platform for trading work hours. The project will require you to come up with your design concept. You will also need to test your design and see how you can improve it.

The Complete Graphic Design Theory for Beginners by Udemy

Price: $14.99 (subject to change)
Length: 8.5 hours, on-demand video
Certificate: Available

Another high-rated introductory course on graphic design is available on Udemy. This course is more focused on the foundational theory so it will cover basic principles of color theory, typography, and more. Aside from branding and logo design, this course also teaches photo composition that you can apply to graphic design to create an impact.

You will work on projects that are usually encountered in the real world to give you an idea of what works in the professional sphere. This way, you can also build your portfolio from layouts to specific design assignments.

Online Graphic Design Course by Shaw Academy

Price: Free (4 weeks)/$10 per month subscription
Length: 16 weeks
Certificate: Available

This online graphic design course by Shaw Academy will expand your skills within various components of graphic design. The course includes image editing, layouts, animation, 3D rendering, and more. One of the things that makes this offering unique is that the certification that you will earn on completion is globally recognized.

Some of the Adobe programs that you will master through this course are Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign. You will understand the design cycle and the principles and elements of graphic design. There is also a focused session on typography, which is an important component of graphic design.

Product Design by Google for Udacity

Price: Free
Length: 2 months
Certificate: Not available

This product design course by Udacity deals with the importance of creating the most effective designs to make a product appealing to its target audience. Here, you will need to consider the elements of user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) to create a good product design. The course is offered for intermediate learners only.

The course will help you understand your target market to help you visualize the right design. There will also be sessions with senior Google designers, and you will also utilize the Google Design Sprint for your design process. The ultimate goal is to plan designs that will generate traffic, engagement, and customer satisfaction.

Visual and Graphic Design by Alison

Price: Free
Length: 1.5 to 3 hours
Certificate: Available for $25 to $47

This short course, offered by Alison, covers the fundamentals of graphic design. The topics include basic design principles, layouts, composition, and other design elements and essentials.

One of the modules of the course focuses on the production system in the design industry and where graphic design fits in the production process. The lessons take on a practical approach, which is vital to help you prepare for the workplace.

What Do Graphic Design Courses Cover?

Graphic design courses typically start with the basics of design. You need to learn the principles of design, design theory, color theory, typography to build your foundations. Only then should you move on to more intermediate topics.

Graphic design today heavily relies on computer programs and software. A graphic designer is expected to be skilled at least with Adobe programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. If you are interested in creating animation and 3D designs, then you must be comfortable with coding.

Other courses deal with the application of graphic design across industries. Digital marketing makes good use of graphic design to improve websites, product design, and advertisements. Graphic design is also used in video game designing and other mobile applications.

How to Choose the Best Graphic Design Course

You are spoilt for choice in terms of the online graphic design courses to pick from, so you need to discern which ones are legitimate, reliable, and effective. To choose the best graphic course design, consider the following factors before enrolling.

The Reputation of the Course Provider

Is the course provider legitimate? Is it tried and tested? This is important, especially for courses that you need to pay for. You do not want to spend your money and end up not receiving the type of instruction or certification that you were promised.

You also need to know if the provider has a history of performing well. Check if they have a good reputation when it comes to the graphic design field and if their curriculum is up to par with the industry.

Price and Value for Money

Is the course worth your money? Graphic design courses usually involve a variety of expenses, not just for the program itself but also for purchasing design software. You need to check out what the course offers first to decide if it fits with what you are looking for. This is even more important if you are a beginner looking for hands-on guidance.

Take advantage of discounts and promos. As long as you can get good value for the money that you will pay for these courses, then the investment is worth it.

Feedback and Reviews

Is the course well-received? Make sure to read the feedback and reviews for your prospective course. Some websites have a rating system, and there are testimonials readily available for your perusal.

Try to look for reviews outside the website of the course provider to ensure that you’re getting an unbiased opinion about the course. Take the time to do your research at this stage so that you’re not disappointed in the future.

Graphic Design Certifications

Here are three professional certifications that you can consider to validate your graphic design skills and programs. You can add any or all of the following to your list of credentials to attract more potential employers.

This certification demonstrates your proficiency in Adobe Illustrator and overall digital design skills. To earn the certification, you need to sit a 50-minute exam that will test your familiarity with Illustrator, project management, and design principles.

Validate your skill in creating 3D models that meet industry-standard design by earning this Autodesk certification. Requirements for earning it include completing the official training where you get to learn about animation, data management, effects, lighting, and more. You also need to earn 400 hours of hands-on experience using Autodesk 3ds Max.

Adobe Captivate is a tool used for e-Learning course creation and instructional design. Adobe offers an online training curriculum and assessment exam specifically to eLearning practitioners. During the training, you will learn how to create interactive activities, create and build animations, and record and edit video demos, among others.

Next Steps After Finishing Your Course

Career potential in the digital field is booming, so there are more opportunities for graphic designers, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Once you have finished your course and have built your design portfolio, start applying for internships or professional work.

If you want to learn more, then there are coding boot camps available that you can check out with graphic design disciplines. Some of these boot camps have programs on web development, digital marketing, UX design, and more.

The Bottom Line

Graphic design is a serious discipline that would take months or years of study and practice to master. Every day is a learning opportunity as more design trends emerge. Taking online courses and earning one or more certifications show that you are keeping up with these changes. It’s also one way to re-learn your craft and techniques.

Whether you are a beginner or an advanced learner, take advantage of these courses now and learn as much as you can. Being equipped with the right skills paves the way for more opportunities to excel in the field. Beyond graphic design, you can also expand to other disciplines such as digital marketing, web design, and more.

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