About Design Education

Preparing for the future of our practice!

Graphic design education began in 1919 in the legendary Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany. The Bauhaus was the first design school to combine fine and applied arts with a focus on form and function. Design education has evolved from creating artifacts to emphasizing creative thinking and context using multidisciplinary approaches, however most design programs still begin with a foundation in drawing, colour theory, design fundamentals and art history.

What does a good graphic design curriculum include?

Graphic design is a human-centred practice — it impacts society and is an essential tool for economic development. Graphic designers create visual communication to engage, motivate, persuade, inspire and inform in all media platforms. Specializations within the creative industry include branding, interactive design, information design, advertising, packaging, digital media, motion graphics, photography, illustration and environmental design.  

Undergraduate design programs will generally cover design process, conceptual development, business practices, communications, Adobe software skills and typography. Some design programs focus on a specialization or offer concentrations in an area of study. Design is multidisciplinary and breadth in a design curriculum contributes to deeper knowledge that will support a designer in an ever evolving practice. Progressive design programs offer projects that integrate problem solving with marketing principles, sustainability practices and social responsibility. Examples of these types of student projects are award recipients of the  GDC Foundation Ray Hrynkow Thinking Design Scholarship.  

Most graphic design programs are offered in public post-secondary institutions in Canada, however program types vary from province to province and a prescribed program length in relation to credential type cannot be identified. For example, in Ontario, most design programs are three-year advanced diplomas, whereas in BC and Alberta there are more four-year degrees and fewer diploma options offered. This is as a result of Canada’s decentralized approach to education where provincial regulation and unique legislation guide how programs are delivered in each respective province. 

The GDC National Scholarship Awards showcase exceptional student work from across Canada. To find a design program that best meets your expectations, contact educational programs directly and ask questions. Click here for a list of design programs in Canada. 

How is GDC relevant to design education?

Professional standards for the practice guide learning outcomes for design curriculum and the career path for emerging designers. But finding Canadian standards can be a challenge. The GDC, as the national professional association for Canadian design has established industry standards for professional certification. Relevant design education considers professional industry standards and includes both practical studio skills as well as theory, and faculty who are CGD™ certified and engaged in the design industry through practice, research and/or professional communities.

CGD Certification

CGD Certification Case Study Review Criteria

A GDC student membership offers a great start to a promising career. It is also a first step to becoming CGD™ certified — the highest standard of professional practice. For design educators, CGD certification is a testament to professional knowledge and contribution. If you want to find out more about graphic design as a profession, connect with your local GDC Chapter

Join GDC!

For more information, please contact education@gdc.net or info@gdc.net

Illustration by Madison Tuff, GDC Student Member 2012