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Here are some of the most commonly asked questions:

I like to draw and people have told me I should look into a career as a graphic designer, but I don't know what graphic design is!

Graphic design is the design of printed material using text and/or images. Most graphic design is printed on paper, but some are printed on fabric (ex. a T-shirt) or another material (ex. mug). The end result is something that goes to a commercial printing house or quick printer. Examples: advertisements, brochures, posters, newsletters, corporate letterhead, annual reports, menus, book covers, clothing hang tags, postcards, stamps, point-of-purchase displays, business cards, magazines, packaging design, etc.

What's the difference between Communication Design and Multimedia Design or Web Design?

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The Communication Design program is a two-year course of study in design for print. Multimedia Design is a one-year certificate in the design and development of more fluid media -- the end result being viewed on a screen (ex. computer monitor or large screen in a conference room). This includes CD-ROM titles, business presentations, animations in 2- and 3-D and informational kiosks. Multimedia and Web design deal with the specifics of interactivity. See the section for each of the courses of study for more specific information -- Multimedia Design and Web Design.

I've been away from school for years and I worry about feeling out of place.

We are here to serve the community, and we have everyone from high-schoolers to senior citizens in the program. We're always looking for motivated students, regardless of background!

I can't take off from day job. Do you offer evening courses?

Yes, we offer courses in evenings. The Multimedia and Web design certificates tend to have courses only offered in the late afternoon, early evening and on Saturdays to accommodate working professionals, who constitute most of the class base. Smaller second-year classes are usually rotated in Communication Design, offered in the daytime one semester and in the evening the next semester. As class cancellations are made the week before the semester starts, it is important to register EARLY for a class. 

What courses would you recommend for the first semester if I wanted to take 12 credits worth of classes?

ART 121 (Drawing I), ART 131 (Fundamentals of Design I) and ART 140 (Intro to Graphic Skills).

I see that drawing classes are a part of the degree/ multimedia certificate programs, and I really don't draw well. Does this mean I can't be a designer?

Many talented designers don't feel that drawing is one of their strong points. What's important is an ability to use design elements (whether it's blocks of type on a page or a combination of images, lines and words) and color. Drawing classes teach you to be better at communicating visually, and the design fundamentals classes will help you to understand the basics of assembling elements and working with color.

What if I just want to try a class to see if I like it? What do you recommend?

ART 140, Intro to Graphic Skills, will teach you the basic techniques of the design trade and the foundations and principles of design so you can put together a professional presentation of your work -- it will introduce you to some of the software used by graphic designers. If you decide to continue in the program, you must take the drawing and design classes (ART 121 and ART 131) because they provide a strong foundation and they are part of the requirements for graduation.

What if I've taken something similar at a four-year school? Can I transfer it?

If you've taken a foundation year class in drawing or design, you can transfer it. Many art schools and universities offer these courses as 3-credit classes, however, be aware that the extra credit will need to be made up. You may have other art classes in your background that qualify, for example, an illustration class, which relies heavily on drawing, may be used to make up the missing credit for drawing. See the information on Transfer Credit for more specifics.

I see that you offer a two-year degree program in graphic (communication) design, but don't I need a four-year degree to get a job in the field?

Our program is comprehensive and action-packed. We cover as much territory as possible in two years, and our students do very well in competition for design jobs in the greater D.C. area. Expect to complete real-world projects by deadline, learn how to select the appropriate typeface and paper for an assignment, design a cover and spread for an annual report, brainstorm with a team of other students, and present a storyboard of a 30-second commercial to your classmates. 

Do you have an internship program?

Every now and then we field phone calls from area businesses who are looking for interns. We are happy to go through our file of interested students who have completed at least the first year's classes, as most employers are looking for workers with at least some knowledge base of design, color, font selection and the software applications used in the field. Students who have taken at least the first year's classes should ask to fill out the form with information about skills, strengths, choice of working locale, desired number of work hours per week, etc. We do our best to match a student with the job. Some semesters may be busier than others, depending on what's happening in the local economy.

What if I only want to take EGD I and II courses and then look for a job?

Unfortunately, there is no quick solution. It takes time to learn all of the skills and techniques of graphic design. The two-year program, while comprehensive, is the bare minimum of what you need to know to find an entry-level position.

What is the outlook for advancement?

Once your foot is in the door, it's up to you! Recent ads for senior graphic designers have asked for three to five years of experience in the field. Senior designers do quite well. Suggested salary structures can be found in such resources as the Graphic Artist's Guild Pricing and Ethical Guidelines Handbook (a professional publication and one of the suggested texts for our classes).

Does your program have input from working professionals?

We have a very active and involved advisory committee. Members work for well-known area companies and some have their own businesses. The committee meets regularly during the academic year, and puts on a yearly informative event for the students in the Fall. We also invite alumni from the program to speak to students about their experiences. Alumni bring their portfolios and answer questions. Committee members and alumni keep us informed of changes in the field and alert us to new developments.

What is multimedia design?

Multimedia design incorporates some or all of the following -- sound, animation, text, video and graphics. These components can be assembled to create a business presentation, an information kiosk (like the touch-screen ones you see in a shopping mall or a hospital), a CD-ROM title, animated logos on TV news, or a video game. The end result of a multimedia effort is a visual presentation that can be viewed on a screen, rather than in print. Animations in 2- or 3-D and videos are an important addition to any multimedia piece, as is sound.

What kinds of jobs are available in this field?

We recommend that students who are looking for full-time employment in graphic design first consider the two-year Communication Design degree. The Multimedia certificate was originally envisioned as a way for graphic designers to add new skills to their repertoire, and is very popular with working professionals who are looking to move up in their careers. Employers in this area are seeking to promote themselves through visual means.

What does NOVA offer if I want to concentrate on sound for multimedia?

The Loudoun Campus has classes in Audio for Multimedia for those with an interest in audio technology.

I work during the day. When are multimedia classes offered?

Classes in the Multimedia Design Certificate typically start after 4:00 p.m. Several start at 7:15 p.m. on weeknights. We have occasional daytime classes when the schedule permits.

What is the Web design certificate?

This certificate combines courses in design and technology. It's important to know something about the way technology works in order to create a website that looks and is functional. There are limitations to technology, and knowing what they are can affect your design.

Who is the certificate intended?

The certificate was designed for anyone who wants to learn to create a well designed, functional website. Students may be small business owners, graphic designers seeking to upgrade skills, or people in technical fields who need to learn how to use color, typography and images to create an attractive and inviting composition on screen.

What platform and software is used in this certificate and other courses?

All courses in the Communication Design program are taught on Macs based on the profession's needs. Classes are sometimes offered at the Reston Center, which would uses PC platform. Software available in Web Design courses includes Adobe Master Collection CS6.

Standard software used for communication design: Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign.
Standard software used for Web design: Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Fireworks and Flash
Standard software used for multimedia design: Final Cut, Flash, Maya, Photoshop

These are all industry standard software and designers must have knowledge of these applications.

Form more information go to Description of Courses or email Jackie Gage, Assistant Dean of Communication Design

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