Frequently Asked Questions


Q: Help! I like to draw and doodle, and people have told me I should look into an art career as a graphic designer, but I don't really know what graphic design is!
Graphic design is, simply put, the design of printed material using text and/or images. Most graphic design is printed on paper, though one might be asked to develop a design that will be printed on fabric (a t-shirt, for example) or some other material (a mug or rubber stamp), but by and large, the end result will be something that goes to a commercial printing house or quick printer. A few examples are: 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... the list is extensive!
Q: What's the difference between Communication Design and Multimedia Design or Web Design?
The Communication Design program is a two-year course of study in design for print, as discussed in the question above. Multimedia Design is a one-year certificate in the design and development of more fluid media, whose end result will be viewed on a screen, whether it's a computer monitor or an informative presentation on a large screen in a hotel conference room. This includes CD-ROM titles, business presentations, animations in 2- and 3-D, and informational kiosks. Web designs are also viewed on a screen; in this case, computer monitors tuned to the World Wide Web. Both multimedia and web design deal with the specifics of interactivity. See the pages for each of the courses of study for more specific information. Multimedia Design and Web Design.
Q: 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!
Q: I can't take much time off from my 9 – 5 job. Do you offer evening courses?
We do offer courses in the evenings as well as during the day for our different student population needs in the Communication Design program. The Multimedia and Web design certificates tend to have courses only offered in the late afternoon, early evening, and on Saturdays to accommodate the working professionals, who constitute most of the class base. Smaller second-year classes are usually rotated in Communication Design, being offered in the daytime one semester and the evening the next. As class cancellations are made the week before the semester starts, it is important to register EARLY for a class. There have been some disappointments over the years when a class just doesn't quite have the numbers to make enrollment, and has to be cancelled.
Q: 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 well. The drawing classes are there to 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.
Q: What if I just want to try a class to see if I like it? What would you recommend?
The ART 140 class, Intro to Graphic Skills, will teach you the basic techniques of the design trade, as well as the foundations and principles of design, in order to be able to put together a professional presentation of your work, and 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) as they provide such a strong foundation for everything we do. They are also part of the requirements for graduation.
Q: So, what courses would you recommend for the first semester if I wanted to take about 12 credits' worth of classes?
ART 121 (Drawing I), ART 131 (Fundamentals of Design I), and ART 140 (Intro to Graphic Skills).
Q: What if I've taken something similar at a four-year school? Can I transfer it in? It was a while ago...
If you've taken a foundation year class in drawing or design, you can certainly transfer it in. Many art schools and universities offer these courses as 3-credit classes, however, so be aware that the extra credit will need to be made up from somewhere. You may have some other art classes in your background that might qualify, for example, an illustration class, which relies heavily on drawing, might be used to make up the missing credit for drawing.See the information on Transfer Credit for more specifics.
Q: I see that you offer a two-year degree program in graphic (communication) design. But don't I need a four-year degree to find 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. Our reputation for teaching professionalism at all levels is well-deserved; expect to complete real-world projects on a 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. Our many students who have found employment in the field upon graduation will tell you that the intensive work pays off if you put your best effort into it.
Q: 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. Interested students who have taken at least the first year's classes should ask to fill out the form we keep on hand with information about skills, strengths, choice of working locale, desired number of work hours per week, etc. Then 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.
Q: What if I only want to take the EGD I and II courses, and then look for a job? I need to change careers as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, there is no quick solution. It takes time to learn all of the skills and techniques of graphic design, and the two-year program, while comprehensive, is the bare minimum of what you need to know to find an entry-level position.
Q: What is the outlook like, then, for advancement?
Once your foot is in the door, it's up to you! Recent ads in the large local Sunday papers for senior graphic designers have asked for 3-5 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).
Q: Does your program have input from working professionals?
We have a very active and involved advisory committee. Members work for well-known area companiesand 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 the students about their experiences one evening in the spring semester. Alumni bring along their portfolios and answer questions from the floor. The committee members and alumni keep us informed of changes in the field and alert us to new developments for the future.
Q: What, exactly, is multimedia design?
Multimedia design is that which 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, an animated logos on the TV evening news, or a video game. The end result of a multimedia effort will be a visual presentation that will be viewed on a screen, rather than printed on paper. Animations in 2- or 3-D and videos are an important addition to any multimedia piece, as is sound.
Q: 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 include the federal government and many large corporations who are seeking to promote themselves through visual means. Video recording companies, media companies, and advertising agencies are sources of job opportunities.

Q: What does NVCC 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.
Q: I work during the day! When are multimedia classes offered?
The classes in the Multimedia Design Certificate, in most cases, start no earlier than 4:00pm, with several starting in the 7:15pm weeknight time slot. We have an occasional daytime class when the schedule permits.
Q: What is the web design certificate about?
This certificate combines courses in design and technology. It's important to know something about the way technology works in order to create a web site that not only looks good, but is functional as well. There are limitations to technology, and knowing what they are can affect your design
Q: Who is the certificate intended for?
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.
Q: What platform and software is used in this certificate and other courses?

All courses in the Communication Design program are taught on the Macintosh platform, in response to the profession's needs. Classes are sometimes offered at the Reston Center, which would be on the 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 be complete knowledge in these applications.

For more information, go to...

Description of Courses in the NVCC Catalog.

or email Jackie Gage Assistant Dean of Communication Design