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Graphic Design

Gain a thorough understanding of how to convey information and promote ideas through visual communication design.

A woman uses a stylus pen to sketch a design on her tablet computer.
Start Date:
Typical Length:
2 Years

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Graphic designers create visual concepts to communicate ideas that inspire, inform and captivate audiences. Logos, posters, package designs, websites, billboards, brochures, advertisements and publications are all examples of the types of communication needs that graphic designers fulfill.

In this program, you learn the essential skills required to be a successful graphic designer by covering subjects such as design process and management, typography, digital imaging, editorial design and branding. You develop original concepts and learn to select the most appropriate communication medium and style for your intended audience. You work collaboratively on hands-on projects in a studio environment and leave with a professional portfolio of your design work.

Work experience

  • Field experience is a mandatory credit course, providing you with the opportunity to apply your knowledge and skills outside of the classroom.
    • Opportunities are typically unpaid and last approximately 5 weeks.
  • This program is eligible for an optional cooperative education (co-op) credit course between year one and two.
    • Co-op provides an opportunity for paid, full-time employment in a field related to your program.
    • Co-op takes place in third term and must be a minimum of 12 weeks and 420 hours.
    • Our co-op program follows Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada (CEWIL) guidelines.
  • Transportation, accommodations and other costs related to work experience are your responsibility.
  • For more information, visit work experience opportunities.

Choose NSCC

  • Throughout the program, industry experts and guest speakers are brought into the classroom to deliver specialized training.
  • When you graduate, you have an in-depth understanding of what employers are expecting. Deadlines, responsibilities, teamwork and technical abilities are stressed, along with the ability to develop fresh and effective concepts in graphic design.
  • You complete a work term assignment that puts you in a real business environment, for hands-on learning that goes beyond any classroom.
  • Learn from experienced, enthusiastic instructors who support your success.
  • Develop solutions that incorporate environmental sustainability and cultural awareness.
  • You graduate with a set of entrepreneurial skills that can be applied in a variety of professional settings - whether you choose to work as an employee, freelancer, or start you own business.


Seats are available at Ivany campus for domestic applicants only. International applicants will be waitlisted.

September 2024

Campus Full time/part time Delivery Availability
Ivany Campus/Online
Full time Blended
Delivered through a combination of online and in-person classes. At least 50% of learning is in-person.

Admission requirements

Program requirements

  • Portfolio development – As part of your studies at NSCC, you develop a portfolio of your work; the portfolio captures your achievements and profiles your skills to employers.


Tuition amounts are for the 2023-24 academic year. Program costs and fees (textbooks, supplies, etc.) are additional.

Tuition (Domestic):
Tuition (International):

Tuition, fees and program costs

In addition to annual tuition, there are program costs (books, tools, etc.) and student fees for College services, health and dental plans, your student association and parking.

View detailed program fees page(s). Please note that amounts on these pages are meant for planning purposes only. They don't represent final amounts owing.

Career options

  • Design and advertising agencies, newspapers, magazines, publishing companies, web design, multimedia design firms, and printing companies all hire Graphic Designers. Many graduates have also found success as freelancers.

Future study options

Courses may include

These are some of the courses offered in this program. It is not a complete list and courses are subject to change in advance of the academic year.

Recognizing prior learning / transfer credits
If you have previous learning (course, employment, etc...) that's relevant to your program, you may be able to apply to earn credit. Not all programs are eligible. Learn about our recognizing prior learning (RPL) process.

BART 3015 - Business and Entrepreneurship for Graphic Designers
Through a series of lectures, guest speakers, assignments and research learners will learn best business practices as they relate specifically to the graphic design industry in both freelance and employee environments. This course also prepares the graduate for effective inclusion within an office environment.

BART 4015 - Design Matters: The Business of Sustainable Design
This course presents learners with an alternative approach to business and entrepreneurship in the graphic design profession. Building on skills already gained, it will help learners to understand the relevance of social responsibility and sustainable processes associated with the graphic design industry. This course is a practical course requiring learners to identify and work with the local or larger community to create a visual communication strategy that highlights the social needs of the chosen group. The course will introduce learners to the vast repository of resources available to support this approach and connect them to the associated skills outlined by national and international professional graphic design societies. This course addresses two of the major competencies identified for contemporary graphic designers that highlight the need to understand the cultural, social and economic contexts for design and recognize the physical, cognitive, social and human factors that shape design decisions.

GDES 1000 - Studio Practice I
Learners will experiment with and apply a diversity of processes and production methods to create successful solutions to design problems.

GDES 1010 - Typography I
This course introduces the learner to typography and its relationship to graphic design and message delivery. Topics covered will include history, anatomy and hierarchy of type. Learners will work with grids to build page layouts and discuss the major practitioners and style movements associated with typography design.

GDES 1015 - Visual Communications I: Fundamentals
This course introduces the learner to the fundamentals of visual communication through the study of visual literacy. Learners will create and analyze messages created from words, images, shape, colour and texture.

GDES 1020 - Digital Illustration Techniques
Learners will work with traditional illustration tools and industry standard illustration software to create graphics, textures and illustrations. An initial focus on traditional illustration tools such as pencil and paper will assist in the planning of complex digital illustrations making use of both vector and raster based imagery. Broader topics such as composition, colour theory and appropriateness of imagery will be addressed through a variety of assignments. Teaching and learning will consist of a series of training tutorials, assignments and subsequent critiques facilitated by instructors and will culminate in a final assignment incorporating all the learning from the course.

GDES 1025 - Web I
This course introduces students to the fundamental technical building blocks of web design. Students will collaborate and work independently to plan, design, and produce basic web media.

GDES 1030 - Design History
This course covers the major styles, movements and designers that have influenced the graphic arts and resulted in the modern forms we see around us today. Focus is on the early history of graphic design roughly covering the Victorian Era (1800) to the Bauhaus (1940). You will learn about the icons and practitioners that shaped the way we communicate visually through personal research, lecture, guest presentation, discussion and application.

GDES 1040 - Graphic Design of the 20th Century
This course covers the major styles, movements, designers and technical advances of the 20th century that have, and continue to influence the graphic design we see around us today. You will learn about the icons and practitioners that shaped the way we communicate visually through personal research, lecture, guest presentation, discussion and application. You will also identify your personal influences and integrate them into communication design work.

GDES 1050 - Drawing Techniques for Visual Communication
Learners will work with traditional illustration tools and industry standard illustration software and hardware to create drawings used as thumbnails, mock-ups, story boards and final illustrations. An initial focus on drawing technique and practice, basic composition, perspective and shading will assist in the planning and subsequent execution of more complex illustrations involving drawing from life, reference and from one’s imagination. From the introduction of various techniques through tutorials, exercises and assignments, learners will discover, practice and hone previous and newly gained drawing skills. The learner will gain confidence in their abilities to accurately communicate complex ideas and concepts through drawing. This course makes use of in-class exercises as well as assignments created outside of class time.

GDES 2000 - Studio Practice II
Learners will practice creative and analytical studio skills acquired in the previous semester through the use of design language and consistent application of the design process.

GDES 2010 - Web II
This course introduces students to the concepts and fundamentals of interface and web design through the study of interactive technology. Students will collaborate and work independently to plan, design, and produce basic web media.

GDES 2020 - Conceptual Illustration
This course focuses on the creation of industry standard illustration work through the study and practice of alternative illustration techniques. Appropriate solutions do not always rely on computer generated imagery—the human hand can create communications where digital solutions fail. Mark-making as an illustrative technique will be explored as well as collage, the use of texture and other alternative illustration tools. From various tutorials and assignments and through both guided and self-realization, the learner will discover where ideas come from, how to develop concepts to completion and how to evaluate the outcome. To support experimentation as the focus of this course a pass/fail evaluation scheme will be employed.

GDES 2030 - Photography for Graphic Design
This course introduces the learner to the basics of shooting and editing photographs. Content will include camera operation, composition, lighting, shutter speed, exposure, depth of field, texture, colour and concept development. Learners will advance from an introduction to industry standard photo editing software to intermediate knowledge of professional editing tools and techniques. From various tutorials and both technical and creative assignments, the learner will gain an understanding of the technical prowess expected from them in this multifaceted industry.

GDES 2040 - Professional Strategies for Graphic Design
The professional practice course introduces the graphic design learner to various career options, the design process, industry responsibilities and introduces the ongoing process of building and maintaining a professional portfolio.

GDES 2045 - Visual Continuity
Visual Continuity amalgamates the learning from the previous two semesters of study while preparing learners for the realities of projects provided by real world clients. Learners will have an opportunity to complete comprehensive projects individually as well as within a group environment. Emphasis will be placed on effective group work, developing and refining processes, soft skills, client service, producing creative work at a technically professional level and presenting and pitching to a client.

GDES 2050 - Pre-press
This course introduces the graphic design learner to the challenges, approaches, and problem solving techniques associated with the efficient and effective creation of digital print production files.

GDES 3010 - Typography II
Advanced knowledge of typography by learning how to apply graphic design elements and principles to typographic design through experimentation, and generally accepted guidelines. Expanded workshops in type anatomy, tools, vocabulary, and management of multi-page documents will be complemented by a deeper investigation of expressive and expert type, readability, punctuation, special effects, and typographic choices that will reflect a more professional standard of type application.

GDES 3015 - Visual Communications II: Strategies and Solutions
This course facilitates a flexible yet robust engagement with the techniques, strategies and processes of visual communications. Learners will identify and apply a variety of strategies to help solve visual communication problems and communicate effective messages through words and images.

GDES 3025 - Web III
This course prepares students for the real-world application of interactive web-based media through current content management systems and adaptation of hand-coded design for mobile delivery.

GDES 3030 - Art Direction
This course fuses the skills of the designer, copywriter, illustrator and photographer into one position: the Art Director. Emphasis is placed on visual image development and execution, the generation of ideas, concepts and teamwork as they relate to completing creative and appropriate visual solutions to problems primarily (not solely) of an advertising nature. Learners will develop concepts, design roughs, shoot photographs and/or create illustrations and complete final comprehensive materials for presentation to clients both actual and fictional. A basic introduction to the details of budget and timing is included. As learners will require fulfilling all of the associated roles, further photographic instruction is warranted and provided.

GDES 3040 - Design Culture
Design Culture is the study of design artifacts and how they are formed through an awareness of local and global cultural norms. It examines the choices made through topics such as language, politics, religion, sustainability, demographic trends and global relations which result in wide varieties of design forms and functions.

GDES 3050 - Studio: Print
Students create a variety of printed materials working within assigned conceptual and technical constraints.

GDES 4010 - Studio: Web
This course assists the learner in applying their web design knowledge and skills in the creation of attractive, technically robust, standards compliant websites built to client specifications. Learners will work independently and in production teams to design and build create web pages and designed materials for the web and demonstrate progressive proficiency in design practice and principles associated with web design and interactive media.

GDES 4015 - Visual Communications III: Analysis
This course introduces the learner to broad theoretical and social concerns upon which effective practice is predicated. Learners will analyse ethical and social issues associated with visual communication and apply the standards to design solutions across numerous visual communication products. Additionally, the leaner will be exposed to the idea of holistic design with an emphasis on addressing scale and complexity to find solutions to anticipated problems rather than solving existing problems.

GDES 4020 - Self Promotion and Entrepreneurship
This course covers importance of self-promotion and networking in a global, digital environment. It addresses the skills needed to promote oneself and ones work in the most appropriate way to a targeted audience. The standards outlined by professional graphic design societies, intellectual property rights and local and international promotional opportunities will also be covered in this course.

GDES 4050 - Production
This course equips the graduating graphic design learner with industry standard technical processes and techniques integral to efficient performance in entry-level production design and freelance employment opportunities.

GDES 4500 - Applied Learning/Work Experience
The work experience component provides the learner with an opportunity to apply new skills and concepts appropriate for entry-level positions within the occupation. Learners will assess their own performance and be evaluated by an industry partner. Learners will identify personal outcomes they wish to attain during the work experience and will keep a journal.

SAFE 1000 - Introduction to WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information Systems)
This course offers learners basic overview of WHMIS principles and establishes a solid foundation to support workplace-specific training on the safe storage and handling of controlled/hazardous products. Upon successful completion of the course, students receive basic WHMIS certification.

SAFE 1001 - Introduction to NS OH&S Act
This course offers students an introduction to the Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) Act of Nova Scotia, which is required by any person employed in a Nova Scotia workplace. This is a generic, introductory course that provides basic knowledge of the Act for students and is considered to be the basis from which more specific training can be given.

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