Online Graphic Design - Associate Degree | Penn Foster College

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Online Graphic Design

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Graphic Design Associate Degree Program Overview

If you have an eye for design and a knack for working with technology then it's time to hone your creative skills and begin learning about the world of graphic design.

In Penn Foster College's Graphic Design Associate Degree Online Program, you can gain a wide range of skills as you learn graphic design and prepare to pursue a career in the field. Your lessons will cover a wide range of topics, including graphic design and production, photo image editing, streaming technology, multimedia development, and animation using the Adobe® software included with your program. And, with this online Associate Degree Program from Penn Foster College, you study at home or on the go, and at a pace that's right for you.

This program can help you take the first steps towards working as a graphic designer in a variety of settings, including a design studio, advertising agency, publishing house, public relations firm, or almost any company that manufactures a product or offers a service. Graphics designers can also work as freelance designers by starting their own business.

Associate Degrees from Penn Foster College are awarded under licensing from the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education.

Curriculum Details

Program Goal and Outcomes

Program Goal

The Graphic Design Degree program prepares students for an entry-level position in the design industry.

Program Outcomes

Upon completion of the program, students will be able to:

  • Identify different career options available to digital artists
  • Understand the correct use of color and its effectiveness in creating designs
  • Describe the formal elements of design, including line, shape, form, direction, texture, value, color, and composition
  • Use Adobe Illustrator® to create graphics illustrations for print, multimedia and the web
  • Use Adobe Photoshop® to create high quality photos, graphics for product illustrations, logos, animations, and websites
  • Use Adobe Illustrator® or Adobe Photoshop® to enhance words, phrases or quotations, to communicate effectively with your audience, and use both traditional and contemporary typographic skill
  • Use Adobe InDesign® to design an image, brochure, magazine or web page to reach target audiences with printed publications that can be repurposed into interactive digital documents for delivery on the Web and on mobile and tablet devices
  • Use brand information to design a package that's appropriate for the target audiences
  • Discuss general manufacturing and printing processes related to packaging design
  • Use Adobe Dreamweaver® to design and launch a web page using HTML and XHTML
  • Design user friendly and visually appealing web pages that include multimedia features such as animation
  • Use Adobe Flash® to create animations and allow for user interaction, then integrate the animation and interactions into web pages created with Dreamweaver
  • Use Adobe Fireworks® to create graphs, then integrate the graphs into web pages created with Dreamweaver
  • Use Adobe Dreamweaver® to design and launch a web page that includes multimedia features such as animation and interactivity
  • Create a digital portfolio to use on an interview for an entry-level position
  • Demonstrate effective written and interpersonal communication skills
  • Demonstrate a high level of inquiry, analytical, and problem-solving skills
  • Demonstrate effective quantitative skills
  • Demonstrate computer and information literacy
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the liberal arts, natural sciences, and social sciences

Semester 1

Basic Skills Assessments

All degree applicants are required to complete two Basic Skills Assessments, one in reading and one in math, to determine the level of readiness for beginning their selected program. Additional studies may be required.

GRD101 Graphic Design Orientation 1 credit

Succeed by learning how to use your Penn Foster program, and learn how computer technology enables the trained individual to create highly sophisticated images.


  • Understand how to use your Student Portal, including your My Homepage and My Courses pages.
  • Access the Penn Foster Community and use it to find answers.
  • Connect with Penn Foster on various social media sites.
  • Describe the benefits of using computers for artistic purposes.
  • Identify hardware and tools used to create digital art.
  • Explore different career opportunities available to digital artists.
ILS103 Information Literacy 1 credit

Get better at finding and using information!


  • Search the Internet more effectively.
  • Get tips about search engines and reliable websites.
  • Learn how to search libraries and other information centers for important, useful information.
CSC104 Computer Applications 3 credits

This course will allow you to build your computer skills through a combination of reading and hands-on practice. You will navigate popular software tools such as Windows® and Microsoft® Office.


  • Create, edit, and illustrate Microsoft® Word™ documents.
  • Apply formulas and functions to large data sets in Microsoft® Excel.®
  • Incorporate useful charts and graphs to summarize data.
  • Add, delete, sort, and lay out table data.
  • Create presentations in Microsoft® PowerPoint® using advanced tools, tables, and charts.
GRD105 Color Theory 3 credits

Color sends a powerful message, and the correct use of color can add to the effectiveness of any project.


  • Describe the relationship between light and color.
  • Understand the basics of color theory.
  • Organize colors using color wheels and color spheres.
  • Describe the use of color in both two-and three-dimensional projects.

Textbook: Color: A Workshop for Artists and Designers

ENG100 English Composition 3 credits

This course will guide you in improving your writing skills.


  • Review English grammar.
  • Brainstorm, write, edit, and revise essays.
  • Write effective and clear thesis statements.
  • Write descriptive, persuasive, and reflective essays as well as first-person narratives.

Textbook: Successful College Writing

Supplement: The Little, Brown Essential Handbook

GRD110 Introduction to Graphic Design 3 credits

In this course, you’ll explore endless possibilities to create a great design.


  • Identify the four basic principles of design and the ways they're used in a variety of projects.
  • Recognize color relationships.
  • Explain the essential aspects of typography, including contrasts and categories.
  • Demonsstrate skill at incorporating proximity, alignment, repetition, contrast, color, and type into a design.

Textbook: The Non-Designer’s Design Book

Proctored Examination

You will be required to complete a proctored exam on selected courses each semester. These assessments will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the semester. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.

Semester 2

HUM102 Art Appreciation 3 credits

This course will provide you with the foundational knowledge needed to critique a variety of artwork.


  • Understand artistic media.
  • Identify historical periods and artistic movements.
  • Explain the roles of the artist and the viewer.
GRD201 Typography 3 credits

Typography is the study of the design of font and the way it is laid out to achieve the desired visual effect. Many graphic design projects involve typography.


  • Use typography to communicate effectively with your audience.
  • Use both traditional and contemporary typographic skills.
  • Design with text and display type.
  • Create your own design projects.

Textbook: Design with Type

INT205 Introduction to Internet Multimedia 3 credits

With multimedia, you can make your websites more user-friendly and attract more users.


  • Understand the importance of planning out your website ahead of time.
  • Describe the various types of multimedia and the best ways to use them.
  • Plan, design, and create a professional and attractive website using multimedia.
  • Add a database to your website.
  • Advertise your online business using effective marketing strategies.

Textbook: Multimedia for the Web Revealed

GRD115 Graphic Design and Production (Illustrator®) 3 credits

Learn and practice the basic skills needed to produce Adobe® Illustrator® artwork.


  • Draw and paint complex artwork in Adobe® Illustrator.®
  • Create charts, graphs, documents that fold, and graphics with text in Adobe® Illustrator.®
  • Use Illustrator® to create a website interface using image trace and live color.

Software: Adobe® Design Standard

Textbook: Adobe® Illustrator® CS6: The Professional Portfolio

GRD130 Photo Image-Editing 1 3 credits

In this course, you’ll learn to use Adobe® Photoshop® to produce the highest-quality images for print, Web, and screen.


  • Modify, enhance, retouch, and correct images and photographs.
  • Create original digital artwork using shape and painting tools.
  • Create and optimize static and animated images for delivery on the Web.
  • Create 3D objects.

Textbook: Adobe® Photoshop® CS6 Digital Classroom

Proctored Examination

You will be required to complete a proctored exam on selected courses each semester. These assessments will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the semester. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.

Semester 3

GRD135 Photo Image-Editing 2 3 credits

Continue your study of photo image editing using Adobe® Photoshop® and practice your skills through step-by-step projects.


  • Set up your workspace for print and Web.
  • Create custom colors.
  • Use vector drawing tools.
  • Output files for proofing, page layout, printing, and the Web.

Textbook: Photoshop® CS6 Essential Skills

GRD212 Corporate Design 3 credits

In this course, you’ll learn the components of a successful brand and practical and alternative methods of implementing your brands in traditional channels.


  • Describe the major decisions involved in planning a brand strategy.
  • Identify methods and channels to promote your brand.
  • Understand what makes a brand successful and how to incorporate those elements into your own designs.

Textbook: Packaging Design: Successful Product from Concept to Shelf

GRD205 Electronic Publishing 3 credits

In this course, you’ll learn to use Adobe® InDesign® software to create printed publications that can be repurposed into interactive digital documents for delivery on the Web, mobile, and tablet devices.


  • Set up files for single- and multiple-page documents for print and digital publishing.
  • Lay out text and images on the page.
  • Create interactive PDFs.
  • Publish digital documents and books on the Web.

Textbook: Adobe® InDesign® CC: Classroom in a Book

ENG121 Business and Technical Writing 3 credits

Learn how to write business and technical documents for more effective communication.


  • Organize your material logically and systematically.
  • Use action verbs effectively and construct paragraphs.
  • Conduct research and document sources.
MAT115 Intermediate Algebra 3 credits

This course introduces basic algebraic concepts that you’ll need to be successful in your career.


  • Understand the systems of equations, polynomials, and radicals.
  • Factor polynomial expressions.
  • Simplify rational expressions.

Additional Course Material:
Textbook: Intermediate Algebra

SSC130 Essentials of Psychology 3 credits

This course will introduce you to the relationship between biology and behavior. You will learn about human development throughout the life span.


  • Identify major psychological theories.
  • Discuss consciousness, memory, thought, and language.
  • Define intelligence, personality, and stress.
  • Analyze the role of gender in psychology.
  • Explain how community influences behavior.

Textbook: Psychology and Your Life

Proctored Examination

You will be required to complete a proctored exam on selected courses each semester. These assessments will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the semester. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.

Semester 4

GRD220 Web Design 3 credits

This course focuses on using Adobe® Photoshop® to create graphics, animations, and page layouts for the Web.


  • Understand Web terminology.
  • Use automated features, such as the Web photo gallery.
  • Format type and design layouts for Web viewing.
  • Create custom colors and optimize image resolution.
  • Create animations.
Science Elective (Choose one) 3 credits

SCI110 - Earth Science

This course will allow you to learn about planet Earth and the various aspects of the environment.


  • Describe specific characteristics of Earth.
  • Describe different types of rocks and minerals.

SCI120 - Introduction to Biology

This course will allow you to explore the origin of life and the relationships among all living things.


  • Explain how organisms are structured and how they work.
  • Discuss the various forms of life and their processes.

SCI140 - Nutrition 

This course will allow you to develop a healthier lifestyle by making smarter nutritional decisions.


  • Explain the various components of nutrition as a science.
  • Describe nutrition from a global viewpoint.
  • Understand the importance of water and exercise.
  • Identify the basics of human growth and aging.
  • Discuss food safety procedures.
INT120 HTML Coding 3 credits

This course will teach you how to create Web pages with hypertext links, tables, frames, and forms, working with content and layout, and creating new frames and windows.


  • Use HTML to create your own Web pages.
  • Use JavaScript® to add interactions to your Web pages.
  • Use dynamic HTML to create special effects.
  • Use XHTML to create a well-formed valid document.

Textbook: HTML

INT238 Streaming Technology, Multimedia Development, and Animation 3 credits

Learn to use three tools to create Web pages, multimedia, and animation.


  • Work with Adobe® Dreamweaver® to create Websites.
  • Use Adobe® Flash® to add interactivity and animations to your projects.
  • Use Adobe® Fireworks® to create graphics for the Web.
  • Integrate Dreamweaver,® Flash,® and Fireworks® to create unique websites that contain interactivity, animations, and/or graphics.

Software: Adobe® Design Premium CS5

Textbook: The Web Collection CS5 Revealed

GRD222 Dreamweaver 3 credits

This course will provide you with the fundamentals on Dreamweaver.®


  • Use the visual authoring tool, Dreamweaver® software, to design and develop web sites.
  • Use coding tools and features that allow you to edit coding like HTML, XML, XHTML.
  • Publish your website.
  • Use Dreamweaver® Help and Accessibility.
  • Publish to a remote site.
GRD225 Portfolio Development 3 credits

This course is designed to take you through the process of creating a professional portfolio to obtain work in the design field.


  • Prepare a professional cover letter, résumé, and portfolio.
  • Identify, select, and organize portfolio pieces that showcase your talents and experiences.
  • Produce digital portfolios for delivery on CD, DVD, or the Web.
  • Design a user-friendly interface for an interactive digital portfolio.

Textbook: The Graphic Designer's Guide to Portfolio Development 

Proctored Examination

You will be required to complete a proctored exam on selected courses each semester. These assessments will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the semester. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.

Computer Specifications
As you know this is an online academic program. This means you will need high-speed internet access to begin your program. In addition, you will need access to a Microsoft® Windows® based computer running Windows 7® or later or an Apple® Mac® computer running OS X® or later, and an email account to participate in and complete your program.

Graduation Requirements

  • Complete all 4 semesters.
  • Pass all courses.
  • Achieve a cumulative Quality Point Average (QPA) of 2.0 or higher.

NOTE: Advanced standing student shipments may vary from the above schedule.
Although this outline covers all four semesters of your program, you receive lesson materials for each semester as you enroll.
We reserve the right to change program content and materials when it becomes necessary.
Credits earned in Penn Foster programs may transfer to some, but not all, learning institutions. If you are planning to continue your education with another school after you earn your degree from Penn Foster, you should check with that school regarding credit transfer policies.
Microsoft, Windows, Excel, and PowerPoint are registered trademarks and Word is a trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.
Apple, Mac, and OS X are trademarks of Apple, Inc. registered in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.
Adobe Illustrator, Dreamweaver, Flash, Fireworks, InDesign, and PhotoShop are trademarks of Adobe Systems Incorporated registered in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.
JavaScript is a trademark of Oracle Corporation registered in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.

Sample Lesson

To view a Graphic Design sample lesson, click here.

Graphic Design Program Details

In the Penn Foster Graphic Design Associate Online degree program you'll cover topics such as:

online graphic design school

Graphic designers create computer graphics, electronic images, and desktop designs for companies such as advertising agencies, publishing houses, and television studios. Here are a few qualities that successful graphic designers have in common:

  • Creative: When it comes to design, you often have to think outside of the box.
  • Flexible: Projects may require compromise and different approaches for different clients.
  • Innovative: Design issues will require creativity and unique problem solving.
  • Dependable: Clients and employers rely on you to get the job done.

Having been a photographer on the side and working with Photoshop for over 10 years, I decided that I wanted to expand my horizons and learn more of the Adobe® CS Suite. This is where I started looking into colleges where I live and online schools. All I found was expense, expense, expense! Being on a fixed income, I could not afford the extremely high prices per credit at these schools. One night I was watching TV, and I saw an ad for Penn Foster College. Well, I immediately went to the computer and looked them up. What did I find, you ask? A great accredited school with many programs and one program especially that fit what I wanted. I can't believe how inexpensive Penn Foster was to attend. I signed up immediately! That was the best thing I have ever done!

- Deanna E., Graphic Design Graduate

Penn Foster has a great faculty and staff that truly care about the well-being of their current and future students. Penn Foster has truly helped me obtain my degree through distance learning. I am a military spouse and, up until my last semester, I worked full-time and the convenience to be able to work at my own pace is excellent. My shipments are always on time and I never had any problems with getting the answers I needed regarding my coursework. Penn Foster has given me a life and a career. I feel joy to be graduating in just a few short months and I'm very happy knowing Penn Foster provided me with the knowledge I need to excel in my career. Don't think twice... please enroll today!

- Shantell P., Penn Foster College Graduate

Your program includes:

  • Customized payment plans with 0% interest
  • Adobe® Illustrator,® Photoshop,® InDesign,® Dreamweaver,® Flash,® and Fireworks® software
  • Goal-setting and progress-tracking tools
  • Instructional support from our experienced faculty
  • Access 24/7 to Penn Foster’s online community, plus immediate membership in the Graphic Design academic group
  • Your personalized online student homepage and learning portal
  • Additional resources such as our online library and career guidance from Career Cruising

Does Penn Foster College’s Graphic Design Associate Degree Program provide any software?

Yes, you will receive Adobe® Design Standard and Web Premium software, which includes Illustrator,® Photoshop,® InDesign,® Dreamweaver,® Flash,® and Fireworks.®

Will my Penn Foster College credits transfer to other schools?

Penn Foster College credits have been accepted for transfer into many colleges across the country. Students should check with a specific college to see if they accept our credits, as credit transfer can vary depending on the school. Also, the American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE CREDIT) has evaluated and recommended college credit for many Penn Foster College courses. No form of accreditation guarantees that any learning institution will accept credits from any school as transfer credits. For more information on transferring credits, click here.

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