Graphic Design Undergraduate Certificate Program Program Details

Penn Foster’s online Graphic Design Undergraduate Certificate Program consists of classes geared toward helping students gain skills in graphic design essentials, production, photo image editing, typography, portfolio development, and more.

Program Goal and Outcomes

Program Goal

The Graphic Design undergraduate certificate program prepares students to use Adobe® software for graphic design and production in a current career or to continue their graphic design education.

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
  • Create an effective, interactive web-based portfolio to use during a job search
Basic Skills Assessment

All 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.

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.
  • 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.

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


  • Explain the perception of color, the effect of light temperature on the appearance of a color, and color overtone and its impact on color mixing
  • Describe the principles and structure of color, including light, color schemes, and color proportions
  • Identify color studies with various materials and techniques
  • Recognize color interaction and effects
  • Comprehend how to apply color principles
  • Discuss color harmony and proportions
  • Define and interpret color in art and its psychological effects

Textbook: Color: A Workshop for Artists and Designers


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: Non-Designers Design Book


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


  • Identify the tools and components of the Illustrator workspace
  • Describe how to use artboards as well as how to create basic and complex shapes using the Pen tool
  • Create, edit, and apply color, text, gradients, blends, patterns, and brushes
  • Explain how to use the Appearance, Graphic Styles, and Symbols panels; work with imported images and masks; and export assets

Software: Adobe® CC

Textbook: Adobe Illustrator CC: Classroom in a Book


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


  • Modify and enhance images
  • Create original imagery using shape and painting tools
  • Retouch and correct existing photographs and images
  • Extract detailed selections from existing images
  • Apply special effects and filters to images
  • Add type to images
  • Create and optimize static and animated images for delivery on the Web

Textbook: Adobe Photoshop CC: Classroom in a Book


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


  • Set up your workspace for print and Web
  • Use Bridge to manage your images
  • Create custom colors and describe color processes
  • Use nondestructive adjustment tools to correct and edit images
  • Use retouching tools and keyboard shortcuts
  • Create composite images using layers, layer effects, and blend modes
  • Employ selections and channels to edit and composite images
  • Use vector drawing tools
  • Find, use, and manipulate images
  • Save files in the proper format and resolution
  • Output files for proofing, page layout, printing, and the Web

Textbook: Adobe Photoshop CC for Digital Photographers


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.


  • Define key moments in the history of typography
  • Label key parts of a letterform
  • Differentiate among the five classic typefaces
  • Design with text type
  • Design with display type
  • Use both traditional and more recent typographic skills
  • Create your own design projects

Textbook: Designing with Type


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


  • Set up files for single– and multiple–page documents for print and digital publishing
  • Lay out text and images on the page
  • Format and stylize text
  • Use tools and shortcuts
  • Set tabs to align text
  • Set up master pages and styles
  • Use vector drawing tools
  • Modify graphics
  • Locate, use, and manipulate images
  • Create and manage color
  • Output files for proofing and for final print
  • Create special image effects

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


In this course, you’ll learn the components of a successful brand.


  • Interpret branding and packaging design as a communication and marketing tool
  • Identify the market factors that affect packaging
  • Explain the importance of brand packaging design as it relates to the protection against spoilage, breakage, and tampering and as a method of transportation for an enclosed product
  • Distinguish between branding, brand packaging design, and other communication forms
  • Develop a clearly defined strategy for brand packaging design that stands out from market competition
  • Incorporate the use of typography, dimensions, and imagery as it relates to the communicable characteristics of a brand or product
  • Summarize the importance of sustainability as it relates to packaging design
  • Discuss general manufacturing and printing processes related to packaging design

Textbook: Packaging Design: Successful Product from Concept to Shelf


This course teaches students about the guiding principles behind web and mobile usability. The course provides instruction on how to develop a usable, accessible website for desktop computers and mobile devices. Topics covered include writing for the web, designing navigation, and usability testing.


  • Apply the basics of web design and terminology, user experience design, and writing for the web
  • Design usable navigation systems and a usable home page
  • Conduct a usability test on a website

Textbook: Don't Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web and Mobile Usability

Portfolio Development covers the process of developing and maintaining an electronic portfolio. Topics covered are the preparation and organization of graphic creations, such as logos, websites, and brochures. This course culminates in the presentation of an electronic portfolio utilizing graphics created throughout this course.


  • Prepare a professional verbal and visual presentation that includes a cover letter, résumé, and portfolio
  • Create a traditional portfolio
  • Produce linear and interactive digital portfolio
  • Create compelling type designs and layouts
  • Design a user-friendly interface for an interactive web-based portfolio

Textbook: The Graphic Designer’s Guide to Portfolio Design


Proctored Exam

This assessment will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the program. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.

Additional Details

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

Penn Foster College Accreditation & Licensing Details

Penn Foster College has been nationally accredited for over 40 years, and has met the high standards of integrity and performance set by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) in Washington, D.C. Penn Foster College has been thoroughly reviewed and has earned several important accreditations and licensing. We also participate in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements.

Surround Sound Support

A Committed Support System

While you can study independently, you’re not alone! With a dedicated Student Services department, the Student Community, and instructors just a call away, you’ll have access to the support you need.
Over the course of the Penn Foster College Graphic Design Undergraduate Certificate program, you will have the opportunity to attend live or recorded webinars to help you better understand your lessons. The live webinars will allow you to ask our instructors questions in real time.
Penn Foster Student Community

Student Community

Looking to connect with other Penn Foster students? Our Student Community is the perfect place for you to interact with your peers — as well as Penn Foster faculty and staff — to discuss your online learning experience, congratulate fellow students, and share your Penn Foster experience.

Sample Graphic Design Lesson

Penn Foster courses are written in a way that is easy to understand, and materials are broken down into manageable lessons. Take a look at what a Graphic Design course would look like.
Optician Sample Lesson
Computer Specifications
As you know this is an online academic program. This means you will need access to high-speed internet to begin your program. In addition, you will need access to a Microsoft® Windows® based computer running Windows 10® or later or an Apple® Mac® computer running macOS® or later, an email account, and Microsoft® Office 2019 or Microsoft 365® to complete this program. This program also requires the use of Adobe software. Please check Adobe's computer requirements to ensure that your computer meets the minimum requirements.
We reserve the right to change program content and materials when it becomes necessary.
Microsoft and Windows are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation registered 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.
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