Despite a slowly recovering economy, the graphic design industry has held up pretty well. Employment growth has remained stable overall, meaning it has not really gone up or down, and according the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the work of graphic designers will continue to be important in the marketing of products throughout the economy. Further, says the BLS, employment of graphic designers in computer systems design and related services is projected to grow a staggering 21 percent for the 2014-2024 decade. With the increasing use of the Internet, companies are increasing their digital presence and graphic designers will be needed to help create visually appealing and effective layouts of websites.
Although growth in the industry is stable overall, some industries, such as the above-mentioned computer systems design and related services, and even some states, will enjoy greater employment growth than others. Virginia is one such state. Since 2000, the number of salaried graphic designers here has increased by 2,400, and salaries have increased by more than $17,000. The state has also seen growth in the number of PR, marketing, and creative agencies it houses, with more than 5,000 in Central Virginia alone. Just a few include The Martin Agency, Padilla/CRT, LMO Advertising, Merritt Group, and The Hodges Partnership.
To keep up with the growing demand for graphic designers in Virginia, a large number of colleges and universities here have created new programs for graphic designers or expanded existing ones. The result is a wide range of programs at all degree levels for aspiring graphic designers. Just a few of the top schools for graphic designers in the state include the School of Visual Arts at Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth University-VCU School of the Arts, and the School of Art at George Mason University.
Virginia Graphic Design Schools
Virginia is now home to 129 Title IV degree-granting institutions. These schools are eligible for federal financial aid programs, which makes them more accessible to students with financial need. Good news—the graphic design schools on the list below have Title IV status and because some are state schools, they are even more affordable.
Marymount University, School of Arts & Sciences-Graphic Design and Fine Arts Department - Degrees Offered: BA Graphic Design, BA Illustration; BS Information Technology with a Specialization in Interactive Media
School of Visual Arts at Virginia Tech (SOVA Virginia Tech) - Degrees Offered: BFA Visual Communication Design with Concentrations in Graphic Design, Creative Technologies; MFA Creative Technologies
Bluefield College, Department of Art and Design - Degrees Offered: BA Graphic Communications
The Art Institute of Washington – Dulles: Degrees Offered: AA, Graphic & Web Design, BFA Graphic & Web Design
Emory & Henry College, Division ofVisual & Performing Arts – Degrees Offered: BA Graphic Design
George Mason University, School of Art - Degrees Offered: BA, BFA Art and Visual Technology with a Concentration in Graphic Design, New Media; MA Graphic Design; MFA Art and Visual Technology with an Emphasis in New Median
Hampton University, School of Liberal Arts-Fine & Performing Arts - Degrees Offered: BA Art with an Emphasis in Graphic Design
James Madison University, College of Visual and Performing Arts-School of Art, Design and Art History - Degrees Offered: BFA Graphic Design
Lynchburg College, School of Communication and the Arts - Degrees Offered: BA Art with an Emphasis in Graphic Design
Liberty University, Department of Studio & Digital Arts - Degrees Offered: BS, BFA Studio and Digital Arts: Graphic Design; MFA Studio and Digital Arts; Minor Graphic Design
Old Dominion University, Department of Art - Degrees Offered: BFA Art with a Concentration in Graphic Design, Drawing and Design
Norfolk State University, Department of Visual and Performing Arts-Division of Fine Arts - Degrees Offered: BA Graphic Design; MA Visual Studies
Virginia State University, College of Humanities and Social Sciences-Department of Art and Design - Degrees Offered: BFA Visual Arts with a Concentration in Graphic Design
Radford University, Department of Art - Degrees Offered: BFA Graphic Design
Virginia Commonwealth University, VCU School of the Arts - Degrees Offered: BFA Graphic Design, Communication Arts, Kinetic Imaging; MFA Design with a Specialization in Visual Communications, Kinetic Imaging
Mary Baldwin College, College for Women and the Adult Degree Program - Degrees Offered: BA Studio Art with an Emphasis in Graphic Design
Art Institute of Virginia Beach – Degrees Offered: AA Graphic & Web Design, BFA Graphic & Web Design; Diploma Web Design & Interactive Communications
More Virginia Graphic Design related programs to consider:
- Winter Park, FL & Online
- Computer Animation - Bachelor's - Online & Campus
- Game Programs - Bachelor's & Master's - Online & Campus
- Graphic Design & Digital Arts - Bachelor's - Online & Campus
- Film & Digital Cinematography - Bachelor's & Master's - Online & Campus
- Mobile Development - Bachelor's - Online & Campus
- Simulation & Visualization - Bachelor's - Campus
Employment and Salary Trends for Virginia Graphic Designers
Employment and salary information fluctuates often, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics updates this information as it changes—often several times during the same year. According to the BLS report that was available at the time this article was published, Virginia is home to 47,510 professionals working in Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media (ADESM) occupations. An impressive 5,820 of these artists are graphic designers. They average $54,770 per year, up from $37,400 in 2000 when the state was home to 3,420 graphic designers.
Nationwide, graphic designers average $50,670 per year (mean) and $45,900 (median). Overall employment is expected to increase by one percent for the 2014-2024 decade. The BLS previously reported a seven percent increase for the 2012-2022 decade. It is important to note that in 2014 around one in five graphic designers were self-employed. This means, Virginia is likely home to an even larger population of graphic designers, and they may make more or less than the average based on a variety of factors such as company, industry, location, position, level, and more. For example, according to the BLS, “senior designers, who may supervise junior staff or have some decision-making authority that reflects their knowledge of graphic design,” currently earn a median salary of $60,000.
Further, solo designers who freelanced or worked under contract,” says the BLS, “reported median earnings of $57,000. Design directors, the creative heads of design firms, or in-house corporate design departments,” earn $95,000. “Graphic designers with ownership or partnership interests in a firm or who are principals of the firm in some other capacity” averaged $95,000 per year.
As December 17, 2015, the industries with the highest levels of employment for graphic designers are:
- Specialized Design Services (average $48,240 per year)
- Advertising, Public Relations, and Related Services ($45,920)
- Newspaper, Periodical, Book, and Directory Publishers ($40,720)
- Printing and Related Support Activities ($37,720)
- Wholesale Trade ($44,080)
The top paying industries for graphic designers are:
- Federal Executive Branch (OES Designation) (average $77,420 per year)
- Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing ($71,340)
- Securities and Commodity Contracts Intermediation and Brokerage ($64,460)
- Other Telecommunications ($63,910)
- Scientific Research and Development Services ($62,570)
While graphic designers may find employment opportunities in a number of Virginia cities, of the top 10 metro areas in the nation for this occupation, the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division has the fifth highest employment level for graphic designers. At an average salary of $64,430 per year, this division is also is the eighth highest paying metro area of the top 10 highest paying metros for graphic designers. Other areas worth exploring are Virginia Beach—the state’s largest city, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Richmond, Newport News, and Hampton.
Awesome Animation Fact: Did you know that cels from Dumbo (1941) are extremely valuable? Not knowing that original animation cels would someday be worth a lot of money, artists weren’t too careful with preserving their art. In fact, it was just the opposite: while animators were working on movies like Fantasia (1940) and Dumbo, they’d take the finished slippery cels and use them to skate down hallways. Between that and the fact that the earth-toned paints used in the Dumbo color palette were particularly prone to flaking, any remaining cels from the film are among the most valuable of any Disney movie. –mental_floss