3 answers

Do companies view an online Bachelors of Graphic Design degree the same as they would a traditional in class Bachelors of Graphic Design degree?

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3 answers

Rachel’s Answer


Companies that hire designers do so based not on their degree, but on the quality of their portfolio. So I'll turn the question back on you. Can you produce a better portfolio with the feedback of physical people and watching other designers work around you, or would you work better alone? My guess is being there. The reason designers go to physical design school is not to be in class. It's to see and learn from others around you.

It's to make mistakes and learn from your peers, have a community that is going through the same very painful process as you are. Design school is hard. It's long hours. The hardest part is having a great idea and not knowing how to make what you want to make. And the only way to get there is to practice and make mistakes. For me, having a community of people around me sharing the same design challenges, at different levels and with different skill sets helped me learn more, and faster. It also gave me a very much-needed support system that helped me when times got hard and the nights got long.

Rachel recommends the following next steps:

  • Compare the portfolios of people that have graduated online design schools to those of traditional design schools. (find them on Linkedin based on their school)
  • If your problem is going to school during normal hours, look at non-traditional schools that will allow you to take night and weekend classes.
  • Compare the jobs of people graduating from online schools to those of traditional schools. Which one would you prefer?

Jake’s Answer



I am not in the design field. This being said, companies evaluate you as an individual following some treats:

- soft skills: "Could I work with this person for 12h a day?", Is it a team player?, Is it trustworthy?

- Current skill set. This is the most difficult to evaluate. The best way to showcase it is making a portfolio with all your side projects and related work.

- Potential Growth. How much time would the company require to invest to speed this person up to speed

- references/old colleagues or peers. It isn't unusual that companies require some point of contact or if you know any current employee (recommendation letters or similar). So, always try to network all you can because my personal experience showed me that people will always try to help you out.

Therefore, going back to your question; companies (depending which one) don't give much weight to the institution itself.

Hope this helps.

Ellen’s Answer


Hi Larkin:

My mother always used to say, it's not that important where you get your education but what you do with it. So, ideally, the final proof will be in the quality of your graphic design portfolio, (along with your personal and professional references). Does your portfolio show your talent, your skills, your work ethic and determination, along with success in specific tasks that graphic designers need to to have today, such as computer graphic skills (Photoshop, Illustrator and so on).

I am not an art director of any company, but as a retired art teacher, I can give you somethings to think about in evaluating an online vs. traditional programs.

You should see if you could contact another graduate of the online program you are considering. How was their experience, what did they learn, how did their teachers support them, and most important, did they get a job at the end of it? Contact the online program's director or dean and see you can get an idea of how their graduates do in terms of employment upon graduating. Get some numbers. Also go on the internet and see if you can get any online ratings for the program, or comments from former students.

You should also do the same with any traditional graphic design programs you are interested in, talk to graduates, talk to the teachers and administrators to get some information from the school about how well their students do in terms getting jobs, and get some online ratings.

Once you have some information, compare the two. Sit down and compare the courses and requirements. Compare the costs of the two programs. The online course will probably be cheaper, but is it worth it in the long run in terms of what and how you will learn? Be aware that most online schools are "for profit", which means their bottom line could become more important to them than your education and future career.

As you probably know, digital imagery is changing rapidly, so for any program online or traditional, try to make sure that the instructors are current with any new technology and, ideally, are still working in the field. You want current, up to date information. In either program you would have to purchase the software (at a good discount with your student ID, usually), but a traditional school is more likely to have the newer technology in terms of hardware (computers, scanners, and so on) for you to use and to gain experience on. Check this aspect out too.

As might be able to tell, in my opinion a traditional program would be the way to go. I think there are some subjects that lend themselves to online learning, but, as a retired art teacher, I don't feel that art is one of them. You learn a lot by interacting with and being challenged by your teachers and fellow students, something you would not get from an online class. From my experience in teaching art classes, I know that sometimes just casually showing your work to a fellow student can spark conversations where significant learning can take place. I also know that just chatting about art materials with other students can lead to new ideas, as in "oh, maybe I'll try that". There are forums for online students to interact, but, in my opinion, face to face interactions are always more meaningful in education. I would also think that it will be easier to get recommendations from your "live teachers", which will also be important in getting internships and your first job.

So, while I can't answer for a company, I would say check out your options and decide which one is for you. If you are still in school, talk to the art teachers, and see what they have to say about this. I know they would be happy to help you.

Best wishes!