Kirkwood’s graphic design program teaches in-demand job skills


Photo courtesy of Kirkwood Community College

Reggie Morrow, Kirkwood Instructor

Marketing, communications and storytelling are more visual today than ever. Every business and organization is vying for our attention through print, digital and social media, and stunning visuals and clever graphic design will win the fight every time. How can someone new to media have an advantage? Kirkwood Community College has the answer.

Kirkwood’s Continuing Education Graphic Design Certificate Program is a six-month program that teaches the tools and techniques to help you become an effective graphic designer. Over 11 classes, which meet twice a week in a state-of-the-art computer lab on the Kirkwood campus in Cedar Rapids, students learn design principles that apply to all media, such as color, composition and typography, as well as how to use the latest professional software, including Adobe graphic design programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator.

Course instructor Reggie Morrow said it was common for his students to have already started a career in marketing or communications. “They’re employed in an organization that respects and understands that they need smart graphic design,” Morrow said, “so they’ll send an employee to take one of those courses to better suit their needs.”

Brooke Batha, a recent graduate of the program, was already employed as a content creator and social media professional at the Eastern Iowa Airport when she enrolled. “I do a bit of graphic design in my job, so that helped me in that,” Batha said. “I learned the different concepts and principles, and I am now able to do the basics of Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. It was a very revealing program. »

Photoshop is the industry standard for photo editing and manipulation, allowing artists to control the light and color of their shots, or completely change reality by removing small imperfections or massive buildings depending of their needs. Illustrator is vector art software that allows users to create endlessly scalable design elements and typography. InDesign and Acrobat are useful tools for creating professional layouts for print-ready books, brochures, and packaging.

However, Morrow stressed that the class is not just about learning how to use the latest software. “Our program starts with design principles, learning some of those important words like balance, closeness, contrast, and weight. Once you understand design principles, it doesn’t matter what tools you use. The software does not offer the solution.

Throughout the course, students learn by analyzing and designing familiar objects: “The projects were common things you would see in everyday life,” Batha said. “Make a newspaper or magazine cover. There was a children’s book, a concert poster. I really liked my business card. By examining successful and unsuccessful executions of graphic design, Morrow molds his students into better communicators. “Graphic design is a visual solution to a problem,” Morrow said. “Whether it’s a brochure, packaging or a sign. It even extends across languages. If you have to use the bathroom, you look at the doors and there are pictograms. It’s like orientation.

These foundational design theories taught in the course have a way of sticking with you, Batha said. “There are things I’m going to look at now, alignment and contrast – I used to say ‘I’m not a big fan of that’ or ‘I really

like this design”, but could not explain why. Now, after taking the course, these concepts make sense. »

Students who complete the course receive a certificate from Kirkwood and will have developed a portfolio of work they created during the course, but this is not Morrow’s ultimate intention for students. “My goal is to have students who can be of immediate value to society,” Morrow said. “They can go out and start working for someone and help with their creative needs. I want them ready to go when they leave the session. If they put in the time, they will be.

If you want to start your career in graphic design, register online at For more information, call Kirkwood Continuing Education at 319-398-1022.


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