Studying to create visual messages is the crux of every graphic design program. When looking at different graphic design programs for your degree, look for high-quality teachers who are on the cutting edge in the field. Also, look for students who generate a lot of creative ideas (and who are encouraged by faculty to generate creative ideas) and for students who may already be doing freelance work to build their portfolios. The key to a great graphic design education is to be in an environment where natural creativity flourishes.
Of course, learning theory is important, or you could find yourself making some costly mistakes. For instance, a story appeared once in Yahoo! News about a man who opened a package that was sent to him and discovered that if was full of body parts. Apparently, a prankster from a medical facility had decided to send some discarded human parts to random people via the mail. However, an ad also appeared on the page–a link to a UPS video with the words, “It’s UPS early morning delivery.”
Granted, most packages from UPS don’t contain surgically removed livers and sliced off ears. However, the placement of the advertisement qualifies as a major fail. Sure, the company and the graphic designer wanted the ad to be memorable. They just probably wanted to go about the process a different way. For example, a print story with the headline “1 in 4 Women will be Beaten by Husbands” might not be the best place for a Father’s Day ad. Again, the placement is memorable, just not in a good way.
In fact, according to research conducted by Knowledge Networks, ads are most memorable based on the quality of the ad and the viewer’s involvement with the medium in which the ad was placed. A well-designed ad in a magazine that the reader loves will achieve the best recall. Typical graphic design and advertising metrics, such as position on the page, total pages in the magazine and the old adage, “Far forward, right front page” don’t matter as much when trying to generate reader engagement.
What does this mean for graphic design students? If ad effectiveness is key, then schools need to focus on creative design instead of on tired theoretical metrics. This underscores the need to be around innovative faculty and fellow students. No graphic design program would train students to place a chocolate face mask ad next to a story headlined, “Man Smears Feces on His Lawyer.” However, if the program isn’t teaching independent thinking, then designers and advertisers may make thoughtless choices.
Good advertisements, according to Knowledge Networks, are appealing. Good ads grab the reader’s attention and communicate the main message. Additionally, good ads are believable and persuasive. Placing an Aflac ad, with the infamous duck, next to an article on anatidaephobia (the fear that you are being watched by a duck) will grab the reader’s attention.
For readers with anatidaephobia, however, the Aflac duck will not be an appealing character. No designer wants their ads to send potential customers into a fetal position. So maybe attending a school that fosters creativity and independent analysis is essential for success in the graphic design field should be your pick.