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Learner Reviews & Feedback for Fundamentals of Graphic Design by California Institute of the Arts

17,205 ratings

About the Course

Graphic Design is all around us! Words and pictures—the building blocks of graphic design—are the elements that carry the majority of the content in both the digital world and the printed world. As graphic design becomes more visible and prevalent in our lives, graphic design as a practice becomes more important in our culture. Through visual examples, this course will teach you the fundamental principles of graphic design: imagemaking, typography, composition, working with color and shape... foundational skills that are common in all areas of graphic design practice. I don't just want you to watch a video of someone talking about design, I want you to MAKE design! If you want to be a designer you have to be a maker and a communicator, so this course will offer you lots of opportunities to get your hands dirty with exercises and with more practical projects. At the end of this course you will have learned how to explore and investigate visual representation through a range of image-making techniques; understand basic principles of working with shape, color and pattern; been exposed to the language and skills of typography; and understand and have applied the principles of composition and visual contrast. If you complete the course, along with its optional (but highly recommended) briefs, you will have a core set of graphic design skills that you can apply to your own projects, or to more deeply investigate a specialized area of graphic design. To succeed in this course you will need access to a computer. You can complete this course without one but it will be tougher. Access to, and a beginner's level knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite programs, such as Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign will help you, especially if you want to complete the optional briefs....

Top reviews


Apr 17, 2016

very good introductory course. i enjoyed the assignments, they are not overwhelming, easy to start, and the optional ones offer great opportunity to dig little deeper into graphic design fundamentals.


Sep 5, 2021

I had a lot of fun in this course. I learnt some extra bits of information related to graphic design and I think it's a great start for beginners as well as good practice for intermediate and experts!

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1 - 25 of 4,436 Reviews for Fundamentals of Graphic Design

By Sunny D

Oct 14, 2015

I was led to believe that I would be learning the fundamentals of graphic design, which to me means learning how to use Photoshop, InDesign, etc. This is more about learning how to create art in general, not exactly what I'm looking for.

By Giancarlo A

Aug 21, 2018

Very interesting, I liked the format. Easy to follow, nice excercises. It's actually good to cover the basics of design, even if you are not an absolute beginner, and especially if you are self taught

By Chris S

May 9, 2018

An ok course for beginners. A bit too basic for someone who has already had experience in design, but is great anyway cause it breaks things back down to the simplest parts to help you remember roots.

By Amin R

Apr 17, 2016

very good introductory course. i enjoyed the assignments, they are not overwhelming, easy to start, and the optional ones offer great opportunity to dig little deeper into graphic design fundamentals.


Jul 14, 2020

Excellent course to learn and refresh about fundamentals of design....It applies to all spheres of MULTIMEDIA..Highly recommended... As a suggestion course and notes should be available in PDF format.

By rebecca

Apr 4, 2017

I would not recommend this one to any paying customer. This is the second intro to Graphic Design class I have take on Coursera, and I found the way the material was presented in the CalArts course to be quite slow and pretty boring. Our assignments were simple and I felt no excitement in doing them. It would have been beneficial to see how these fundamental building blocks could be used in real life design. The other class (by CU-Boulder) made me want to continue learning ,and I felt excited to complete the projects whereas with this class I was forcing myself to sit down to finish just the required ones.

By Ted J

Sep 6, 2021

I had a lot of fun in this course. I learnt some extra bits of information related to graphic design and I think it's a great start for beginners as well as good practice for intermediate and experts!

By ilias b

Feb 29, 2016

ok, i'm probably not the average student here cause i am old,... saying that i have a fine art qualification and 25 years of 'almost there' design experience to have a point of view. 'almost' being the important part of it...

what this module gives you is a very firm understanding of how design works these days. the main lecturer is really good at what he does, and that's probably the most important part of any teacher-student situation. For personal reasons i committed a bit too much on this course, and i am glad to say that whether you feel like devoting 8 hours a week for it or 28 as i did, there is stuff for you to learn.

although i already knew pretty much 70% of the material, having the concepts reestablished by this teacher in such structured manner really helped me out.

If we're to get sentimental, i can honestly say that i feel this module was the best thing i did this past month, cause through fine art i have been designing for the past 25 years, but this gave me the STRUCTURE to think of DESIGN in relevant terms.


do it!

btw.,i've tried to be as honest as i can possibly be here, hope it helps. if it was crap i would say it's crap. but this one isn't. and of course it's up to you to fully exploit this wonderful possibility.

By Ehab M

Aug 7, 2016

i hate to say it, but this course is really really bad ... not practical at all. i'm not sure where this is all going. maybe by the fourth course in the series, 100 hours later of lectures, you might have something practical but this approach feels wrong. i'm sorry, it's a reputable school and who the hell am I, but one man's opinion: rethink how you go about introducing the newbie to graphic design as it's applicable to the real world.

By Muhib B N

May 19, 2022

very good introductory course. i enjoyed the assignments, they are not overwhelming, easy to start, and the optional ones offer great opportunity to dig little deeper into graphic design fundamentals.

By Leah E

Apr 11, 2019

I have taken graphics coursework at a number of institutions of higher learning. I appreciate the straightforward, simplified and accessible way the information is presented in a logical and sequential format to create a foundational understanding of the essential elements of graphic design. Weeks 3 and 4 are where it really comes together. I found these lectures of such critical importance that I saved them all. For a short term course, without the more extensive commitment of a full 16-week term one might find elsewhere, if one commits the time and effort to undertake all of the assignments, I found as much value in this course as I have in more traditional programs. It's reminded me of why I love graphic design, and although it's a basic introductory course, I was excited to undertake these exercises and do it all over again. This class is worth your time, effort and attention. Thank you CalArts and Coursera!

By Muhammad A Y

Nov 15, 2017

first i am very thankful to you to give me this opportunity to understand graphics designing in the real way . its very creative course i really learn a lot from this course . amazing . thanks a lot.

By black s

May 16, 2020

The content, lectures, examples, assignments, etc were all great! I thought doing the assignments and the optional practice assignments were really helpful. The reason why it's 4 instead of 5 stars is because I wish there was more engagement or feedback from the course staff. While doing the assignments were an useful experience, I didn't get much useful feedback. A lot of people just wrote "good". I also would have liked to see more examples of serious work from the students. When I was reviewing classmates, it looked like a lot of people did not take the assignments seriously and didn't put much effort into their submissions. I feel like there's as much to learn from peers as there is to learn from the teacher, so I was a little disappointed to not learn much from my peers (except a few students who did take the class seriously and that was really helpful for me to see their creativity and skills!!)

By Aimee L

May 12, 2020

As someone who has not really practised art or design in 20+ years, I found the course excellent. It introduces fairly basic concepts - shape, colour, patterns, composition, typeface etc. which may seem obvious, but they are the building blocks of design and it was beneficial to give thought to these things which we may take for granted ordinarily.

I would generally say that I struggle with creative block and I found the course incredibly beneficial in this regard. It is not intimidating at all - the concepts are simple and you encouraged from the very beginning to just create and worry about finessing the results later. It's not a question of quantity instead of quality, but reinforcing that we learn through process, trial and error, practice and experimentation. This was a valuable lesson for me (I get stifled by the desire to get things right!)

The course has definitely built my skills and confidence. It's a good grounding for further study and with some additional time and energy I have come away with a number of designs that I would be happy to put into a portfolio.

By Jude

Sep 13, 2016

This is a very basic course, not at all college level.

By Antonio D O

May 4, 2019

Loved this class! Michael is a great teacher, it is very clear that he has a lot of knowledge and i feel that he truly cares about teaching as well as his students. The exercises were perfect and gave me the basic design skills that I needed.

By Nathaly J W

Apr 17, 2019

I really enjoyed how this course was laid out. I took design in high school, but never really grasped the concepts of design until my final year. This course really added a structure to the basic things I already knew and gave me a way to understand them separately, how to use them separately and then smoosh them all together. I had great fun doing the assignments and the course work was explained in a clear and understandable way.

By Katie K

Oct 26, 2016

Great class. I really enjoyed all of the assignments. At times, I wish the lectures would have been a little longer so as to include more information / detail. All and all, really enjoyed the course!

By Elena C

Feb 1, 2018

Great opportunity to practice. Encouraged to make. First time using vector design program Abode Illustrator. Was hard to listen to all Contrast Section. It would be great if there was more diversity.

By Toma C

May 16, 2016

This was a great course for expanding the way I thought about making, communicating with, and looking at graphic images.

At times I was frustrated because I did not know how to easily do certain things with the programs I was using, but I reminded myself that this was not a class on how to use Photoshop or Illustrator. If you are looking to learn about actually using programs, look elsewhere, but if you are looking to build a strong basis for thinking about creating images, this is a great resource.

The course work and necessary time input is flexible - if you are stretched for time you can still complete this course, and if you have a lot of time you can get a lot more out of it. Either way, a lot of the learning from this work is dependent on how much effort you put it.

By Karena A

Sep 4, 2018

This course was well thought out and clearly leads the student through the fundamentals of graphic design, creating an excellent foundation for further study. The lectures were interesting and well illustrated. The only flaw I identified was the wording of the last required exercise: Brief 4.1 I struggled to decide exactly what to do, and finally chose to use two shapes in each part of the composition, but not to limit the instances. I interpreted the directions to mean that we could use only two shapes, but that the number of instances was not limited. Other students interpreted this differently and one student downgraded me on this point. I also had trouble reviewing the work of others for this same reason.One student even used typography and I could not review it fairly, since I did not think typographic shapes were included. In addition, that student used more than two different typographic shapes also, so if they were allowed the limit was exceeded. While most of the directions used in this course were excellent and extremely clear, this one caused some confusion. I teach EFL to Chinese students, so this will make me even more aware of my own wording of directions. Thank you.

By Бричеев И А

Oct 2, 2016

Thank you for the course!I refreshed something I had learned by myself before, learned some absolutely new stuff and learned some more about things I only heard about before. Videos are very nice and the text is super easy to understand and the teacher's voice is very appealing. There are two things that I want to notice. First of all, I would like this course to be more informative. All weekly videos and tasks can be watched and done in one day now. Give us more videos, more information, let's go deeper! The second thing is that peer reviews seemed ineffective to me. Yeah, on the one hand, that's a real feedback from real people who are not your parents or friends so you can be judged objectively. On the other hand, I'd want to know teacher's opinion, I mean, feedback from someone who has a great experience in design. Personally, I didn't get anything but good marks and good words from my peers, though I believe there are things to improve, I just need someone who can point at them.

By Themba N N

Jul 25, 2020

this course has given me the best information about the basics of Graphic design, and i am delighted for finishing this course, looking forward to building upon the basics obtained from this course!!

By Manuela S

Mar 5, 2020

It feels a bit too simple, i wish it would've had more information about composition of images and texts in something like poster making. The color part is also very basic, it doesn't even cover other types of color combinations like triads or more complex palettes. The best part is definitely the beginning with its explanations of connotative and denotative images. Regardless, its a good course for people with absolutely no knowledge of graphic design, but intermediate designers who are looking to expand on theory should avoid this course since it will not fulfill your expectations. Also, the peer review system really sucks as most peers will not even write a constructive review, its too automated and there is very little effort being made into the reviews. Would much rather have teachers or at least experts looking over the work.

By Saskia C

Feb 10, 2016

I've enjoyed this course so much! I nearly quit it before properly starting, because the first video seemed very uninteresting. Also, the material covered seemed very basic and common sense. And I guess a lot of it is, but to discuss these basic concepts, and experiment with them is very valuable. It also made me very excited about designing. In this course, it's up to the student to decide how much they want to put into the course, and therefore how much they will get out of it. Lots of the assignments are optional. However, all (but one) exercise really helped me explore the concepts explained.

It's a clear course. It's a very basic course. Get ready to get hands on.