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

14,542 ratings
3,772 reviews

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

Aug 20, 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

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.

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51 - 75 of 3,741 Reviews for Fundamentals of Graphic Design

By Jaime J

Jul 1, 2020

I'm a writer/communications specialist who has been working with and learning from visual designers for 20 years. This course was great for me to get structured, high-level information about the fundamentals of their work, plus some hands-on practice in exploring how to work with basic design principles. If you are looking for instruction in how to use design software, do not look to this course (try YouTube). If you're instead looking for an introduction to ideas and exploration, go fo =r it.

By Mary C

Jan 2, 2022

The information in this course was useful and a great jumping off point. However one star has been deducted because of the ridiculous peer review that took up my time and in return got useless comments like good job and nothing else as well as peers removing half a point to things just because they couldn't decide what image they liked best and gave no explanations, comments good or bad and was absolutely useless to helping the designer improve there work.

By Laura M C M

Nov 8, 2020

Some of the feedbacks of my companions were not useful because they were not interested in giving me a good feedback, it would be nice if the professor also give a feedback

By Satwik V

May 16, 2020

Course is all good but I was expectiongmore of application , and an insight into graphic design softwares like photoshop and illustrators.

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 Elena P

Apr 19, 2016

Overall I think this is a great course and really helpful. However, I had an unpleasant experience on the last week. There is an assignment that asks you to create a single contrast composition of 2 shapes. It says "shapes" and still people are not sure if they can use more count of those shapes. I chose to use 2 shapes, but multiple counts and some people that thought this is not only 2 shapes, but 2 counts as well, chose to grade my work with the lowest rating due to unfulfilled assignment. I think this is Coursera`s fault to begin with. They should word their requirements properly so it does not create confusion. Now, we are left to the good will of a classmate to judge our work and people are not even sure what the assignment asks of us exactly.

By Júlia U

Oct 29, 2018

El curso está bien, aprendes aspectos básicos del diseño gráfico y te permiten experimentar con ellos. Su mayor problema es que el nivel de exigencia es muy bajo, los proyectos más interesantes son optativos y en ningún momento te corrige un profesor, sino otros alumnos del curso (que muchas veces ponen 0 esfuerzo en dicha corrección).

A pesar de ello he aprendido y lo recomiendo a gente que esté empezando en el mundo del diseño gráfico, aunque es mejor tomárselo como un auto-aprendizaje que como un curso tutelado.

By Liana B

Aug 24, 2021

Even though the course gave me some food for thought, I would call it overall a disappointment. I really loved the first week's assignment and the first week's content in general. CalArts team provided us with some interesting design techniques and some design theory. I expected the course to continue to be as thorough and demanding, but instead, the following three weeks were bland, banal and really shallow, not what you'd expect on an introductory course from such an institution.

The first week's assignment was really about creativity, but the fourth week's task was extremely boring and useless. The middle weeks' assignments were just tests! I don't exactly understand how you can qualify for a certificate in "Foundations of Graphic design by clicking on answers and not designing stuff.

Anyway, I expected the final task of the course to be something that would've combined all the previously learnt knowledge. Alas, it required 10 minute tops to complete and almost no creativity at all.

The last thing that I want to talk about is Peer Review. I realize that these courses are done purely for commercial purposes to promote an institution and to have more actual students enrolling. However, given that some people actually pay for the course, it is a shame that they don't have access to a professional review from the instructors. In my first peer-review assignment things went smoothly, however in the last assignment a person who clearly didn't understand the task gave me a low point, not providing any explanation for this mark. So I resubmitted the exactly same assignment and different people reviewed it and I passed.

I don't think it is a fair system to review design students, given that the course doesn't really give enough fundamentals. We only saw examples of good design during the first week and later only the theory.

I'd like to see the content of the rest of specialization, but I don't have high hopes for it.

By Jacqueline

May 5, 2021

The videos nicely layout information and the course is easy to follow. The reason for two stars is that you never learn from a professional. Every project is peer-reviewed, which can be beneficial when done right. When you are in a beginner class and only getting peer reviews, you don't learn as much as you could. Many of the reviews I have seen are just "ok", "cool", or "N/A". It's a shame. The information is good and the assignments are great, just missing the professional advice.

By Xiaoqing J

Sep 3, 2021

The content of this course is very insightful and the assignements are very helpful to apply all the graphic design principles. However, the quality of peer reviews is extremely poor. I did not receive any useful or constructive feedback on my work whatsover. This also becomes apparent when reviewing the work of others. Most of the assignments ignore the instructions and it is challenging to provide feedback in that case.

By seth a

Jun 9, 2020

absolutely zero feedback and critique from experienced, professional graphic designer(s). an unreal number of "students" submitting files for assignments that are not even remotely close to what the course teaches.

By Mert T

Jul 21, 2020

I honestly did not learn much (almost nothing). And it was little bit boring to watch. I got disappointed.

By Карханов Е В

Jul 16, 2020

This course definitely gave me more than I expected even though my expectations was high. Every aspect of the course is well designed and well implemented. Structure of the course is perfect for you to stay interested and learning fast. Video lessons provide very clear explanation of course's material, music and motion design in the videos create a great vibe. I learned in this course not only some specific design skills, but realized even more important things: first of all, I'm really sure about my ability to design; second of all, I understand general creative process much better. I can recommend this course for anyone in creative fields (and maybe not only in creative fields), cause it teaches you how to generate and iterate any kind of ideas and apply them to reach your creative goals. Personally, I'm a musician also and I never could make such a great music as I could now, after course's completion, because lessons it gave me is easy to transfer to other activities.

By Maha E Z

Sep 10, 2019

I really enjoyed this course, it really sparked my creativity and enhanced my knowledge about graphic design and it's core fundamentals, I had fun doing the assignments, especially the ones in the 1st week. The instructor is very thorough and breaks down every aspect of graphic design fundamentals in a simple, understandable and also applicable way. I may have had a bit of hiccups due to some difficulties in comprehending the requirements in some assignments, whether if I was allowed to do certain things or not, and more specifically if what I understood was right, I wished there were more elaborations in a kind (Maybe a sample of how the end results should look like : arrangements of pages & such, so students would know if they got it right and also simulate it if they weren't sure) but I managed to understand & get it done. Overall this is an amazing intro into the world of graphic design.

By Sherif M

Feb 9, 2020

This is one of the best courses you can take if you want to get started as a graphic designer. I've been working as a graphic designer for many years but I had only learned the technicalities and software, never the principles or foundations and only worked with my sense and feeling for them. This course basically solved my problem as it's focus is exactly that: the foundations and principles of graphic design. The main components of image, design terminology, approaching design, experimenting and exploring the different aspects of design. I honestly though this course would be too simple but despite being about the fundamentals it provides some of the most essential knowledge you can have as a designer and it does it in a clear, non-complicated way (Thanks to Mr. Worthington's calm and clear approach). I am glad I signed up for it!

By Nikki S

Feb 9, 2021

This was a helpful course for breaking graphic design down to the basic building blocks of the art. It will give you some simple concepts and principles to keep in mind as you create graphic design. You will get a high-level overview of basic image-making, typography, and contrast/hierarchy within your design elements. I was looking for a true 101 graphic design program that would cover the most basic concepts, and this delivered. I feel prepared to move on and take a deeper dive into each of the topics covered so that I can grow my skill set. The only suggestion I would offer is to make the final optional project a required one. That project requires you to take everything you've learned and use it in a final design project. It seems odd that this isn't the final required project.

By Evgeniya S

Jul 21, 2017

The course is basically the reason I decided to sign up to Coursera in the first place. It gives a good introduction into graphic design. Instead of focusing on projects and tutorials on how to use design programs like inDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop - the course gives a good theoretical background into graphic design than no other courses offer online. You will be encouraged to use various media to create your artwork, instead of going through a boring video which expects you to copy whatever the person on the screen is doing while learning nothing about the process. I really enjoyed this and recommend it to anyone who can handle the applications on their own, and needs a good theory and background into design, creation process and similar ideas.

By Michele

Jun 26, 2016

Very rewarding, with easy to understand but comprehensive lectures and optional exercises that can be done with each sub-section of the lecture. These exercises were interesting, relevant and challenging. It was also educational to do the peer reviews and see how other students approached the assignments.

The instructions for assignments perhaps could be broken into bullet points, as sometimes they were perhaps not fully understood on the optional exercises. Some guidelines to help give more substantial or constructive feedback (beyond "This met the assignment criteria" or "I liked #3") could be helpful.

I'm very glad I did this course, and I was thoroughly engrossed in the exercises. It was sad when the course ended. :-)

By Alessandra O

Dec 1, 2016

The course responded very well to my expectations. It outlines and analyze all the elements and strongly prompts you to think about design making and to ponder each component of it. And it makes you work!! I learned a lot, technically, by myself, having to submit assignments. Looking at the materials I made, I almost cannot believe I did it by myself. The only thing: I wish I had more time to work on it and, perhaps, if the students knew since the very beginning they will finally make use of each assignment to create a very final one, they would probably consider this when choosing objects, styles, techniques. But maybe this is stated since the beginning and I did not realize that. Anyway, absolutely worthy.

By 許芸禎

Nov 10, 2021

This course really helped me a lot and changed my thinking about graphic design. In the past, my studies focused more on the principles of design and the beauty of the public, but this course is more inclined to guide you in the creation of graphic design, research your own methods, and how to express it flexibly and creatively. Graphic design finally returns to what kind of message I want to convey, and what I feel is that graphic design can be very interesting. It seems to have taken me out of a certain framework and have more imagination! I am honored to participate in this course. I am grateful for the teacher's teaching and the students' mutual evaluation, which made me think about it.

By Fernando H

May 11, 2018

Excelente course! I graduated in Advertising and Audiovisual, but I'm algo a motion graphics designer freelancer. This course was an inspitation for me. And due to my schedule, it was very accessible and convinient at this point in my life. I've tried other courses online, but in this one I felt I could actually put the exercises in practice and learn by doing as the design area suggests. Another thing I found interesting was the variety of people, skills, tecniques, knowledge I got in touch. This plattaform is very democratic and for this area this is very very interesting. I'm satisfied and I plan to continue on the next modules. The course deliver everything it says. Thanks you, CalArts.

By Tarang S

Apr 25, 2016

The course is simply amazing. Prepare to do a lot of hands on work, and use your creativity. The instructor gives hands on work that is really fun to do, and you end up with the knowledge and the skills to actually make a good poster, especially if you do the bonus assignments, which are really nice.

I must note, though, that it is very useful to know how to use computer programs to arrange files and text. I used Adobe Illustrator (like the instructor) and Pages, but basic knowledge of Microsoft Powerpoint or similar is enough, as you will scan hand-drawn pictures and put them in, arrange them, then export them as PDFs. Considering you are on this website, I'd say you are ready! Start ASAP!

By Kadri A

Feb 8, 2016

Loving this course! It has a really nice pace. I always prefer shorter videos cause then I can divide the week up and not have to find hours to do it all at the same time. Also it is easier to think along (I am doing it as an after work extra activity). Probably a lot of things are basics but this was exactly what I was looking for. Also the system of mandatory and optional tasks is really nice cause people can choose how deep they want to go. I have skipped optional things cause I do not want to design myself, more work better together with the designers but I might change my mind during the next course cause I am definitely taking the hole spezialisation!

By Sakshi Y

Aug 20, 2020

Really loved the course and learned a lot. I am a beginner and after enrolling into this course, I gained so much knowledge about graphic designing. The course content is easy to understand and it prompt us to complete the assignments which I think is really helpful. We can apply and implement our ideas and knowledge on these assignments and make design in our own way. The best way to learn graphic design is to make graphic design. Reviewing peers work and getting peers feedback in return was also an amazing thing in this course. I enjoyed learning and really excited about the other courses in graphic design specialization I am enrolled in.

By Marli M

Mar 3, 2017

Very well organized course, with interesting topics and assignments. I took it as a free course and was very grateful for all the good information and practice was available. Many of the other students were very talented and it was fun to see their work during Peer Review. The 2 only criticisms are that (1) I wish they had recommended good, free software for completing the assignments. I ended up doing the 2 required assignments in an outdated version of MSWord, but managed to make that work, though it was time consuming. And (2), I never figured out how to request reviews of my work except as a "reply" to another post.