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

11,394 ratings
2,912 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


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.


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

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By Lizz I

Apr 23, 2020

It could improve in the use of questionnaires within and during the videos. There are not, and they would be useful. Questionnaires at the end and after many videos is not as effective.

It would be good to ask the students to ask to be aware of making polite and polite corrections when grading and giving opinions about works. Aware that English is not the native language of all participants.

There are no more Spanish subtitles in the rest of the specialized course, for those of us who do not speak English, we can no longer continue. We cannot take the rest of the courses, there are no more Spanish subtitles. It's a shame.

Podría mejorar en el uso de cuestionarios dentro y durante de los videos. No los hay, y serian útiles. Cuestionarios al final y después de muchos videos no es tan efectivo.

Seria bueno pedir a los alumnos que al calificar y dar opiniones sobre trabajos, se pida ser conscientes de hacer correcciones educadas y amables. Conscientes de que el inglés no es el idioma nativo de todos los participantes.

Ya no hay subtítulos en español en el resto del curso especializado, para los que no hablamos inglés, ya no podemos seguir. No podemos tomar el resto de cursos, ya no hay subtítulos en español. Es una pena.

By Marwa Y

Jun 04, 2020

It was really good! It was fun, simple and easy. To be honest I was a little bit disappointed because it was too simple and because I have an artistic background I was pretty excited to dive in graphic design straight forward, but I think it's fair to start slow for the people who don't have a background.

If you're someone who just want basic ideas about design and how to put things together in a nice way considering the meaning behind anything, this course is definitely for you. But if you're someone who is like me, actually wants to learn everything possible about graphic design, then you probably know most of the info provided here, and you should take the whole specialization like what I'm doing.

But it was quite beneficial in the theory aspect, because now I know the technologies and terms for a lot of things!

The assignments are too easy that they were boring, there are multiple optional assignments but again, they are also boring and basic.

In conclusion, as a course about graphic design fundamentals, yes it's absolutely amazing, but as an introduction to graphic design as a specialization, it's so basic and I wish it had more work.

By Petra P

Feb 22, 2016

The course was very interesting, hands on orientated and it offered me a lot of useful information. I have really enjoyed it! It was also a good motivation to practice graphic design more often, explore the realms of shapes, colours, typography etc.

I was really grateful for the peer reviews, but I missed a bit more professional approach sometimes, for instance comments like "I like it" or "It is not that bad" does not tell me much about my work. So in these cases some feedback from someone who already is a graphic designer and knows much more about it than us, students, starting with the graphic design, would be more than welcome.

I also missed advices on where to find out more on a particular topic.

Overall, taking this course was a very positive experience and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in graphic design.

By Marilyn L

Jan 30, 2016


The information is good. This class is good for learning the vocabulary in graphic design. I already understood more general terms like scale and form. I learned new terms like figure/ground and visual contrast (or how graphic design defines it).


The teacher's pace for some of the videos is slow for the amount of information. On week 4, the pace slightly quickens. But overall, it's really slow.


I would recommend this course for learning the terms of graphic design or getting a basic understanding of design principles. I also found the assignments fun. If you have some understanding of the basics of design and art, you do not need to watch every video. Feel free to skip on videos covering terms you have a general idea about.

By Bob C

Mar 01, 2016

An excellent introduction to graphic design. The videos were useful to clearly show the concepts. There were a number of assignments, many of them optional, which allowed you to practice and integrate the learnings. All material was taught at a level that made it accessible to a true novice.

My only hesitation on giving this course 5 stars was the lack of any presence of teachers/tutors in the course discussions. There was a lot of questions about the final marked assignment, with many posts on the discussion boards. There was no response from anyone other than the participants in the course. The issue was not clarified and students were left to interpret (and peer review based on that intrepretation) the instructions on their own.

By Georgia C

Jun 29, 2020

Learnt lots throughout this course which was great, thank you! However, sometimes assignments didn't quite make sense, even though there was the forum to help I found myself scrolling through lots of messages trying figure out exactly what was required from the assignments. Also I know it would be impossible with the amount of people enrolled in the course, but I would be nice to have an opinions from qualified designer/someone in charge of the course. Getting expert opinions on how to improve your work would be nice as a lot of the peer review reviews were a couple word answers or I know for me personally I don't know too much about design to tell someone else how they could enhance their work.

By Deborah J C

Oct 04, 2020

The content is very good. Clear and organized. I learned a lot. But the user interface information for submitting assignments was challenging despite mentor 'clarification' which is not clear.

Also, The last assignment instructions need to be rewritten. I saw many interpretations of the parameters causing confusion on peer grading. Luckily I seem to be among those who interpreted as intended but I had to read out 4-5 times before I proceeded and even then I was uncertain. I felt bad for the students who did it wrong. Also the overlap of students who are in a following course we sent out for review. Confusion.

I wish it was a course with an active instructor.

By Alastair T

Sep 07, 2020

My first-ever online course. Has some rocky parts where the assignments are not 100% crystal clear, but I think the break-everything-down approach will get you started on being able to think critically about how a surface works. Is the kind of class where it does the most good if you're already interested in the topic & have some skill, but want to figure out how you know what you know & what sorts of decisions a graphic can make. It's not a technical class, it's a conceptual class. The peer-review system is not really optimal when a lot of your classmates don't really get the assignment. I think you'll get out of this course whatever you put into it.

By Heather C

Feb 26, 2019

I like this course. However, I would like to work more with color. I also think having the option to collaborate with other students would inspire people more perhaps, maybe just one group project that can be completed either in the group or also alone but the project is required, if that makes sense?! Students could just choose if they wanted to do it alone or with a partner. I found myself wanting to reach out to fellow students and didn't really have the opportunity so if there was some incentive to do so, that would be neat. But overall great course! And the professors accent made it really easy to want to watch his videos and follow along!

By Curtis H

Apr 09, 2020

Excellent course. Would definitely recommend for anyone like myself who is either already in a creative profession or is looking to get into one. I don't think it's just for those interested in being a graphic designer, but the principles and perspectives learned from this course are applicable in many creative fields and endeavors. I only took the one star off because while it's great to get the opinion of your fellow learners, it would be good to have some professional/experienced input on the additional exercises, but that would probably mean the course would cost more. All around excellent intro, highly recommended.

By Bhavana K

Jan 08, 2018

This course is very good for a beginner. It starts from very basic and the language is very simple and clear.I loved the assignments and I learned a lot during it. My personal advice do as many assignments as many time as you can, assignments are gonna teach you more than theory.

The reason I am giving it a 4 star and not 5 because I really felt that at some points I needed some clarifications and feedback from the instructor. I started few threads for discussing my subject related questions but no reply. If coursera team is able to fill this gap between teacher and student, I guess then this course is beyond 5 stars :)

By Akash S

May 04, 2020

This course has given me deep insight about graphic design. with help of this course my fundamentals regarding various pillar of graphic design are very clear . My knowledge has definitely increased regarding Imagemaking ,Typography, colour theory, contrasts and its factors and how all these affects the composition.

I was very new to this field but now i am confident to understand the terminology of this field of graphic design.

All the fundamental have been taught in depth and have given a very clear understanding of the topic.

I am very thankfull to the team for prepairing such a wonderful course structure

By Kathie B

Mar 15, 2016

It has been 40 years since I took my last art course (and that was in elementary school). While I enjoyed making posters in high school and college, those were done by hand. I had ZERO experience with computer graphics, and was quite nervous starting this course. I liked the way the instructor eased into it - bringing less experienced artists along slowly, and constantly encouraging us to practice and experiment. By the 4th week, I figured out my computer's basic graphic design program, and was really enjoying playing with designs. I look forward to taking the other classes in this specialization.

By Rebecca P

Jul 29, 2020

Great introductory course. This course is great for those interested in getting the basic knowledge of graphic design. However, don't expect super helpful reviews on your work. I try to the best of my ability to critique each fellow students submission and give them tips here and there. But, it is a bit frustrating to get peer reviews that do not have any constructive criticism. Reviews like 'Good job' or 'Meets requirements' are not very helpful.

Also, many people submit blank assignments, so there is nothing to review. But all and all, it was an awesome course.

By Teri L

May 24, 2018

Really easy-to-understand course, for people who would like to know the very basic things about graphic design. It teaches you he terminologies to build the base of a beginner designer and shows how it can affect different artworks. This course is encouraging you to simply "MAKE DESIGN!" and bring out your inner-creativity, especially through the somewhat open-ended assignments that only require something like Word, or even your pencils at home as the minimum. Definitely recommend it if you're only coming into the graphics design world :)