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Almost everything we wear, live in, drive, and work with is the product of artists and designers. Nature provides its own sense of design, but even our appreciation of its beauty has been focused and sometimes enhanced by the work of artists and designers. Your career education in art and design may have some impact on your culture and the world around you. Designers set the physical standards from which trends and fashions develop. Artists and designers learn about color, form, function and optimal usability. They not only decorate the world, but they are sometimes also responsible for making it ergonomically comfortable and for continuing our education as to its beauty.

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Applied Arts and Design:
A degree in applied arts and design can prepare you for a number of careers in graphic design, photography, design theory, and more.

It's the intersection of high-tech and creativity; a bubbling potion of strategy, purpose, and communication. A career in Applied Arts and Design is both dynamic and versatile. Choose the clients and projects that inspire you to create masterpieces time and time again

The Career 411
Professionals in applied arts and design are really graphic designers at heart and practice. They use a variety of manual and digital tools to create dynamic messaging for a variety of purposes. According to the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design, "Artists and designers are central to our culture and our commerce; indeed, our society would not be where it is today without them."

Some designers are commercially-oriented; they create advertisements, direct mail, and websites that sell products and services. Others work for non-profit organizations, using their talents to convey information and promote worthy causes. And still others are fine artists--designing multimedia presentations that speak from the heart and reveal the beauty in a society, a historic event, or an inspirational thought.

Why This Career Has an Edge
Graphic designers relish several aspects of their careers. The ability to use technology creatively is key. A collection of software suites allows designers to manipulate photographs, experiment with fonts, and add a musical component to their work. Using interactive tools to bring a static design to life on the Web is an increasingly popular process that well-trained designers can master.

Job opportunity is another big plus. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment of graphic designers projected to increase by 10 percent; that's about as fast as average for all occupations through 2016. Advertisers, publishers, and computer design firms consistently court qualified candidates.

Career in the Numbers
Graphic designers held about 261,000 jobs in 2006, with most working in specialized design services. In the coming decade, another 26,000 jobs are projected to be added in the industry. According to the BLS, employers may include:

• Advertisers, publishers, and computer design firms
• Various segments of the Internet as well as movie, television, and video entertainment markets
• Video gaming, web design, cell phones and PDAs and other interactive media

PayScale reports that the average starting salary for graphic designers is $31,531. Those with 20 or more years of experience in the industry typically earn $45,744. Potential salary levels are influenced by specialty, geography, and experience.

How to Get There
No matter what particular area of applied arts and design you choose, the steps that lead there should contain some common elements. The American Institute of Graphic Arts suggests these courses:

Art - Helps you work on building hand eye coordination and craftsmanship skills.
Art and Graphic Design History - An essential part of building any designer's foundation.
Design Theory - The elements of design, such as line, shape, space, texture, value, and color. Also, how these components work together to present a complete image.
Typography - Combining text and imagery to communicate in a clear and compelling way.
Grid Systems - Enables you to tackle visual problems and solve them in terms of conception, organization, and design with greater speed and confidence.
Photography - Includes learning which angles work, different types of lighting, and different lens options.
Design Strategy - The ability to come up with ideas and concepts that are appropriate to the design problem is critical.