At a recent high school visit, I was asked by one of the teachers how the Graphic Design course at Murdoch University was different to its competitors. In brief here is my answer.

Traditional Graphic Design skills are important…BUT!

Traditional graphic design skills like visual design, creative design thinking, visual communication, typography, colour theory, grid typesetting, publication design, signage, print process, identity design, pre-press and dealing with clients, are all still important but the industry is changing so we need to take these skills into the digital world —-properly.

The print industry is in decline- digital design here we come!

To begin with, many Graphic Design courses in Perth tend to favour print Graphic Design. Fair enough, print has been central to what Graphic Designers have always done since the industrial revolution. But, to state the obvious, the print industry is in decline, as the Feb 2021 IBIS World, Printing in Australia:Market Research Report states,

“Revenue for the Printing industry is forecast to continue declining over the next five years. Digital alternatives are anticipated to further weaken demand for industry printing services “

There are many competing views on the decline of print but the evidence is slowly mounting that the industry is changing. This means that student Graphic Designers into the future will undertake print work but they will also need to understand digital design as well.

Digital design needs to be part of any Graphic Design course!

The decline of print into the future is the reason why the Graphic Design course at Murdoch integrates both print and digital design as core subjects. Web Design, Mobile App and Interaction Design are not electives but front and centre to the core skills a graphic designer will need into the future.

These kinds of print and digital design skills are also reflected in the types of jobs available that require “experience building files for both print and digital media”.

The integration of digital skills to the Graphic Designer’s skill set is also reflected in the statistics. Take for example this pie chart from Design Business Council’s book on “The Business of Design”.  It clearly shows that web design is going to be an important part of a graphic designers role in the future and is set to grow.



More importantly, this piechart shows just how far Graphic Design has evolved away from its origins in advertising, and how little Advertising Graphic Design is actually done by the industry.

Digital design is easy with easier to use software – NOT!

The integration of digital skills to the Graphic Designer’s skill set is also reflected in the software we now use. Adobe Indesign, Illustrator and in fact most of the Adobe suite all now integrate a workflow process that makes translating print designs into mobile and web apps easier-right!.

Not so fast- I would argue that this is a trap that leads us into a false sense of security. Take, for example, the demise of Adobe Muse that allows print designers to make websites without having to learn how to code. Although Muse websites might look nice they disregard Web Standards producing reams of invalid code and disregard W3C issues regarding accessibility standards. In short, print and digital design are very different and if those differences are not taken seriously we end up making products that look pretty but are seriously flawed and ultimately damage the users’ experience and our client’s goals. If a product looks good but does not work, it’s just bad design.

So what digital design skills will Graphic Designers learn at Murdoch?

The Graphic Design course at Murdoch requires students to code by hand in HTML5, CSS3 and Javascript whilst taking into account industry web standards and accessibility issues. Understanding the tech and limitations of digital design is vitally important and is further expanded by graphic design students at Murdoch when they hand-build mobile apps, use interaction design principles and code a responsive WordPress theme for a real-world client- from scratch.

Traditional Graphic Design services are dying!

With websites like 5MinuteLogo, Fiverr and Skystats why would any client go to a traditional graphic designer that offers similar services for five times the cost. The rise of cheap online services not only eats into the revenue streams of traditional graphic design houses but also signals the shift from a graphic design that produces short terms outcomes to those that focus on integrating strategic services as well. Hence the graphic design industry is starting to value add strategy and service design to its repertoire of traditional print services as a way to compete with increasingly cheaper online design services.

So what other design skillsets will Graphic Design Students learn at Murdoch?

Graphic designers at Murdoch will integrate new forms of design such as Service Design, Interaction and User Experience (UX) Design and Strategic Communication in order to compete with cheap global online competitors.

Gen Z students will change jobs 11 times in their lifetimes- you will need multiple skills!

All students enrolled in the Bachelor of Creative Media must undertake work readiness units that not only broaden their skills sets but prepare them for the diversity of employment opportunities that all new graduates will face in their working life. Moreover, students can choose to do a double major (2 majors for the price of one) with other majors such as Strategic Communication ( a gold mine of new job opportunities) which would give students an additional focus on strategic communication.

Our lecturers have hard core industry experience

This kind of commitment to strategy in relation to core graphic and digital design skills is reflected in the industry experience and research interests of our staff. Including,

  • Dr Mark Cypher, an artist and designer and principal for BoxCudos web design.
  • Erica Ormsby, Art Director for Mako Media currently completing an PhD in service design.

Print design skills will always be a part of the graphic designer’s arsenal. But with the decline of print, graphic designers will have to diversify, into offering services beyond short term outcomes.  As a result, graphic designers that integrate the core traditional print skills with those of digital design, service design, UX design, brand strategy and strategic communication will be better placed for the future of an ever-changing industry. Murdoch also now offers a 4th yr Graduate Diploma in Design Thinking and Service Design– whilst working with a client!

This is how Graphic Design at Murdoch is different.

 Enrol now in Graphic Design at Murdoch University

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