An Island Design Education

It might be a big island, but the Vancouver Island graphic design industry is pretty small. The major cities here aren’t known for their design and tech jobs. Although, while Victoria is likely the best city to live in for a career in design, Nanaimo might be your best bet for a design education. The schools that teach graphic design on Vancouver Island are North Island College, Vancouver Island University, Camosun College, UVic, and Pacific Design Academy.

Here’s a bit about each school and exactly what type of design education you can receive there.

North Island College

North Island College building

Communication Design Diploma

Location: Comox Valley, Online

Program Length: 2 years

The Communication Design program at North Island College is only two years long, but it covers a lot of topics ranging from HTML to illustration to branding. Honestly, that is a ton of subject matter to cover in only two years.

For people wanting to only learn design. it’s a shame this program isn’t more focused on specifically that. The course additions of programming languages like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and PHP will put many design students off. You don’t need to learn these to become a graphic designer. Not that there’s anything wrong with knowing how to design and program. But, there’s just so much information to cover to become proficient in either topic.

Advanced Digital Design and Development Diploma

Location: Comox Valley, Online

Program Length: 3 years

The Advanced Digital Design and Development Diploma is very similar to the communication design program. The courses are a similar mix of design and programming; though students are able to choose the design stream or the development stream here. The design stream is nearly identical to the communication design program, while the development stream is similar but includes more programming and development courses.

Vancouver Island University

VIU building

Bachelor of Design in Graphic Design

Location: Nanaimo

Program Length: 4 years

The Bachelor of Design program at VIU is a personal favorite of mine, since that’s where my design education is from. Although, I went to VIU before they offered the Bachelor’s degree; when their only offering was a two-year diploma in Applied Design. I’m really happy they expanded the graphics program because it’s a great school.

The courses offered in VIU’s graphic design program are very design focused and include things like design culture, UI/UX, information design, typography, packaging, web, and more. This is a program that really delves deep into design to prepare students for a full career in graphic design.

This is the only bachelor’s degree in graphic design offered on Vancouver Island. So, if you’re serious about design, this is the place to do it.

Camosun College

Camosun College building

Diploma in Visual Arts

Location: Victoria

Program Length: 2 years

The Visual Arts program at Camosun isn’t strictly a graphic design program. Instead, it’s an immersive, exploratory arts program that exposes students to a variety of art forms including graphic design, painting, ceramics, sculpture, 3D design, film, animation, and photography. If you’re interested in perusing a creative career but you’re not really sure what you want that to look like, this program might be a great fit for you. Although, if you want something focused on graphic design, this program might be far to generalized.

University of Victoria

UVic Building

Digital and Interactive Media in the Arts

Location: Victoria

Program Length: N/A

The Digital and Interactive Media in the Arts program at UVic is a brand new minor offered with whatever subject you choose to major in. It’s not strictly built around graphic design, but has many components of it. This program would be ideal for someone choosing to major in something like marketing, and wanted to learn about the creative side of it as well.

The Visual Arts program at Uvic also has some elements of graphic design, but like the program at Camosun, it’s very generalized. Although, Uvic’s Visual Arts program does offer a major which could be combined with the digital and interactive media minor.

Pacific Design Academy

Pacific Design Academy building

Graphic Media Design

Location: Victoria

Program Length: 2 Years

The Graphic Media Design program at Pacific Design Academy is a very design-focused program that includes design fundamentals as well as more specific topics like copywriting and story boarding. They have small class sizes (max 18 students). This is great for new designers because there is a lot to learn. The program goes all in to teach designers the core skills and the design-adjacent skills that will give them an edge.

The courses at Pacific Design Academy include illustration, conceptual thinking, art history, typography, the business of graphic design, photography, design software, UI design, and more.

Vancouver Island Graphic Design Schools: In Conclusion

Considering there are only a handful of post-secondary institutions on Vancouver Island in total, it makes sense that few of them offer anything graphic design related. Of course, out of those that do, only Vancouver Island University and Pacific Design Academy have specialized graphic design programs.

Fortunately, if you’re unsure that graphic design is the right creative career path for you, there are plenty of opportunities to take general visual art courses and explore different types of creative outlets. Or you could choose to peruse a design-adjacent career path with something like marketing, advertising, or even creative writing.

Lastly, If you’re not happy with the design school options on Vancouver Island, there are some great design programs on the mainland and across Canada if you’re willing to travel. And if you can’t make the move or can’t afford school, there are so many amazing places online to learn about design.

Are you looking into design school on Vancouver Island? Are you planning on attending one of the schools above? Let me know in the comments below!

Check out my post on The Best Free Courses for Graphic Designers


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