If you’re a persuasive communicator, naturally creative, possess a vivid imagination, know your Electric Green from your Emerald Green, and can juggle multiple projects and deadlines without breaking a sweat – a career in communication design could be for you.

The places a communication design career can take you are countless – New York, Tokyo, Paris – or even a little more off-grid – like the Oaxacan Coast in Mexico (a digital nomad’s fave). 

You could work for a magazine, on gallery exhibitions (promoting the likes of Picasso and Ai Weiwei, in advertising, for a company aligned to your personal values (beauty, cleanliness, sustainability, and low-key sarcasm), or for yourself. Read on for everything you need to know about how to become a communication designer.

What does it take to become a communication designer?

  • To become a communication designer, you need a portfolio. 

  • Did you know? In our Bachelor of Design (Communication Design) (Honours) course, every student is involved in our Folio Seminar. This week-long intensive includes essential discussions on folios, interviews and everything related to getting a job. Getting qualified will help you get up-to-speed on industry-standard tech. Plus, it’ll help enhance your design thinking and presentation skills, and build your network and that all-important portfolio. 

  • Communication design qualifications range from entry level (you can start with a graphic design certificate IV or diploma) right through to master degrees. As both a TAFE and a university, Swinburne has a course for you, no matter what stage you’re at. 

  • Depending on your communications design course, you could learn about digital design, typography, brand and identity design, web design, packaging design, and much more.  

  • Industry connection is key to success. Getting work integrated learning and joining industry bodies like The Australian Graphic Design Association (AGDA) and The Design Institute of Australia (DIA) and the Design Kids are a great way to meet other designers from other fields who may become colleagues, friends, mentors, and employers.

Career proof points from industry

As a communication designer you can expect:

The main industries of employment include:

  • professional, scientific, and technical services
  • information media and telecommunications
  • manufacturing
  • arts and recreation services, and
  • a broad range of other industries.1
     

What skills do you need to become a communication designer?

Sure, you need creativity by the bucket load and an eye sharper than your Nan’s sense of humour. But what other skills do you need to become a visual communication designer?  

  • Critical and creative thinking 

  • Problem solving and decision making 

  • Communicating effectively to audiences 

  • Social perceptiveness  

  • Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator).
    (Pro tip: As a Swinburne student you get free access to Adobe Creative Cloud. Enjoy over 20 different apps, on any device, anywhere – for as long as you study with us.)

Why study communication design at Swinburne?

Our graduates are bold, creative, and practically-minded problem solvers known for their ability to hit the ground running from day one.

5 steps to becoming a communication designer

While it is possible to work as a communication designer without a qualification, getting one (or more) behind you will ensure you know how to wrangle the latest tech, arm yourself with pitching skills, and learn the delicate art of giving and receiving feedback.

1. Get qualified

Most – but not all – employers prefer employees to have a bachelor degree in design. This is typically a three-year course of full-time study. Depending on your individual situation, you can either start with the Bachelor of Design, or ease your way in with a Certificate IV of Design, Diploma of Graphic Design or a Diploma of Design (UniLink). (UniLink is just a different way into the Bachelor of Design.) You can choose to study communication design with our Bachelor of Design (Communication Design) (Honours) which includes an extra year for you to gain industry experience and polish your folio.

Or, if you have previous qualifications and experience and want to focus on the research and theory side of design, you might like our Master of Design

Undergraduate degrees
Communication Design

BA-DES

BH-DESCMN2

Career pathways 

Students can work in:

  • Advertising
  • Publishing
  • Merchandising
Duration

3 to 4 years full-time 

Part-time available

Delivery

On-campus 

Online 

Flexible learning 

Entry 

VTAC from Year 12:

  • Guaranteed entry ATAR score 70 for the Bachelor of Design.
  • Guaranteed entry ATAR score 90 for Bachelor of Design (Honours). 
     

Direct entry for non-year 12:

  • Special entry clause as applicable. 
Work experience

Work Integrated Learning opportunities: 

  • Industry project
  • Internship
  • Work placement
  • Study tour
Advanced study pathways  Postgraduate study by coursework or research.  
Scholarships Yes
Postgraduate degrees
Design MA-DESG
Career pathways 
  • Senior or strategic roles in design companies
  • Designer
  • Researcher
Duration

2 years full-time 

Part-time available

Delivery

On-campus 

Online 

Flexible learning 

Entry 
  • Bachelor’s degree in design or related field or
  • Bachelor's degree in any discipline plus a minimum of three years relevant professional experience in design or a related field or
  • Completion of postgraduate studies (graduate certificate / graduate diploma) in design or related field 
Work experience

Work Integrated Learning opportunities:  

  • Industry project  
  • Internship 
  • Work placement 
  • Study tour 
Advanced study pathways  Postgraduate study by coursework or research.  
Scholarships  Yes
TAFE courses
Graphic Design

CUA50720

CUA40720

Career pathways 

  • Junior designer  
  • Web-designer
  • Opportunities within design agencies  
Duration 

1 year 

Part-time available

Delivery 

On-campus 

Online 

Flexible learning

Entry 

  • Based on applicants' study and/or relevant work history
  • Some additional criteria may also apply
Work experience  N/A
Advanced study pathways  Graduates may wish to look into our bachelor courses listed above 
Scholarships  No

2. Create a portfolio

As soon as you start designing, set up an online portfolio to start showcasing your work. Pro tip: As a communication designer, it’s especially important to highlight your thinking and process. Clearly describe the design or business challenge, explain your solution or idea, and then present the best images of your work.

3. Get real experience (and real work in your portfolio)

Not everyone is born a natural hustler. But, if you want to pursue a career in the creative industries, getting good at self-promotion is obligatory (sorry!). Ask people you know if they need communication design work done. Whether it be a birthday invitation or a website for a local charity or a pair of ironic coffee mugs for you and your bestie – it all counts.

What’s more, in Swinburne bachelor degrees, you’ll get to experience work integrated learning in actual workplaces (pack that coffee mug).

4. Choose your specialisation

If you’re studying a bachelor degree, you’ll hear a lot about majors. This is your way of tailoring your design degree to suit your interests. If you want to become a visual communication designer, you’d want to choose communication design. But, we also offer industrial design. Plus, in our Bachelor of Design, you can choose from a range of design majors like UX interaction design, motion design, and branded environments.

5. Network

Think about joining the Design Institute of Australia while you’re studying. You’ll get the chance to meet other design students and professionals – from textile designers through to architects. Future collaborators and mentors? Yes, please.

Kick-start your design career at Swinburne.

Like what you see? Browse our design courses to find the one for you. Tomorrow, you’ll be glad you started today. 

There's still time to apply for Semester 2

Whether it's business, health, or design you're interested in, TAFE, undergrad or postgrad – Semester 2 classes start on Monday 29 July.

See steps for applying, frequently asked questions, and key dates and deadlines.

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