Free Online Graphic Design Courses by Accredited Universities

This is a list of free online graphic design courses offered by the best colleges and universities of the world.

The design courses in this list are categorized into three sections, one for students and beginners, one for intermediate level users and beginning professionals and the last one is, of course, for the seasoned pros.

Each course in this list is a MOOC (massive open online course) by a highly respected university. While the education and knowledge is top class and provided for free, these universities do not offer free degrees/certificates. Usually there’s a small fee if you want the certificate.

By the way, if you are looking for a bachelors or masters degree program, you should check out my guide for an online graphic design degree.

However, the course content, forum, lectures and all the learning material is provided free. If you are a knowledge seeker, every online design course here is pure gold for you.

I said in one of my articles that designing is becoming more of a science than an art. That is true but at the very core, it is art and only art. Science works as a subordinate to the artistry.

So, keeping that in mind, I’m starting with the art related courses that lay the foundation, and then we move towards the scientific parts of designing. Let’s begin.

Note: inside the blue blockquote area you are seeing the official course descriptions. Don’t be alarmed if they sound like advertisements, they are not my words.

Beginner-friendly online graphic design courses

Design Thinking

Duration: 4 Weeks

This course is offered by my favorite website – iversity. The quality of their courses I have found is much superior to Coursera. This is my personal opinion, of course you can disagree but that’s what I think.

Design Thinking is an ideal course to understand how design works. What makes us like or dislike a particular design. Should a design be a silent listener or should shout on the user? Either case, how can we achieve our targets? This course covers all of that.

Design Thinking – a multi-stage innovation process that focuses on human needs. Understand theoretical foundations and practical techniques, whether your are a manager, entrepreneur, designer or student.

One of the best free online graphic design courses

Principles of Design: Intro to the Design of Everyday Things

Duration: 2 Weeks

This course and the first one in this list are both designed for everyone. They help us understand design but they do not require us to be design enthusiasts.

This course is designed not only for designers but also for business persons of all kinds.

This course will provide you with the knowledge needed to start recognizing the role of design in today’s world, and to start making better design decisions in your own life. In addition to learning basic design concepts such as affordances and signifiers, you will also gain practice in observing and applying design principles.

Design in everyday things

Introduction to Graphic Design

Duration: Self Paced

This course is offered by Canva, a free service for designing social media banners and similar graphics. Naturally they plug-in some of their own promotions in the course but over all, the course is an ideal resource for anyone who does not have a design background and wants to take on graphic designing.

This course will teach foundational graphic design principles (fonts, colors, images, backgrounds, and layouts) and how to apply them.

Introduction to graphic design

Photoshop Essentials

Duration: Self Paced

This course is offered by the tutorial giant Tut+ network. This is a nice little course if you are new to Photoshop but you’ll have to register. However, you can master Photoshop with the free eBook we published recently.

It’s easy enough to pick up Photoshop and mess around with it for a bit, but if you want to really get things done, you need a few essential tips. Fortunately, we’ve got you covered.

Photoshop essentials

Intro to Art Fundamentals

Duration: 5 Weeks

This course is optimized for high school students but, anyone who is beginning to take interest in arts and design, can take this course.

Art Fundamentals will address basic art and design skills in drawing and composition, principles of two-dimensional and human figure drawing.

Art Fundamentals

Intermediate level online graphic design courses

Principles of Art: Composition

Duration: Self Paced

We concluded the previous segment with art based course, we begin this segment with an art based course.
This course focuses on composition, one of the most vital elements in art and design.

An example-heavy introduction to analyzing the elements that make up clear, compelling artistic compositions; identifying common compositional blunders; and, constructing novel compositions for your own work.

Principles of Art and Design

Creation of Artifacts in Society

Duration: 8 Weeks

The course content is fairly easy to understand but it does require you to be already familiar with common design concepts, and this is the reason it is being added in this category otherwise I would have placed in the beginner section.

This is a course aimed at making you a better designer. The course marries theory and practice, as both are valuable in improving design performance.

Design artifacts

Innovation & Design Thinking

Duration: Self Paced

Even though we have covered a couple design thinking courses above, this is a little different. Those were designed for absolute beginners but this one is designed for a little advanced users. That’s why I’m placing it here.

In this course, students will master the tools necessary to generate new ideas and quickly transform those concepts into viable new products and services.

Innovation and Design

Advanced level free design courses online

The Secret Power of Brands

Duration: 6 Weeks

Only those designers get paid the most who can generate a ‘brand’. What is a brand and how is it generated? This course answers these questions.

Brands are the most potent commercial and cultural force on the planet. Think about McDonald’s, Apple, Manchester United, Tate, Google or even Harry Potter. This free online course will help you get under the skin of such brands, and ask how and why they become so powerful.

Secret power of brands

Human Factors and Culture in Design

Duration: 6 Weeks

Design is not universal, it is perceived. So how do people perceive it? That’s a question that all great designers must have answer to.

Excellent user experience design should consider factors such as human’s demand, ability and cultural background thoroughly. User-centered design is not only a requirement for designers, but also a professional quality of product managers and developers.

Human factors in design

Digital Art and Design Criticism

Duration: Self Paced

The topic may sound too advanced but actually any designer can take this course. This courses focuses on criticism, intellectual debates on what design is, how we are creating it and how should it rather be created.

An overview of the many forms of digital arts, this course encourages students in a collaborative fashion to identify and address problems in the cultural and urban environment.

Design Criticism

That’s all the high quality courses I could find at the moment. I will try to keep this list up-to-date and keep adding the new courses and removing the outdated courses.

If you know any good course, please do share it in the comments section below. And if you find any outdated course in this list, please also inform me about it.

Thank you for your support. Until tomorrow, see you.

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