Graphic Design

We live in an age in which images are conceived, transmitted and consumed at an unprecedented rate. Skills from a wide range of disciplines are being blended together as designers find unique ways to meet the demands of a rapidly expanding communications industry.

Kansas City Art Institute's School for Continuing and Professional Studies has designed a stand-alone certificate program for graphic design. Whether you're new to working in communications at the office, are looking to create imagery for personal use or are a developing graphic designer, this certificate program will help you acquire and hone the necessary skills to be an effective designer and visual communicator.

The tremendous growth of the Internet has created an explosion of business and personal web pages. In the race to take advantage of the limitless possibilities of the web, demand for persons skilled in designing, developing, and maintaining Web pages has increased.

General guidelines
Registration and tuition
Financial aid
Required classes
Lifetime learning tax credit
Computer facilities
Complete the online application

General guidelines

Students should be proficient in the Macintosh operating systems, standard menus and commands, and opening, closing and saving files.

Certificate students are expected to attend classes, complete in-class assignments and take examinations. The certificate program for graphic design consists of 12 core requirements/courses, each conferring one undergraduate credit. Certificate students may request a transcript.

Credits from other institutions or from previous semesters at KCAI may transfer to the certificate program. Approval for course substitution may be obtained from the director of the School for Continuing and Professional Studies for students who have taken the equivalent of a required course at the college level.

Some advanced classes require submission of materials proving skill level. Documentation supporting experience or a portfolio of work should be submitted to the continuing education office prior to enrolling in these classes. For many of these, basic classes in the program or courses in the previous tier will act as documentation of experience.

Individual certificate program classes are open to all students. Anyone interested in taking these classes for professional growth or personal development is welcome. However, since class sizes are limited, priority will be given to enrolled certificate students.

Expectations of Students

Frequently Asked Questions

Meet our Graphic Design faculty

Program features

  • Five eight-week sessions each year offering a variety of classes each session
  • Students may enter the program in any one of the five sessions
  • Classes are held in the evenings and on weekends
  • Each class meets once a week for two and a half hours
  • For each class, approximately 10 hours of homework may be assigned per week

Certificate issuance conditions

Required program courses must be completed with a grade of "C" or better.  It is recommended that students finish the program within three years.  At the end of the program, students must make a written request to the School for Continuing and Professional Studies office for the certificate.


Download the 2016 certificate program schedule. 

Registration and tuition information

Due to limited class sizes, students are encouraged to sign up for classes as soon as registration opens to ensure course placement. Students can obtain a course catalog by emailing 

Online registration for a class may close before the registration period ends if the class is filled early. Classes are cancelled if the minimum enrollment is not met. Timely registration helps keep classes open.

Beginning students must complete the certificate program application, submit a one-time, non-refundable $35 application fee and proof of high school diploma or equivalent. An official transcript should be sent to: Continuing and Professional Studies, KCAI, 4415 Warwick Blvd., KCMO 64111.

Enrollment in subqsequent classes requires online registration for each class and payment of applicable fees. Tuition for each eight-week class is $400 plus a $25 lab fee, totaling $425 per class. The total certificate program cost is $5,100 and is not eligible for financial aid. Private lenders who support continuing education programs are available (see below).

Students wishing to request transfer credit, substitutions or prior learning experience should download the Credit Approval Form.  Complete the information related to the particular request and submit it to the Director for approval.

Students who have advanced through the program and would like to take a Directed Studies course for specifc curriculum that is not covered in the program should download the Application for Directed Studies Form, complete the required information and submit it to the Director for approval.

Financial aid

Financial aid for certificate programs is currently unavailable. However, the School for Continuing and Professional Studies does accept the following sources for tuition payments:

Full Employment Council

Department of Secondary Education


Tuition reimbursement may also be available through your employer. Consult your human resources/benefits department or supervisor for more information.

Required classes

Certificate program classes are organized into a three-tier system, with each tier containing four to five required classes. As students advance through each tier, classes become more advanced. Students working toward a certificate must complete all classes within a tier before moving on to the next tier.

To see more information about each class, click on the course title.

Introductory Level

Color Theory

This hands-on course is essential for anyone pursuing or currently working in any art or design field who must communicate effectively with color. Confidence and skill are developed through hands-on weekly color (tone and value) mixing exercises and homework projects using acrylic paints.

Fundamentals of Two-Dimensional Design

The focus of this hands-on course is the demystification of the design process, presenting the principles of 2D design as a rational series of prescribed steps and by emphasizing how those principles apply to all design and art disciplines. Emphasis is placed on the principals of Gestalt theory.

History of Design

In order to be a good designer, it is important to know the past. As a visual communicator, it is important for a designer to be able to envision themselves and their work in the context of history. This course will dive into the origins of design showing examples of work from the best designers in the history of the field of art and design.

Introduction to Graphic Design

This course is an introduction to professional graphic design and digital imaging. Students will work with Illustrator for drawing and type manipulation, Photoshop for image editing, and InDesign for layout application. Software: Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator

Intermediate Level

Digital Imaging I

An in-depth introduction to the most popular raster-based image editing and painting software program used by design professionals, Adobe Photoshop. Software: Photoshop

Computer Drawing I

This class is the first of two courses using Adobe Illustrator, the leading professional vector based drawing program. In this class students build a strong foundation working in the Illustrator environment and learn basic application skills for use in illustration, print and multi-media projects. Basic tool pallet functions, drawing and type manipulation and export formats are all covered in this class. Software: Illustrator


A hands-on introduction to typography using Adobe InDesign and Illustrator. Learn how graphic designers utilize type to create printed pieces and develop skills in the basics of typography. Software: InDesign and Illustrator

Page Layout

This class is a continuation of learning to design page layouts with Adobe InDesign. In this class students will build upon their basic InDesign technical skills learned in Introduction to Graphic Design. This class is fast paced and will function as a design studio with students receiving and completing real world assignments. Students will develop conceptual and design skills through class critiques. Software: InDesign

Advanced Level

Digital Imaging II

This class is a continuation of Digital Imaging I, building on basic image manipulation and editing skills using Adobe Photoshop. Software: Photoshop

Computer Drawing II

This class is the final course using Adobe Illustrator. Students move beyond the basics and learn advanced techniques, including advanced selection, perspective grids, the gradient mesh tool, advanced brush techniques, graphs and patterns. Software: Illustrator

Graphic Design Strategies

Graphic Design Strategies gives students a broad view of the realities of working in the graphic design field. The class brings together previous coursework into an integrated capstone project. Software: Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator

Portfolio Development

Students will explore the portfolio as a design problem. A portfolio is a doorway to the professional world and is a reflection of the designer. In this class, students will have an opportunity to share work with and receive feedback from a professional working in the design field.

Lifetime learning tax credit

This tax credit applies to tuition and fees for undergraduate, graduate and continuing education course work. Students may be able to claim this credit if enrolled at or attending an eligible educational institution. The Kansas City Art Institute is an eligible institution. Amounts paid for any course that helps the student acquire or improve job skills are qualified expenses. In order to qualify for the lifetime learning credit, you must provide your legal name and social security number. Check with a tax professional to insure your eligibility for this tax credit.


Students enrolled in the certificate program have limited KCAI library privileges as well as access to some resources through the Career Services office.

Computer facilities

Two computer labs are available in The School for Continuing and Professional Studies, located at 32 E. 46th St. Students are also permitted to use the lab in the Jannes Library and Learning Center at 4538 Warwick Blvd.

Each lab is equipped with iMacs running current software applications. Scanners are capable of scanning all forms of two-dimensional media. All classes are hands-on with one student per computer. Additionally, lab time is available beyond classroom time, and hours are posted each semester. However, students are encouraged to purchase a computer if they don’t already have access to one outside of class time. Instructors can lend guidance on specifications prior to purchase. Students in the certificate program are eligible for hardware and software discounts.

CPS Enroll

Click here to enroll today in a class at the School for Continuing and Professional Studies at KCAI.

Spring 2016 classes

Download a spring brochure with a complete list of all the classes we're offering.

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