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8 Design Courses for High School Students

If you’re a high schooler thinking about pursuing design or a related field in the future, you should consider applying to courses in those subjects. Courses and certifications offer a platform to build your skills and knowledge, enhance your portfolio, and strengthen your college applications by showcasing your dedication to your chosen field.

Courses in design and related subjects can be a stepping stone toward your academic and professional goals, allowing you to develop the tools required to conduct your own design projects and ventures. They will can help you stand out among peers and get a head start on your design journey.

In this blog, we’ve listed 8 design courses that cover a wide range of specializations such as graphic design, animation, art, and more. Doing a specialized course would also equip you with the skills and knowledge required to excel in your chosen niche.

Location: UCLA, Los Angeles, CA. A virtual session is also offered. 

Cost: $4,800 (all-inclusive on-campus fees) | $2,913 (all-inclusive virtual fees). 

Dates: In-person: July 7 – 20, 2024 | Virtual: July 22, 2024 – August 2, 2024.

Application Deadline: June 1, 2024.

Eligibility: Students who are in grades 9-12 in Spring 2024 and are at least 15 years old by June 24, 2024, are eligible to apply.

The Department of Design Media Arts (DMA) at UCLA offers the Design Media Arts Summer Institute to high school students. This two-week course, offered both in an in-person residential and virtual mode, encompasses a comprehensive, multidisciplinary education in media creation that fosters individual exploration and innovative thinking. Taught by one of the nation’s top design departments, this will introduce to you design practices in the contexts of 2D Image, Net, immersive 3D Worldbuilding, and Motion Design. 

The course offers a comprehensive curriculum with hands-on guidance and support from experienced, professional faculty members. The course will end with a final exhibition and the creation of a portfolio-ready body of work that you could include in your college applications, boosting your application further. It also provides the opportunity to get a glimpse of college life in a cutting-edge design department while earning four credit units.

Location: Virtual. 

Cost: $5,959. Scholarships for are available. 

Dates: June 24, 2024 – August 2, 2024.

Application Date: June 15, 2024.

Eligibility: 9th-12th graders in Spring 2024, college students, and aspiring filmmakers, including international students, can apply. 

This course offers studebts the opportunity to learn how to create their own animated movies. To participate, you don’t need to have any prior drawing experience. The Traditional Animation track focuses on teaching students how to write, storyboard, and draw their animation films using traditional hand-drawn methods.

Offered virtually, it includes synchronous meetings, practical exercises, and guest speakers. You will use tools such as a Wacom tablet or mouse, Pencil2D, and Adobe Premiere to complete your animated projects. Under the guidance of UCLA faculty, you will learn the entire animation process, from storyboard to post-production, while also exploring the history of animation and contemporary industry practices. The course features an exclusive Animation Symposium where you will get the opportunity to meet Hollywood professionals like Meg LeFauve (writer, Inside Out), Jared Bush (writer/director, Zootopia, Moana), and other industry leaders from Marvel Animation, Sony Pictures Animation, and more. Each student will create an animated short film with sound, which will be showcased in a final project screening during the closing ceremony. 

Location: University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA.

Cost: $4,488 (without housing) | $6,500-7,000 (with housing).

Dates: June 24, 2024 - August 2, 2024.

Application Date: Applications typically close in April. Applications are considered on a rolling basis, so its best to apply as early as possible. 

Eligibility: High school students who are at least 16 years or older are eligible to apply. 

In this course, you will dive into the essential concepts of motion and timing that bring traditional 2D animation to life. Putting digital tools to use, this course encourages students to explore a wide array of innovative animated works, with a special emphasis on commercials, art installations, and music videos.

Over the span of six weeks, you will engage in a series of short assignments that build up to an independent final project that you will design and implement. The course aims to equip students with a deep understanding of the mechanics, vocabulary, and tools of traditional 2D animation, including critical principles such as arcs, timing, spacing, anticipation, overlapping action, and more. You will also have access to labs with Cintiq workstations outside of scheduled class times, providing ample opportunity to hone your skills. By the end of the program, you will be able to effectively plan and execute short hand-drawn animations and critically analyze the mechanics of animated movement.

While familiarity with drawing is recommended, you don’t need to have a background in art to participate!

Location: Parsons School of Design, NY.

Cost: $5,145 + $245 university fee (tuition) + $2,086 (housing and meals). Scholarships are available. 

Dates: July 8 - 26, 2024.

Application Date: May 1, 2024 (if you plan to request housing) | May 31, 2024 (if you don’t plan to request housing).

Eligibility: High school students between the ages of 16 and 18 are eligible to apply. No prior design experience is required.

Parsons School of Design offers a comprehensive introduction to graphic design for high school students in this pre-college course. You will learn the basics of visual research, composition, typography, and information organization. You will tackle various design challenges using concept-driven solutions, focusing on both 2D and digital creation. The course delves into the role of typography in design, emphasizing the importance of choosing the right typeface for each project. Additionally, students will be introduced to digital tools, including Adobe Creative Cloud. Upon the completion of the program, you will earn grades and three college credits!

You don’t need to have any prior experience in design to participate in the course. However, you will be required to bring a laptop to class to complete course assignments outside of scheduled computer lab times. The New School will provide you with subscriptions for the full Adobe Creative Cloud suite of applications. 

Location: School of Visual Arts, New York, NY.

Cost: $850.

Dates: September 14, 2024 - November 16, 2024.

Application Date: TBA.

Eligibility: Students who will be enrolled in high school at the time of the program and are at least 14-18 years old can apply.

The School of Visual Arts offers a comprehensive Comics course, rooted in a tradition from the 1940s when the school trained pioneers of the Golden Age of Cartooning. In this course, you will create an eight-page comic, exploring cartooning as a versatile medium for storytelling and idea exploration. You will develop your own characters and narratives, guided by practical steps including scripting, thumbnail sketches, page layouts, penciling, inking, lettering, and basic perspective. The course emphasizes free association and narrative exercises, enhancing skills in contour, proportions, perspective, and anatomy. Techniques in inking and digital coloring will also be covered, with the course ending with you creating a unique comic book or webcomic.

You will receive one college credit for the successful completion of the course. 

Location: Virtual.

Cost: Free. You will have to pay to get a certificate.

Dates: 2 months at 10 hours a week. You can set a flexible schedule. 

Application Date: Rolling applications. 

Eligibility: Open to all. Students interested in graphic design and with access to a computer and internet access can apply.

This comprehensive online course is designed to teach and refine the essential skills you need for a career in graphic design. You will delve into the core aspects of the field, including process, historical context, image-making, and typography. You will learn to create compelling designs that communicate effectively both on screen and in print. By honing these skills, you will be better prepared for college and careers in various design domains, such as interface design, motion graphics, and editorial design. The program will culminate in a capstone project that combines the skills you’ve learned, in which you will create a professional branding project that you can showcase in a portfolio or your college application. 

This online course can be accessed from anywhere and needs no prior design knowledge. It aims to equip learners with a versatile set of formal and conceptual tools necessary for the graphic design industry. The course also offers a certificate from the California Institute of Arts upon completion.

Location: Virtual. 

Cost: $129.99 (this includes life-time access).

Dates: About 5 hours. You can set a flexible schedule. 

Application Date: Rolling applications. 

Eligibility: Open to all. Students interested in Motion Graphics Design and VFX and with access to a computer and internet access can apply.

Note: To participate in this course, you will need to download After Effects. The latest version of CC 2015 is recommended, but the earlier CS6 version will still work. A 30-day free trial can be downloaded directly from Adobe.

This beginner-friendly course, offered by Udemy, is designed for aspiring motion graphic artists seeking to learn the techniques needed to create animations and visual effects. This course offers comprehensive training in Adobe After Effects, guiding students through the process of creating motion graphics and infographics. With downloadable exercise files, you can follow along with each step of the training. 

No previous experience in using After Effects or animation skills are necessary for you to participate in this course. You will cover a wide range of topics, including motion graphics, type animation, video settings, exporting, easing and motion blur, and more. The course also includes hands-on projects, allowing you to create over 15 smaller projects that can be used in your professional portfolios. Additional topics include working with Illustrator and Photoshop, green screen techniques, character animation, and 3D type. The course provides lifetime access, making it a valuable resource for continuous learning and skill enhancement. Upon completion, you will receive a certificate.

Location: Virtual.

Cost: Free. You will have to pay for the certificate.

Dates: 8 hours. You can set a flexible schedule. 

Application Date: Rolling applications. 

Eligibility: Open to all. Students interested in design and with access to a computer and internet access can apply.

This course is designed to enhance the ability to critique graphic design objectively and effectively. You will learn to describe and evaluate design works based on clear, articulated criteria, thus improving your communication skills with peers, colleagues, and clients. You will gain skills in visual communication and graphic design, enabling you to recall and apply key terms, establish objective criteria for design success, and engage with design works in a more analytical and effective manner.  

This course is valuable for practicing graphic designers at all levels, students of art or design programs, teachers in visual art or related fields, and any stakeholders involved in design projects who need to communicate effectively with designers. Upon completion, participants will receive a certificate. While no prior experience is required to participate, the knowledge and skills taught in this course are useful only if you have some relationship to design in a professional context, i.e., practicing, studying, teaching design, or working directly with designers. 

One other option - Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you’re interested in pursuing research in design or related fields, you could also consider applying to one of the Lumiere Research Scholar Programs, selective online high school programs for students founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.

Also check out the Lumiere Research Inclusion Foundation, a non-profit research program for talented, low-income students. Last year, we had 150 students on full need-based financial aid!

Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard College graduate. He founded Lumiere as a Ph.D. student at Harvard Business School. Lumiere is a selective research program where students work 1-1 with a research mentor to develop an independent research paper.



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