Offered for 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th graders, the Commercial Art Program spans a number of areas related to visual communications. Students prepare layout and design artwork for magazines, newspapers, books, television, posters, and packaging. While learning about these areas of study, students compile a portfolio to show potential employers or prepare for college entrance interviews. Academic skills utilized during this course are reading, writing, and basic math. Emphasis is placed on social, historical, and overall communications in general.
    Heavy emphasis is placed on thinking/problem-solving design with the ability to “make it happen” using the well-rounded board and computer skills. Students completing this program will have that portfolio under their arm and skills in head and hands with confidence to succeed in the workplace or further education.

    Commercial Artists tend to be creative types of people who generally enjoy their work. Contrary to common belief, Commercial Artists are not the starry-eyed dreamers who are portrayed in the media. A successful Commercial Artist is highly skilled with varied types of technical equipment/computers, well-organized, and disciplined in terms of work habits and deadlines. Most Commercial Artists work well with others and enjoy the problem-solving that is demanded of them. Commercial Artists must deal well with long hours and tremendous pressure that is sometimes present in this field. Free-lance workers must also deal with slow periods as well as periods of great activity. Advertising artists are busiest around the holidays, but the bulk of this work is accomplished in the summer. The most adaptable persons are the happiest persons in this field.

    Commercial artists work in different environments depending upon the job; for example, work could be done in a plush studio or art department of a large company. Display work is often done on-site as in a convention center or department store. Commercial photography studios are often large areas with mammoth set-ups. A photography or video shoot could theoretically take the artist to too many different areas. For the most part, Commercial Artists work indoors in relatively clean, pleasant environments.

    Salaries vary in this field. The average salary for Commercial Artists starting out in the field according to the Standard Occupational Classification codes on the web site online.onetcenter.org can be in the lower twenties into the thirties($30,000) as of the mid 2000s. This salary will vary sometimes with average salaries being somewhat lower in smaller towns. Top salaries in large agencies can reach sums e.g. $60,000-90,000. The lower end of the scale covers the entry-level artist who is likely to start at $15-20 an hour depending on the area of the country in which he or she is likely to work. Commercial Artists tend to be non-union but become members of professional art organizations such as Artists Equity.

    Jobs are increasing for entry-level Commercial Artists as well as professional level workers. Competition is stiff, but work is always available for the dedicated. It used to be that Commercial Artists opportunities were limited to large cities. While jobs are always open in large urban centers, the sophistication and technology in this field have opened opportunities to smaller towns as well. According to the Standard Occupations Classification, an estimated 65,000 Graphic Designers will be needed between the years 2004-2014. In the same time period, 24,000 Art Directors will be needed, 9,000 Illustrators, and 34,000 Multi-Media/Animators. These occupations are all an increase of 10-20%. Finally, 15,000 Desktop Publishers will be needed making an increase of 21-35%. These figures reflect the S.O.C. national studies.

    Minimum education of two-four years at the college or trade school level in Commercial Art and fundamentals of graphic arts is recommended. Many professionals feel that skills in the arts can be developed in less than four years, but that it takes this long for the student to develop the depth, confidence, and competence necessary to compete in this field. With the technological advances in this field (e.g. computerized typesetting and computer-aided graphic design), additional coursework in computers is mandatory. In the area where Western Center students live some of the opportunities are: The Art Institute of Philadelphia, Antonelli Institute, The Art Institute at York(Formerly Bradley Academy of Fine Arts), Lehigh College(Formerly Allentown Business School), and Kutztown University. Most of these institutions prefer testing computer skills to advance students to a given level, upon entering, rather than articulation agreements. However, there are contests for portfolio scholarships and other opportunities depending on the school.