Communication Arts

Student sketching a drawing

Program Status

Program Status: There is currently no new intake for CA.

Program Mission

The Communication Arts program's mission is to serve the community as a learning-centered program that provides hands-on technical training. The two-year career and technical curricula is for entry level employment or skill upgrading in keeping with the demands of the design, publishing, and printing industries as well as the needs of the individual.

Program Description

Communication Arts is a graphic design program that integrates art and technology to communicate ideas and information for a wide range of visual communication needs such as: marketing collateral, advertising design, packaging design, and more, for print and digital media needs.

The program provides a curriculum of technical and conceptual problem solving skills to encourage innovation, critical thinking and the application of formal design.

The Communication Arts program prepares students for entry level employment in graphic design, advertising design, desktop and on-line publishing, and includes all aspects of the publishing, printing and related services and industries.

To successfully complete the program, students must earn a grade of "C" or higher in all major courses with a "CA" alpha.

Program Prerequisites

  • Placement in ENG 100
  • MATH 24 or Placement in MATH 25 or higher

Degrees That Can Be Earned

  • Associate in Science (AS)

Cost of Textbooks/Supplies

  • Tuition based on total credits taken.
  • Books/supplies approximately $2,000.

Upon successful completion of the CA program, students will be able to:

  • Produce compositions utilizing the various steps of the design process: investigate client needs, do marketing research, define the design problem, problem solve, develop an idea/concept, thumbnails, layouts, comps and presentation art, prepare final art and produce mechanicals when necessary.
  • Use tools, equipment and services to implement ideas for production. Techniques to include use of computer hardware, software, and service bureaus.
  • Select appropriate software tools to achieve or maintain effective design solutions.
  • Follow instructions to produce, modify, or output files according to client/project supplied criteria.
  • Produce graphic design formats appropriate for delivery output while demonstrating the ability to meet deadlines, organize time and maintain schedules.
  • Work independently as well as part of a team.

Our program technical standards have been developed to help students understand the minimum essential mental, physical, and behavioral skills necessary for participation in and completion of all core aspects of our curriculum.

Thinking Skills


Apply concepts of design, photography, typography, and graphic arts to CA projects.


  • Read and apply information in textbooks, handouts, Standard Operating Procedures, and Material Data Safety Sheets to design work.
  • Interpret color theory.
  • Do problem solving for design-related needs.
  • Differentiate uses of tools, techniques, computer hardware and software.
  • Identify appropriate materials and methods for specific designs.

Sensory/Observation Skills


Assess the quality of design work.


  • Transfer ideas from rough sketches into detailed designs on computer.
  • Replicate teacher-demonstrated procedures.
  • Select appropriate materials and methods to achieve target effect.
  • Distinguish slight differences in colors, shapes, and patterns.
  • Judge distance and space relationships of objects.

Motor Skills


Possess sufficient mobility and dexterity to do design work.


  • Sketch lines, shapes, and figures.
  • Manipulate design tools such as scissors, pens, knives, or brushes.
  • Manipulate small objects or flat materials.
  • Apply paints, glues, and other substances to design projects.
  • Execute computer commands and operations to draw, edit, render and animate designs.

Communication Skills


Communicate effectively to gather and convey information.


  • Obtain necessary information from oral and written sources.
  • Express information coherently.
  • Use correct spelling and grammar in drawing work and report writing.

Behavioral Skills


Behave appropriately in both self-directed and shared learning environments.


  • Work independently with minimal supervision.
  • Work cooperatively with partners and groups.
  • Follow through with responsibilities in a timely manner.
  • Work diligently and put in necessary time to complete tasks.
  • Persist on difficult tasks.
  • Exercise good judgement.

Environmental Tolerance


Function safely in an art and computer lab.


  • Work for prolonged periods amidst: Artificial lighting, Electrical equipment, Odors

1. How is Communication Arts different from Graphic Arts?

Communication Arts is the front end and Graphic Arts is the backend of the same workflow. To be specific, Communication Arts is the design/conceptual stage of production. It includes production like paste up, creating illustrations, prepping and retouching photographs, as well as typesetting. Graphic Arts' production is stripping and prepping for the burning or creating of plates for the offset press, press work, and then finishing and binding.

2. What kind of skills do you need to have from the start to do well in CA (ie. drawing, photography, computers)?

Students starting the CA program are only expected to have basic math and English skills. Any other skills such as drawing or computers will be taught during the courses.

3. How does the CA program compare to Kapiolani CC's NMA Interface Design program?

CA is focused on design while delivering to print and web. New Media Arts on the other hand is focused on Interface Design (web) and Animation.

4. What types of software will the students use?

Basically the Adobe Creative Suite: InDesign, PhotoShop, Illustrator are primary. However, other softwares are used for web and gaming.

CA gives the best design theory and conceptual, technical, production, and digital skill development considering it is merely a 2 year program. Of course, going into a 4 year institution gives you even more conceptual skills. But for the past 15 years, CA students have participated in the Pele Advertising Competition and have brought home the gold 11 times. And for the past two years our students have gone on to the National competition bringing home the gold award this last year. This reflects the intense content of our courses in which we are able to complete with 4 year institutions.

5. What sort of jobs does the CA program prepare students for?

We train graphic designers for jobs in design and advertising firms and art departments in companies that are fortunate enough to have an in-house art department. Our students are exposed to web and gaming and 2D animation to give them a working vocabulary and fundamental experiences in this area.

6. What's the typical timeline for finishing this program?

This is a 2 year program. Can a student finish in 2 years? Yes. Is finishing in 2 years the best for a student? In some cases the answer is No. Everyone matures in their design sensibility at their own pace/rate so there is no typical timeline. There is just an average of two and a half to three years.

7. Are the required courses offered pretty regularly and are students able to get in?


8. Is math really important for CA majors?


9. Is there a lot of homework associated with the major courses?

Yes. According to the catalog a lecture course of semester duration which meets three hours a week is assigned three credit hours and normally requires two hours of outside preparation for each hour of lecture. But please keep in mind most of the CA courses are four credit hours and so even more preparation is required each week.

10. Are there any additional fees for the program aside from tuition?

Yes. According to the catalog you will need approximately $400.00 per semester for supplies.

11. What kind of salary can I hope for after finishing my degree in CA?

Please log onto AIGA Survey of Design Salaries at

12. When are the CA courses offered?

CA classes are offered year round in the fall and spring semesters through the main campus. Classes offered each semester can be viewed at Honolulu CC's Class Availability.

13. What courses should you take in your first semester in the program if you meet the program prerequisites of placement in ENG 100 and MATH 25?

If you are attending school part time then at the very least you should take the following courses which are offered in both the fall and spring semesters:

  • CA 121 - Art and Media Preparation I (4 credits)
  • CA 122 - Copy Preparation (4 credits)

If you are attending full time then you can also take the following courses:

  • CA 123 Color Theory and Issues (4 credits)
  • CA 125 Beginning Graphic Design (4 credits)
  • CA 100 Survey of Graphic Styles (3 credits)
  • CA 101 Power of Advertising (3 credits)
  • ENG 100 or higher
  • MATH 100, 103, or higher
  • Any Natural Science

14. What courses can you take if you do not meet the program prerequisites of placement in ENG 100 and MATH 25?

As you may already know, you cannot take most CA courses until you meet the CA program prerequisites. You can, however take English, math, natural science, and CA 100 and 101.

Most important is for you to take English and Math courses so you can qualify for placement in ENG 100 and MATH 25 which are the CA program prerequisites.

15. If you take a break from college, can you follow the old program requirements or do you have to follow the current requirements?

If your break has been one semester then you can follow the old requirements. If your break has been one year or longer, see an academic counselor.

16. Is there a CA student club?

Yes, there is a Communication Arts club. Past activities have included fundraisers such as bake sales, service projects such as assisting with re-designing the Voyager website and volunteering at the American Advertising Federation Awards District 13 competition (Pele Awards). Members of the club have also participated in the ASUH Annual Christmas Tree Decoration as well as events put on by the American Institute of Graphic Arts Honolulu chapter and school chapter mixers such as a scavenger hunt. They have also participated with Abstract Magazine as up and coming student designers.

17. Are there any scholarships for CA students?