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Variable Data Certificate

Variable Data Certificate at Harper College

Design, produce and manage personalized print projects   

Program facts  arts icon

  • Credit hours: 30
  • Stackable to degree: No
  • Potential job outcomes: Desktop publishing, variable data prepress technician

Enroll in this 30-credit-hour certificate program to develop a foundation in the graphic arts industries, web-to-print solutions and personalization/customization in print promotions. You’ll be trained in basic graphic technologies utilizing variable data applications and digital print production. Upon graduation, you can begin a career in the graphic arts field or continue your education with one of Harper College’s high-quality degree programs in this area.

During the program, you’ll learn how to implement a successful web-to-print workflow and analyze digital/graphic files. You’ll also be trained in the delivery of variable printed pieces. Areas of study include graphic arts technology, business software packages, database systems, desktop publishing, page layout, prepress production, digital imaging, variable data technologies and web scripting foundations.

Perfect your creative skills in one of Harper’s three state-of-the-art graphic arts labs, equipped with Mac computers and the latest creative software. On-site printing presses allow you to get hands-on experience in all areas of graphic arts production.

Certificate program requirements

This 30 credit-hour certificate program is designed to provide students with a foundation in skills to understand the graphic arts industries web-to-print solutions and the importance of personalization and customization in print promotions. This certificate will provide training in basic graphic technologies utilizing variable data applications and digital print production. It will instruct students on how to implement a successful web-to-print workflow as well as analysis of data, digital graphic files, and delivery of the variable printed piece.


Number Course Title Credits
CAS 160 3

Description: Provides an opportunity to become proficient in the use of currently popular software packages or suites. Includes word processing, spreadsheets, databases, presentation software and the integration of these applications.

CIS 143 3

Description: Provides students with a comprehensive introduction to database concepts. Primary focus is on the relational model of database management and querying databases using Structured Query Language (SQL). Existing relational databases are examined and manipulated, and new relational databases are created.

Prerequisite: CAS 160 or CIS 101 or WEB 110 with a grade of C or better and math placement in MTH 101 or higher. Math_Placement_Grid.pdf

GRA 101 3

Description: Gives students an overview of the graphic arts industry. Covers various occupations including basic information for making career and education choices. Builds the foundation for continuing education in the graphic arts program. Includes historical, current and potential developments in the printing industry. Provides a comprehensive understanding of desktop publishing software and the steps related to producing printed materials.

GRA 102 3

Description: Presents a clear understanding of graphic desktop software and their many functions in the printing industry. Provides hands-on training using the most current desktop publishing software. Focuses on project work, page layouts and output functions.

Prerequisite: Prior or concurrent enrollment in GRA 101.

GRA 103 3

Description: Covers fundamentals of professional digital image-editing software (Adobe Photoshop). Emphasizes skills to manipulate photos using current software tools and special effects filters. Explores program tools, color correction, channels, layers and masks. Computer skills are required for success in this course.

GRA 229 3

Description: Explores advanced multi-page layout techniques in InDesign software. Projects focus on creating documents that follow industry standards and best practice for print graphics. Emphasis is placed on projects for print and preflighting techniques.

Prerequisite: GRA 102 with a grade of C or better.

GRA 230 3

Description: Covers prepress procedures, including preflight, the understanding of manufacturing specs and press layouts. Emphasis on PostScripting, ripping in a high end workflow, press imposition of ripped files, trapping needs of files, proofing and film/plate output. Proof and plate assessment and quality control. Color management instruction for inputs and outputs as well as PDF requirements for file exchange.

Prerequisite: GRA 102 with a grade of C or better.

GRA 231 3

Description: Covers selected topics utilizing digital print technologies. Studies variable data applications, data management and cross media web-to-print solutions for the graphic arts industry. Includes aspects of personalized and customized data and marketing through text and images for print, web, email and phone delivery. Covers application training and utilization through output and trends, VDP procedures and languages, postal specifications and bindery needs.

Prerequisite: GRA 102 with a grade of C or better, or consent of program coordinator.

WEB 150 3

Description: Introduces the foundational skills needed to create web pages utilizing HyperText Markup Language (HTML) and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). Topics include Web design best practices, web site hosting, Internet protocols, graphics, media and security. Students utilize the skills learned to create a business-oriented web site project. IAI MC 923

Recommended: WEB 110 or CIS 106 or GRA 101 are strongly recommended courses in preparation prior to WEB 150.

WEB 200 3

Description: Builds on web foundation skills taught in WEB 150 with a focus on development of interactive web pages using HyperText Markup Language (HTML), Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), and JavaScript. Students utilize the skills taught to create a business-oriented web site.

Prerequisite: WEB 150 with a grade of C or better AND math placement in MTH 101 or higher.

Related programs

Students interested in graphic arts technology may also be interested in:


Next steps

For more information about the Variable Data Certificate program, contact Admission Outreach at 847.925.6700, or submit a request information form. You can also apply online.