Graphic Design Computer Recommendations

(Updated April 2014)

IMPORTANT: Please read the Adobe Creative Cloud Policy Statement on the General Computer Purchase Recommendations page.

The Department of Graphic and Industrial Design requires purchase of computers by all undergraduate students beginning in their sophomore year and by all graduate students. The Department of Graphic Design and Industrial Design at NC State was the first program in the University of North Carolina system to require students to have a computer for their studies. This allows our students to gain a level of computer proficiency and confidence that is essential in practice. Graphic design integrates computers in virtually every step of the design process from conception to production and in a range of media including print, video, and web. Apple Macintosh is the preferred platform of the graphic design field and the Department of Graphic Design and Industrial Design for Graphic Design students.

Incoming sophomores will take Imaging I in their fall semester. This course is an introduction to image-making and requires the student to purchase a digital camera. There is a large range of features available on digital cameras—only the most basic are necessary for the course.

Download the departmental Materials List for more detailed information from the Department of Graphic Design and Industrial Design. (Adobe Reader required to read this file.)

Each department in the College of Design has different computer requirements. Please read the College’s Student Computing Requirements Information page for general information before spending money on computer hardware or software.

We recommend that your computer meet or exceed the specifications below. A computer with greater capability (processor speed, RAM, disk capacity) and expandability will be more likely to continue to run required software in later years of college.

This chart provides minimum recommendations for students purchasing new computers. Clicking on “Tell Me More” will provide detailed information about a component. Software requirements are listed at the bottom of the chart. Additional specialized software may be required in other courses, as determined by the instructor. Students may consider the purchase of other software to support their particular goals and learning styles.

Macintosh Computers

Components Macintosh Desktop Macintosh Laptop
CPU (Processor) or Model Good
iMac 21.5″ or 27″(includes built-in monitor) any current model
Mac Pro, any current model
MacBook Pro, any current 15″ model
System RAM
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8 GB minimum, more preferred 8 GB minimum, more preferred
CD/DVD Drive (optional)
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Optional external SuperDrive available
Hard Drive (Storage)
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512 GB SSD or 750 GB/7200 RPM minimum, more preferred 512 GB SSD or 750 GB/7200 RPM minimum, more preferred
Tell me more
20″ minimum (Consider two monitors for more working space on the computer.)
iMacs include a built-in monitor. Monitors from other vendors will work with Apple computers.
15″ display included (Consider a second external monitor for more working space on the computer.) Monitors from other vendors will work with Apple computers.
Video Adapter (Graphics Card)
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512 MB VRAM or higher
Operating System Mac OS X version 10.8 or later
Sound Card Standard on Macintosh
Ethernet Adapter
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Standard on Macintosh desktop models (Wireless card is standard.) Ethernet port standard on some MacBook Pros, additional adapter needed for Retina Display models.(Wireless card is standard.)
External Hard Drive for Back-ups An external drive at least as large as your computer’s internal drive for backing up your computer
Warranty Service 3-year AppleCare Protection Plan

See the note above about Adobe Creative Cloud.

Be sure to check for educational discounts through the College of Design or NCSU Bookstores.

Additional software may be required for certain courses.

• Adobe Photoshop CS6 or later

• Adobe Illustrator CS6 or later

• Adobe InDesign CS6 or later

• Adobe Dreamweaver CS6—not required until Spring semester

• Adobe After Effects CS6 (optional)

OR Creative Cloud


(Adobe Creative Suite is available in several different bundles. “Creative Suite Design Premium” is a good fit for most Graphic Design students. It includes InDesign, Acrobat, Illustrator, Photoshop Extended, Flash Professional and Dreamweaver. Other bundles are available. Creative Cloud includes all products instead of different bundles.)

• FontLab TypeTool 3.1 or later

• Adobe Font Folio Education Essentials CD

Digital Camera (Sophomores) 8.0 Megapixel or higher, Macintosh-compatible digital camera with case


The College’s Information Technology staff will be glad to go over purchase choices or answer any related questions. Contact them by sending an email to: