B.F.A. Degree in Graphic Design {19-20}

B.F.A Degree in Graphic Design

Traditional and computer processes are utilized for in-depth studio investigations into various conceptual and technical applications to achieve effective visual communication solutions. Investigations deal with one or more of the following: symbols, typography, information design, systems, 3D, visual concepts, visual research, motions graphics, brand identity, web design, and multimedia. Projects may include logos, brochures, posters, magazine layouts, packaging, web sites, mobile applications, motion graphics, and many more issues that deal with visual communications and society. The BFA in Graphic Design is considered the professional and specialized degree program for entry into practice. To receive the BFA Degree in Graphic Design, the student must meet the minimum university requirements and specific requirements for the program. Completion of 120 credits is required for this degree which includes the Liberal Arts and Sciences Core (42 credits). A 3.0 GPA or above in major requirements is required for graduation. Students must earn a grade of C or higher in any major course requirement.

Student Learning Outcomes

Graphic Design is a constant evolving profession. Students are called upon more and more to have backgrounds in the various fields of media arts including sound, film, and motion. This program takes into account what employers are looking for in today's design graduates. The competencies listed below are taken from the National Association of Schools of Art & Design Handbook, our accrediting agency.

3. Essential Competencies, Opportunities, and Experiences (in addition to those stated for all professional degree programs in Sections VIII.B. and C.): 

A. The ability to conceive and to design visual communications and systems involving various integrations of the elements of professional practice outlined in items 3.b. through g. below. 

B. Understanding and use of basic visual communication principles and processes, including but not limited to: 

  • Understanding of how communication theories, principles, and processes have evolved through history and the ability to use this knowledge to address various types of contemporary problems.
  • Understanding of and ability to develop strategies for planning, producing, and disseminating visual communications.
  • Functional knowledge of creative approaches, and the analytical ability to make appropriate, purpose-based choices among them, and to use such approaches to identify communication opportunities and generate alternative solutions.
  • Ability to plan the design process and construct narratives and scenarios for describing user experiences.
  • Fluency in the use of the formal vocabulary and concepts of design—including content, elements, structure, style, and technology—in response to visual communication problems. Studies in critical theory and semiotics are strongly recommended.
  • Ability to develop informed considerations of the spatial, temporal, and kinesthetic relationships among form, meaning, and behavior and apply them to the development of various types of visual communication design projects.
  • Ability to use typography, images, diagrams, motion, sequencing, color, and other such elements effectively in the contexts of specific design projects. 

C. Ability to incorporate research and findings regarding people and contexts into communication design decision-making, including but not limited to: 

  • Ability to frame and conduct investigations in terms of people, activities, and their settings, including, but not limited to using appropriate methods for determining people’s wants, needs, and patterns of behavior, and developing design responses that respect the social and cultural differences among users of design in local and global contexts.
  • Understanding of design at different scales, ranging from components to systems and from artifacts to experiences.
  • Ability to exercise critical judgment about the student’s own design and the design of others with regard to usefulness, usability, desirability, technological feasibility, economic viability, and sustainability in terms of long-term consequences. 

D. Acquisition of collaborative skills and the ability to work effectively in interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary teams to solve complex problems. 

E. Understanding of and the ability to use technology, including but not limited to: 

  • Functional understanding of how to continue learning technology, recognizing that technological change is constant.
  • Ability to conduct critical evaluations of different technologies in specific design problem contexts, including the placement of technical issues in the service of human-centered priorities and matching relationships between technologies and the people expected to use them.
  • Functional capability to shape and create technological tools and systems to address communication problems and further communication goals.
  • Ability to recognize and analyze the social, cultural, and economic implications of technology on message creation and production and on human behavior, and to incorporate results into design decisions. 

F. Understanding of and ability to use basic research and analysis procedures and skills, including but not limited to: 

  • Acquisition of research capabilities and skills such as using databases, asking questions, observing users, and developing prototypes.
  • Ability to use analytical tools to construct appropriate visual representations in the execution of research activities.
  • Ability to interpret research findings practically and apply them in design development.
  • Ability to support design decisions with quantitative and qualitative research findings at various stages of project development and presentation. 

G. Functional knowledge of professional design practices and processes, including but not limited to professional and ethical behaviors and intellectual property issues such as patents, trademarks, and copyrights. 

H. Experience in applying design knowledge and skills beyond the classroom is essential. Opportunities for field research and experience, internships, collaborative programs with professional and industry groups, and international experiences are strongly recommended. Such opportunities to become oriented to the working profession should be supported through strong advising.

Program Delivery Mode
Land plus: face-to-face where some online courses may be available or required

Core Requirements ( 69 credits )

ART 101 Drawing I (4)
ART 125 Foundation Design (4)
ART 233 Global Art History I (3) (LASC 8)
ART 234 Global Art History II (3) (LASC 8)
FILM 285 History of Motion Pictures (4)
GCOM 255 Beginning Computer Graphics (3)
GCOM 266 Beginning Multimedia (3)
GDES 203 Intro to Graphic Design (4)
GDES 303 Typography (4)
GDES 304 Experience Design (4)
GDES 305 Visual Systems and Brand Identity (4)
GDES 306 Motion Design: Typography and Visual Narratives (4)
GDES 307 Advanced Typography (4)
GDES 375 History of Graphic Design (4)
GDES 492A BFA Senior Project (4)
GDES 492B BFA Senior Project (4)
GDES 469 Internship (6)
COMM 301 Business & Professional Communication OR ENGL 387 Technical Report Writing (3)
**Designated Writing Intensive Course for Major**

69 credits - 3 credits count towards LASC

Designated Writing Intensive Course for Major
COMM 301 Business and Professional Communications OR ENGL 387 Technical Report Writing

Program Requirements

BFA Graphic Design Degree Requirements:

  • Minimum GPA of 3.0 in major requirements
  • A grade of C or better must be earned in order for any program course requirement to count towards the major
  • GDES Portfolio Review #1 at the end of the sophomore year
  • BFA Senior Project Review #2
  • BFA Senior Exhibit
  • Students must seek out and complete an internship opportunity. Internship requests should be made to the major advisor and must be approved for credit in advance.

Graphic Design Computer and Software Requirements:
The GDES program has a laptop requirement. Current equipment specifications as well as any purchase options will be discussed during the first semester of enrollment. Educational pricing for hardware purchases can be made through the MSUM bookstore, or at Software resources are referenced below.

MacBook Pro
Our recommendation is a 13” MacBook Pro customized during the purchase process to include 16gb of RAM. Be sure your model has a 256gb Solid State drive.

If you are looking for a larger screen size and more processing power, the MacBook Pro 16” is recommended. It comes with 16gb and the higher processing speed without additional customization on purchase.  

You will need a USB-C to USB adapter as well. USB-C hubs featuring ethernet, HDMI out, and passthrough charging are also available online (less expensive than Apple).


  • Mac Operating System Catalina 10.15
  • Microsoft Office - available for student rates and to download at
  • More information on creative software such as the Adobe CC, and Final Cut Pro for Film will be provided from your program instructors closer to the start of the semester

Additionally, if you are interested in pursuing an iPad for more digital design and illustration and the use of Adobe CC mobile applications, we suggest a range of offerings. The lowest cost being the iPad and pencil, to the higher cost iPad Pro and Apple Pencil (ideal for advanced Augmented Reality tasks).

Restricted Electives ( 10-12 credits )

Student must take three intro courses OR two intro courses and one intermediate studio from the list of courses below. 10-12 credits

Intro courses:
ART 102 Basic Drawing II (4)
ART 203A Introduction to Ceramics and Clay Processes (4)
ART 203C Introduction to Painting (4)
ART 203D Introduction to Printmaking (4)
ART 203E Introduction to Sculpture (4)
ART 203F Introduction to Photography (4)
ART 203L Introduction to Illustration (4) (ART 102 pre-requisite)
ART 203N Introduction to Papermaking (4)
FILM 175 Video Production (4)
EIT 181 Audio Technology Theory (3)

Intermediate courses:
FILM 265 16 mm Production (4)
FILM 101A Practicum (1) (FILM majors only)
FILM 302 Practicum (1) (FILM 101A pre-requisite)
FILM 372 Editing Techniques
FILM 383 Adaptations to Film (4)
FILM 384 Techniques of Film Directing (4)
FILM 365 International Cinemas (4)
FILM 386 Film and Media Arts Genres (4)
FILM 387 Authorship in Film and Media Arts (4)
FILM 388 Research Methods in Film and Media Arts (4)
ANIM 216 3D Modeling (4)
GCOM 355 Intermediate Computer Graphics (3)
GCOM 366 Intermediate Web Design (3)
GCOM 368 Advanced Web Design (3)

Recommended Electives

ART 102 Basic Drawing II (4)
ART 233M Global Art History I: Methods (1)
ART 234M Global Art History II: Methods (1)