Master the art of ideation, typography, and visual composition for apps, websites, logos, signage, publications, and more.
The Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree
The graphic design major is offered in the four-year bachelor of fine arts degree program. Our BFA curriculum is rooted by the
Core Four curriculum—fundamental courses that are structured to enrich each student's professional development over four years. Course Descriptions
GRD 2000 Introduction to Graphic Design 3
This course provides students with an overview of graphic design practice. Students concentrate on building visual language and communication as well as the vocabulary necessary for critical analysis. Topics covered include basic visual and typographic principles, type and image integration, composition, sequence, and craft. Students are also introduced to design process: research, ideation, iteration, refinement, and implementation. Posters, mark-making, and booklets are possible outcomes of this course.
Prerequisites: Foundation: 2D, Foundation: Drawing 1, Foundation: Media 1, Foundation: Media 2 (Foundation: Drawing 1 and Foundation: Media 2 may be taken concurrently
GRD 2010 Introduction to Typography 3
This course emphasizes basic typographic principles and investigates letter-form design, word-forms, and extended text. Particular attention is directed to typographic vocabulary, type as image, typographic organization, and the utilization of supporting grid structures. Through assignments, larger projects, and critiques, students are expected to demonstrate an understanding of typography as a visual tool used to enhance meaning.
Prerequisites: Foundation: 2D, Foundation: Drawing 1, Foundation: Media 1, Foundation: Media 2 (Foundation: Drawing 1 and Foundation: Media 2 may be taken concurrently)
AH 3659 History of Graphic Design 3
The field of graphic design has altered and been altered by technological advances. And these changes continue today. This course will study the history of the discipline of graphic design from its early history to the present, emphasizing in particular the ways in which the Internet has allowed for design to impact the culture at large. The course is primarily lecture-based. There will be a take-home midterm and an in-class final. Students will also complete short writing assignments.
GRD 3080 Electronic Prepress 3
This course provides students with a practical and comprehensive overview of the prepress process from organizing, preparing, and managing digital files to achieving professional quality output. Students examine techniques, standards, and terminology commonly used in printing. Other topics include artwork preparation, printing presses and processes, font and color management, materials, formats, vendor communications, and printers’ proofs. In an attempt to demystify the printing process, students prepare an actual file for production and visit local printers.
Prerequisites: Graphic Design: Form and Methods, Typography: Hierarchy and Expression
GRD 3020 Typography: Hierarchy and Expression 3
Building on the skills learned in Introduction to Typography, this course explores a variety of functional, expressive, and formal typographic issues. Perceptual, emotional, and stylistic considerations are covered in relation to specific concepts. Students are encouraged to develop and create content as well as create grid structures to organize complex information. A high level of typographic refinement and attention to detail is expected and determined through critique and individual discussions. Projects promote classic and expressive typography as well as found typographic form. Outcomes may range from books to brochures.
Prerequisites: Introduction to Typography, Introduction to Graphic Design
GRD 3030 Graphic Design: Form and Methods 3
This intermediate course examines procedural frameworks for graphic communications. The course covers a range of topics including the utility of series and systems approaches, content generation models and strategies, and an expanded notion of hierarchical content. Some of the project components require student responsibility in authoring content in both language and imagery. At least one of the projects requires formal documentation illustrating the design process. Project outcomes range from experimental studies in image advancement to mark-making and identity systems.
Prerequisites: Introduction to Graphic Design
DE 4000 Professional Practice 3
Professional Practice is directed toward the student’s transition into the professional world. Students create a variety of promotional materials concentrating on their book, including résumés, work samples, and project documentation. In addition to the preparation of materials, students practice interview techniques, survey employment markets and opportunities, and finalize an internship site. Visiting professionals, field trips, and individualized student research provide context for all promotional materials.
Prerequisites: Junior standing
GRD 4010 Internship 3
Internships provide an opportunity for students to gain practical experience in a particular career area and valuable on-the-job skills. Internships may be arranged by the Director of Career Services or initiated by students. All internships must be pre-approved through the Career Services Office. For an internship to be approved, a mentor relationship and learning experience should exist beyond a simple employment opportunity. Three-credit internships require working 135 hours at the internship site and keeping a journal of hours and activities.
Prerequisites: Professional Practice
GRD 5010 Advanced Graphic Design Seminar 3
This course focuses on complex design challenges, professional-level assignments, and design projects with multiple components. Students are encouraged to be entrepreneurial and to conduct research and develop innovative solutions for appropriate economic constituencies, users, and audiences. Students refine their voice, style, and agenda while creating a semester-long project. Professional presentations of ideas and design solutions for critique and discussion are central to this course. Project formats and media are open-ended.
Prerequisites: successful Junior Review
GRD 5100 Senior Project 6
Senior Project is a capstone class for Graphic Design majors, which integrates the accumulated skills and knowledge obtained and cultivated while at MCAD. By developing a unique semester-long project, students have the opportunity to engage present and future career interests. Student projects are self-initiated, self-defined, and self-managed. The scale of proposed projects (scope and reach) and their final articulation (context, content, and form) are to be developed and executed during a fifteen-week work cycle. Students consult the instructor, an outside advisor, and MCAD staff for final implementation in the commencement exhibition.
Prerequisites: successful Junior Review, Senior standing
Select one of: 3 GRD 3050 Publication Design 3
Publication design remains one of the most challenging and complex opportunities within the larger field of graphic design. In this course, students create, conceptualize, and manage content for multiple publications. Structural systems, formats, and organizational methods are investigated as well as the creation of visual narrative through image, pacing, and sequence. Critiques and discussions of examples from the field encourage students to think globally and flexibly about systems and to explore modifications to the traditional structure of books, catalogs, and magazines.
Prerequisites: Graphic Design: Form and Methods, Typography: Hierarchy and Expression GRD 3060 Motion Graphics 3
This course explores the dynamic integration of graphic form, typography, and message enhanced through the manipulation of movement, time, sequence, and sound. These techniques are studied as integral components to the design process, resulting in compelling motion graphic narrations. Classroom demonstrations, critiques, and screenings enable students to develop digital movies that service a wide range of applications in broadcast, narrowcast, and other film- and video-based communications.
Prerequisites: Graphic Design: Form and Methods, Typography: Hierarchy and Expression
Select one of: 3 GRD 3070 Design Systems 3
Central to graphic design thinking, systems-based design projects have always challenged the designer to investigate new and better ways of representing complex information. These design systems are the crucial ingredient in the interdisciplinary practices of branding, interactive design, information design, and mapping. Classroom activities and assignments examine resource development, research analysis, information management, and ideation as parts of a larger whole. Not restricted to any one media, this course encourages students to develop a variety of solutions, guided by critique, individual discussions, and course assignments.
Prerequisites: Graphic Design: Form and Methods, Typography: Hierarchy and Expression WMM 3020 Web and Screen 3
Building on their initial exposure to web design in Foundation: Media 1 and 2, students engage in a thorough examination of current web publishing standards, concepts, and development tools. Topics covered in this course range from web design to interactive, screen-based publication and display formats; commercial websites and Internet art; DVD magazines and algorithmic art; information design; and digital storytelling. Creative as well as investigative approaches to network-driven concepts are encouraged. Machine-to-machine as well as human-machine interactions are presented.
Prerequisites: Foundation: Media 2
First-Year Studio Foundation 15 FDN 1111 Foundation: 2D 3
This course is an introduction to creative thinking that develops skills in research, observation, interpretation, and self-expression. There is an emphasis on learning new ways to read and see the world and how to report on it. Students learn basic two-dimensional principles through the use of various media, tools, materials, and processes. As a result, students develop a visual and verbal language for analyzing, organizing, shaping, and communicating two-dimensional form and meaning.
FDN 1112 Foundation: 3D 3
This course is an introduction to understanding of visual creation for the development of knowledge, imagination, and perception. Students are introduced to basic three-dimensional concepts as well as materials and technical production processes. Classroom activities include shop demonstrations of tools and techniques, information, lectures, and discussions appropriate to promote the balanced fusion of practice and theory.
FDN 1211 Foundation: Drawing 1 3
This course is an introductory drawing course designed to prepare students for study in all majors of the College. Students develop basic drawing skills, including the ability to perceive and express visual relationships, organize a two-dimensional composition, and depict and manipulate form, space, and light. Students work from direct observation of still life, interior spaces, and landscape.
FDN 1311 Foundation: Media 1 3
Students are introduced to the digital resources at MCAD while exploring digital media and laptop computing. Areas covered include the Service Bureau, student servers, Media Center, and digital resources. Students discuss media and media artists as well as study various software applications including Adobe Photoshop and web-development tools.
FDN 1312 Foundation: Media 2 3
Building on the skills acquired in Foundation: Media 1, this course takes up more advanced software applications. Through discussions and lectures, students explore various modes of media presentation, the power of moving images, and web work. Using a variety of software and hardware, students learn the basics of nonlinear editing, sound recording, and video recording.
Prerequisites: Foundation: Media 1
First-Year Liberal Arts Foundation 12 AH 1701 Introduction to Art and Design History 1 3
The objective of this course is to familiarize students with the major stylistic, thematic, and historical trends in Western art history from prehistoric times through the nineteenth century. This course is designed to encourage a critical understanding of the meaning and function of art objects, architecture, and design artifacts within their original historical contexts. The final section of this course deals with the emergence of modernity in art. Class sessions consist primarily of lecture with some discussion. Students will take in-class examinations and complete short essay assignments.
AH 1702 Introduction to Art and Design History 2 3
This course introduces students to issues in contemporary cultural theory, popular culture, and contemporary art and design. Topics include anti-aesthetic challenges to modernist aesthetics, the rise of consumerism, the proliferation of the designed object, and the transition from source-oriented media to user oriented media, among others. The course is a roughly equal mix of lecture and discussion. Students will produce short writing assignments and will complete written exams consisting of identification and essay questions.
EN 1100 Reading and Writing 1 3
Effective writing requires innovative thinking and creative engagement. Students in this course focus on building a writing portfolio by developing college-level writing skills and using these skills to produce a variety of assignments. Regular writing workshops will allow students to concentrate on experiential and practical approaches to writing. Assigned course materials will explore a variety of texts and objects. By the end of the course students will have the foundational skills to be reflective and eloquent writers. Class sessions are composed of seminar discussions, group work, and writing workshops. Course requirements include participation, presentations, directed group work and research assignments, and a portfolio of seven essays.
EN 1200 Reading and Writing 2 3
Key to the creative and critical nature of college-level writing is the idea that students explore a topic by developing a thesis that changes as they ask questions, explore ideas, and conduct research. To that end, this course extends and concentrates the thinking and communication skills introduced in Reading and Writing 1. The foci of this course are developing a thesis; engaging in critical and sustained research; and drafting, revising, editing, and proofreading a finished research project. As a result, students will become increasingly adept at utilizing a wide variety of research tools, from published books to online search engines. The final project will be a completed research paper and a visual presentation using programs such as PowerPoint. Class sessions are composed of seminar discussions, research exercises, presentations and debates, and writing workshops. Course requirements include participation, presentations, a research journal, a major research paper and a final research presentation.
Second-Year Studio Foundation 4 FDN 1411 Ideation and Process 3
Everything we make has its beginning as an idea, which takes form as the artist/designer makes a series of decisions to guide its creative evolution. This course is designed to help students explore the development of new ideas and their own process of making. Students also create visual tools to track their creative process from idea through construction and then to post-production analysis. The course consists of discussions, critiques, exercises, and visual logs.
Prerequisites: Sophomore standing FDN 1412 Sophomore Seminar: Contemporary Practice 1
Practice is more than working methods: it’s the context, marketing, and creative space that maintain creative work. This course is designed to introduce students to the variety, tools, and foundations of a professional practice. Students upgrade websites and documentation, enter contests, and create a professional presentation of their work as well as hear from guest speakers from a wide range of disciplines. Classes consist of lectures, student presentations, and guest speakers.
Prerequisites: Sophomore standing
varying Studio Electives 26
Graphic Design majors take 26 elective studio credits in any media they choose.
Liberal Arts Electives
varying Liberal Arts Electives 24
Graphic Design majors take liberal arts electives in the following distribution:
Art History (6 credits)
Scientific Perspectives (3 credits)
Economic and Mathematical Systems (3 credits)
Global Perspectives (3 credits)
Political Thought and Ethics (3 credits)
Creative and Professional Writing (3 credits)
Liberal Arts Capstone Course (3 credits)
On-site internships at organizations such as music venues, design agencies, and media companies—both local and international—allow students to l
earn about the industry, enhance their skills, network, and build their portfolios. Previous students have interned at the following organizations, among many others:
Bellagala ▪ First Avenue & 7th Street Entry ▪ Lavender Magazine ▪ Mayo Clinic ▪ Meat and Potatoes, California ▪ MTV, New York ▪ Pentagram, England ▪ Rhymesayers Entertainment ▪ Target ▪ Zeus Jones