B.F.A. in Graphic Design

  • pieces on display
  • people sitting in charges in an atrium
  • students working on prints with a letter on each one
  • works on display in a gallery
  • inside the student art gallery

The Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in graphic design prepares the students to practice graphic design professionally. The combination of the study of theory and history, a mastery of in-studio visual communication methods and an internship experience gives the students the knowledge and skills to develop conceptually and visually. The program expects students to set their career goals with confidence, to achieve them, and to be able to grow with the profession of graphic design as it changes in relation to society, art and technology.

Video of WMU Frostic School of Art Graphic Design Tour
The program promotes the philosophy and culture of graphic design as visual communication. The environment is challenging and focuses on critical thinking and discovery through process, enabling students to work in any medium necessary to creatively and innovatively propose and solve design problems. Students design promotional materials, educational materials, identity systems, signs and symbols, architectural and directional systems, books, packages, and exhibitions. They design for film, television, video, interactive computer interface, and other electronic forms of communication.

The students learn to work in teams, to develop an understanding of the business aspect of design, and to build working relationships with writers, artists, technicians, and others from a wide variety of disciplines. Through their studies they learn to grow as individuals as well as socially responsible designers. 


CURRICULUM: Bachelor of Fine Arts IN Graphic Design

Basic studies requirement—12 credits

  • 1040 Object Drawing*
  • 1050 Drawing Studio*
  • 1070 Form and Surface*
  • 1080 Form and Space*

*Prerequisites for all studio art and art education majors and minors

Writing—3 credits

  • 3250 Writing About Art

Art history—12 credits

  • 2200 Caves to Cathedrals
  • 2210 Modern and Postmodern
  • Art history elective (3920 is recommended)
  • Two art History electives 3000-4000 Level

Photography—6 credits

  • 2160 Black & White Photography I
  • 3470 Digital Photography I

Art studio electives—9 credits

  • Select from art studio courses. Two courses must be in sequence.

Graphic design sequence—46 credits

Sophomore: fall

  • 2500 Color for Graphic Design
  • 2600 Visual Aesthetics

Sophomore: spring

  • 2510 Typography I
  • 2610 Graphic Form

Junior: fall

  • 3500 Typography II
  • 3600 Visual Systems

Junior: spring

  • 3510 Typography III
  • 3610 Design Applications
  • 3710 Special Topics

Senior: fall

  • 4600 Advanced Problems
  • 5700 Intern I
  • 3710 Special Topics*

Senior: spring

  • 4610 Senior Projects
  • 5710 Intern II
  • 4920 Graduation Presentation

*Choose only one 3710 Special Topics Course to complete the 43 hour requirement

Summary of Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design

  • Graphic Design Major—88 credits
  • General Education—37 credits
  • Total Credit Hours—125 credits

Students should consult the WMU catalog for the graphic design program course descriptions and requirements.

WMU Catalog

Portfolio reviews

Portfolio reviews for admission into the B.F.A. program with a major in graphic design will be held in the spring semester of the freshman year, and will be applicable for admission in the fall semester of the sophomore year. In order to remain in this program, students must take their graphic design courses in their proper sequence.



Design Center

The Design Center has been an operating curricular component of the graphic design program for almost 40 years. The Intern course structure offered in the Design Center is a unique capstone experience. Currently each student enrolls in Intern I for three credit hours in fall semester and Intern II for six credit hours in spring semester. There are 20 senior student interns divided into two sections. The Design Center is directed by one full-time faculty member, and is staffed with a part-time production manager, and an office associate during the academic year. The Center has a dedicated space with state-of-the-art technology and operates as a design studio in the practice.

Through the Design Center we provide a curriculum with goals for students to make the transition between education and practice in graphic design. While focusing on professional practice we maintain the philosophy of experimentation and design process. The students work with the creative director of the Design Center and focus on creative collaborations with peer student designers. By working on actual design projects from concept to completion they gain experience for their future in the design profession. They learn communication with clients, writers, printers, computer programmers for website and interactive design development, paper companies and others connected to the design and production process.

Projects are taken based on educational merit and the clients are from non-profit organizations in the University, Kalamazoo, and regional communities. We develop exciting partnerships with our clients who support our philosophy of research, analysis, exploration, and discovery that allows us to recommend a variety of design solutions for the intended audience. Clients do not pay a design fee but pay for materials, digital production, printing and any services necessary for completion of the project. Our partnership is based on an exchange with the community for students to gain professional experience and to build their final portfolio. Clients sometimes make donations to assist with our New York Professional Development Experience or for our equipment needs.

Graphic Design Required Purchase

Upon admission into the graphic design program, WMU students are required to purchase an Apple laptop computer and software necessary to complete the sequence of courses. The software will include programs for page layout, drawing, photo manipulation, Web design and the standard office package. The computer and software will be used in courses throughout the remainder of the degree program. For the latest requirements, please read the required purchase letter.

Student Group

The purpose of the Western Michigan University chapter of AIGA is to create an affiliation with the national design association AIGA and to provide student activities that integrate an understanding of design business, design ethics and design practice. 

Learn more about AIGA

 Student Work

graphic design student work

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