Graphic Design - Curriculum

In order to proceed with a BFA degree in Graphic Design, acceptance into the Graphic Design Secondary Admit is required upon completion of the Foundations courses (ART 150, ART 151, ART 152, ART 153, ART 155, and ART 157). Secondary Admits are only held in the Winter Semester. The accepted students will be notified by the Department and should proceed accordingly.

This outline is a recommended course sequence for the BFA in Studio Art – Graphic Design Emphasis. Please consult the GVSU catalog for further information and general education requirements. For more information, consult your academic advisor.




The Graphic Design Curriculum is designed to prepare the student for the various areas of design practice. In the first-year, students must complete the six core foundations courses as a requirement. Following the Foundations year, students enroll in courses with a strong emphasis on typography fundamentals and the written message. During the third-year, students apply principles of typography and organization of space in the design of print publications and digital experiences. At their fourth year, the courses are designed to the design of holistic experiences that encompass print and digital spaces, while preparing the student's portfolio for graduation. The student's capstone experience – Senior Project — occurs in the student's final semester



Foundation Studio Courses


Graphic Design Area Courses


Studio elective courses


Art and Design History courses


Graphic Design Senior Project


University General Education courses


Student Review Requirements


Total Credits


Foundation Courses

Students take all 6 foundation courses in this category

During their first year in the program, art majors focus on the completion of six core classes included in the foundations curriculum. These courses emphasize drawing, design, and problem-solving skills. This shared curriculum provides students with the conceptual, technical, and critical skills necessary for later studio work. Upon finishing these classes, students choose a specialization from one of the eight studio emphasis areas or the art education program. All majors submit the body of work completed in the foundation courses for review. The graphic design and illustration programs require a secondary admissions process.

  • ART 150 - Foundations: 2D Design
  • ART 151 - Foundations: 3D Design
  • ART 152 - Foundations: Color and Design
  • ART 153 - Foundations: Making and Meaning In Art and Design
  • ART 155 - Foundations: Introduction to Drawing I
  • ART 157 - Foundations: Introduction to Drawing II


Graphic Design Required Courses

Students take ALL Graphic Design courses in this category, one of the Photography courses, and one Business Elective

After acceptance into the Graphic Design Program, students begin taking emphasis-required courses their second year. These required classes thoroughly prepare students for the graphic design profession by developing their critical thinking, problem-solving abilities, image-making and visual composition.

  • ART 210 - Graphic Design I: Typography
  • ART 211 - Graphic Design II: Logo/Visual Identity
  • ART 215 - Advanced Typography
  • ART 258 - Intermediate Drawing
  • ART 310 - Graphic Design III: Print Layouts and Publications
  • ART 312 - Graphic Design IV: Experience Design
  • ART 410 - Graphic Design V: Design Issues
  • ART 413 - Portfolio
  • ART 491 - Internship In Studio Art
  • ART 495 - Issues in Art (Capstone)


Photography Requirement
Students must also complete a business course. They have the option to choose one of the following classes:

  • PHO 175 - Understanding Still Photography (Digital) or 
  • PHO 171 - Photography 1 (Darkroom)


Business Elective Requirement
Students must also complete a business course. They have the option to choose one of the following classes:

  • BUS 201 - Legal Environments for Business or
  • CAP 209 - Advertising Basics or
  • CAP 219 - Public Relations Basics or
  • MKT 350 - Marketing Management


Studio Elective Courses

Students choose 5 courses from this category.

Graphic Design students start taking elective courses in their second year, if so inclined. These are courses that will expose the student to other areas within the Department of Visual and Media Arts and will complement the student's studio education. A Graphic Design student is required to take 5 courses from the list below. Some courses on the list contain pre-requisites.

  • ART 245 - Introduction to Jewelry and Metalsmithing
  • ART 257 - Life Drawing
  • ART 260 - Introduction to Painting
  • ART 265 - Introduction to Printmaking
  • ART 270 - Introduction to Sculpture
  • ART 275 - Introduction to Ceramics
  • ART 307 - Digital Prepress (recommended for Graphic Design Students)
  • ART 313 - 3D For Graphic Design: Exhibition and Packaging Design (recommended for Graphic Design Students)
  • ART 321 - Digital 3D
  • ART 346 - Intermediate Jewelry and Metalsmithing I
  • ART 347 -  Intermediate Jewelry and Metalsmithing II
  • ART 355 - Advanced Drawing I
  • ART 356 - Advanced Drawing II
  • ART 361 - Intermediate Painting I
  • ART 362 - Intermediate Painting II
  • ART 366 - Intermediate Printmaking I
  • ART 367 - Intermediate Printmaking II
  • ART 371 - Intermediate Sculpture I
  • ART 372 - Intermediate Sculpture II
  • ART 376 - Intermediate Ceramics I
  • ART 377 - Intermediate Ceramics II
  • ART 391 - Civic Studio
  • ART 392 - Curatorial Studio
  • ART 393 - Image Studio
  • ART 394 - Interactive Studio
  • ART 395 - Space Studio
  • ART 396 - Time Studio
  • PHO 172 - Photography II
  • PHO 273 - Classic 4x5 Photography
  • PHO 279 - Color Printing
  • PHO 371 - Experimental Black and White Photography
  • PHO 373 - Digital Photography II
  • PHO 374 - Color Photography
  • PHO 375 - Studio Photography


The courses below, offered in non-studio areas, are also an option. However, these must be approved by an advisor. Access cannot be guaranteed for Art and Design majors

  • MGT 350 - Principles of Electronic Commerce
  • MGT 451 - Intro to E-Commerce Applications
  • CIS 238 - Internet Media & Programming
  • CIS 371 - Web Applications Programming
  • WRT 351 - Writing for the World Wide Web


Art and Design History Courses

Students take the three required courses and one elective of their choice

The study of Art and Design History allows the student to engage with questions of context, interpretation, and how these concepts have changed over time. It transforms the way a student approaches their creative practice. Students must complete the following:

  • ART 221 - Survey of Art History I
  • ART 222 - Survey of Art History II
  • ART 218 - Design History
  • Art History Elective


Art History Elective Choices
Students must choose one course from the list below for their Art History Elective Requirement:

  • ART 322: Goths to Gothic: Medieval Art
  • ART 323: Rethinking Renaissance Art
  • ART 327: Art Since 1945
  • ART 380: Topics in Art (courses with an art history emphasis)
  • ART 399: Readings in Art History-Senior Thesis
  • ART 420: Asian Art
  • ART 421: Surrealism
  • ART 422: Art and the Worlds of Islam
  • ART 423: Animals in Art
  • ART 425: Depicting a Nation: 19th Century American Art


Graphic Design Senior Project

Students complete a Senior Project in their last semester in Graphic Design.

Over the course of their last semester, senior students in Graphic Design must use the concepts, skills and previously acquired experience, and conceive a project on a topic of their choice. With the help of Graphic Design Faculty, students are responsible for their process, schedule, budget. This project is disseminated to the University community in a group exhibition with all students in the same graduating class. 

  • ART 415 - Senior Project: Graphics/ Illustration


General Education Courses

Students must refer to the General Education Handbook for information on General Education Requirements. 

The Grand Valley State University General Education Program provides a broad-based liberal education experience that fosters lifelong learning and informed citizenship. The Program prepares students for intelligent participation in public dialogues that consider the issues of humane living and responsible action in local, national, and global communities.


Review Requirements

During their academic progress at GVSU, students progress is assessed through a series of reviews. These process do not have any credit requirements but allow students and faculty to periodically evaluate the student's creative practice and develop tailored plans of action toward student success. Students in Graphic Design undergo four types of reviews, listed below:

Foundations Review
Upon completion of their Foundations classes, students participate in a department-wide review of their work. The Foundations review is an advisory process to give early feedback on the student's growth during the first year. For more information on this review, visit this link.

Graphic Design Secondary Admit
Simultaneous to the Foundations Review, students seeking acceptance into the Graphic Design emphasis participate in a secondary admittance process. We prioritize our admission based on a review of portfolio work from the Foundations courses. Students at this time are evaluated by Graphic Design faculty only and are ranked based on their final scores. The number of accepted students fluctuates based on student enrollment and interest each year.

Graphic Design Junior Review
One year prior to graduation, Graphic Design students are reviewed by a panel of three faculty, with at least one of them from the Graphic Design area. This is an opportunity for students and faculty to look at the produced work done since completion of Foundations Review, assess the students strengths and weaknesses, and provide feedback. During this review, the panel will make a deliberation on whether or not the student will be allowed to continue in the Graphic Design area. For more information on this review, visit this link.

Graphic Design Senior Review
At the end of the semester which the student is enrolled in ART 415 - Senior Project: Graphics/Illustration, the student's senior project is reviewed by a panel of three faculty, with at least one of them from the Graphic Design area. The panel will look at the project, assess the students strengths and weaknesses, and provide feedback. During this review, the panel of faculty will suggest a grade on the student's project. The student must obtain a final grade of C to complete the Senior Review Requirement. 



For degree requirement questions, please consult your academic advisor in the Department of Visual and Media Arts or the CLAS Advising Center.



Page last modified July 1, 2020