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Academy of Art College

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the website


School of Graphic Design

About Our MFA Program


The graduate program in Graphic Design emphasizes mastery of the profession — including narrative abilities, presentation skills, strategic thinking, problem solving and the ability to develop innovative conceptual solutions. Areas of specialized training include typography, visual literacy, identity, and print publication. Students acquire the finely tuned design skills, self-discipline and professional expertise necessary to become advanced practitioners.


The graduate student's final thesis project must integrate concept and content with technical prowess to make an original contribution to the field of graphic design. The thesis project is critically reviewed and approved by the graduate final review committee, then professionally exhibited to the industry and public.

MFA Program Learning Outcomes

School of Graphic Design


MFA graduates of the School of Graphic Design will meet the following student performance criteria:


MFA Thesis Project


* Conceptualization and production of a graduate thesis project, demonstrating mature graphic design skills.



Advanced Abilities




* Ability to generate ideas and concepts for complex communication programs.


Content Creation

* Ability to produce original content: ideas, products, research, writing, photography, and illustration. Ability to take control over what is actually being seen and said.


Creative Focus

* Ability to distill information down to its essence. Ability to analyze and prioritize information, and provide it to an audience in a manner that ensures better comprehension.

* Ability to make complex stories understandable.


Critical Thinking

* Ability to embark on extended creative inquiry, ask precise questions, convert research into design strategy, successfully evaluate and discuss your own design efforts and the efforts of others.

* Ability to draw distinctions between and judge merits of various creative ideas.

* Ability to apply robust historical, cultural, and social awareness, broad design vocabulary and ability to express ideas, concepts and strategies in clear and precise terms.


Project Management

* Ability to manage complex programs and projects with multifaceted deliverables.

* Ability to deliver on time and on budget.


Design Theory

* Demonstrate understanding of formal mechanisms of what makes design work.

* Ability to describe how design practice and design theory inform each other.


Designer’s Larger Role

* Ability to embrace design as a vehicle for social change.

* Ability to think beyond conventional boundaries for professional designers.


Professional Concerns

* Demonstrate understanding of what is necessary to run a business and turn a profit.

* Awareness of current trends, including cross cultural design and sustainability.

* Recognize importance of participating in industry events, conference, and design competitions.



Basic Skills



Synthesis of Form and Content

* Ability to combine form (the vehicle) and content (what is being communicated) into a cohesive whole.


Typographic Excellence

* Ability to create appropriate typographic solutions for a variety of applications and situations.


Command of Materials

* Ability to give form to their ideas in a variety of media.

* Ability to decide the correct medium (printed materials, packages, manufacturing and fabrication techniques, environments, websites, kiosks, or virtual environments) based on use and overall intended effect on the viewer.

* Ability to consider the tactile qualities of their work and choose the correct paper, binding method, and printing techniques.


Technical Proficiency

* Ability to produce effective materials and overcome obstacles in the production process (printing, manufacturing, programming, and distributing processes; costing, technical hurdles, and logistical challenges).

* Proficiency with computers, software, and production processes.


Unique Solutions

* Ability to recombine familiar things in unexpected ways to create a memorable, meaningful connection with the intended audience.


Compelling and Engaging Solutions

* Ability to capture attention of intended audience.


Art Direction

* Ability to collaborate with and manage efforts of various creative contributors (strategists, writers, photographers, illustrators, vendors, suppliers, and production personnel). Ability to bring contributors together to work under shared vision.


Overall Aesthetics

* Ability to utilize aesthetics (principles of organization, composition, color, hierarchy, balance, contrast, emphasis, depth, rhythm, use of symbolism and overall level of craft in execution) to create an emotional impact.


Narrative Structure

* Ability to communicate complex ideas that involve the reader and capture the imagination.

* Ability to tell a memorable story through design.


Problem Solving

* Ability to maintain a structured approach to creative process development (research, observation, analysis, prototyping, testing, evaluation) while remaining flexible and adapting to changing circumstances and parameters.


Attention to Detail

* Ability to produce a high level of “fit and finish”, displaying rigorous and unfailing attention to detail.


Historical Awareness

* Ability to apply working knowledge of graphic design history to evaluation and discussion of contemporary work.

* Ability to conduct and apply research, cite historical precedent and provide context awareness.

* Ability to find and pursue inspiration in the work of fellow designers.



* Ability to work with diverse teams (clients, audiences, content providers, researchers, administrative personnel) in an intense collaborative environment. Familiarity with roles for designers in larger teams.



* Ability to show the initiative necessary to work successfully within the confines of any given assignment (budget, materials, time, resources, client mandate).


Presentation and Communication Skills

* Ability to persuade clients, creative directors, sponsors, colleagues to go along with a plan.

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