Learning outcomes

Upon completing this program, students will know and know how to do the following:

  • Utilize forms of communication: With a sense of aesthetics, personal and professional integrity, and message clarity, students will utilize visual and verbal forms of communication to convey ideas and information.
  • Address needs of client and audience: Students will demonstrate an understanding of their responsibility to client and audience — determining needs, structuring problems and solving problems creatively.
  • Focus on ethics: Students will solve communication problems with a focus on their positive ethical impact upon culture and society.
  • Embrace technology as a vehicle of communication: Students will demonstrate the ability to use new and emerging technology as a vehicle of effective communication and a means for the invention of expressive form.
  • Practice design as a dynamic process: Students will understand and practice design as a process that relies upon intuition, reason, ideation methods and effective research for the creation of appropriate and inventive solutions.

Degree requirements for Bachelor of Fine Arts, Graphic Design (B.F.A.)

General Education requirements

University Core Education Curriculum
UNIV   111 Play VideoPlay course video for Focused Inquiry IFocused Inquiry I3
UNIV   112 Play VideoPlay course video for Focused Inquiry IIFocused Inquiry II3
UNIV   200Inquiry and the Craft of Argument3
Approved humanities/fine arts3
Approved natural/physical sciences3-4
Approved quantitative literacy3-4
Approved social/behavioral sciences3-4
Total Hours21-24
Additional General Education requirements
ENGL   388Writing in the Workplace3
General education electives6
Total Hours9

Collateral requirements

Art Foundation Program
ARTF   131Drawing Studio3
ARTF   132Surface Research3
ARTF   133Space Research3
ARTF   134Time Studio3
ARTF   139Project2
Art history
ARTF   115
ARTF   116
Art History Survey
and Art History Survey
6
Additional requirements
Textual Analysis (satisfies University Core humanities/fine arts)
Introduction to Contemporary Mathematics (satisfies University Core quantitative literacy)
UNIV   101Introduction to the University1
Total Hours21

Major requirements

GDES   202Design Technology3
GDES   205Design Methods and Processes3
GDES   211Typography I3
GDES   212Design Form and Communication3
GDES   213Typography II3
GDES   214Imaging I3
GDES   216Imaging II3
GDES   252History of Visual Communication3
GDES   253Theory and Philosophy of Visual Communication3
GDES   330The Business of Design3
GDES   343Systems in Design3
GDES   345Print I3
GDES   346Visual Narrative I3
GDES   347Interaction I3
GDES   365Print II3
GDES   366Visual Narrative II3
GDES   367Interaction II3
GDES   470Senior Seminar3
GDES   472Senior Studio (capstone)3
Take two semesters of the following:6
Studio Topics in Design
GDES   492Design Internship3
Total Hours66

Open electives

Select six open elective credits at the 300-level6

Total minimum requirement 120 credits

What follows is a sample plan that meets the prescribed requirements within a four-year course of study at VCU. Please contact your adviser before beginning course work toward a degree.

Freshman year
Fall semesterHours
ARTF   115 Art History Survey 3
ARTF   131 Drawing Studio 3
ARTF   132 Surface Research 3
ARTF   139 Project 1
MATH   131 Introduction to Contemporary Mathematics (satisfies University Core quantitative literacy) 3
UNIV   101 Introduction to the University 1
UNIV   111 Play VideoPlay course video for Focused Inquiry I Focused Inquiry I 3
 Term Hours: 17
Spring semester
ARTF   116 Art History Survey 3
ARTF   133 Space Research 3
ARTF   134 Time Studio 3
ARTF   139 Project 1
UNIV   112 Play VideoPlay course video for Focused Inquiry II Focused Inquiry II 3
Social/behavioral sciences course (University Core) 3
 Term Hours: 16
Sophomore year
Fall semester
GDES   202 Design Technology 3
GDES   205 Design Methods and Processes 3
GDES   211 Typography I 3
GDES   214 Imaging I 3
GDES   252 History of Visual Communication 3
 Term Hours: 15
Spring semester
GDES   212 Design Form and Communication 3
GDES   213 Typography II 3
GDES   216 Imaging II 3
GDES   253 Theory and Philosophy of Visual Communication 3
UNIV   200 Inquiry and the Craft of Argument 3
 Term Hours: 15
Junior year
Fall semester
GDES   330 The Business of Design 3
GDES   345 Print I 3
GDES   346 Visual Narrative I 3
GDES   347 Interaction I 3
General education elective 3
 Term Hours: 15
Spring semester
ENGL   215 Textual Analysis (satisfies University Core humanities/fine arts) 3
GDES   365 Print II 3
GDES   366 Visual Narrative II 3
GDES   367 Interaction II 3
GDES   492 Design Internship 3
 Term Hours: 15
Senior year
Fall semester
ENGL   388 Writing in the Workplace 3
GDES   330 The Business of Design 3
GDES   470 Senior Seminar 3
GDES   491 Studio Topics in Design 3
General education elective 3
 Term Hours: 15
Spring semester
GDES   472 Senior Studio 3
GDES   491 Studio Topics in Design 3
Approved natural/physical science (University Core) 3-4
Open elective 3
 Term Hours: 12-13
 Total Hours: 120-121

GDES   202. Design Technology. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: successful completion of the Art Foundation Program. A design foundation workshop that emphasizes skills development and application of design technology: time and project management, visual thinking, image capturing and editing.

GDES   205. Design Methods and Processes. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. An in-depth investigation of the theoretical aspects of the design process within the context of designing effective visual communications.

GDES   211. Typography I. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. An introduction to communication problem-solving through the visual medium of language. The fundamentals of typography and typographic design are explored in experimental and practical projects.

GDES   212. Design Form and Communication. 3,6 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours or 4 lecture and 6 studio hours. 3 credits for Richmond; 6 credits for VCUQ. The relationship of form and communication in graphic design is explored through theoretical and applied projects. The impact of typography and imagery and their syntactic relations upon audience and content is stressed.

GDES   213. Typography II. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: GDES   211. An intermediate exploration of typography as an expressive and functional communication vehicle. Emphasis is placed on defining effective design criteria to meet the reader's needs, the communicator's intent and the designer's formal sensibilities.

GDES   214. Imaging I. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: successful completion of the Art Foundation Program. Cannot be taken for credit with COAR   331. A studio course focusing on the use of digital imaging techniques for communication purposes. The processes and techniques for making and working with digital images are explored.

GDES   216. Imaging II. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: GDES   214. A studio course focusing on the creation of visual images for communication purposes. The processes and media for making visual images and the limits of visual literacy are explored.

GDES   252. History of Visual Communication. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. An investigation of contemporary visual communication concepts, media and images, and their role in contemporary society.

GDES   253. Theory and Philosophy of Visual Communication. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. An overview of theoretical and philosophical issues influencing the practice of visual communication design.

GDES   300. Creative Strategies. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. A course in which alternative creative communication problem-solving strategies are investigated.

GDES   301. Beginning Letterpress. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. An introductory/intermediate printmaking studio course designed for students interested in developing their visual vocabulary in letterpress and relief printing. Students will undertake critical analysis of the letterpress medium and utilize techniques to develop and produce finished editions of each assigned task.

GDES   302. Book Arts. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. An introduction to the tools, materials and craft of contemporary bookmaking. Investigation of bookbinding, handcraft and related techniques.

GDES   308. Web Design. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Prerequiste: permission of instructor. A course developing the design of websites. Emphasis is placed on the visual design, navigation, development, communication and authoring of websites.

GDES   330. The Business of Design. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Introduces basic global economics and general design business concepts such as the free enterprise system, legal forms of business and financial considerations. Also surveys business and management practices such as planning, decision-making, communication, global ethics, marketing, human resources, finance and entrepreneurial skills needed to open a design business. Crosslisted as: IDES   330/FASH   330.

GDES   343. Systems in Design. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: successful completion of the sophomore GDES courses. The study of systematic and methodological approaches to communication design through the solving of complex problems in visual communication. Emphasis is placed on objective process and research in approaches to various professional situations.

GDES   345. Print I. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: UNIV   200 or HONR   200 and successful completion of the sophomore GDES courses. An introduction to the design process and applied realizations of print-based materials and outcomes. Addresses the form and communication of the printed page from the tradition of print to the organizational principles outside that tradition. Objectives accomplished through lectures, demonstrations and problem-solving.

GDES   346. Visual Narrative I. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: successful completion of the sophomore GDES courses. Studio course that introduces the conceptual and technical issues involved in the design and production of sequential documents and time-based compositions. Addresses the possibilities and limitations of the integration of word, image, video and sound as they relate to problem-solving in visual communication.

GDES   347. Interaction I. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: successful completion of the sophomore GDES courses. An introduction to the conceptual and technical issues involved in the design and production of interactive documents and environments. Addresses the possibilities and limitations of computer-generated images, sound and digital video as they relate to problem-solving in visual communication.

GDES   356. Studio Management. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. A study of business and management factors that relate to creative design. Topics include marketing, structure and organization; financial factors; ethical and legal aspects; and management of design, illustration and photography studios.

GDES   365. Print II. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: GDES   345. An advanced studio course devoted to the study of systematic and methodological approaches to the design process and applied realization of print-based materials and outcomes. Emphasizes rigorous objective and experimental research methods in approaches to various professional situations. Objectives accomplished through lectures, demonstrations and team-based approaches to problem-solving.

GDES   366. Visual Narrative II. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: GDES   346. A studio course devoted to the design and production of advanced projects in sequential design, with focus on research, problem definition and team-based approaches to problem-solving.

GDES   367. Interaction II. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: GDES   347. A studio course devoted to the design and production of advanced projects in interaction design and experience design with focus on research, problem definition and team-based approaches to problem-solving.

GDES   370. Design History: 20th and 21st Centuries. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: ARTF   105-106. Study of the major theories and styles on communication arts, fashion and interior environments of the 20th and 21st centuries. Contemporary analysis of cultural conditions and the manner in which designers respond to those conditions. Crosslisted as: FASH   370/IDES   370.

GDES   391. Lecture Topics in Design. 1-3 Hours.

Semester course; variable hours. 1-3 credits per semester. May be repeated for a maximum of 9 credits. Topical lectures in design issues and visual communications.

GDES   392. Research/Individual Study. 2-4 Hours.

Semester course; 1-2 lecture and 3-6 studio hours. 2-4 credits. May be repeated for a total of 6 credits. Enrollment requires permission of instructor, approval of faculty adviser and chair. The structuring, research, execution and presentation of an independent project in visual communications under the direction of a faculty adviser. The student will be encouraged to become a self-generating problem seeker and solver with the ability to carry out self-stated goals.

GDES   401. Advanced Letterpress. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. May be repeated for a maximum of 6 credits. Prerequisite: GDES   301. An advanced print studio course designed for students interested in exploring their visual vocabulary in digital and letterpress relief printing. Students will undertake critical analysis of the combined media of digital and letterpress and utilize techniques inherent within each technology to develop and produce finished editions.

GDES   403. Design Activism. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. An overview of the ethical issues faced by practitioners in the field of design and proactive roles available outside of the traditional client/designer relationship. The course presents critiques of the various roles that designers play in the areas of marketing, advertising, product development, and as entrepreneurs and content generators. The course includes a component in which problem identification, team work and real-world engagement are required.

GDES   404. Typeface Design. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Glyph construction is explored through historical and methodological analysis as well as the creation of typographic systems. Formal mechanics of typefaces are emphasized in discussion of their function as vehicles for communication. Both the functional and expressive nature of typefaces are examined through hands-on exercises.

GDES   408. Advanced Web Design. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: GDES   308. Investigation into the design and development of dynamic websites. Introduces database integration, webhost management and advanced coding techniques. Emphasis is placed on the semantic design and development of content-rich websites and blogs.

GDES   412. Typography III. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: successful completion of the sophomore GDES courses. Advanced problems in typographic design with emphasis upon the development of a personal creative approach to form and communication.

GDES   413. Package Design. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: GDES   213 and 367. Theoretical and studio investigation of three-dimensional structural principals as they relate to the area of packaging, exhibition and environmental design.

GDES   414. Exhibition and Environmental Graphic Design. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: GDES   213 and 366. Study of the presentation of information in large-scale, three-dimensional formats. Exploration of exhibition and environmental design, including developing imagery and typography, understanding the use of "wayfinding" (identification, interpretation and orientation) and human factors, communicating of programmed content.

GDES   417. Interdisciplinary Team Design. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: GDES   213 and 366. Advanced projects in visual communication in which student design teams solve complex problems requiring collaboration.

GDES   418. Design Center. 3-9 Hours.

Semester course; 2-6 lecture and 3-9 studio hours. 3-9 credits. May be repeated for a total of 12 credits. Enrollment requires portfolio review by faculty. A professional studio to give students practicum experience working with faculty on self-initiated and client-initiated, real-world design projects.

GDES   445. Problem Seeking. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. A seminar exploring the nature, scope and implications of defining design objectives in terms of limitations, requirements and potentials of a product's implementation, performance and life cycle.

GDES   470. Senior Seminar. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. An examination of selected theoretical, historical, aesthetic and social areas of concern to the graphic designer. Scholarly research, critical analysis and discussion are expected.

GDES   472. Senior Studio. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. A capstone course oriented toward the creation of a professional portfolio, self-promotional materials and business system. The course culminates in the annual Senior Show.

GDES   491. Studio Topics in Design. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. May be repeated for a total of 12 credits. Topical studio focusing on research and experimentation in specialized visual communication media.

GDES   492. Design Internship. 1-3 Hours.

Semester course; 1-3 credits. May be repeated for a maximum of 3 credits. Prerequisites: senior standing, 3.0 GPA or permission of the chair. Supervised pragmatic work experiences. Training is provided under the direction and supervision of qualified professional practitioners.