This is the preliminary (or launch) version of the 2024-2025 VCU Bulletin. Courses that expose students to cutting-edge content and transformative learning may be added and notification of additional program approvals may be received prior to finalization. General education program content is also subject to change. The final edition and full PDF version will include these updates and will be available in August prior to the beginning of the fall semester.

The sophomore year in the graphic design program is focused on orientation to, and experimentation within, design practice. Students develop processes of making, meaning-building and critical engagement with ideas related to form, medium, materials and tools. This year provides a critical framework to develop a vocabulary allowing them to begin to discuss ideas around information hierarchies and meaning-making as well as legibility and translation.

The junior year is focused on experimentation with, and construction of, narrative structures, argument, advocacy and rhetoric (text, text and image, sequence). The underlying social, political and pluralistic demands of graphic design are emphasized. It situates the student and their work/practice within a context and community and introduces methods to facilitate collaboration with those directly and indirectly impacted by the end results of the design process

The senior year is focused on deepening, refining and situating individuated experiences; formulating and synthesizing learning by teaching others through participatory engagement; and building a situated design practice, while understanding that design is inseparable from the culture at large. The student experience in the program culminates in a capstone project that demonstrates their readiness and capacity to engage responsibly and creatively in the field and is presented in a public exhibition.


Students who have successfully completed the Art Foundation Program are eligible to apply for admission to the B.F.A. program in the Department of Graphic Design.

Students who wish to transfer into the graphic design program must first apply to the Art Foundation Program for evaluation. A transfer student must demonstrate equivalent preparation at other institutions and submit a portfolio of work for review by graphic design faculty. Transfer students admitted into the graphic design program must complete all major requirements determined to be missing from their academic design experience. Transfer students should expect to spend a minimum of five semesters in the graphic design program in order to qualify for a B.F.A.

Due to the sequence of the required graphic design courses, students are admitted only for the fall semester.

Standards of graphic design

Students must complete the required pre- and corequisites of the graphic design program in the order presented in the curriculum outline. This structure enables students to develop knowledge and skills based in graphic design that will prepare them for upper-level studio courses and successful entry into the graphic design profession.

Students must earn a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5 to be accepted to the graphic design program. Once accepted, students must maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA in GDES courses to continue in the program.

Students are required to meet regularly with the department undergraduate academic adviser each semester on scheduled advising dates to make sure they are completing courses as required.

A portfolio review of graphic design course work takes place at the end of the third semester. The student’s portfolio, presentation, GPA and individual course assessments are evaluated holistically during this review to determine if the student may continue in the program. Additionally, the following courses must be successfully completed by the end of the third semester to be eligible for participation in the review:

Course Title Hours
GDES 220Design Practices4
GDES 221Core Studio I4
GDES 231Theory Inquiry3
GDES 222Core Studio II4
GDES 321Core Studio III4
GDES 331Precedents Inquiry3
GDES 380Multi Studio I4
GDES 398Dialogues1
GDES elective (300-500 level)

Learning outcomes

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

  • Prioritize making as a primary mode of investigation and exchange: Students will engage with labor as a physical and emotional activity that is fundamental to the design process. They will understand and practice design as a process that is not driven by assumptions, presumptions or preconceptions.
  • Understand that research is an essential component of the design process: Students will employ research as a critical lens to understand context and to validate the relevance of design decisions and processes.
  • Develop capacity to design in collaboration with others: Students will become equipped to participate in broad and diverse exchanges that expand the range and depth of design processes that are oriented to nonhierarchical learning and making.
  • Develop cultural literacy: Students will be cognizant of forces that affect the formation and reinforcement of meaning and value. These forces define who we are and how the decisions we make can cultivate the dignity of individuals and communities.