The mission of the Graphic Design program is to graduate problem-solving, critical-thinking design innovators and creative communicators skilled in the latest technology and highly aware of and involved in contemporary culture. KCAD’s Graphic Design students will be industry savvy and learn to work collaboratively in a studio environment so that they can make a seamless transition into their field upon graduation. They will be empowered to become leaders in their program and their field by finding/using their own resources to think and create strategically and develop their own style.
As designers, students will understand their role in shaping culture both nationally and globally, and will learn to be socially and environmentally responsible in that role. Intellectually, they will learn to be not only excellent thinkers, but also to be effective communicators, visually, verbally and in written form.
KCAD’s Graphic Design program encourages passion for the arts and for design through exploration of their combined histories, their leaders and innovators, their trends and classics, and the issues and impact they have created throughout the years.
In the Graphic Design program, you’ll be immersed in an integrative learning environment where traditional design fundamentals evolve into powerful tools for communication, problem-solving, and creative strategizing.
You’ll begin by exploring foundational design elements such imagery and visualization; typography and voice; the power of color, composition, and grid; and concept and content development; creating meaningful messages and bringing stories to life that challenge, educate, inspire, and entertain. With this solid foundation, you will be constantly learning and evolving as you keep pace with the ever-changing world of technology, culture, and media and immerse yourself in the people and problems associated with each project you take on. You’ll develop your own voice by learning how to make design decisions informed and supported by intensive design research and strategic thinking, thorough and iterative concepting and ideation, meaningful collaboration and critique, and the prototyping and testing of ideas before production.
You’ll also round your education out with a wide range of general education and art history courses that will stimulate your curiosity, broaden your perspective, and inspire new creative expressions. KCAD’s flexible General Education Pathways model empowers you to direct your learning by exploring subjects you find most engaging and relevant.
As a Graphic Design student, you’ll not only develop proficiency in the latest industry-standard software applications, but understand technology and its role in socio-cultural communication as well. You’ll heighten critical, analytical, and strategic thinking skills, increasing your creative, processual, and organizational ability as a designer.
As you begin to hone your personal design voice and grasp of visual language, you’ll also sharpen your verbal communication skills through collaborative projects and the critique and presentation of ideas and finished work. While you develop a strong portfolio of work that demonstrates your skills as a designer, you’ll also cultivate an understanding of how design can drive solutions to complex problems. Ultimately, you will learn to be a resourceful, self-sufficient leader who understands how to use communication and entrepreneurial skills to address both business and societal problems and create new opportunities.
KCAD’s Graphic Design program promotes curiosity, exploration, investigation, and making, preparing you for professional success while also giving you the freedom to pursue your personal voice as a designer. As you progress through the program, you’ll encounter intimate and personalized learning experiences combined with strong connections to and support from your faculty. The facilitation of a required professional experience such as an internship, study away experience, or course-driven professional project, will help you make a seamless transition into the field upon graduation.
KCAD’s Graphic Design program emphasizes both “making” and “thinking,” encouraging you to be broad and bold in the way you use your skills and passion to make a difference in the world around you. The program’s ordered and gradually intensifying curriculum structure offers a clear and progressive development and refinement of knowledge and skills, providing you a solid foundation on which to build and expand your process, experience, confidence, sensitivity, and sense of professionalism from semester to semester.
You’ll also benefit from the program’s integrative learning environment, where all media and modes of design communication are applied – including specialties like advertising design, user experience and web design, and environmental/retail design – and supplementary skills in photography, illustration/drawing, digital media, printmaking, and 3D and product design are encouraged.
As a graduate of the Graphic Design program, your invaluable and highly-marketable creative communication skills will open up a wide variety of employment opportunities. Some Graphic Design graduates work for firms that specialize in design, advertising, or branding; others work in-house for corporations or non-profits; and some work for themselves as freelancers or contract workers, while others launch their own successful businesses. Some work in highly specialized fields like UI/UX design, publishing, or packaging. You’ll also be well positioned to continue your education at the graduate level.
As a Graphic Design student, you’ll have access to a wealth of tools including scanners, small and large-format printers, saddle stitch and wire binders, stack cutters, monorail rotary trimmers, photography equipment including DSLR cameras and studio lighting equipment, Cintiq digital drawing tablets, and more. Open computer and resources labs ensure continual access of key resources outside of class time. You’ll also have access to The Dow Center FlexLab, KCAD’s state-of-the-art digital fabrication facility featuring 3D printers and scanners, laser cutting and vinyl cutting machines, wide format printers, and more; and the KCAD Library, which provides access to millions of books through the MeLCat shared library catalog as well as access to specialized research databases and subscriptions to scholarly journals.
The Graphic Design program’s strong ties to local chapters of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), the American Advertising Federation (AAF), and the Interaction Design Association (IxDA) provide opportunities for you to immerse yourself in the vibrant design community of Grand Rapids as well as gain valuable perspective from leading contemporary designers who visit the region and the KCAD campus.
You'll also benefit from access to industry interactions, guest speakers, design forums, and other events hosted by Design West Michigan, a KCAD organization that explores and advocates for design as an economic building block in the region.
Ready to get started? Apply now!
Freehand drawing using basic perspective principles and quick sketch techniques.
Advanced freehand drawing and sketching with the addition of color media.
An introduction to the computer as a design tool using the industry standards in page layout and digital illustration software. File transport (PDF) and font management software will also be introduced.
An introduction to the visual and verbal vocabularies of design and color theory as they relate to graphic design.
An introduction to the fundamental aspects of typography. History, structure, form, and the basic application of typography will be presented.
Addresses complex communication problems that incorporate use of type and typographic systems as visual and expressive devices.
Focuses on the principles, elements, and working procedures of the design and visual presentation of communication pieces.
Introduces the basics of photography using the digital camera and how to use photo manipulation software as a “digital darkroom” for color correction and digital manipulation.
An advanced computer course focusing on the combined use of digital illustration and photo manipulation software in the creation of aesthetic and artistic graphic imagery for posters and covers.
This introductory course will present the concepts and issues related to image, text, audio, and videos in the new media objects such as websites and mobile applications. The class will focus on the principles of user-centered design in the creation of immersive, interactive products.
Focuses on making connections between idea and visualization using type, imagery, and color to solve communication problems. The initial stages of the design process - problem identification, brainstorming, research, creative briefs, and various forms of conceptualizing and thumbnailing - will be emphasized throughout the course.
A study of the ways in which layout, type, image, color, and messaging are used to design an identity for, brand, and promote a product, service, cause or idea.
The application of design principles and strategies to media through the use of advertising, branding, and marketing tactics. Problem solving, critical thinking, and innovative execution will be used to create relevant and appropriate solutions for a defined audience to meet specific client needs.
The study of graphic design principles and elements as they are applied to three dimensional package design problems.
The conceptual development and design processes used in creating various types of multi-page, copy intensive publications.
An advanced course in typography emphasizing complex information design issues and the socio-cultural role of typography.
An advanced study of the branding process as part of a global, integrated marketing system, including the use of in-depth research; competitive, consumer, and media analysis; multi-disciplinary collaboration; and strategic communication in the planning, design, and presentation of an integrated branding campaign.
Covers the digital production and color management processes used to convert a digital layout into its final printed form.
Students will prepare a professional portfolio for graduation and will have the necessary tools, knowledge and skills for their job search.
The semester-long, research-based development and production of an individualized, multi-piece, varied media thesis project for the student’s portfolio.
An overview of the Western Art tradition from prehistory through the Renaissance using a socio-cultural methodology in a chronological framework. (Students who have earned credit for ARTH 110, Prehistoric through Middle Ages, may not use credit earned in KCAH 111 to meet graduation requirements.)
A survey of Western art from the Baroque to the present, this course will continue building upon the foundation of Western Art I; Prehistoric through the Renaissance, using a socio-cultural methodology in a chronological framework. (Students who have earned credit for ARTH 111, Renaissance through 20th Century, may not use credit earned in KCAH 112 to meet graduation requirements.)
A survey of important developments in the history of graphic design from the invention of alphabets to the digital age.
This course focuses on using writing to develop ideas, hone critical thinking skills, and express ideas clearly and appropriately according to audience and purpose. Students write in a variety of modes and spend a portion of the semester engaging in scholarly research. Students also develop their public speaking skills.
This course provides a core understanding of effective storytelling. It examines the ways in which storytellers-both past and present-craft, organize, and convey ideas to successfully impact audiences, doing so through both inquiry into established narratives, as well as students' own experiments with narrative forms.
This course examines what it means to be a member of a particular society and how individuals both form and are formed by society. It will provide students with a better understanding of the social and cultural worlds they inhabit.
This course is an inquiry into the nature and power of philosophy to transform the way we experience the world around us and understand our place within it. Through a selection of readings representing various philosophical traditions and perspectives, critical discussion, and writing, students will examine some of the great questions that have intrigues philosophers from antiquity to present.
Download the catalog for the most recent course listings and prerequisites.
As a graduate of the Graphic Design program, you’ll have vast options for employment, as you’ll possess one of the most valuable skills in business: the skill of communication.
You may work for firms that specialize in design, advertising, or branding; you may also work in-house for corporations or non-profits; or for yourself as a freelancer, contract designer, or business owner. You may also work in highly specialized fields like UI/UX design, publishing, or packaging. Finally, you may continue your education by attending graduate school.