The undergraduate Design program offers students a rich, multi-faceted educational experience that prepares graduates for careers in design, professions with a design component or entrepreneurial endeavors. Design should always be about solving a problem and creating new processes, products and services for people. Because design is human-centered and always supports the end-user’s needs, both wants and limitations are explored at all stages within the design process and development lifecycle.

Students enjoy the extensive offerings of one of the world’s great public research universities while receiving individualized instruction from expert, passionate faculty and local industry professionals in small cohorts. Students are immersed in various aspects of design and are able to create graphics, objects, interactions, systems and services.

A design education gives students the skills to push past obvious solutions and extensive experience working in diverse teams. Students learn how to be comfortable with ambiguity, navigate problems, and design open-ended solutions with creative confidence.

As students continue in the Design program, studio-based courses develop their research, problem-solving and critical thinking/making skills, while elective courses and the university’s core curriculum emphasize the liberal arts.

In their junior year, students must complete at least one professional internship (required as part of the B.F.A. degree). In their senior year, Design students undertake a capstone design project, and B.F.A. students show their work in a public exhibition at the Visual Arts Center.


B.F.A. vs. B.A.

The Design B.F.A. (Bachelor of Fine Arts) is a pre-professional degree program encompassing typography, image creation/manipulation, interaction design and 3-D design that is intended to prepare students for employment in the field of design. B.F.A. students take approximately two-thirds of their undergraduate courses in Design and related coursework and culminate their studies by completing one or more paid professional internships. Additionally, B.F.A. students undertake a substantial capstone design project and present their work in an annual public exhibition. By choosing from a wide range of pre-approved supportive courses in fields across the university, B.F.A. students acquire not only the visual discernment and technical skills necessary to gain employment or admission to graduate school, but also the capacity for research, critical thinking, writing and speaking that enables them to rise to positions of creative leadership as designers, art directors, project managers, executives and entrepreneurs.

The Design B.A. (Bachelor of Arts) is an equally rich and rigorous exploration of design as a field, but is intended for students who prefer the flexibility and breadth of a liberal arts degree to the more studio-intensive, pre-professional B.F.A. degree. B.A. students acquire a solid foundation in design techniques, aesthetics, research methods, history and theory, while maintaining the flexibility to explore additional disciplines across the university. The B.A. degree’s flexibility makes it a particularly good choice for external or internal transfers or students who want to add a simultaneous major.  B.A. students enroll side-by-side with B.F.A. students in rigorous introductory design studio courses. In their final two years of study, B.A. students take fewer upper-division studio courses. 

Design Degree Overview

First Year

In your first year, you’ll take the Freshman Design Core sequence in topics such as: 

  • Sketching
  • Design Research
  • Intro to Design History
  • Intro to 2D
  • Intro to 3D
  • Intro to Interaction Design
  • Freshman Studio

Second Year

In your second year, you’ll dive deeper into studio courses across 2D, 3D, and interaction design such as: 

  • Images in Communication
  • Typography I
  • Objects and Spaces
  • Interaction Design I
  • History of Design

Students will also participate in the Sophomore Performance Review, a mid-way checkpoint before moving onto upper-division coursework.

Third Year

B.A. Design Students

In your third year, you’ll use your outside electives to pursue other interests that can add to your design skills, possibly working towards minors, certificates, or even a double major.

B.F.A. Design Students

In your third year, you have the freedom to choose your upper-division design or supportive classes in design fields matching your career goals:  

  • Industrial Design I
  • Identity Systems
  • Design and Social Environment 
  • Typography II/III
  • History of Graphic Design 
  • Design Internship

Fourth Year

B.A. Design Students

In your fourth year, you’ll finish out your design and elective requirements and complete a semester-long capstone project.

B.F.A. Design Students

In your fourth year, you’ll finish your design and elective requirements and complete a semester-long capstone project. B.F.A. students are required to showcase their capstone project in a public exhibition within the Visual Arts Center in their final Spring semester. Check out the Class of 2021’s virtual exhibition here.

Degree Requirements

B.F.A. Design: View the 4-year sample plan and degree guidelines

B.A. Design: View the 4-year sample plan and degree guidelines

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