Student presenting his graphic design work

Graphic Design

Communicate visual messages and brand strategies in diverse media formats

The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design program begins with a strong foundation in design principles and digital technologies, then progressing to more specialized courses in graphic design. Students are taught current design industry practices and will engage in a dialogue about the role of design in contemporary society, culture and business, culminating in a two-semester thesis project in their senior year.

Graphic design students focus on developing skills to communicate visual messages and brand strategies in diverse media formats, which include print, web, motion and mobile devices. Faculty members are professional graphic and interactive designers who instruct students in a wide range of topics:

  • branding/identity programs 
  • mobile apps
  • web design 
  • interaction design
  • systems design
  • information design 
  • environmental design 
  • motion graphics
  • typography
  • publication design

Graphic design students learn concept ideation, design processes and methods, visual communication strategies, messaging, wireframing, design development and production workflow. By the end of the program, students develop professional presentation skills and a refined portfolio. Intimate classroom settings and detailed, critical feedback provide graphic design students with the conceptual, technological and communication tools to excel as working professionals in the fast-paced and competitive design industry. Furthermore, students have the opportunity to participate in real-world projects such as World Studio’s Design Ignites Change and Design Lab, part of the Corcoran's award-winning school-wide collaboration NEXT.

Current Curriculum

The following curriculum is for students enrolled beginning in fall 2015. 

In addition to the University General Education Requirement and requirements for their major, undergraduate students in Columbian College must complete a further, College-specific general education curriculum. Students can learn more about the new program requirements, as well as general education requirements in the course bulletin.

Legacy Curriculum

The following curriculum is for legacy students, defined as those students who began taking classes at the Corcoran prior to the fall 2015 semester. Students enrolled beginning in fall 2015, should consult the current curriculum.

Year 1 Courses

Fall Semester

  • CDM 1200 Design Fundamentals I
  • UW 1020 Writing
  • CFN 1090 First Year Studio I 
  • CAH 1090 Art History I: Art Now, Contemporary Perspectives in the Visual Arts

Spring Semester

  • CFN 1091 First Year Studio I
  • CDM 1201 Design Fundamentals II
  • CAH 1091 Art History II: Historical Perspectives in the Visual Arts
  • Studio Elective
  • Social Science/Humanities or Math

Year 2 Courses

Fall Semester

  • CDE 2090 Design Studios I
  • CGD 2050 Typography I
  • Social Science/Humanities
  • Studio Elective
  • Studio Elective

Spring Semester

  • CDE 2091 Design Studios II
  • CGD 2060 Typography II
  • Natural/Physical Science
  • Studio Elective
  • Studio Elective

Year 3 Courses

Fall Semester

  • CGD 3090 Graphic Design Studio III
  • CGD 3050 Typography III
  • CAH 3150 History of Graphic Design
  • Natural/Physical Science
  • Studio Elective

Spring Semester

  • CGD 3091 Graphic Design Studio IV
  • CGD 3060 Typography IV
  • History of Architecture & Product Design
  • Math/Social Science/Humanities
  • Studio Elective

Year 4 Courses

Fall Semester

  • CGD 4090 Graphic Design Senior Thesis I
  • History of Animation
  • Humanities/Social Science
  • Studio Elective
  • Studio Elective

Spring Semester

  • CGD 4091 Graphic Design Senior Thesis II
  • CDE 4170 Capstone for Professional Graphic Designers
  • Social Science/Humanities
  • Studio Elective
  • Studio Elective

General Education Requirements: 27 credits (9 courses)
Art History Requirements: 12 credits (4 courses)
Studio Requirements: 45 credits (15 courses)
Studio Electives: 36 credits (12 courses)
Total Credit Hours: 120 credits are needed to graduate

*Consult with your advisor about which courses fulfill requirements

Design Exhibitions

The Graphic Design and Digital Media Design programs host annual professional practices exhibitions: OPEN, NEXT and BY DESIGN. OPEN is an annual design exhibition hosted by the Graphic Design and Digital Media Design programs showcasing graphic design, motion design and interior design student work. In the fall semester, this exhibition is open to the entire George Washington University (GW) Corcoran community—current students, design alumni, faculty, staff and students’ families. This exhibition features work by freshman, sophomore, junior and senior students, showcasing the progress design students are making in their respective areas of study. Professional designers from the Washington, D.C. design community attend this event to connect with design students in regards to potential internships and job opportunities.

NEXT is the annual student thesis exhibition in GW's Corcoran School, located in the heart of Washington D.C. Undergraduate Bachelor of Fine Arts seniors from all departments participate and exhibit their senior thesis projects alongside graduate Master of Arts students. This event showcases undergraduate and graduate thesis projects in the grand Beaux-Arts space of the GW Corcoran's Flagg Building.

BY DESIGN is an annual professional practices exhibition for undergraduate Graphic Design and Digital Media Design students. Held at the end of the spring semester, BY DESIGN invites numerous Washington, D.C. design professionals to connect with design students for internships and job opportunities. And Current Bachelor of Fine Arts design students, design alumni, faculty and student families attend this spring semester event. The exhibition is a showcases of the portfolios of current design seniors and it provides a valuable professional networking opportunity as students prepare to graduate. The BY DESIGN exhibition is hosted at the Fathom Gallery, which is located in the heart of D.C.’s arts district.

Visiting Designers and Animator

One of the requirements for graphic design senior thesis classes is an interview with an established designer. The Corcoran has a renowned Visiting Artist program, but design students also have the opportunity to meet and get advice from well-known and established designers through the Visiting Designers Series, a curriculum-integrated lecture series where professional designers and animators visit our programs. Visiting designers and animators discuss their design studio projects, practices and methods. In addition to lectures, visiting designers may serve as senior thesis critics, providing individual portfolio critique sessions and professional advice to design students working toward graduation.  Recent visiting designers and animators include:

  • Jens Gehlhaar
  • Matthew Carter
  • Brian Buirge and Jason Bacher of GFDA
  • Gail Anderson
  • Nancy Skolos and Tom Wedell
  • Justin Cone of PSY/OPS
  • Jeremy Mende
  • Lucille Tenazas
  • Rick Valicenti of THIRST
  • Seymour Chwast
  • Marian Bantjes
  • Chris Pullman
  • Mike Jakab of Agency Collective
  • Kenya Hara
  • Tracie Ching

Careers and Internships

The field of graphic design offers a wide range of professional opportunities, allowing for truly unique career paths. Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design students gain real-world experience through internships and job opportunities at established companies like these:

 

Apple

Harper's Bazaar

Architectural Digest - Condé Nast

NBC

PBS

Newsweek

National Geographic

Chronicle Books

Discovery Communications

Fathom Creative

Landor

Hirshorn Zuckerman Design Group

Graphik

 

Fleishman Hillard

AOL   

Fuzion

iStrategyLabs

Catalone Design Co.

KINETIK

Studio A

O2 Collaborative

Carousel 30

AKQA

The Daily Beast

Gallagher & Associates

Ready Set Rocket Design Agency

 

Professional job opportunities and experiences have taken the Corcoran’s graphic design students nationally and internationally to companies in London, Hong Kong, China, New York City, Seattle, San Francisco, the Philippines, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Washington D.C.

Careers in graphic design include:

  • Interactive Web Designer
  • Mobile APPS Designer
  • User Interface Designer
  • Branding/Identity Designer
  • Interaction Designer
  • Motion Designer
  • Publication Designer
  • Package Designer
  • Environmental Designer
  • Exhibition Designer

Graphic Design in Action

David Hodgson

David Hodgson

BFA Graphic Design, 2015

“Garage Rock. Garage Punk. Hot Rod. Surf. Space Age. Monster. Rockabilly. Teenbeat. Trash. These terms describe a scene, which culminated in the 1990s. Art and music came together to form a vibrant, electric, and exciting era of rock and roll music. The sounds mimicked the visuals, and the visuals mimicked the sounds, a rare union of designer and client.”

See more of David’s work
Precision

Grace Boyle

BFA Graphic Design, 2016

“Progressive Synthesis conveys positivity, energy, individuality and collaboration. ... This revised version uses a grid system and 45-degree lines to create a seamless, upward motion. To technically convey ideas like precision, rhythm and cohesion, I relied on the line width tool in Illustrator and optically adjusted the organic expansion points, with Futura as an underlay.”

Read more about her project
The Body as a Palette for Design

Nora Mosley

BFA Graphic Design, 2015

“The human presence adds authenticity to design. Blurring the line between onstage and backstage, a designer may leave a personal imprint—in a subtle or an obvious way—that becomes part of the message. The Body as a Palette for Design evolved from research on Stefan Sagmeister and examines the integration of the designer’s image into his or her work.”

Look at more of Nora's work
Ex Nihilo (Out of Nothing)

James Bonilla

BFA Graphic Design, 2014

“The absurdity of human existence, self-awareness and reduction are the primary themes within existential nihilism. Through visual form, minimally-based graphic design conveys this ideology by advocating ambiguity and simplicity through the removal of non-essential design elements. As a result, this method of visual communication reflects on the nature of humanity.”

Explore James’ project

Graphic Design Faculty

Johan Severtson Graphic Design Professor

Johan Severtson

 Professor of Graphic Design