Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) in Graphic Design

"Design is one of the most powerful forces in our lives."
-Alice Rawsthorn, critic for The International New York Times

As the world around us grows increasingly complex, so, too, have the problems that designers address grown in breadth, depth, and application. New and emerging technologies have enabled near instant communication with millions, such that we’re bombarded by imagery and media on a daily basis. In response to these ongoing changes, the skills required of the graphic designer are shifting—requiring new skill sets to address new needs. 

Graphic design has become much more than a nice logo and an advertisement. The 21st century graphic designer must be adept at addressing complex problems through iterative research. Through this process, the designer learns about their audience. Learning current constraints and needs establishes empathy with their audience. Prototyping allows the designer to test concepts and improve them while adding complexity. 

This process equips the graphic designer to distill complex ideas into final concepts and systems. They apply the skillsets in their toolbox: a strong understanding of typographic principles and history, color theory, craft, image-making, materials and processes, interactivity, and knowledge of 2D, 3D, and 4D applications. They communicate ideas that inspire, inform or captivate their audience and ultimately connect with human emotions through storytelling and narrative.

For more information,
please contact:

DawnMcCusker200

Dawn McCusker
Graphic Design Coordinator,
Professor of Graphic Design
School of Art Design & Art History
Studio Center, Room 118
James Madison University
Harrisonburg, VA 22807
e-mail:  mccuskdm@jmu.edu
Phone: 540.568.6500

GRAPHIC DESIGN AT JMU

The Graphic design program at James Madison University is rooted in fundamental design principles, research and applications, while addressing current and emerging technologies through digital practice. Students learn design terminology, the theory of visual language, process and methodology, structure and craft, and industry-standard technologies and programs. Our specialized courses cover design for print, brand identity, illustration, interaction and web design, UI & UX, package design, and special topics courses addressing contemporary design issues and problems.

The study of the historical and cultural context of the field broadens students' knowledge and nurtures their creativity. Coursework involves standards of professional practice and utilizing experimental thinking through varied design processes and research methods. The emphasis on developing a holistic skillset while honing a high level of craft is at the core of our program. Success within the graphic design program requires students to be creative, nimble, inquisitive and willing to take risks. An entrepreneurial approach to work and life defines the spirit of our alumni, who are design leaders in organizations such as The New York Times, Wired, Adobe and Google.

The Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in graphic design is professionally accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. Admission to the graphic design program is very selective. Students are admitted to the School of Art, Design and Art History as candidates for the graphic design major. After graphic design foundation courses are completed, students must submit a portfolio of the sophomore-level work to be reviewed by a juried panel. Official admission into the graphic design program allows students to begin rigorous coursework at the 300 level. 

Frequent field trips to design-related events, studio visits, guest speakers and vetted internship opportunities provide students with exposure to top-notch professionals in the field. On campus, students can get involved in student clubs and organizations, such as student chapters of AIGA: The Professional Association for Design. There are opportunities to engage with visiting designers and exhibitions through the Duke Hall Gallery of Fine Art as well as collaborate with faculty and peers for shows at JMU galleries. Graphic design majors also have many opportunities to gain professional experience working for a variety of JMU offices and organizations.

PROFESSIONAL FACILITIES

The graphic design program is housed in the Design Center, along with architectural design and industrial design. The building is a hive of creative innovation and collaboration, providing graphic design students the following designated spaces:

Large classrooms with digital projection
Seminar room
Dedicated classroom for interaction and web design
Large format drawing tablets for digital illustration
Professional quality scanners
iMac general computer lab with 22 workstations and Adobe Creative Suite installed
Print-production room with book binding / assembly equipment
Senior studio with designated desks for each student entering their senior year
Mobile print stations
Access to a books-arts room with bookmaking and letterpress


Fab Lab and WoodShop:
The Design Center also has a fully equipped fabrication lab and wood shop accessible to all design students. This facility houses a CNC router, laser cutters, 3D printers, metals lab, concrete lab and a spray booth.

LAPTOP REQUIREMENTS

Students entering as candidates for the graphic design program do not need a personal laptop.

After successful completion of the GRPH 208 Portfolio Review and formal acceptance into the graphic design program, students are required to invest in a personal Mac laptop for 300-400 level classes.

For graphic design computer requirements, visit the Computer Recommendations page at the JMU Bookstore.

ROB MILLER GRAPHIC DESIGN AWARD

The Rob Miller Graphic Design Award was created in honor of former JMU graphic design alum Rob Miller, class of 1997, who passed away in 2002.

His parents, Dr. & Mrs. Martin Miller and his close JMU friend, Daniel Hoeck, committed to giving this award.

This award is given annually to graphic design majors who are rising seniors and have shown outstanding accomplishments in their artwork as undergraduates at James Madison University.

PROGRAM OBJECTIVES

The graphic design program at JMU provides a professional education with an interdisciplinary approach. Program objectives for the graphic design student are:

  1. Be able to articulate ideas and understand the fundamental elements and principles of graphic design while using correct terminology pertinent to the field.
  2. Demonstrate a working knowledge of artistic methods, craft and formal structure as vehicles to enhance a solutions communicative value.
  3. Be proficient in both traditional and digital ways of making.
  4. Develop diverse problem-solving methodologies that combine theory, research, analytical skills and conceptualization to create effective graphic design solutions.
  5. Develop a professional graphic design portfolio reflective of one’s knowledge and abilities that encompasses the contemporary design market.
GRAPHIC DESIGN FACULTY
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Trudy Cole

Associate Director of SADAH, Professor of Graphic Design

David Hardy

David Hardy

Associate Professor of Graphic Design

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Carissa Henriques

Assistant Professor of Graphic Design

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Richard Hilliard

Associate Professor of Graphic Design

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Lindsey Kelly

Instructor of Graphic Design

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Dawn McCusker

Graphic Design Coordinator, Professor of Graphic Design

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Casey Shaw

Instructor of Graphic Design

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