Graphic Design is a major offered by the School of Art, Design and Art History, a program within the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

Admission and Progression Standards

Visit the Major Snapshots site to learn more about the admission and progression standards of this major.

Description of Major

Graphic Design students learn the terminology, visual language, methods, processes, theory, craft and technology of graphic design, which includes specialized courses in print design, illustration, web and interactive design, package design and special topics courses addressing contemporary design issues and problems. The study of the historical and cultural context of the designer broadens students' knowledge base and nurtures their creativity. Supplementing JMU's general accreditation, all degrees offered by the School of Art, Design and Art History are professionally accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.

More About the Field 

Graphic designers create visual concepts through tactile methods and computer software to communicate ideas that inspire, inform, or captivate an audience. They help to make an organization or product recognizable by selecting color palettes, typographic treatments, images, and logo designs that represent a particular idea or identity to be used in advertising and promotions. Common responsibilities for graphic designers may include:

  • Creating concepts and designing sample layouts based on knowledge of layout principles and aesthetic design concepts.
  • Engaging with new software and design methodologies.
  • Conferring with clients to discuss and determine layout design.
  • Developing concepts and layouts for branding campaigns, websites and mobile applications, product graphics and illustrations, and publications.
  • Preparing illustrations or rough sketches of concepts, presenting them in context with project goals, and making necessary changes.
  • Maintaining archive of images, photos, or previous digital products.


Graphic Design positions can be found in a wide variety of settings, such as: design studios and digital agencies, corporate advertising departments, film studios, newspapers, web design firms, and other businesses. There are many specialty areas within the field of Graphic Design, including Advertising & Branding, Book & Publication Design, Web and Interactive Design, Corporate Design, Editorial, Environmental, Package Design and InfoGraphic Design.

Complementary Majors and Minors 

The Graphic Design curriculum is demanding and cannot usually accommodate another major or minor, unless the student takes classes in the summer or adds additional semesters. Related minors could include: Book Arts, Communication Studies, Computer Information Systems, Film Studies, Music Industry, Sport Communication or Technical and Scientific Communication.

Characteristics of Successful Students

Successful graphic design students are creative, skilled at problem solving, inquisitive and willing to take risks, and have an entrepreneurial approach to their work and life. They enjoy working and communicating innovative and diverse ideas to others.


Many graduates choose typical career paths associated with this major. However, some graduates choose unrelated careers that utilize skills and experiences developed during their years in college. Keep in mind, that some fields will require graduate study or further training. The listing below offers examples of possible career paths and is not meant to be comprehensive.

  • AIS Designer
  • Advertising Designer
  • Art Director
  • Creative Director
  • Digital Designer
  • Graphic Designer
  • Illustrator
  • Imaging Artist
  • Multimedia Designer
  • Package Designer
  • Photographer
  • Production Artist
  • Visual Designer
  • Website Designer 

Who Employs Graduates?

Graphic designers work for: Advertising Agencies, Architecture Firms, Art Studios, Book Publishers, Colleges/Universities, Design Firms, Environmental Design Firms, Galleries, Industrial Design Companies, Interior Design Firms, Magazine Publishers, Manufacturing Companies, Motion Pictures Studios, Museums, Newspapers, Non-profit Organizations, Online Services Companies, Packaging Companies, Performing Arts Centers, Private Schools, Public Schools, TV Stations, and Web and Interactive Design Firms. Graphic designers are also self-employed working in their own studios.

Internships and Experiential Opportunities 

Frequent field trips, guest speakers and internship opportunities provide students with exposure to the professional field. On campus, students can get involved in student clubs and organizations, such as student chapters of AIGA: The Professional Association for Design and Kappa Pi. There are design exhibitions and opportunities to engage with visiting designers through the Duke Hall Gallery of Fine Art. Graphic Design majors have many opportunities to gain professional experience working as a graphic designer for a variety of JMU offices.   Students should consult with their advisors about internship opportunities. 

View our list of internship coordinators for each major.

Career Profiles 

Graphic Designers
Multimedia Artists and Animators
Graphic Designer

Additional Resources to Research Careers
  • Handshake: view new internships and jobs that employers are looking to hire JMU students from your major 
  • Career Outcomes: see where alumni worked or studied right after graduating.
  • GoinGlobal: learn more about employment opportunities overseas as well as H1B visa information for international Dukes pursuing jobs in the U.S.
  • O*NET: browse occupational profiles to learn about thousands of different careers, pulling data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics 
  • CareerOneStop: explore thousands of different careers by looking at career profiles 
  • Utilize the LinkedIn Alumni tool to see what others have done with their majors and what their career paths look like. Reach out to alumni via LinkedIn and conduct an informational interview.

© University Career Center, James Madison University

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without permission from the JMU University Career Center. Content for each major has been written/reviewed by faculty in the respective department and is revised each year. Requests to update content can be submitted to career@jmu.edu

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