Graphic Design (BFA)

Graphic Design BFA Degree

Design is the art of making ideas visible. It’s everywhere. It’s for everyone. It can change the world. The UArts Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design prepares graduates to make an impact through a wide variety of careers, including publication design, branding, augmented and virtual reality, motion graphics, and more.

Why choose UArts Graphic Design?

We believe that a combination of critical thinking, design history, fundamental principles, making things, individual voice, and curiosity results in the best designers ever. A Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design degree from University of the Arts prepares graduates for direct entry into professional design practice. The Graphic Design program awards a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree that is substantially more intensive than a Bachelor of Arts degree. Our students become fluent in multiple areas of practice and then lean toward areas of personal interest. Or as we like to say: UArts graphic designers are generalists with a specialty.

Become a Well-Rounded Designer

Each year’s required program courses step up in complexity and scope, to challenge students as they stretch and grow. Business skills are incorporated into the School of Design curriculum, beginning in First Year Core. Critical Studies and design history classes support studio work by enriching artistic practices and professional development; encouraging curiosity; and deepening communication, research and collaboration abilities.

The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design is cross-disciplinary and fosters collaboration with other programs at the university, as well as local arts organizations, nonprofits and social agencies.

Are you a designer, but unsure of which major to pick? The School of Design’s General, Undeclared program is a first-year option for new Design students.

Learn more.

About the Curriculum

Our robust curriculum is based on critical thinking, design theory, technique and history, and balances experimental concerns with practical ones, in order to equip graduates for success as professional designers. Starting with the School of Design’s first-year core courses—tailored to provide students with a solid foundation for rigorous study in their second through fourth years—the program emphasizes formal aesthetic, theoretical and analytical knowledge, with a deep exploration of today’s rapidly evolving media landscape. Each year’s studies step up in complexity and scope to allow you to build on what you’ve previously learned.

The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design will equip you with a solid design process, as well as problem-solving strategies for every form of communication design, including brand identity, print, typography, motion graphics, UX (user experience), digital technologies and more. You’ll learn to think critically, creatively, experimentally and strategically, in order to create visual messages that can be shared in meaningful ways through a variety of media. Learning from expert faculty in small class settings means you’ll stay up to date with emerging trends in the graphic design field and gain fluency in design software such as the Adobe Creative Suite, including InDesign, Illustrator, AfterEffects, Premiere, XD, Photoshop and more.

School of Design
The School of Design core–taken by all Design students–promotes peer interaction and encourages cross-disciplinary activity. You’ll learn key principles of design, making, thinking, marketing and business that will build a solid knowledge base for further study in your discipline and a lifetime of creative practice.

Graduates of the Graphic Design program will

  • be experienced in both hierarchical and nonhierarchical forms of collaboration as professional preparation.
  • possess a unique intellectual and visual voice.
  • be able to adapt to a changing, unpredictable world and its communication needs, where the methods of communication can be expected to evolve and expand.
  • demonstrate a strong work ethic, driven by both logical and inventive working processes.
  • possess a high level of expertise in industry-standard technological environments and the ability to prototype advanced high-level, technologically based practices.
  • be strategic thinkers with the ability to explain these strategies as a fundamental aspect of their design process.

Sample Curriculum

Sample Curriculum

Sample Curriculum
Duration: four years, full time
Credits: 120 credits

Graphic Design BFA
Major requirements: 45
School of Design core: 24
Discipline history: 12
Critical Studies: 30
Free electives: 9

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First Year

Fall semester: 16.5 credits

Design Process, Theory & Communication (3 credits)
Drawing as Seeing (3 credits)
Digital Design Lab (3 credits)
Art History Survey I (3 credits)
Writing I Placement (3 credits)
Free elective (your choice) (1.5 credits)

Spring semester: 16.5 credits

Drawing as Thinking (3 credits)
Design Studio (3 credits)
Introduction to Interaction Design (3 credits)
Writing II Placement (3 credits)
Art History Survey II (3 credits)
Free elective (your choice) (1.5 credits)

Second Year

Fall semester: 15 credits

Design History (3 credits)
Design for Persuasive Visual Communication (3 credits)
Typography I (3 credits)​​​​​​​
Image & Narrative (3 credits)
Critical Studies* (your choice) (3 credits)

Spring semester: 15 credits

Typography II (3 credits)​​​​​​​
Editorial Systems (3 credits)
Contemporary Issues in Design (3 credits)
Critical Studies (your choice) (3 credits)
ODR selection* (3 credits)

Third Year

Fall semester: 15 credits

Intro to Business & Preparation for Creative Practice (3 credits)
School of Design Workshop (3 credits)
Design for Interaction (3 credits)
ODR selection* (3 credits)
Critical Studies (your choice) (3 credits)

Spring semester: 15 credits

Typography III (3 credits)
ODR selection* (3 credits)
Free elective (your choice) (3 credits)
Critical Studies (your choice) (3 credits)
Critical Studies (your choice) (3 credits)

Fourth Year

Fall semester: 15 credits

Professional Practice Option or Design Internship (3 credits)
Senior Thesis I (3 credits)
Portfolio & Brand Development (3 credits)
Critical Studies (your choice) (3 credits)
Critical Studies (your choice) (3 credits)

Spring semester: 12 credits

Senior Thesis II (3 credits)
Real World Design (3 credits)
Critical Studies (your choice) (3 credits)
Free elective (your choice) (3 credits)

Explore the Full Curriculum

About the School of Design

University of the Arts’ School of Design redefines what it means to educate a 21st century designer. We celebrate the reality that the boundaries between all sorts of contemporary design practices are more open than ever before and that a modern designer needs a greatly expanded skill set at their disposal. With this new reality in mind, the School of Design initiates innovation and empowers you to pursue your passions, build core values, broaden your design exposure and become a design leader of the future.

The School of Design strongly believes in collaboration, self-expression and professional preparation through its undergraduate programs in Graphic Design and Illustration, with Product Design and Interaction Design launching in 2023. The School of Design consists of programs that work together, providing depth in your discipline while expanding your understanding of design. This academic model best prepares you to respond flexibly to change and future career opportunities.

Graphic Design USA named UArts one of the 2024 Top Design Schools in the country, a list of the publication's "favorite graphic design schools and programs that excel in teaching the hard and soft skills necessary for success, in nurturing talent and expanding minds, and in preparing the next generation of creatives for a dream career in the real world." 

Learn more about the School of Design.

People & Stories
UArts’ Graphic Design (BFA) People & Stories gallery features award-winning work, stories and experiences from students, faculty and alumni.

Liftoff! 2023

Liftoff! is the spring exhibition for the School of Design, showcasing student work from our four programs: Graphic Design, Illustration, MDes in Product Design, and MFA in Museum Exhibition Planning and Design. Each year, it takes place in Philadelphia’s Center for Architecture. 

With support, expert knowledge and instruction provided by exceptional faculty and staff, UArts School of Design students create work that distinguishes them as artists and designers of the highest caliber. This online exhibition marks not the end of our students’ academic years but the beginning of their professional careers.

Explore Liftoff!

Interships & Careers

Our Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design positions students for professional success through portfolio development opportunities, career prep from faculty and guest speakers, and internships. With faculty guidance for career preparation, students can intern at professional venues in a wide range of design disciplines including print, branding, packaging, digital design, and more.

The Graphic Design program prepares graduates for careers as graphic designers, web designers, UX (user experience) designers, creative directors and other careers. 

As a UArts Graphic Design graduate, you’ll know how to analyze what you see, speak about it eloquently, develop meaningful concepts, and generate compelling design narratives and solutions. You’ll learn to promote yourself and your work and how to land jobs that excite, challenge and nurture you throughout your career.

Our students and alumni have worked for:
American Museum of Natural History • Apple • Bloomberg • Burson-Marsteller • Buzzfeed • Cloud-Gehshan Associates • Comcast • Dazed Digital • Facebook • Fast Company • The Franklin Institute • Fullscreen • Google • Huffington Post • IBM • The Intuitive Company • King & Partners • Jefferson Health • Lippincott • EMO-NY, • Men’s Health Magazine • Microsoft • MOD Worldwide • Monument Lab • Morningstar • MTV • Pentagram • Philadelphia Museum of Art • Publicis Media • Red Antler • Red Sky Interactive • Sagon-Phior • Siegel + Gale • Situation Interactive • Spotify • Stag and Hare • TracyLocke • Two Twelve Associates • University of the Arts Marketing & Communication • Urban Outfitters • Use All Five • Vanguard • Vimeo • WGBH

Internships provide professional opportunities for students to experience design in the real world and in real time while earning course credits. Our students have interned at Ideas on Purpose, P’Unk Ave, AAJ Design, Red Antler, King & Partners, URBN and many other top firms and studios.

Additionally, UArts encourages students in the exploration of the borderless and timeless language of the arts. Immersion in a new culture provides students with historical, intellectual and technical enrichment as they discover their individual role in the global narrative. With a variety of locations and areas of study, UArts has study-abroad opportunities that will help you meet your artistic and academic goals. 

Sean Gibson ’23 (Graphic Design) recalls his experience as the first recipient of the new Crayola Creative Arts/Lee Volpe Internship.


Graphic Design students have access to studios, labs, print shops and more on campus.

  • Digital Imaging Lab
    • 6 copier/printers
    • 6 or 7 iMacs in hub 1328
    • 2 scanners 1328 hub location
    • 1 color copier hallway 13th floor outside print services
  • Print Center
  • Printmaking Studio
  • Photography Lab
    • specially designed high-ceiling photography shooting studio
    • daylight studio with north-facing windows
  • Design Hub Computer Lab
  • Albert M. Greenfield Makerspace
    • 3-D printers and scanners
    • a router and a mill
    • laser, vinyl and substrate cutters
    • printed circuit board (PCB) and decal printers
  • The Center for Immersive Media
    • Optical motion capture system for full body performance capture and location-based VR applications
    • a four-channel audio system, multiple video projectors and lighting, as well as a control station
    • 16-station computing classroom with PCs optimized for real-time graphics rendering
    • two large project rooms with ceiling grids for development of installations and virtual environments

How to Apply

UArts offers recommended priority deadlines; students who apply and submit all required materials by the priority deadline will receive first consideration for scholarship aid from UArts. Applications received after the priority deadline will be reviewed on a rolling, space-available basis. 

International students requiring an F-1 visa for study in the U.S. might be subject to earlier deadlines to provide time for completion of the visa process. Contact Admissions for guidance if you are an international student who wishes to apply after the priority deadline.

Spring 2024 priority deadline: Oct. 15, 2023

Fall 2024 priority deadline: Feb. 15, 2024

We cannot accept spring 2024 applications after Jan. 8, 2024, and cannot accept fall 2024 applications after Aug. 16, 2024.

We encourage students to complete the FAFSA by March 15, if possible.

Many students and families have encountered technical challenges while trying to complete the FAFSA this year. If this is the case for you, continue to utilize the FAFSA support resources until your issue is resolved. UArts will ensure that all admitted students who file the FAFSA are eligible for the same institutional funding to support your costs.

Learn more

The following materials are required for your application.

  • Start or resume your application. 

    • The application includes two required short-answer questions: What excites you about UArts? What inspires you?

  • $60 nonrefundable application fee

    • If you qualify for a fee waiver from NACAC, CollegeBoard, UArts or another source, indicate that on your application. If the cost of the application fee is a barrier, contact Admissions to request a fee waiver code.

  • Official high school transcript

    • Official transcripts must be sent directly from your school by mail, email or a secure electronic document-delivery service. 

    • International transcript requirements 

    • Transfer student transcript requirements

      • High school transcripts may be waived for transfer applicants who have completed a minimum of 24 credits of college-level coursework, including a minimum of 18 academic, non-studio credits.

      • Official college transcript(s)

        • Official transcripts must be sent directly from all the colleges you have attended by mail, email or a secure electronic document-delivery service. 

        • If you’ve attended college outside the U.S., you are required to have an official course-by-course evaluation of your college coursework sent to UArts. Additional guidelines for international transcripts are available. 

  • International applicants must submit a test of English proficiency

  • Portfolio 

    • A portfolio is required for all Art, Design, Film and Writing programs. Your portfolio may be uploaded during the application process or via your applicant status portal after submission. You must confirm when your submission is complete via the linked electronic form before your portfolio can be reviewed for admission. View a full list of portfolio requirements by program.

  • Optional letters of recommendation

    • Letters of recommendation from teachers or mentors are optional and may be submitted by the recommender via email to or by your high school through a secure electronic document-delivery service. 

Scholarships and Financial Aid

UArts recognizes the extraordinary talent of our students through a range of merit-based scholarships. All applicants are automatically considered for such scholarships — no special application is necessary.

Nearly 80 percent of UArts’ undergraduate students enrolled on a full-time basis are eligible for some type of need-based aid. Additionally, some scholarship opportunities take need-based criteria into account. All students who are U.S. citizens or eligible non-citizens and are enrolled in a degree program are encouraged to apply by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

There are a variety of scholarships and financial aid available to incoming students. In addition to general scholarships, there are several scholarships available to students pursuing their BFA in Illustration.

Learn more about financial aid.

Learn more about tuition and fees.

GDUSA Students to Watch Competition

Each year two of our students are honored by being accepted into the prestigious GD-USA Students to Watch competition. Faculty members nominate candidates based upon creativity, quality of work, and willingness to explore new design territory.


Frequently Asked Questions about the Graphic Design BFA program

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What can you do with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design degree?

Graphic design, as well as the individual skills the come with it, is a piece of nearly every industry. You can work as a graphic designer, brand identity designer, web designer, UX/UI designer, art director, packaging designer and other roles, all in essentially any field you may be interested in pursuing.

Is a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design worth it?

The worth of a Graphic Design degree depends on your career goals, personal interests and dedication to the field. A degree in Graphic Design can provide you with skills in design, as well as various software that will prove to be highly useful in many different fields you may end up pursuing.

Do you need a degree for graphic design?

Though a degree is not always a strict requirement for graphic design, a formal education in graphic design can provide you with a competitive edge and enhance your skills and knowledge in the field. However, building a strong portfolio, gaining practical experience through internships or freelance work, and developing a solid understanding of design principles are also crucial for success in graphic design. It is something UArts can provide resources for and aid with the process of obtaining these positions.

Is graphic design in demand?

Graphic design continues to be in demand, especially with the increasing need for visual communication across all industries. The growth of digital media, advertising, branding and online platforms has contributed to the demand for skilled graphic designers who can effectively communicate messages through visual elements.

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