Graphic Design: Program Details

Two women studying on a sofa in front of a colorful mural.

Graphic design is the art of creating visual content to communicate messages using images and typography. We see it all around us in the form of printed materials, but designers also make digital content, design user experience (known as UX), as well as wayfinding and environmental design.

Our Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design provides you with a comprehensive education in design principles, applications, theories, history, and practice with a particular emphasis on craft, concept, and research.

We equip our students to conquer creative challenges with a breadth of technical and artistic skills. We empower them to trust their creative impulses, embrace their interests, and direct their own learning experiences. We encourage them to be exploratory, experimental, collaborative graphic designers who can thrive in today’s world.

A Top-ranked Program

We are proud to be consistently ranked among the top public graphic design programs in the country. We recently placed in the top 4% nationally—8th in the nation among public schools—and as the top program in Oregon by the Animation Career Review’s 2022 rankings of the best graphic design programs in the United States.

The success of our program is reflected in our alumni. Our graduates are working near and far, in small agencies and in really big ones. They start their own businesses. They make their own products. They research and write. They are active participants in design and culture.

Become part of the design community

Many of our classes pair students with clients—small businesses, non-profits, cultural institutions—giving students the experience of making work for the real world. We work to connect our students to the design community within Portland, and beyond. Through a dynamic and diverse program of visiting designer lectures, field trips, in-class demos, portfolio days, and internship opportunities, our students become integrated members of a global community of makers.

Our design faculty, who are all active makers as well as educators, are key to our success. Through their tireless efforts and deep connections, Portland State’s Graphic Design students become part of the larger design community.

Course of Study

100-level courses in graphic design introduce you to principles of basic design and art and their specific applications in graphic design.

200-level courses provide a comprehensive studio experience with an increased emphasis on design thinking.

Your first two years of study culminate with a required Sophomore Portfolio Review.

The Review happens once each year at the end of the Spring term. All students majoring in graphic design (including students transferring in with lower- or upper-division credits) must pass this Review to enroll in 300-level graphic design courses. Only after successfully passing the Review are graphic design majors allowed to continue progression through the program.

300- and 400-level courses focus increasingly on areas of specialization, opportunities for engaging in professional internships, and work to develop a professional portfolio as the culmination of your design studies.

Woman viewing a display of posters made by graphic design students

Advertising Management Minor for Graphic Design Majors

This Business minor in Advertising Management prepares graphic design majors to work in this industry through coursework in advertising strategy, integrated brand promotion, creative strategy and campaign development.

Students working at laptops during an A+D Projects class in progress

Design Management Minor for Advertising Majors

Our minor in Design Management is a great option for advertising management, marketing, or other non-design majors who want to work in the creative communications industry. (Not available to Graphic Design majors)