students read poetry from their experimental zine in the graphic design studio

BFAGraphic Design

Learn how to communicate ideas visually—in print, on screen, or in space.

Overview

Ambitious and innovative design

Graphic designer and curator Na Kim speaks to a group at the Curatorial Research Bureau in San Francisco.

Graphic designer and curator Na Kim speaks to a group at the Curatorial Research Bureau in San Francisco. Courtesy of the Curatorial Research Bureau.

Graphic Design at CCA is dedicated to conceptual exploration and practical problem solving. We teach students to become leaders in the field by emphasizing craft, creativity, and collaboration, and we encourage them to engage with pressing social issues and think about how their work shows up in the world.

Jennifer Sonderby, faculty and CCA Graphic Design alumn, takes Graphic Design students on VIP tour of SFMOMA

Professor Jennifer Sonderby (MFA Interdisciplinary Design 2002) takes students on a VIP tour of San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Draw inspiration from the Bay Area

The classroom is where the work begins, not where it ends. The Bay Area is known for its legacy of craft and social justice and is one of the world’s most innovative technology and design hubs. Students have the opportunity to intern for technology companies, design studios, and cultural institutions.

Situated within a top art college, the Graphic Design program also benefits from an atmosphere of hands-on making and experimentation. Students are constantly giving and getting feedback and testing their ideas with faculty, visiting experts, and peers.

2021 graphic design school rankings

When compared to hundreds of schools across the U.S., our STEM-designated graphic design program ranks among the best. Academic reputation, admission selectivity, the program’s depth and breadth, and value are all factors that help determine the latest CCA rankings:

Studios & Shops

Work across a broad range of media

Four students do a collaborative activity around a table with stickers.

Our program is grounded in critical thinking and a passion for investigation. We strive to consider the political, social, and environmental impact of our work. You’ll learn to integrate thinking and making as you work across a broad range of media, from zines to virtual reality. Exploring the historical and contemporary contexts of graphic design will help you refine your voice and build your design toolkit.

A student pins up graphic posters on a white wall in the Nave.

At the core of our curriculum are sequences of three graphic design and three typography courses. These courses teach the foundational concepts of craft and form, engage with exploration and process, and introduce information systems and brand identity. Students also have opportunities to take advanced studios in service design, packaging, type design, and more.

someone experiencing virtual reality at the graphic design final show

Learn to use industry-leading software

We embrace new technologies and up-and-coming design applications. You’ll take a two-course sequence in Interactive Design, which teaches you to be creative and critical in the web browser using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Projects explore the potential of basic code, from typography to visual composition. We also partner with the college’s Education Technology Services to pilot a range of embedded technologies in our studio spaces.

Skills that prepare you for professional practice

  • Motion graphics
  • User experience and user interface design
  • Editorial design
  • Environmental graphics
  • Interaction design
  • Typography
  • Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop
  • Print, motion-based, and interactive media
  • HTML, CSS, and JavaScript

Faculty

Creative thinkers and makers

Our faculty are practicing designers with experience in app interfaces, consumer electronics, exhibition design, motion graphics, publishing, typography-focused work, and more. They’re a big reason why we’re a top-ranking graphic design school. With such diverse viewpoints and practices, they help create a vibrant studio culture that inspires and challenges students.

chair Rachel Berger headshot black and white glasses monochrome

Rachel Berger, Chair of Graphic Design

Chair Rachel Berger is a researcher of cultural artifacts and a practicing designer. Before joining CCA, she was a senior designer at SYPartners, part design studio, consultancy, and leadership advisory. She has worked on projects for a number of high-profile clients, including Virgin America, Levi Strauss & Co., AARP, Hyatt, IBM, Groupon, and AT&T. As a practitioner with broad interests—architecture, feminism, and transportation to name a few—she’s excited to show students how expansive the field of graphic design can be.

Sara Raffo, assistant chair of graphic design

Sara Raffo, Assistant Chair of Graphic Design

Assistant Chair Sara Raffo specializes in civic design, data visualization, and interaction design. In addition to teaching, Sara partners with local governments, community planners, and designers who create inclusive, human-centered environments all around the United States. A longtime supporter of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education, she has developed and led national STEM conferences and conducted grant-funded studies that champion the integration of art and design thinking.

Curriculum

We think with our hands

Synthesize concept, creativity, and craft

Graphic Design at CCA provides a robust understanding of the professional practice, as well as a fluid skill set for pushing the discipline’s boundaries through interdisciplinary means. Courses teach industry-standard software, the methods for moving projects from concept to creation, and the expression of ideas through visual and graphic elements. View sample course descriptions.

Investigate ideas through every dimension

Before diving into their chosen major, every undergraduate participates in the First Year Experience. Students explore a wide range of materials and tools over the course of two semesters. Faculty from different disciplines guide studio projects, group critiques, and theoretical discussions, setting students up for success throughout their major coursework.

BFA Graphic Design

Core Studio

Drawing 1
3.0 units
2D, 3D, and 4D
9.0 units

Graphic Design Major Requirements

Graphic Design Tools
3.0 units
Graphic Design 1–3
9.0 units
Typography 1–3
9.0 units
Interactive
3.0 units
Advanced Interactive
3.0 units
Media History 2
3.0 units
Professional Practice Workshop
1.0 unit
Internship
2.0 units
Graphic Design Electives
3.0 units
Advanced Design Studio
6.0 units
Senior Thesis
3.0 units

Additional Studio Requirements

Upper Division Interdisciplinary Studio
3.0 units
Critical Ethnic Studies Studio
3.0 units
Studio Electives
9.0 units

Humanities & Sciences Requirements

Writing 1
3.0 units
Writing 2
3.0 units
Introduction to the Arts
3.0 units
Introduction to the Modern Arts
3.0 units
Foundation in Critical Studies
3.0 units
Media History 1: History of Visual Communications
3.0 units
Critical Ethnic Studies Seminar (2000 level)
3.0 units
Literary and Performing Arts Studies (2000 level)
3.0 units
Philosophy and Critical Theory (2000 level)
3.0 units
Social Science/History (2000 level)
3.0 units
Science/Math (2000 level)
3.0 units
History of Art and Visual Culture (2000 level)
3.0 units
Humanities and Sciences Electives (2000 or 3000 level, at least 6 units must be 3000 level)
12.0 units

Total 120.0 units

Careers

The next generation of leaders

Our students graduate from the program with the skills they need to develop their own independent practices or work in larger, collaborative settings. They successfully land roles for companies and studios like IDEO, Facebook, Google, MacFadden & Thorpe, Wolff Olins, Bonfire Labs, Frog Design, California Academy of Sciences, Atlassian, and Snap Inc. Wherever they go, they make well-crafted, thoughtful, and inclusive work.

Potential career paths

  • Graphic designer
  • Interaction designer
  • Visual designer
  • Web designer
  • Product designer
  • Type designer
  • Book designer
  • UX designer
  • Service designer
  • Motion graphics designer
  • Editorial designer
  • Identity designer

News & Events

What’s happening in our community?

How to Apply

Imagine new contexts for design

The Graphic Design program is a place for many different kinds of students. We look for the curious and creative, those who are eager to achieve a high level of refinement while pushing the boundaries of their craft. At CCA, you’re free to develop an expansive practice, including the exciting fields of physical computing and net art. Your studio work will move audiences to feel, think, and act in completely new ways.

Find your creative community at CCA

Apply now