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Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Degree

With its focused thesis development process, the School of Graphic Design’s MFA program emphasizes advanced study of the field and encourages students to extend their design skills into content creation, authorship, entrepreneurialism, and social innovation.

MFA Graphic Design Unit Requirements

Major 27 units
Directed Study 18 units
Academic Study 12 units
Electives* 6 units
TOTAL 63 units
*Per director approval

MFA Graphic Design Degree Requirements

  • Successful completion of Final Thesis Project
  • Minimum 2.0 cumulative GPA
  • Minimum grade of C in all required 63 units

Additional Information

MFA Program Learning Outcomes

Graduate students will meet the following student performance criteria:

Critical & Creative Thinking

  • Conduct appropriate research to identify problems and potential solutions
  • Initiate appropriate level of audience involvement and participation
  • Demonstrate the resourcefulness and flexibility necessary to conceive and execute design solutions

Conceptual Skills

  • Create compelling and engaging visual communications that convey appropriate messages and ideas
  • Address problems through a design process
  • Develop design solutions that function effectively within a defined context (social, cultural, technological, economic, etc.)

Formal Skills

  • Create visual communications demonstrating competent formal design skills which include: hierarchy, typography, aesthetics, composition and construction of meaningful images
  • Demonstrate competence in media, materials, tools, technology, and techniques

Professional Readiness

  • Demonstrate sound organization and design project management skills
  • Effectively present and communicate ideas
  • Demonstrate the skills necessary for chosen career path through the presentation of a competent body of work

MFA Thesis Project

  • Produce a comprehensive graduate thesis project that successfully utilizes design to solve for an identified problem
  • Propose a graduate thesis project that identifies a problem, and has the potential for successful development using design

Academy of Art University Learning Outcomes
Graduates of the Academy of Art University will demonstrate the ability to:

  1. Produce a body of work suitable for seeking professional opportunities in their chosen field of art and design.
  2. Solve creative problems within their field of art and design, including research and synthesis of technical, aesthetic, and conceptual knowledge.
  3. Communicate their ideas professionally and connect with their intended audience using visual, oral, and written presentation skills relevant to their field.
  4. Execute technical, aesthetic, and conceptual decisions based on an understanding of art and design principles.
  5. Evaluate work in their field, including their own work, using professional terminology.
  6. Recognize the influence of major cultural and aesthetic trends, both historical and contemporary, on art and design products.
  7. Learn the professional skills and behaviors necessary to compete in the global marketplace for art and design.


Please see Degree Breakdown for requirements for the program. Explore our course catalog and take classes based on your interests, either online or in our world-class facilities in San Francisco.

Graduate Degree Breakdowns

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

The MFA degree provides advanced study for students pursuing a career in Graphic Design. Studio courses focus on the techniques necessary to develop and master technical skills. Graduate Liberal Arts courses promote the expression of ideas and effective communication utilizing visual, oral and written presentation skills. The program culminates with an independent final project. Students will graduate from the program equipped with a portfolio of work and prepared for professional opportunities in the field of Graphic Design.

Gainful Employment Information

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Phil Hamlett

Graduate Director of Graphic Design

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