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Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Degree

The Visual Development MFA program provides advanced coursework in still life painting, figure drawing, character design, concept painting, layout design for animation, and other core skills of professional visual developers. The goal of each graduate student is the completion of a signature thesis book showcasing design work for a story-based project.

MFA Visual Development Unit Requirements

Major 27 units
Directed Study 18 units
Graduate Liberal Arts 12 units
Electives* 6 units
TOTAL 63 units
*Per director approval

MFA Visual Development 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:

MFA Thesis Project

  • Present an original thesis concept worthy of the MFA degree
  • Demonstrate the feasibility of their thesis project
  • Produce a professional-standard project, with topical content for the industry, showcasing artistic ability

Artistic Ability

  • Demonstrate strong drawing and compositional skills
  • Create value studies that demonstrate an understanding of lighting, composition, and space

Research and Critical Thinking

  • Apply visual research to design solutions
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the production pipeline by presenting an effective timeline at the Midpoint Review (MPR only)


  • Collaborate effectively to produce creative projects

Visual Development

  • Apply color and design elements consistent with the overall look of the film.
  • Design elements to support the narrative
  • Demonstrate continuity in visual storytelling

Presentation Skills

  • Create visually compelling, professional-quality presentation materials
  • Pitch ideas clearly and professionally

Professional Readiness

  • Produce a professional-level digital and print portfolio suitable for seeking employment within the industry
  • Demonstrate accountability for planning complex projects, prioritizing tasks and meeting project milestones.

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 Visual Development. 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 thesis project. Students will graduate from the Visual Development degree program equipped with a portfolio of work and prepared for professional opportunities in the competitive field.

Gainful Employment Information

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Alessandro Squitti

Full Time Faculty–Visual Development

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