School of Visual Development

Visual development artists are the key figures of a production pipeline – setting the artistic design and even the moods for the images that entertain us. Whether you’re interested in designing movie characters or composing video game environments, our Visual Development programs teach you everything you need to create the aesthetic concepts shaping 21st century media.

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What We Teach

Our degree programs are designed to equip aspiring artists and designers with a comprehensive toolbox of marketable skills that lead to success in the visual development industry. Few schools offer better training and more hands-on learning experiences than Academy of Art University.

Character Design
You will first draw from life with an emphasis on quick studies, line of action, volume, and caricature, delivering complete character designs (model sheets, turnarounds, expressions, and poses), as well as a completed maquette.
Fundamentals of Environments & Prop Design
We will explore the foundations of environment and prop design through assignments covering cinematic composition and aspect ratios, atmospheric perspective, and architectural design fundamentals. You will then complete cinematic moments, orthographic drawings, and texture/ material callouts.
Visual Development for Live Action
In this advanced course, we will teach you the concepts for organic and hard surface assets. You will generate thumbnail drawings and complete clean line drawings and value/color studies before executing a final 2D or 3D concept image. Strong sketching, drawing and painting skills, as well as an understanding of color, light, and perspective will be required.
Visual Development for Web & Mobile Gaming
You will create functional game-ready assets formatted and optimized for mobile and Web platforms. We will cover character design for games, graphic optimization, vector tools, and other industry standards so you may deliver a complete game environment featuring user interface and marketing elements.
Visual Elements of Story
We will introduce you to the various aspects of visual elements of story, including character development, cinematic composition, color theory, and perspective principles. You will study the painting process by completing character designs, cinematic thumbnails, value and lighting studies, color roughs, and final production paintings.

Rooted in Design

At the School of Visual Development, students learn to add further depth and texture to their creations by building on the most fundamental of skills, such as gesture drawing and shading. Using the latest in industry technology, students are equipped with the technical skills to make not just beautifully designed images, but more importantly, images that are effectively designed to move.

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Your dream is within reach. Follow your heart and get started on the career of your dreams.

Facilities & Technology

The latest visual development software and equipment is essential to preparing you to enter the work force, which is why we keep up with current advancements in technology and industry practices. Our creative environment and studios enable you to realize anything you can imagine in traditional and new media.

Life, Animated

Raised in La Plata, Argentina, Nicolás Villarreal MFA ’02 decided to pursue his love for animation, illustration, and visual development at Academy of Art University, first as a student and now as the Director of the School of Visual Development.


Our faculty is comprised of nationally recognized art and design experts who maintain careers on the leading edge of industry trends.

Featured Alumni

Industry Partnership

Red Clover Studios

The School of Visual Development recently partnered with the award-winning animation studio, Red Clover Studios, to join the production of two short films, Nieta and Pasteurized.

Careers in Visual Development

As one of the top art and design schools in the country, Academy of Art University visual development graduates have a range of opportunities to choose from. Our facilities, faculty, and hands-on learning approach are designed to provide you with the tools you need to succeed in your future career.


Your career starts here.
Take the first step.
Or call 415-274-2222 to request more information about this program.
Art Director
The job of the art director is to oversee and unify the visual look of a project. You'll control the overall look of the project, and make creative decisions based on mood, style, and target audience.
Matte Painter
As a matte painter, you'll create paintings to be used in photography and special effects to combine disparate elements into a single final image.
Production Artist
Working with art directors and designers, production artists are responsible for creating assets across various marking initiates in keeping with the visual style of the product.
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Learn Online

Our revolutionary online courses provide the same rigorous education that we offer on campus with greater flexibility. Our online programs are purpose-built to deliver art and design courses. Study on your own time, at your own pace. Combine online and on-site classes.

Find Out More

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