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The best graphic design meaningfully promotes, educates, directs, informs, exposes, clarifies, beautifies, and delights the people who engage with it.

program or department head

Department Head

Tsai Lu Liu

Professor and Department Head of Graphic Design and Industrial Design

T: (919) 515-8340 E: tsailu_liu@ncsu.edu

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The work of graphic design is twofold: it gives shape to messages and information in the form of designed artifacts, and it facilitates people’s interaction with messages and information in the form of physical and digital interfaces. Graphic designers envision the artifacts and interfaces they create as part of larger systems, effectively representing and communicating networks of services, experiences, and products. The best graphic design meaningfully promotes, educates, directs, informs, exposes, clarifies, beautifies, and delights the people who engage with it.

Graphic designers:

  • Communicate information and messages through typography, images, symbols, physical materials, and digital platforms
  • Visualize, prototype, and produce artifacts and interactions such as books, magazines, identity systems, product packaging, signage, websites, applications, and data visualizations
  • Employ human-centered research methods to understand and inform design decisions
  • Develop strategies and systems for making services more accessible to users
  • Collaborate with other experts, such as ethnographers, software engineers, psychologists, and computer programmers

The Graphic Design faculty teach these skills as they encourage and help students develop and expand their creative abilities.

Collaborative Sponsored Studios

At NC State University, graphic design majors can:

  • Establish a strong design foundation through sequenced core studios and then move on to advanced studios in special topics like data visualization, branding, and accessible design.
  • Explore and become proficient in a wide range of media — print, web, mobile, virtual reality, augmented reality, and embedded technology.
  • Thrive in a creative culture rife with graphic designers, industrial designers, landscape architects, architects and artists.
  • Learn to think through making, using rapid prototyping techniques to test ideas early and often.
  • Practice visualization strategies such as mapping, diagramming, and storyboarding.
  • Apply appropriate research methods to more effectively put people at the center of design solutions.
  • Expand knowledge of the field by taking an advanced studio in another College of Design discipline (a swing studio).
  • Study abroad for a semester or summer at our NC State Prague Institute, https://pragueinstitute.ncsu.edu/, or take advantage of other study abroad options.
  • Gain valuable professional experience through paid internships within leading firms, and/or participate in sponsored studios as part of the graphic design curriculum.

Graphic design students study comparative ideas about, and methods for, creating a wide range of visual communications. Sequenced core studios supported by typography and image-making courses progressively introduce and develop the necessary skills, processes, and sensitivities across a range of media. Through project-based assignments, students acquire strong formal and conceptualization skills. They learn and practice graphic design strategies, such as mapping and diagramming, to understand design problems, audiences, contexts, and visualization techniques, including ideation and iteration, to explore and refine design possibilities and determine appropriateness.

In advanced courses during the junior and senior years, students develop a particular body of knowledge and skills, where they apply the concepts, methods, and techniques they have acquired to real-world contemporary design problems. Students interact with clients and organizations through upper level studios and internships to gain experience working with commissioners, communities, and end users. Upon completing the program, students have built a portfolio of professional work that prepares them for entry-level positions in the areas they will pursue as careers.

The Master of Graphic Design (MGD) program helps move the passionate student toward a deeper knowledge of graphic and experience design and purposeful, individually driven design practices. Inquiry into contemporary and emergent design issues prepares graduates of the program for leadership positions that both evolve the profession and advance the discipline. Successful completion of the MGD results in a terminal degree, equal to the MFA, and qualifies graduates to teach at the university level or to pursue a PhD in Design.

Faculty charge graduate students to closely examine the cultural and technological situatedness of graphic design and its products, and to seek understanding of the people who use and interact with the things that graphic designers make. Coursework acquaints students with relevant theories and design research methods that frame and ground the design of propositional visual communication systems.

Varied topics prompt students to explore contemporary design concerns: the cultural contexts of design, the influence and experiences of end users, the social and technological environments within which designed artifacts operate. Subtopics within these broad concerns allow faculty and students the opportunity to frame, research, and respond to current and future design challenges.

The MGD program is consistently recognized as one of the top NASAD accredited graduate graphic design programs in the country and one of the few with STEM Classification (CIP). The faculty is nationally and internationally recognized (see Faculty at a Glance). Alumni are designers in leading professional offices around the world, faculty members in colleges and universities throughout the US and Canada, and doctoral students in PhD programs worldwide.

Affordable NC State tuition usually makes the cost of attending NC State well below that of equivalent graduate institutions. For out-of-state students, North Carolina residency laws recognize graduate students as residents after their first year.

Program Expectations

Graduate education differs from undergraduate study. The bachelor’s degree establishes core skills and general knowledge with which to build careers in mainstream design practice. Graduate education, by contrast, asks students to establish design and research agendas that will help shape the future of the profession as well as their own careers.

MGD faculty expect students to exhibit behaviors and fashion inquiries that deepen individual knowledge, further design making and thinking skills, and anticipate the future of graphic design practice. To this end, students should demonstrate:

    • Intellectual curiosity and independent thought;
    • Self-motivation for mastering literature and discourse in the discipline and related fields;
    • Processes for posing researchable questions and corresponding design studies;
    • The ability to analyze and synthesize current user experience principles;
    • Creativity and insight in the development and uses of form;
    • Time commitment that yields thoughtful, thorough, and sophisticated investigations;
    • A collaborative attitude.

Director of Graduate Programs

Denise Gonzales Crisp

Denise Gonzales Crisp

Professor of Graphic Design and Director of Graduate Programs for Graphic Design
Email: denise_crisp@ncsu.edu
Phone: (919) 515-8361

MGD II: Two-year Master of Graphic Design Program

The MGD II program targets applicants who have earned a BFA or equivalent in graphic design and are practiced in visual communication, user interaction design (UI), user experience design (UX) and/or related design fields.

Integrated graduate studios, seminars, and workshops expose students to histories, design-related theories, and research methods relevant to current and emerging practices. Students investigate questions individually and collaboratively around the design of communication and interaction in several ways: through making (visualizations, visual diagrams, and functioning prototypes, for instance); assigned and independent reading and research; discussion and critique; and writing. Students also enroll in at least one elective offered in the college, university, or our affiliate universities, Duke University and UNC, Chapel Hill.

Students create a body of work as they explore a research interest area within studio and seminar subtopics. The experience of creating this work, coupled with researching and writing, positions students to identify a design investigation in their final year, which culminates in the required Final Project. For this work, students comprehensively research an area of interest, design propositional artifacts (findings), document the research and findings in a written thesis, and present the project in a public forum.

MGD III: Three-year Master of Graphic Design Program

The MGD III program targets applicants who have some professional experience but who have not earned a first degree in graphic design or have earned a BA with a graphic design concentration. (Note that applicants aiming for a qualifying professional degree in graphic design should apply to the Bachelor of Graphic Design program.)

MGD III students enroll in two semesters of specialized and advanced undergraduate coursework prior to matriculating to the MGD II program. The curriculum is comprised of two studio­-based courses and at least two lecture/seminar courses. The 6 credit studios cover systems thinking in design for user experience, visual communication, and other professional graphic design topics while they prepare the student for graduate-level inquiry. Additional three credit courses focus on subjects such as mobile interaction, typography, graphic design theory and history, coding and modeling for interface design.