Graphic Design College of Design

Courses & Syllabi





Liberal Education Requirements
All undergraduate degree programs include liberal education courses as well as the requirements for your particular major. Some of the courses required for your major may also fulfill liberal education requirements. Consult your four-year plan and your academic advisor on course selection as well as choosing the appropriate grading base.

Pre-Graphic Design Courses
Pre-graphic design students must take and successfully complete (C- or better) five foundation courses in order to go through portfolio review. Students who pass portfolio review are admitted to the graphic design major and are then able to take the upper-level design courses.

Program Requirements
The graphic design program aims at producing well-rounded students. To that end, students must take at least one course related to communication, art history, photography, and business/economics/marketing. For specific course options within each interdisciplinary focus area, see the University Catalog. All coursework in the major must be taken on the A-F grade basis and be completed with a C- or better.





Note: The course syllabi below are not necessarily from the current term. Nevertheless, they will offer an indication of course content and structure. Contact the instructor for the official syllabus. The course syllabus is posted at the discretion of the instructor.


DES 1101 - Introduction to Design Thinking

Students in DES 1101W will explore, through lecture and hands-on projects, the many ways that design thinking has become a powerful force in the 21st century. On the one hand, design methods and processes are seen as an important means of tackling complex social and cultural problems. On the other hand, designers stimulate desire and need through their manipulation of the form and function of places and objects. Designers are asked to re-think and re-shape processes as well as products. Design production has expanded to include the design of interactions, communications services, and collaborations.

Design thinking is a crucial means of fostering creativity and innovation when employed as a problem-solving tool in such fields as business or medical practice. More than ever, designers are called upon to place human needs at the center of their design engagement. As a result, design thinking has become a powerful tool to address issues such as sustainability and social justice, at both a macro and micro level. This course is intended for undergraduate students who are interested in learning how design thinking and design processes can be used as a catalyst for exploration, innovation and research. This course exposes students to many facets of design thinking and provides them with an interdisciplinary perspective about design and human behavior. DES 1101W offers the opportunity to raise awareness about the value and the power of design thinking in our culture.


DES 1101W Introduction to Design Thinking (Hemmis) Spring 2020



GDES 1311 - Foudations: Drawing and Design in Two and Three Dimensions

In this course the formal, perceptual, symbolic and technical aspects of visual communication will be introduced--with the emphasis on drawing. Design elements and principles will be applied within the context of observational drawing, as well as two- and-three dimensional design. Design process and creative problem solving will be stressed. We will work in a variety of mediums--charcoal, conte, white chalk, but the emphasis will be on gaining expertise with the pencil. Subject matter will range from the figure to two-dimensional abstraction projects. You will gain expertise in drawing technique, as well as in composition, visual unity and balance and in visual analysis of drawings.

Additionally, students will learn about:

Design elements/principles in context of observational drawing.

Integrative approach to two-dimensional design, three-dimensional design, and drawing.

Broad conceptual framework for design exploration.

Emphasizes perceptual aspects of visual forms.


Syllabus: GDes 1311 Foundations: Drawing & Design in 2 & 3 Dimensions (Gay) Spring 2020



GDES 1312 - Foundations: Color and Design in Two and Three Dimensions

This design foundations course introduces students to color theory and its application in two and three dimensional design through lectures, demonstrations, extensive studio work and critiques. Emphasis is on developing students' ability to use color effectively in two and three dimensional design applications by studying traditional design elements, gestalt grouping principles, theories of color organization, color and spatial perception, and color interaction." But it is so much more. This class has a well-earned reputation as 'the toughest class you'll ever love.'

Class time is spent with slide and lecture presentations, studio work, and group and individual critiques. Successful completion requires a significant commitment to time, energy, and resources. The result: You will produce a portfolio that is a descriptive explanation and illustration of color and design theory, enhanced with your own creative projects: a physical product of impressive proportions. You will be proud of your work. Most importantly, you will see the world in a whole new light. You'll see color where you didn't see it before and recognize the 'color magic' around you.


Syllabus: GDes 1312 Foundations: Color & Design in 2 & 3 Dimensions (Newby) Spring 2020


GDES 1315 - Foundations: The Graphic Studio

This class will provide an overview of the design communication process including creative procedure, terminology, and technology, and will introduce the use of current computer applications. Students will gain skills in digital illustration and page layouts, and image- scanning and manipulation. Graphic design elements of typography, production, color separation, printing process, and photography will also be addressed.

This class will provide an overview of the design communication process including conceptualizing, creative process, terminology, and technology. The assignments will introduce the most current computer applications used in the graphic design profession. Students will gain skills in digital illustration, pay layout, image-scanning and image manipulation. Graphic design elements of typography, production, color separation, digital printing processes and photography will also be addressed. 

Syllabus: GDes 1315 Foundations: The Graphic Studio (Jasper) Spring 2020DES 2101.1 Martin D. Sp20


DES 2101 - Design and Visual Presentation

This is an online course with weekly tasks and submissions. Coursework consists of lectures, tutorials, readings, exercises, quizzes and discussions. Course materials, lectures, and project submissions will be online with one assisted lab session (optional) per week. In addition, students will submit 3 hard copies during the year (see week 1 getting started for a more detailed description).

This course introduces basic design practices used in presentation. Students will design and create projects that develop design skills useful in today’s society. They will engage in the evaluation, discussion and activity of visual problem solving. Participants will gain skill in conceptual thinking and problem-solving while learning common computer and manual applications. Students will practice use of images, type, color, sequencing and layout. Course is oriented toward the beginner. There will be written exam/s on the readings, lectures, and software.

Two basic intentions:

1. Increase design acuity (awareness of design principles in concept and action).
2. Develop design craft with basic skills in Adobe Creative Suite and Microsoft PowerPoint.

Syllabus: DES 2101 Visual Presentation (Martin) Spring 2020

Basic Design Requirements:
Students must take A-F and receive a passing grade. These courses can be taken the same semester as portfolio review, or should be taken the semester after passing.
*Note: The course syllabus may not be the official one, but is meant to provide an indication of course content and structure. Contact the instructor for the official syllabus. The course syllabus is posted at the discretion of the instructor.


GDES 2342 - Web Design

The world’s most celebrated personal computer, the Apple Macintosh, was introduced more than 30 years ago in January of 1984. Since, every decade has witnessed revolutionary paradigm shifts in the software and hardware that enables graphic designers to create visual content. Today, graphic design as we know it is increasingly focused around web design, digital devices and the computers that make it possible. And web design is an integral part of a graphic design student’s education, even if the student considers him- or herself a “print designer”. So, where do you fit in this digitally connected world as a 21st century graphic designer?

With that in mind, this course is intended as an introduction to the fundamentals of web design and prototyping for websites. Students gain experience using software and writing HTML5 and CSS3 to design web pages. Additionally, students learn prototyping basics using Adobe XD, a sophisticated application built specifically for the purpose of quickly producing clickable, HTML5/CSS3 compliant prototypes. Additional emphasis is placed on the introduction of the user-centered design process, including usability testing.

Syllabus: GDes 2342 Web Design (Trice) Spring 2020


GDES 2345 - Typography

Typographic Design is an introduction to the art of visual communication: the visual realization of a most basic element of communication--the word. The history of typographic forms, principles of composition, and the expressive potential of type will be explored though reading, research, exercises, and design production.

Sequential studies will follow the design process: problem-solving through exploration, experimentation, selection, critique, and refinement. Effectiveness of typographic design will be evaluated in terms of legibility, readability, and expression: the direct correlation to gestalt design principles will be evident.

Assignments include textbook readings, research from additional sources, analysis and critique of found design, and, primarily, studio design production. Studio assignments will involve both handwork, to train the eye and hand; and digital typographic design and illustration using InDesign and Illustrator.

Additionally, students will learn about:

Design process from problem-solving through exploration, experimentation, selection, critique, and refinement.

History of typographic forms

Principles of composition

Expressive potential of type.

Syllabus: GDes 2345 Typography (Moran) Spring 2020

Advanced Design Requirements:
Students must take A-F and receive a passing grade. These courses can only be taken after the student has passed portfolio review and declared their graphic design major.

*Note: The course syllabus may not be the official one, but is meant to provide an indication of course content and structure. Contact the instructor for the official syllabus. The course syllabus is posted at the discretion of the instructor.


GDES 2361 Photography

This is a comprehensive studio course in digital photography that covers technical skill, post-processing techniques and creative subject treatment through the lens of design. Students will develop both creative skill and vision through the photographic medium and cultivate an eye for light, movement, and meaningful composition. Students will also learn to analyze content and narrative of a photo as well as how the meaning of a subject can be altered with photography. The goal is for students to develop a greater understanding of communication through imagery in an age of camera overload. Students will apply this understanding and skill to solve design problems through work created with the camera medium.

Think of the camera as a sketchbook. Developing an eye for a composition created by light, color, movement, line and shape takes time, as does translating your perspective for this composition through the settings of a camera and the digital photographic medium. In this course you will learn a variety of technical skills associated with photography and processing needed to create an array of stylistic imagery. You will also learn to analyze the content and meaning of a photo in many contexts, as well as how to change the meaning of a subject with a photograph. Developing both creative skill and vision through photography aids in a greater understanding of communication through imagery and the role of photography in design.

Additionally, students will learn about:

Photography for graphic designers: digital/film photographic

developing/image manipulation, printing.

Syllabus: GDes 2361 Photography (Malone) Spring 2020


DES 3201 - Career and Internship Preparation for Design

This class is ideal for undergraduate students in Design majors or minors who are confident they're in the right major and want to begin seeking jobs and internships related to their career goals. Career and Internship Preparation for Design will walk you through the internship or job search process step-by-step to help you feel more confident in your ability to secure positions in your industry area. Through in-class presentations and activities, you will identify your top skills/strengths and learn how to market these qualities through cover letters, resumes, portfolios and job interviews. Additionally, you will learn the best resources and strategies for finding job openings in your field. Students will also have several opportunities to get advice and insight from industry professionals.

Additionally, students will learn about: 

Researching career opportunities/organizations related to industry.

Setting career goals based on skills/interests.

Identifying job search skills to secure internships, implement transition from college to employment.

Syllabus: Varies with instructor

Note: If you are still uncertain about your career plans or questioning your major, DES 1202, Discovering Majors and Careers, may be a more appropriate course.


GDES 2399W - Design and its Discontents: Design, Society, Economy and Culture

Students are introduced to research and critical writing assignments pertinent to graphic design. Readings, lecture, discussion, and research inform written project proposals, studio production, reflection, and blogging. The course considers dialectics, theory, and ethics in the contemporary academic and professional landscape of graphic design. Assignments are referred to as research projects, which introduce principles and practices of critical and investigative research, beginning with an examination of the self as a Student? Designer? Consumer? Inquiry throughout the semester extends and addresses the overlapping realms of design, society, culture and the economy of graphic design.

Additionally, students will learn about:

Secret history of modern, postmodern, and contemporary design.

Principles/practices of designers who operate outside of main stream. Innovators, activists, cultural gadflies whose work challenges, provokes, and inspires.

Context of economy, society, culture, and politics.

Lecture, research, studio production.

Written project proposals/reflections/blogging.

Themes of consumerism, sustainability, advertising message, branding and consumption are studied as they relate to graphic design. 

Syllabus:  GDes 2399W Design and Its Discontent (Ott) Spring 2020


GDES 3311 Illustration

In this course, students will learn about:

Two aspects of illustration for contemporary graphic designer.

Image making, by hand or digitally, for use in design projects.

Design development.

Mapping ideas/expressing thoughts visually.

(Not observational drawing course)

Syllabus: GDES 3311 Illustration (Owens) Spring 2020


GDES 3312 - Color and Form in Surface Design

In this course, students will work on surface design projects involving printing, mostly on paper and fabric. All projects are centered around hands on creative production and the further development of the application of color in design. The technical emphasis of the course is screen printing, but coursework also allows students the possibility of experimentation with mixed media for example, letterpress, relief printing, laser printing, monoprinting, and dyeing.

The final project consists of a "making" component: surface design will be applied to products. Students will engage throughout the semester with effective use of design principles, and are challenged to apply a conceptual approach to their work. Each project is evaluation in terms of design criteria as well as its production quality. Projects are tailored to suit the research interests of both graphic design and apparel design students.

Additionally, students will learn about: 

Use of color/form representation in two-dimensional surface applications.

Historical use of color and of spatial representation in visual communication.


GDes 3312 Color & Form in Surface Design (Boyd Brent) Spring 2020


GDES 3351 - Text and Image

This course focuses on using images and type to communicate visually. The course will build on typographic, compositional and imaging skills that students have started to develop in their earlier classes. The design of series, sequences and publications will extend the potential of image/type relationships.

Additionally, students will learn about: 

Composition of visual information using grid structures to integrate text/image.

Informational/expressive aspects of graphic design, hierarchical relationships of visual elements.

Methods of text layout that enhance communication.

Text and Image considers the inter-relationships between pictures and words and how they communicate visually and literally using design principles and elements.

Emphasis is placed on series, sequences and narrative using print-oriented media.

Page layout and pagination are considered in the context of publication design challenges.

Some exposure to off-set printing technology (digital image file types, CMYK and Pantone color systems, paper terminology and binding structures) is imparted through an applied project.

Syllabus: GDes 3351 Text & Image (Jasper) Spring 2020


GDES 3352 - Identity and Symbols 

The class will focus on the development of visual identity through a systems approach to design with application to various printed collateral. This course will prepare students to design a symbol, a logotype, stationary system and collateral products, keeping the identity consistent and intact throughout the process. Students will apply gestalt design principles, figure-ground relationships, and contrast within the structure of the grid to aid organization from piece to piece and within the whole.

This course will build on previously learned graphic design principles including a continued investigation of typography and its application. Students will explore the representation of abstract ideas in the form of symbols for the purpose of building identity.

Additionally, students will learn about: 

Representation of abstract ideas through symbols.

Development of visual identity systems.  

Syllabus: GDes 3352 Identity and Symbols (Johnson, H.) Spring 2020


GDES 3353 - Packaging and Display

The design of packaging and displays involves three-dimensional considerations, in addition to the two-dimensional graphic skills that students have been developing in earlier courses. The assignments will present students with new opportunities and challenges in creating innovative and functional designs that contain, present, and communicate products effectively. Students will conceptualize visually and verbally, sketch ideas in a rough form, and develop final concepts into three-dimensional mockups with finished computer graphics.

Use of innovative materials and shape solutions will be encouraged. Study of the competitive landscape will be required. Real-world packaging case studies will be presented for guidance, showing the step-by-step concept and design process involved in their development.

Syllabus: GDes 3353 Packaging and Display (Johnson, H.) Spring 2020


GDES 4131W - History of Graphic Design

This course is an overview of the history of visual communication with an emphasis on graphic design. We will explore the history of images and writing systems and develop a better understanding of human communication systems. What can we learn about history and different cultures through the letterforms and symbols that they used? How has visual communication contributed to the formation of the knowledge-base of cultural groups? How do the formal qualities of these communications depict the values and zeitgeist of a time period? Using both primary and secondary sources we will explore these questions.

Additionally, students will learn about:

Historical analysis of visual communication.

Technological, cultural, and aesthetic influences.

How historical events are communicated/perceived through graphic presentation/imagery.

Syllabus: GDes 4131W History of Graphic Design (Martinson) Fall 2017


GDES 4196 - Internship in Graphic Design 

Supervised work experience relating activity in business, industry, or government to the student's area of study. Integrative paper or project may be required. Student may contact the instructor or department for information.  

Syllabus: see faculty adviser 


GDES 4196 - Internship in Graphic Design

Supervised work experience relating activity in business, industry, or government to the student's area of study. Integrative paper or project may be required. Student may contact the instructor or department for information.

Syllabus: See faculty adviser


GDES 4312 Advanced Print Design

Advanced Print Design offers an opportunity for students to propose, design, and produce printed graphic design products while expanding upon their experience in surface design and printing. Students will explore graphic design communication through group and individualized projects in a cohort, and under the supervision of graphic design faculty.

Syllabus: GDES 4312 Advanced Print Design  (Moran) Fall 2019


GDES 4345 - Advanced Typography 

Advanced Typography is a further exploration of expressive visual communication of words. Both the fundamental legibility of ‘the invisible art’ and overt expression through type will be addressed.

In this course, students will:

Gain broader experience in the selection and arrangement of type for effective legibility and readability and enhance skills for shaping verbal messages through typographic design.

Our verbal culture is documented and expressed through typography. In the publication design assignment, students create a functional organization of complex information through effective hierarchy and typographic expression.

Students demonstrate an ability to produce refined, sophisticated information and publication design that illuminates the subject and supports the reader/user experience.

Students experiment with solutions, critically analyze the results of their own solutions and those of their peers, and make modifications to their solutions based on the critique.

Syllabus: GDes 4345 Advanced Typography (Klinert) Fall 2019


GDES 4361W - Thesis Studio and Writing

A hybrid of studio and seminar, Senior Thesis and Writing will combine inquiry, research, creative problem-solving, and design prototyping. The course will use research to launch the initial design stages of a comprehensive graphic design thesis project. ‘Design authorship’ – combining writing and designing, self-publishing, and research and project initiation – is integral to the course.

The textbook will elucidate the ways graphic designers enlarge their domain to combine image-making, typography, writing, social and political causes, business opportunities and collaboration across media. As a work of writing about graphic design and visual culture itself, the text is self-exemplifying. Senior Thesis and Writing is writing intensive and also reading and speaking intensive – students will be expected to read, verbalize and share their writing and designs.

Syllabus: GDes 4361W Thesis Studio and Exhibition (Thomas, K.) Fall 2019


GDES 4362 - Senior Thesis and Exhibition

Thesis Studio and Exhibition is a Lecture/Studio and Critique class with the purpose of helping the student develop and refine a body of design work that constitutes a professional graphic design portfolio. We will also discuss professional issues related to the business of graphic design. There will be many guest speakers who are design school graduates working locally. They will share their portfolio and job search strategies, and interviewing experiences.

The preparation of a professional portfolio is an essential part of transitioning from graphic design student to working designer. A strong professional portfolio can also provide an important foundation for the development of a successful future design career. The course assignments will give students guidance in improving their current student portfolio pieces, developing new portfolio pieces, and presenting their work, and themselves, to prospective employers in a compelling way.

Syllabus: GDes 4362 Thesis Studio and Exhibition (Engebretson) Spring 2020


GDES 4363 Graphic Design Portfolio

Preparation of professional portfolio. Graphic design thesis exhibition. Professional issues.

Syllabus: GDes 4363 Graphic Design Portfolio (Arney)Spring 2020


GDES 4371 Data Visualization Studio

Visual articulation of data. Expansive research, meticulous gathering of data, analysis. Develop cohesive graphical narratives/build solid foundation in craft of presenting data.

Syllabus: GDES 4371 Data Visualization Studio  (Park) Spring 2020


GDES 5342 Advanced Web Design

Building upon the foundations of web design introduced in gdes 2342 or equivalent experience, this class addresses the opportunities and complexities in graphic design applied to the development of websites. This approach requires analysis of informational content, the
context in which this will function to a target audience, data from usability testing, and to explore options for re-telling or introducing content in visually meaningful and engaging ways.

Syllabus:  GDES 5342 Advanced Wed Design (Park) Spring 2020


GDES 5368 Fundamentals of Game Design

This course focuses on understanding games in all kinds of format: paper-based strategy games, electronic game, classic board game, etc. This course examines the theoretical and practical aspects of making games. Focuses will be placed on its designing rules, strategies, methodologies, and organizational structures, and the design process from the ground up. Further analysis and evaluate the elements that makes a game successful and how they function will be included. In addition, investigation on understanding design, interactivity, player’s choice, action, and outcome, rule-making and rule-breaking, the social interaction, the story telling, the emotion that games invoke, and the meaning and ideology will be included. Other topics such as signs and cultural meaning, and visual representation will also be discussed.

Syllabus:  GDES 5368 Fundamentals of Game Design (Chu) Spring 2020






Contact Information

Undergraduate Student Services
12 McNeal Hall, 1985 Buford Ave., St. Paul, MN 55108
107 Rapson Hall, 89 Church Street SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455
P: 612-624-1717 | E:

General Information
P: 612-626-9068 | E: