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Ohio University > Fine Arts > Art > Academics > Programs > Graphic Design MFA

Graphic Design MFA

Understanding the role of graphic design within a pluralistic society and a cross-cultural context are essential components of a graduate design education. The power of design thinking identifies challenges, frames opportunities, manages complex situations, generates approaches, creates deeper understanding, and shapes meaningful experiences.

Athens and Ohio University provide a peaceful and comfortable environment that serves as an incubator for thinking and making. The Master of Fine Arts degree in Graphic Design at Ohio University is a three-year program that allows a balance of rigorous professional work as well as social experiences. For those seeking a place as a refuge for graduate research in design, it is optimal.

The area chair of Graphic Design is Professor Mark Franz. Prospective graduate students or others seeking additional information about the program can contact Professor Franz via email at


'Learning How to Learn' is the underlying methodology that gives Ohio University's graduate study in graphic design its unique strength. We focus on design research within a multi-cultural world addressing social awareness and contextual messaging as content. We emphasize and assist our candidates’ research in professional forums through papers and lectures, and publishing in established professional journals.

We rebuild fundamental skills of perception, interpretation, and invention as well as understanding the nature and meaning of visual form in context. Our graduating designers aim to secure positions within top design firms and educational institutions nationally and internationally. They design within a broad spectrum of applications from solving complex problems to planning and executing solutions.



The first and second years of the MFA are devoted to studio research, seminars, art history, elective coursework, plus a professional experience in design. The third year is an intensive commitment to research in preparation for the thesis presentation that results in a comprehensive written document along with a complementary exhibition.

Credit-hour requirements:

The graduate program leading to the MFA degree in graphic design requires the completion of at least 90 semester hours of graduate study, including at least


• 28 credits in studio courses within the major

• 12 credits of additional studio, these must not be drawn from the major

• 6 credits in seminars,(3-credit seminar in area + 3-credit School of Art teaching seminar)

• 12 credits of art history/academic studies (including AH 5101 and AH 5902 "theory” course)

• 7 credits of discretionary electives, (electives are selected in consultation with faculty, 4 credits written thesis is requested of all graphic design MFA students)

• 65 SUBTOTAL minimum course credit requirements

• 25 studio thesis

• 90 TOTAL 

The specifics for these categories are outlined in the Graduate Guide for your entering semester.

This is available by CLICKING HERE.

Graphic Design Courses:

Year 1:

Each course will research various design paradigms. Depending on the faculty, exploration can be done through a rebuilding of pragmatic processes or theoretical and critical analysis of design thinking.

ART 5000 - Graduate Teaching Seminar

Assists graduate associates with practical and pedagogic support. Coursework investigates issues specific to teaching in the studio.

ART 5510 - Graphic Design I

Research of various design paradigms will be explored through a rebuilding of pragmatic processes to an end that assists all students to reach an industry standard of research, skills, and exploration process.

ART 5520 - Graphic Design II

Research of various design paradigms will be explored through a rebuilding of pragmatic processes to an end that assists all students to reach an industry standard of research, skills, and exploration process. Includes research to identify a site for the research to be conducted during ART 6510.

Year 2:

ART 6500 - Graphic Design Seminar

Lectures, discussions, field trips, and media presentations dealing with contemporary issues of critical discourse in design and the related social dynamic. Seminar content will vary depending on the professor of record. Seminar content will vary.

ART 6510 - Graphic Design Research Fellowship

Participation in a design internship/assistantship with a recognized designer or design firm, or a study abroad experience related to the field of research chosen and approved by the student’s committee.

ART 6520 - Graphic Design III

Continued research of various design paradigms will be explored through the rebuilding of the pragmatic design processes. A comparative analysis process will prepare students for the thesis and third year of visual research. The design thesis proposal will be presented for approval.

Year 3:

ART 6950 - Studio Art Written Thesis

Written studio art thesis. In addition to the MFA candidate’s final presentation format this course requires the thesis to be submitted in TAD (Thesis and Dissertation) format to the committee.

ART 7960 - MFA Studio Thesis

Content will vary as per the MFA candidate’s topic. Regardless of topic, the MFA in Graphic Design’s thesis is identified in the following way. The thesis consists of two components: Visual and Written. How the thesis is presented can be decided by the student depending on audience and intention in consultation with their committee. Whichever final format the research takes, it needs to be submitted in TAD (Thesis and Dissertation) format to the committee.

Design Electives:

These courses are offered when scheduling allows.

ART 5530 - Letterpress and Bookmaking

An introduction to handprinting techniques utilizing the letterpress, with emphasis on the design and making of the handmade book.

ART 5540 - Typography and Image

Experimentation and integration of typography for form and meaning in a variety of contexts. Use of traditional and experimental methods and materials to support and strengthen meaning and purpose.


Review Process

All MFA students accepted into the School of Art + Design Graduate Program are assigned an advisor who acts as the chairperson for the student’s formal reviews until graduation. Each student will have three members on his or her review committee.

• The student’s major academic advisor will also be their committee chair.

• The student’s advisor will appoint a second faculty member from the student’s major area.

• A faculty member from another studio program will be appointed by the ADGC.

• Additional members can be added at the request of the student

The following schedule is typical for the MFA Program in the School of Art + Design:



Fall Semester

Spring Semester


Progress Review

Candidacy Review



Thesis Proposal Review



Thesis Exam/Exhibition


The MFA Candidacy Review officially admits the student to full-candidacy for the degree by the student’s committee members. During this review the student is required to identify with the assistance of the chair of their committee a professional experience for their ART 6510, Graphic Design Research Fellowship. This is basically a graphic design professional interaction. Possibilities can include but are not limited to local or regional not-for-profit design projects, internships off or on campus or a study abroad experience for completion of this requirement.

The Thesis Proposal Review occurs close to the end of the second year of study and establishes the goals and guidelines of the student’s thesis research.

Thesis Exam/Exhibition/Presentation format review occurs prior to the end of the third year of study and satisfies an oral defense of the thesis exhibition/presentation format.


Past Visiting Design Lecturers include:


• Michael Bierut, partner Pentegram, New York,

• Steff Geissbuhler, C&G Partners, New York

• Jerry Kuyper, principle designer at Landor Associates, SiegelGale, Lippencott and Mercer

• Wolfgang Weingart, Algemeine Kunstgewerbeschule, Basel, Switzerland

• Ken Heibert, University of the Arts, Philadelphia

• John Paolini, Partner, Executive Creative Director, Sullivan, New York,

• Deborah Cavanaugh, Associate Publisher, Creative Service, for Vogue Magazine, New York,

• Andrew Blauvelt, Walker Art Center, St Paul, Minneapolis

• Denise Gonzales Crisp, North Carolina State University,

• Nina Pattek, RISD and designer in Boston, Massachusetts

• Jared Groves, principle of the design firm, Salvato,Coe + Garbor, Columbus,

• Danielle Rini-Uva, principle of the design firm, ANGIE, a design firm in Cleveland,

• Oscar Fernandez, University of Cincinnati

• Leslie Haynes, American Express Design Division in New York

• Russell Banks, Gensler, Los Angeles

• Kate Weingart-Wolfe, New School Bern, Switzerland


Our Facilities

The graphic design graduate finds their home within the College of Fine Arts along with video, film, music, theater, and dance. Cross-disciplinary activity is encouraged. MFA candidates in graphic design are encouraged to diversify their exploration through interdisciplinary research. Graphic Design shares Seigfred Hall with: printmaking (with the largest number of Bavarian limestones in the United States) along with papermaking, etching, and serigraphy; photography + integrated media, with its labs both new and traditional; ceramics, known as one of the top three ceramics research institutions; painting and drawing, offer both traditional and new-media with private studios at our Ridges’ facility; sculpture + expanded practice has one of the best foundries in the midwest and offers an expanded practices program; art history, researching topics such as contemporary Asian cultures, gender-specific extensions in critical art discourse along with traditional art history.

Our graduate students have the opportunity to work in the College of Fine Arts’ CREATE_space with other graduate candidates from the college. This environment is well established and is being continually advanced by the college. Graduate candidates are highly encouraged to advance their research in this lab.

Graphic Design has an open research studio dedicated to the major.

The Vandercook letterpress room has an extensive and rare collection of metal and wood type for designing and printing.


To Apply

Specific information regarding the School of Art + Design graduate programs and Financial Aid can be found in the Graduate Guide. To apply, click here