Graphic Design Program

The Department of Art and Graphic Design within the College of the Pacific offers an outstanding professional program for students of graphic design. The National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) accredit our program. All courses in graphic design stress the building of esthetic knowledge, perceptual awareness and creative problem solving, as well as developing a process approach that addresses practical and pragmatic requirements. This contextual awareness is the foundation for all truly creative endeavors and is the philosophy that guides the program as a whole.

Main goals of the Graphic Design BFA degree program are:

  1. Provide students with an education in aesthetic awareness
  2. Develop technical skills required by the profession
  3. Form a strong foundation in the basic principles of design
  4. Understand the influences of modern production techniques
  5. Enhance personal creative vision
  6. Provide client-driven solutions through effective visual communication
  7. Learn to apply the lessons learned from history to the practice of
    contemporary design

Graphic design is a means of visual communication. The creation and management of images, as well as the presentation of letters and words is equally important. Students explore classic, as well as, experimental approaches to both image manipulation and typography for appropriateness and overall impact of message delivery. Classes explore a variety of practical and theoretical assignments using both two and three-dimensional, traditional and new media. They each have a specific technical, as well as, creative/expressive aspect to them. Every form of successful communication requires an understanding of intended audience, and basic marketing principles. Observation and perception, problem solving, expression, hand and computer skills all play a part in a student’s development.


woodcut illustrating communication by carrier pigeon, 1481


Innovation has had many a profound influence on the world of communication.  Since the time when news and information was exchanged by way of carrier pigeon, once state-of-the-art technologies, have repeatedly given way to new and (mostly) more efficient means of doing so. Macintosh personal computers and smart devices of all platforms are the industry standard of today and are utilized by students enrolled in both the graphics and art programs.

Projects, quizzes and tests are geared to measure progress, technical knowledge, and conceptual development. Class critique of student work is a regular part of each assignment. Students learn to articulate their thoughts and perceptions as a valuable part of the evaluative process.

Students are encouraged to participate in Department and Reynolds Gallery events, present their work in competitions both regionally (FLUX, Cut & Paste) and nationally (AIGA). Opportunities to submit work to undergraduate research conferences (PURCC & NCUR) occur annually. The best student literary and artistic work is annually showcased in Calliope, Pacific’s award winning, Literature and Art magazine, which is entirely designed by a select team of Design and English students.

Professionalism requires expertise with the tools of design and also an awareness of broader social connections. Class projects such as “Do Good Design for Good” and internships such as “Singing Hands” help prepare the student in this direction, applying design thinking for the greater good.

Best business practices include internship, practicum and independent study experiences, collectively referred to as ELO’s (experiential learning opportunity) and are essential components of a well-rounded course of study. Internships are typically completed during the summer months following the sophomore and junior years at Pacific. These may occur anywhere across the country at a variety of businesses working with graphic design. Competitive on-campus practicums, such as those with ASuop, additionally provide a valuable link between the classroom/studio and the practice of “real world” design.

This broad-based program is intended to provide students with several options in the field of design and insures a strong foundational and inter disciplinary education leading to the development of a professional level portfolio. Students graduate adequately prepared for entry-level positions in the field of graphic design or further education within a graduate degree program. Since 2009, 97% of all students graduating with a BFA in graphic design are employed in the field of design.

A portfolio of work is not required for acceptance into the BFA program. Instead, a portfolio review is conducted during the spring of the freshman year. This review of the student’s first year is a component of the ongoing evaluation of student progress and is a valuable aid in academic advising.

Recent design projects at Pacific have included the following:

Illustration students continue successful client-based projects for book and magazine publishing and have completed a pilot course in scientific Illustration. Graphic Design students were awarded the prestigious Hoefer Prize for their extensive work producing a Wayfinding design proposal for Pacific’s campus. The label design for the McDonald Estate vineyards Cor Sanaré 2009 vintage won a bronze medal at the prestigious international wine festival in San Francisco during the summer of 2010. Singing Hands offers students the opportunity to connect the ancient arts and culture of Dimen, China with the modern world.

Design Internship and Practicum experiences for Pacific students continue to expand in quantity and quality and currently have students working in several areas around the world in addition to on-campus opportunities with ASuop design and the Pacific Office of Marketing. Summer opportunities have included working with faculty on research-based design projects as well as individual internships in Australia, San Francisco and L.A. The DeltaFusion Pageant offers a multitude of opportunities for designers to work with other artists, musicians, story tellers, mask makers and costume designers in producing giant puppets to symbolize and connect the stories of the people of the Delta. The student literary arts magazine “Calliope” has won national acclaim for its outstanding design for the past three issues. Design students have won national attention in the AIGA sponsored FLUX design competition. Fashion shows, “Paint on our Walls” gallery exhibitions, undergraduate research presentations on both national and regional levels, book illustration, catalog design, video production, are additional opportunities to name a few. As a result, graduating majors leave Pacific prepared to enter graduate programs or engage in professional level work within a multitude of specific design related areas.

Proficiency in any single design subject area is not enough. The experience of studying and applying design successfully is profoundly enhanced by studying within a liberal arts environment. Specific skills and knowledge in the design areas are informed with a thorough academic grounding in a curriculum of rigorous and provocative general education. Real success also demands that designers be professionally active and passionate about the subject of their individual disciplines.  Be sure to make use of the Department Facebook page to correspond with other students and share important contributions to each other’s creative design culture and education.