BFA in Graphic Design

The BFA program in Graphic Design negotiates challenges at the intersection of traditional craft and rapidly evolving communication technologies, preparing students to effect positive change in contemporary social and cultural systems.

Design of a board game with multiple parts.
Life’s a Bridge is a board game developed by a student in Professor Lisa Mercer’s class. It is designed to teach about power and privilege in society through the example of the design of bridges into New York City that were too low to accommodate public buses, whose passengers were mostly people of color.

Graphic Design at Illinois

We provide students with the necessary skills to challenge and shape the way we interact with the world around us—whether via the printed page or on mobile devices; through client-based commissions or personal projects; on virtual networks or in physical environments.


Coursework addresses graphic design fundamentals (typography, critical thinking, and image making), design history and contemporary practices, research methods, user experience, and social responsibility. Students engage with complex problems and are asked to identify opportunities where design can intervene. In addition, students have the opportunity to develop their personal interests by taking advantage of a highly interdisciplinary selection of elective courses offered by the School of Art & Design, including photography, video, traditional printmaking, sustainability, and advanced interaction design.

Sophomore year 

  • ARTD 222 Typographic Practice 
  • ARTD 251 Graphic Design Toolbox
  • ARTD 270 Design Methods
  • ARTH 211 Design History Survey
  • ARTD 333 Type and Image 
  • ARTD 218 Interaction Design Foundation

Junior year

  • ARTD 451 EDGE
  • ARTD 351 Graphic Design Inquiry 
  • ARTD 318 Interaction Design
  • ARTD 444 Typographic Systems 
  • ARTD 418 Advanced Interaction Design

Senior year

  • ARTD 351 Graphic Design Inquiry 
  • ARTD 371 Graphic Design Practicum 
  • ARTD 471 Graphic Design Capstone


Each year, the program organizes a senior portfolio review in Chicago, in addition to a vibrant lecture series that brings regional and national designers to campus. Students have access to dedicated studio spaces, as well as updated facilities and equipment, including all necessary production and output devices such as large format printers, laser cutters, 3-D printers, CNC routers, professional audio & video equipment, and 24-hour access to computer labs.


Students who graduate from the program are equipped for a broad range of practices in the design field. Our alumni have worked in areas such as interaction design, art direction, publication design, motion graphics, photography, type design, environmental design, and social/service design in a variety of settings, including small boutique design studios, multi-national advertising agencies, and start-up consultancies. Locally students can take advantage of the experiences and events put together by the Champaign-Urbana Design Organization (CUDO).

Student Work

The School of Art & Design celebrates the intellectual and personal development of its graduates through the annual BFA Exhibition held at the University of Illinois’ Krannert Art Museum. An exhibition catalog, documenting student achievements, is produced in both print and digital forms. Work of Graphic Design graduates is prominently featured in our archived exhibitions.

Faculty Research Interests

Eric Benson
Biological Systems Thinking, Sustainable Materials, Dystopian and Utopian Futures

Isabel Bo-Linn
Emerging Technologies, Speculative Design, and the Role of Design in Facilitating, Hindering, and Perpetuating Marginality. Other research interests include Design Criticism, Design Writing, Communities of Practice, and the Hybridity of Tech and Design.

Molly Catherine Briggs
The Built Environment,  Design History & Theory, Immersive Media, Landscape Representation,  Spatial Epistemologies, Visual Culture

Jena Marble
Design theory, Design Process and Methodology, Design Impacts on Health, Typography, Brand history

Deana McDonagh
Empathic Design Research, Disability, Aging, User-Centered Design, Invention to Innovation, Gender

Lisa E. Mercer
Social Innovation, Social Impact, Responsible Design, Interaction Design

Stacey Robinson
Afro-Futurism, Black and Brown Utopias, Race, Graphic Novels, African Diasporas and Wakanda

Stan Ruecker
Academic Prototyping, Digital Humanities, Design Theory, Experience Design

Juan Salamanca
Social Computing, Interaction Design, Mediating Artifacts, Visual Analytics

Angelica Sibrian
People and Community-Centered Design, Social Impact

Nekita Thomas
Co-Design, Race, Urban, Social Justice


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