School of Art
Many philosophies that motivate contemporary design are represented in the MFA curriculum, but one general philosophy—that graphic design is a visual practice and that ideas in graphic design are best expressed (and understood) through form, the interrelationship between words and pictures—underpins the structure of assigned projects, critique and the development of independent thesis work in the MFA program.
MFA Graphic Design (2-year)
The 2-year MFA curriculum focuses on the advanced exploration of form, methodology and practice, informed by a consciousness of the following contexts: contemporary practice, craft, audience, theory and history, and the constantly shifting media environment. Individual critique within a communal studio structure helps designers to develop a personal direction and agenda, intended to influence work beyond graduate school. The first-year curriculum consists of a sequence of weekly seminars in which research and studio projects are examined and discussed. The second year in residence is dedicated to developing and realizing a major thesis project that contributes to—and challenges—the graphic design community at large. In each of the two years, graduate students deepen and refine their work though a set of required and elective courses covering subjects such as type design, typography, motion graphics, design theory and design history. Visiting designers who lead short-term projects are another important aspect of the CalArts program, which consciously seeks to broaden the types of experiences offered to students within the focused studio environment.
MFA Graphic Design (3-year)
The Program in Graphic Design also offers a three-year MFA for talented students who have a background in visual work but only limited experience in graphic design. The first year of this program is an intensive educational experience in form-making and conceptual skills, designed to prepare students to move on to the two-year curriculum described above.
Each year, the MFA program accepts approximately eight students for the two-year program and five students for the three-year program. Selected MFA applicants are invited to CalArts to interview with faculty and meet with their prospective peer group. Applicants from outside the United States and those who cannot travel for an interview may be interviewed by telephone.