2-Year Program

The two-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 through a set of required and elective courses covering subjects such as type design, web 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.

Two-year MFA graphic designers are required to pass a Thesis Review to complete the program and obtain the MFA degree.

3-Year Program

The three-year MFA in Graphic Design is designed for students who do not have a Graphic Design undergraduate degree, but who typically demonstrate a talent and enthusiasm for design, and a level of expertise in their given field. Three-year students have come from such diverse undergraduate backgrounds as photography, journalism, engineering, feminist studies, biology and film. The first year of the three-year MFA seeks to provide students with a broad set of graphic design skills that will equip them to successfully join the two-year MFA program. This first year is practical and direct. Students are exposed to a variety of formal, conceptual and process-based models, often using print media as the baseline for teaching these durable skills. After successful completion of the first year, three-year students carry on into the two-year MFA Program.

The heart of the Program is the Visual Literacy course, a critique class comprised of a series of structured projects designed to teach design principles, process, methodology and skills. Initially these projects isolate elements of design practice in order to master them (e.g., typography, imagemaking, composition, ideation), then as the year progresses students are increasingly called upon to create more complex designs, where they are responsible for all aspects of a project: concept, research, content and form.

Three-year MFA graphic designers are required to pass a Thesis Review to complete the program and obtain the MFA degree.

Full Curriculum

Detailed curriculum and academic requirements can be found in the online course catalog.

View Curriculum Requirements

Interdisciplinary Opportunities

In addition to CalArts' rich and diverse community and naturally collaborative atmosphere, the Institute provides several programs of study that can be pursued concurrently with a student's chosen metier.

Center for Integrated Media

The Center for Integrated Media concentration is designed specifically for MFA students whose creative use of technology—in particular digital media—goes beyond their primary areas of study.

Center for Integrated Media