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School of Art

Graphic Design

MFA 2 Year Program

The goal of the Graphic Design MFA is to enable students to develop idiosyncratic form melded with intelligent ideas, and to develop sophisticated critical tools to question and further design’s professional and cultural position.

Rather than seek to provide a “generalist” education (i.e., trying to teach every aspect of design to every student) the program encourages and enables each student to develop an individual thread throughout the body of work they produce as graduate students. Using a series of structured but open ended projects, this thread is examined, tested, questioned and redirected during the first year of the MFA. The thread is developed, focused and formally realized as a major thesis project during the second year of the MFA. While print media is often the baseline for teaching durable design skills and principles, the program uses a variety of media and platforms, for design.

The heart of the MFA program is the weekly Graduate Seminar (detailed below), a critique class led by rotating graduate faculty members. The seminar is supported by a number of required classes, as well as elective design classes and classes from other schools within the Institute.

Typical MFA Course Structure

Sample MFA Curriculum

Graphic Design Program Blog

Graduate Seminar (MFA 1)

The MFA1 year of Graduate Seminar is comprised of a series of structured projects that point at paths to travel down rather than prescribed singular destinations. These projects are intended to help students develop and discover formal, conceptual and ideological areas of focus. Media type and content varies as the year progresses, allowing some customizing and flexibility within the structure of the curriculum. The short time period of each project encourages experimentation, risk-taking, and imaginative responses.

MFA students have the option to experiment with a lot of different media and ideas, or focus on different ideas within the same medium, or pursue similar concepts/agendas within different media. This flexibility accommodates students with a wide range of educational needs and prepares them with the formal and conceptual skills (and focus) to produce a thesis.

Graduate Seminar (MFA 2)

The MFA2 year of Graduate Seminar focuses on defining, researching and producing a graphic design thesis. In the Fall semester, Graduate Seminar provides a formal structure for research and exploration in deciding upon (and testing out) a thesis topic. The faculty work closely with each individual student in developing and discussing their thesis in group critique and individual meetings. In early Spring MFA2 students formally present their thesis projects to the faculty and their peers. During the remainder of Spring semester MFA2s work on developing and applying their thesis to a larger body of work, and also produce a document reflecting on their time and experience within the Program that is held in an archive in the CalArts library.

An active Graduate Assistant Program allows a number of MFA2 students interested in pursuing a career in education, to gain classroom experience by working closely with individual undergraduate faculty.

Last edited by jchiang on Jun 18, 2015
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