Graphic Design Communication

A degree in Graphic Design Communication from RWU blends solid communication theory with technical training in graphic arts skills, taught in the campus’ most sophisticated computer labs. Through courses in typography, brand identity, publication and web design combined with real-world internship experience, you’ll learn the best professional practices to prepare you for a career in the in-demand graphic design field.

The Graphic Design Communication Major

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Graphic Design is a professional discipline in which students extract information from their complete educational experience to shape visual messages that are thought-provoking, well researched and well executed. The program synthesizes the creative process through distinct problem-solving methodologies, theories, and philosophies in order to develop an overall visual solution for a specific purpose and goal. Designers are curious about the world, interested in a variety of topics and typically life-long learners; they engage in research and analysis for every new challenge from different perspectives as critical thinkers and creative innovators. Therefore, the environment and academic expectations of a diverse plan of individualized study at RWU is an advantage for our graphic design communication graduates.

Our coaching methods integrate innovative teaching strategies to engage students in immersive, collaborative, and active learning in a contemporary liberal arts education that integrates research, writing, and critical thinking skills with applied creative and technical skills. We expose students to the rigor and demands of a dynamic and rapidly evolving professional discipline on day one, in the foundation courses, and continue this rigor succinctly throughout the scaffolded curriculum requirements, enabling students to discover methods that move away from a designer as service provider to a designer as a cultural and economic collaborator.

We expose students to the practice and craft of Graphic Design on the ground level, assist in developing a portfolio in the foundation year that is continually evaluated through critique from professors and professionals alike, and encourage activity in the discipline through professional organizations and even immersive learning with community projects. Students who exhibit the propensity, proclivity, and passion for graphic design as majors will be mentored and must continue to meet base standards through evaluation in mandatory annual progressive portfolio reviews throughout their path in the program, culminating in a final comprehensive portfolio and/or thesis. These mandatory reviews conducted by faculty and design professionals will typically occur at the end of each academic year for freshmen, sophomores, and juniors with a more intensive individualized critical analysis for students entering their final senior semester coursework. Any student who is not showing clear evidence of hitting certain benchmarks in the program, of growth in their work, or of continued development in technological skills will be notified in writing and mentored for a semester to improve their work for the next review.

At RWU, we recognize that many people may not realize the totality of the Graphic Design discipline until they have an opportunity to take a course. Therefore, we break down traditional boundaries,allowing access to engage in the creative process in a core concentration, a minor and a Bachelor of Arts major. In order to receive the best advising and matriculate through the program effectively, we encourage declaration of the major as early as possible, either upon admission to the University or once enrolled in a foundation level course.


Majors pursuing the Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design Communication must satisfy the University Core Curriculum requirements and the College speech requirement, COMM 210. Specific requirements of the program are outlined below. In addition, majors must complete sufficient electives to total 120 credits. Majors are encouraged to apply electives taken outside the major toward a minor or a second major

There are twelve courses in the graphic design communication major. Nine of the requirements are studio courses in graphic design, which are hands-on courses taught in the graphic design communication lab. A lecture course on the history of graphic design, one internship, and a two course sequence in one of the following areas is also required: anthropology, communication, computer information systems, or marketing. Graduating seniors display their work in the Senior Graphic Design Exhibition as part of the Portfolio course (DSGN 450) to complete the major.

Required levels of academic achievement include a B average in all required graphic design courses.

Requirements for the Major

Core Courses:

DSGN100Introduction to Graphic Design Communication 
DSGN110Introduction to Typography 
DSGN200History of Design Communication 
DSGN210Advanced Design Communication 

Choose 3-300 level or special topic courses:

DSGN300Web Design Communication 
DSGN310Brand Identity 
DSGN320Publication Design 
DSGN430Special Topics in Graphic Design 
Note – Students must fulfill all of the above requirements prior to enrollment in DSGN 440
DSGN440Art Direction 

Choose one of the two-course sequences below:

Computer Information Systems

CIS206Introduction to Web Development 
CIS306Web 2.0: Creative Expressive Web Sites 


MRKT200Principles of Marketing 
And any 300-level marketing elective


COMM101Introduction to Mass Media 
COMM165Introduction to Visual Communication 


ANTH100Introduction to Cultural Anthropology 
And any 200-level or above anthropology elective

The Graphic Design Communication Minor

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DSGN100Introduction to Graphic Design Communication 
DSGN110Introduction to Typography 
DSGN200History of Design Communication 
ANTH100Introduction to Cultural Anthropology 

And two courses chosen from:

DSGN210Advanced Design Communication 
DSGN300Web Design Communication 
DSGN310Brand Identity 
DSGN320Publication Design 
DSGN430Special Topics in Graphic Design 

Student Learning Outcomes

Student Learning Outcomes

The goals of the Graphic Design Communication major are as follows:

  • To prepare students for careers in the demanding field of Graphic Design;
  • Create comprehension of both solid communication theory and practical graphic arts skills training;
  • Engender knowledge of how emerging technologies are used by professionals and the industry in the 21st Century;
  • Provide cutting-edge instruction and pedagogy to our students;
  • Provide service and outreach to the academic and professional communities of which we are a part both nationally and internationally;
  • Support the missions of the Department of Communication and Rogers Williams University.

Graphic design is a professional program with the goal of educating students with professional standards for an entry-level position in the graphic design industry. The measure of that has always been fairly definable: entry-level positions at design firms, advertising agencies, publications and/or web design firms, or companies that have internal graphic design departments which generally have defined tasks and expectations. Students who complete the graphic design major should have the following skills:

  • Strong critical thinking and analytical skills
  • Preparation of a physical portfolio that demonstrates their visual and technical skills
  • An understanding of the contemporary landscape of graphic design industry
  • An understanding of standard tools used in the graphic design industry
  • An understanding of the history of graphic design including trends and trendsetters
  • An ability to discuss, critique and visually analyze their work
A headshot of Blair Carroll

Gaining Experience on Campus

Blair Carroll, RWU Class of 2013 Graphic Design Communication

At Roger Williams, it's not just our academic courses or off-site internship programs that helps us prepare students for a successful life and career. With more than 75 clubs and organizations on campus, Roger Williams provides students ample opportunities to gain the vital skills employers seek without leaving campus.

Read full story

Application Requirements

The requirement for entrance into the Graphic Design Communication major is a portfolio.

New Admissions:

For entering freshmen, the portfolio process is managed through the Admissions Office. The options are a Standard Portfolio of 18-20 examples, while the Targeted Portfolio should consist of 10-15 examples including 3 specific assignments. Multiple viewpoints are not considered as individual examples. Portfolios should include the student’s best work from a variety of media, not necessarily exclusively digital media, that exemplify the applicant’s skills from craftsmanship to aesthetics to problem-solving. When in doubt, the Targeted Portfolio may be the best option. A student may opt for an in-person interview to show his or her portfolio to a faculty member which can be arranged through the Admissions office.

Regardless of which portfolio you choose, the pieces included in your portfolio should be the best representations of you—how you think, how you solve problems, how you see the world, and how you visually compose. The work should be finished. Although there are no requirements as to media, it is recommended that work is diverse in nature and shows the breadth and depth of your experience and interests. If you do not have experience in one medium or another, then include the work that shows your strengths. Computer work is not necessarily the primary indicator of potential success in graphic design.


18–20 pieces

The portfolio submissions should include computer-generated graphic design work; logos, posters, publications, websites, etc. In certain situations other media may be considered. Please choose the Targeted Portfolio as an alternative especially if you have less than 18 strong pieces. All work submitted should be finished work and display your strengths and experience in a variety of media. Submit digital copies (jpg, pdf, keynote or ppt are acceptable) via a CD or a website link (or mailed slides or samples). Portfolios that do not meet the minimum quantity, or that show duplicate/alternate views and/or include sketches, exercises or incomplete work will not be considered. Interview Optional in person or via Skype.



10-15 pieces* including the following 3 assignments:

Photographic Story – Use a familiar object (no people) that has meaning in your daily life, create a visual story – fictitious or realistic – with that object in 5 images (considered one entry).

Collage – Create a color collage from magazine clippings using a unique two-color scheme (should be created by hand not on the computer) Size: approximately 8” x 8”.

Signage – If your home or personal room was a museum, what would it be called and what would the sign look like. No computer type or computer rendering.

* a series would be considered one piece and should be identified as such on separate information sheet

If necessary to meet the minimum requirement,  or if desired to broaden your portfolio, you may add two of these to your submission (totally optional):

Visual Message – Create a distress/‘S.O.S.’ or ‘message in a bottle” letter. Using ONLY found type from magazines, newspapers, and/or other printed material such as menus or business cards as well as photographs of letters on a one-sided page. Size is up to you, mention the dimensions and rationale, if any, on the information sheet. No pictures.

Map your day – Using various mediums (not a computer) such as collage, pencil, ink, markers, pastels, watercolors, etc. create a visual map of your typical day.

Video – create a 20-60 second video that responds to the theme “Make/Think.”

In-person reviews can be scheduled through the Graphic Design department.

Internal Transfer Admissions

For students currently enrolled at RWU, application to the major may happen with a portfolio after satisfactorily completing the foundation courses (DSGN100 and DSGN110) with at least a B-. Applications are accepted at the end of each semester and will be posted and announced in the labs. The requirements include examples of work (number determined by course level completion), an application form and a recommendation letter from a current or former graphic design faculty member. Students who apply in or after their sophomore year should be aware that the requirements for the major may require additional time at the University because of the sequential and progressive nature of the coursework.