Graphic Design

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College of Arts and Letters

Program Description

The curriculum in the Graphic Design program at California State University, Sacramento has been developed to prepare students for professional practice and/or preparation for admission to graduate level study.

The Graphic Design program is part of the Department of Design which houses majors Interior Design and Photography. This combination provides a unique collection of disciplines and broadens the student’s exposure to professions they will potentially be working with in the future.

The course of study is a layered exploration that starts with fundamental principles of visual communication paired with an intensive introduction to the creative process. Each successive layer builds in complexity to encompass technical, conceptual, and research challenges that culminates with a series of classes devoted to professional practice. Historical perspective and ethical concerns are addressed throughout the curriculum. The programs goal is to provide the community with a comprehensive visual problem solver that has a strong aesthetic ability coupled with a clear understanding of the strategic and conceptual challenges facing them in practice.

Special Features

All of the faculty in the Graphic Design program have diverse and extensive expertise in the field and continue to work in the profession. Exhibitions and lectures by nationally recognized designers, field trips, and guest instruction add further exposure to professional practice and methodology. Students have been recognized in national competitions, as well as community and campus exhibitions.

Work experience is highly valued in the field of graphic design, and internships, for academic credit, provide students with practical, hands-on experience. Faculty members are instrumental in coordinating a wide range of student internships at highly respected firms and organizations throughout the region. Service learning is also a strong component of hands-on opportunities available through the program.

Graphic Design majors form an active student group called G.R.I.D.S (Graphic Resources and Information Design Students). This group is also a student chapter of the AIGA the professional association for design. Students meet regularly and organize workshops, field trips, and lectures. These activities increase understanding of and exposure to the graphic design field. G.R.I.D.S also provides internal networking opportunities that offers members support as they pursue their studies in design.

Being located in California’s capital city, California State University, Sacramento offers a wealth of cultural, professional, and employment opportunities. Graduates from the Graphic Design program at Sacramento State have secured positions in design and multimedia firms, advertising agencies, and major corporations.

Career Possibilities

Advertising Designer · Brand Designer · Broadcast Designer · In-house Corporate Designer · Identity Designer · Information Architect · Multimedia Designer · Packaging Designer · Prepress Technician · Print Designer · Production Artist · Project Manager · Publication Designer · Signage Designer · Type Designer · Web Designer

Contact Information

Andrew Anker, Chair, Department of Design
Richard Pratt, Program Coordinator
Rhonda Franks, Administrative Support Coordinator
Mariposa Hall 5001
(916) 278-3962
FAX (916) 278-6116






Undergraduate Program

The Graphic Design program at Sacramento State is one of the most highly sought after programs in Northern California. Due to the large number of applications, the program is now officially impacted. Students wishing to become Graphic Design majors must complete a series of required lower division courses and then must apply for admission to the program. It is highly recommended that interested students speak with a Graphic Design advisor as soon as possible. The application for admission includes completion of all required lower division prerequisites with a grade of “C” or better; and submission of a portfolio (students must refer to the application for portfolio specifications).

Before submitting applications and portfolio, students must complete with a grade of “C” or better:

GPHD 5Introduction to Graphic Design3
GPHD 25Visual Basics3
ART 20ABeginning Drawing3
PHOT 40Basic Techniques of Photography3

Students must be enrolled in GPHD 20 and GPHD 30 during the semester the portfolio is submitted if these courses have not yet been completed.

Before being admitted into the upper division, the student must complete:

GPHD 5Introduction to Graphic Design3
GPHD 10Introduction to Digital Design3
GPHD 20History Of Graphic Design3
GPHD 25Visual Basics3
GPHD 30Visualization3
ART 20ABeginning Drawing3
PHOT 40Basic Techniques of Photography3

Students should contact the Design Department Office for an application package and portfolio requirements. Once students are admitted to the upper division, a grade of “C” or better is required in all upper division GPHD courses.

Students that have been accepted to the Graphic Design program, within the Department of Design are required to own a laptop computer and the appropriate software for upper division courses. Upon beginning upper division coursework this requirement must be met. Before purchasing please consult your major advisor or the Department office for specific minimum requirements for the laptop computer and software.

BS Degree - Graphic Design

Units required for Major: 69
Minimum units required for BS: 120

Required Lower Division Courses (30 Units)
ART 1AArt in the Western World: From Stone Age to End of Middle Ages3
ART 1BArt in the Western World: From Renaissance to Baroque3
ART 20ABeginning Drawing 13
GPHD 5Introduction to Graphic Design 13
GPHD 10Introduction to Digital Design 13
GPHD 20History Of Graphic Design 13
GPHD 25Visual Basics 13
GPHD 30Visualization 13
INTD 20Design3
PHOT 40Basic Techniques of Photography 13
Required Upper Division Courses (33 Units) 2
GPHD 120Typography I - Theory3
GPHD 122Design Production and Management3
GPHD 125Visual Principles I3
GPHD 130Typography II - Publication and Collateral Design3
GPHD 135User Interface Design3
GPHD 140Time-Based Graphic Design3
GPHD 142Advanced Graphic Design I3
GPHD 145Visual Image3
GPHD 150Graphic Design Digital Portfolio3
GPHD 152Advanced Graphic Design II3
GPHD 155Corporate Identity and System Design3
Required Electives (6 Units)
Select two of the following with advisor approval:6
Intermediate Drawing
Modern Art
American Art
Advanced Drawing
Art and the Artist in the Marketplace
Advanced Silkscreen
Alternative Photographic Processes
Intermediate Electronic Art
Advanced Electronic Art
Fieldwork in Graphic Design
Special Problems
Design Fundamentals
Digital Imaging
Intermediate Digital Imaging
Artificial Light, Studio
Recommended General Education Areas C2 and C4 (6 Units)
Select two from the following areas:6
Area C2
Traditional Asian Art
Native American Art
Introduction to Art and Visual Culture
Area C4
Beginning Painting
Beginning Watercolor
Beginning Jewelry
Beginning Metalsmithing
Clay Sculpture
Recommended General Education Area A3 and Area D (3 Units)
Select one from the following areas:3
Area A3
Environmental Issues and Critical Thinking
Mass Media and Critical Thinking
Sense and Nonsense in Social Issues and Research
Area D
Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
Total Units78

These courses or their articulated equivalent must be taken before applying for the Graphic Design major.


A juried portfolio is required for admission to upper division courses.

How to Read Course Descriptions

GPHD 5.     Introduction to Graphic Design. 3 Units

General Education Area/Graduation Requirement: Arts (Area C1)

Introduction to the field of Graphic Design. Subjects include career possibilities, current trends, issues and practices in the industry. The basic theory, techniques and practices involved in solving a visual communication problem will also be introduced.

GPHD 10.     Introduction to Digital Design. 3 Units

Designed to familiarize students with basic understanding of the digital hardware, software, and vocabulary utilized by visual artists from a variety of disciplines. Discussions and activities will cover both creative and efficient application of digital tools and techniques. Students will complete assignments utilizing a variety of applications which may include page layout, illustration, digital image processing, and 3-D rendering software.

GPHD 20.     History Of Graphic Design. 3 Units

General Education Area/Graduation Requirement: Arts (Area C1)

Overview of the history of graphic design. Emphasis on symbol, type, and image development, from early pictographs to modern communication design.

GPHD 25.     Visual Basics. 3 Units

Prerequisite(s): ART 20A or Pre - Interior Design Major.

Provides a basic understanding of how visual structures are created and interpreted. Students study the main components of visual structures, become familiar with basic laws of color, and learn the basics of the gestalt principles of visual organization.

GPHD 30.     Visualization. 3 Units

Prerequisite(s): GPHD 25, ART 20A.

Introduction to the tools, materials, methodologies and hands-on processes of graphic design. The skill of rapid prototyping, through the processes of idea development, thumb nailing, sketching, and mockup, will be covered. Basic concepts in graphic message making will be introduced. A special emphasis will be placed on craftsmanship in this course.

GPHD 120.     Typography I - Theory. 3 Units

Prerequisite(s): Either GPHD 5 or GPHD 20, ART 20A, PHOT 40, GPHD 10, GPHD 25, GPHD 30, and acceptance into the major.

Corequisite(s): GPHD 122, GPHD 125.

Explores the history and perceptual development of type and its application to design principles. Language and technology will be reviewed. Problems will demonstrate theoretical concepts and their application.

GPHD 122.     Design Production and Management. 3 Units

Prerequisite(s): GPHD 5 or GPHD 20, and ART 20A, PHOT 40, GPHD 10, GPHD 20, GPHD 25, GPHD 30, and be a declared GPHD major.

Corequisite(s): GPHD 120, GPHD 125.

Introduction to project management techniques specific to the creative business and technical processes for graphic design. Orchestration of image editing, vector and compositing software will be covered with an emphasis in accuracy and efficiency. Various codes and regulations related to graphic design will be reviewed.

GPHD 125.     Visual Principles I. 3 Units

Prerequisite(s): Either GPHD 5 or GPHD 20, in addition to ART 20A, PHOT 40, GPHD 10, GPHD 20, GPHD 25, GPHD 30, and acceptance into the major.

Corequisite(s): GPHD 120, GPHD 122.

Introduction to the language and perception of design. Elements of art and their relationship to the applied art of type, visual organization, and message. Design for advertising, marketing, and business. Ideation, creative thinking methods, thumbnails, storyboarding and presentational techniques. Computer integration with a variety of applications and techniques.

GPHD 130.     Typography II - Publication and Collateral Design. 3 Units

Prerequisite(s): GPHD 120, GPHD 122, GPHD 125.

Corequisite(s): GPHD 135.

Advanced typography and its relationship with message. Application of typographic principles to a diverse series of graphic design problems utilizing type and image. Computer integration with a variety of applications and techniques.

GPHD 135.     User Interface Design. 3 Units

Prerequisite(s): GPHD 120, GPHD 122, GPHD 125.

Corequisite(s): GPHD 130.

Emphasis is on design of a user-centered experience in an interactive environment. Enables the students to understand the characteristics of relevant technology and select appropriate forms and functions to create specific experience for users.

GPHD 140.     Time-Based Graphic Design. 3 Units

Prerequisite(s): GPHD 130, GPHD 135.

Corequisite(s): GPHD 142, GPHD 145.

Emphasis on the development of conceptual themes, formal exploration, and user-centered interaction in time-based multimedia design. Enables the students to create vital experiences using text, sound, image, motion, and interactivity.

GPHD 142.     Advanced Graphic Design I. 3 Units

Prerequisite(s): GPHD 130, GPHD 135.

Corequisite(s): GPHD 140, GPHD 145.

Builds on established research, process and project management techniques and provides students with the opportunity to focus on a practical investigation in design. Theoretical, professional, and historical issues facing the design profession will be reviewed. Development of both visual and written research material will culminate in an oral presentation and then be applied to an appropriate project.

GPHD 145.     Visual Image. 3 Units

Prerequisite(s): GPHD 130, GPHD 135.

Corequisite(s): GPHD 140, GPHD 142 .

Advanced exploration of visual study. Students will learn to orchestrate a diverse yet unified visual campaign for a particular client. Image making will be stressed in this course as students experiment with techniques and media including but not limited to photography and illustration.

GPHD 150.     Graphic Design Digital Portfolio. 3 Units

Prerequisite(s): GPHD 140, GPHD 142, GPHD 145.

Corequisite(s): GPHD 152, GPHD 155.

Introduction to the concepts and tools used in a digital portfolio production for entry into the practice of design or the advanced study. Exploration and development of the graphic design portfolio and resume in digital and print form. Discussions will cover such topics as networking, interview tips, employment issues, and presentation skills.

GPHD 152.     Advanced Graphic Design II. 3 Units

Prerequisite(s): GPHD 140, GPHD 142, GPHD 145.

Corequisite(s): GPHD 150, GPHD 155.

Advanced course in graphic design that requires students to provide solutions to real world design problems. Helps refine the students individual design process and advance their understanding of professional practice. Professional, business, and ethical issues facing the design profession will be reviewed. Development of both visual and written material will be required in a group environment as well as oral and visual presentations of this material.

GPHD 155.     Corporate Identity and System Design. 3 Units

Prerequisite(s): GPHD 140, GPHD 142, GPHD 145.

Corequisite(s): GPHD 150 GPHD 152.

Applied design and typography. Combines the study of symbol, function, and implementation. Investigates design problems from their origin, defining the problem through exploration of various creative solutions, to final design of a symbol applied to various corporate and business collateral.

GPHD 195.     Fieldwork in Graphic Design. 3 Units

Prerequisite(s): Upper division status; GPA of 2.5 or above; GPHD 130, GPHD 135; instructor permission.

Directed observation and supervised work experience in an approved business, government, or service agency. Internships are offered to increase student understanding of the nature and scope of agency operations and giving students orientation in occupational specialties. Supervision is provided by authorized persons in the cooperating agencies and collaborative supervision is provided by the Graphic Design faculty. Minimum of three hours per week per unit of credit is required. Each student maintains a record of activities and assignments and prepares periodic reports.

Note: Students must make arrangements with a faculty member for a work program prior to admittance. No more than 6 units of GPHD 195 may be counted toward the major.

Credit/No Credit

GPHD 199.     Special Problems. 1 - 3 Units

Individual projects or directed projects open to students who wish to attempt independent work.

Note: Faculty approval is required. No more than 6 units of GPHD 199 may be counted toward a Graphic Design degree.

Credit/No Credit