Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) Major in Communication Design

Major Program

The Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) degree with a major in Communication Design is the terminal degree in the discipline. The curriculum is designed to provide advanced study in the areas of corporate advertising art direction, graphic design, and digital media design.

The graduate program provides students with the knowledge and expertise to attain the following: exploration of advanced problem-solving methodologies, updating technological advancement relating to communication design, examining historical events, theoretical constructs within communication design, and preparation for a career teaching in higher education.

Students will have the opportunity to complete a portion of the degree by the means of online instruction, extended weekend seminars, evening courses, blended (mix of online and face-to-face), and directed study courses.

Application Requirements

The items listed below are required for admission consideration for applicable semesters of entry during the 2017-2018 academic year. Submission instructions, additional details, and changes to admission requirements for semesters other than the 2017-2018 academic year can be found on the program’s web page. International students should review the International Admission Documents section of the catalog for additional requirements.

  • completed online ApplyTexas application
  • $40 nonrefundable application fee
  • $50 nonrefundable international evaluation fee (if applicable)
  • baccalaureate degree in communication design, advertising art direction and design, digital media design, graphic design, illustration or related field from a regionally accredited university*
  • official transcripts required from each four-year institution where course credit was granted
  • minimum 2.75 GPA in your last 60 hours of undergraduate course work (plus any completed graduate courses)
  • GRE scores not required
  • academic and professional statement of purpose 
  • online portfolio (professional and/or student)  
  • resume/CV
  • three letters of recommendation

TOEFL or IELTS Scores

Non-native English speakers who do not qualify for an English proficiency waiver:

  • official TOEFL iBT scores required with a 78 overall and minimum individual module scores of
    • 19 listening
    • 19 reading
    • 19 speaking
    • 18 writing
  • official IELTS (academic) scores required with a 6.5 overall and
    • minimum individual module scores of 6.0

This program does not offer admission if the scores above are not met.

*Additional Information 
This program offers a leveling program on a case-by-case basis to students who submit strong application materials but lack some communication design skills. Leveling students are conditionally accepted into the M.F.A. program to take four leveling courses, two in the fall and two in the spring, with a "B" or better. Leveling courses do not earn credit towards the M.F.A. degree in communication design.

Degree Requirements

The Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) degree with a major in Communication Design will require a minimum of 60 semester credit hours. In addition to the following required credit hours, the degree requires a Mid-Program Portfolio Review. The review will occur after students successfully complete 30 credit hours. The graduate advisor and select M.F.A. faculty will assess each Mid-Term Portfolio component. Passing Mid-Program Portfolio Review will allow the student to continue with their graduate study. The student with an unsatisfactory Mid-Program Portfolio Review will be allowed to make portfolio work revisions and resubmit (one resubmission only) the portfolio work for reassessment (one time).

Course Requirements

Required Core
ARTC 5340Contemporary Issues and Criticism3
ARTC 5341Modernism and Design3
ARTC 5342Postmodernism and Typography3
ARTC 5343Communication Design Seminar3
ARTC 5370Professional Practice (Taken twice for credit)6
Prescribed Electives
Choose 30 hours from the following:30
Art Direction
Web Design
Digital Imaging
Word and Image
Typography
Corporate Identity Systems
Corporate Marketing Materials
The Experimental Book
Special Problems in Communication Design
Environmental Graphic Design Systems
Typeface Design
Sustainable Packaging Design
Interactive Design
Mobile and Social Media
Editorial Design
International Perspective in Typography
Data Visualization
User Experience Design
Design for Social Impact
Alternative Printing Methods
Kinetic Typography
International Design Student Synergy Project
Experience Design
Free Electives6
Choose 6 hours in consultation with the graduate advisor
Thesis
Choose a minimum 6 hours6
Thesis
Thesis
Thesis
Thesis
Thesis
Thesis
Total Hours60

If a student elects to follow the thesis option for the degree, a committee to direct the written thesis will be established. The thesis must demonstrate the student’s capability for research and independent thought. Preparation of the thesis must be in conformity with the Graduate College Guide to Preparing and Submitting a Thesis or Dissertation.

Thesis Proposal

The student must submit an official Thesis Proposal Form and proposal to his or her thesis committee. Thesis proposals vary by department and discipline. Please see your department for proposal guidelines and requirements. After signing the form and obtaining committee members’ signatures, the graduate advisor’s signature if required by the program and the department chair’s signature, the student must submit the Thesis Proposal Form with one copy of the proposal attached to the dean of The Graduate College for approval before proceeding with research on the thesis. If the thesis research involves human subjects, the student must obtain exemption or approval from the Texas State Institutional Review Board prior to submitting the proposal form to The Graduate College. If the thesis research involves vertebrate animals, the proposal form must include the Texas State IACUC approval code. It is recommended that the thesis proposal form be submitted to the dean of The Graduate College by the end of the student’s enrollment in 5399A. Failure to submit the thesis proposal in a timely fashion may result in delayed graduation.

Thesis Committee

The thesis committee must be composed of a minimum of three approved graduate faculty members.

Thesis Enrollment and Credit

The completion of a minimum of six hours of thesis enrollment is required. For a student's initial thesis course enrollment, the student will need to register for thesis course number 5399A.  After that, the student will enroll in thesis B courses in their field, e.g., ENG 5399AENG 5199BENG 5299BENG 5399BENG 5599B, and ENG 5999B, in each subsequent semester until the thesis is defended with the department and approved by The Graduate College. Preliminary discussions regarding the selection of a topic and assignment to a research supervisor will not require enrollment for the thesis course.

Students  must be enrolled in thesis credits if they are receiving supervision and/or are using university resources related to their thesis work.  The number of thesis credit hours students enroll in must reflect the amount of work being done on the thesis that semester.  It is the responsibility of the committee chair to ensure that students are making adequate progress toward their degree throughout the thesis process.  Failure to register for the thesis course during a term in which supervision is received may result in postponement of graduation. After initial enrollment in 5399A, the student will continue to enroll in a thesis B course as long as it takes to complete the thesis. Thesis projects are by definition original and individualized projects.  As such, depending on the topic, methodology, and other factors, some projects may take longer than others to complete.  If the thesis requires work beyond the minimum number of thesis credits needed for the degree, the student may enroll in additional thesis credits at the committee chair's discretion. In the rare case when a student has not previously enrolled in thesis and plans to work on and complete the thesis in one term, the student will enroll in both 5399A and 5399B.

The only grades assigned for thesis courses are PR (progress), CR (credit), W (withdrew), and F (failing). If acceptable progress is not being made in a thesis course, the instructor may issue a grade of F. If the student is making acceptable progress, a grade of PR is assigned until the thesis is completed. The minimum number of hours of thesis credit (“CR”) will be awarded only after the thesis has been both approved by The Graduate College and released to Alkek Library.

A student who has selected the thesis option must be registered for the thesis course during the term or Summer I (during the summer, the thesis course runs ten weeks for both sessions) in which the degree will be conferred.

Fee Reduction

A master’s degree candidate for graduation may be eligible for a one-time fee reduction under V.T.C.A. Education Code, Section 54.054. Please refer to the section titled Fee Reduction in the Additional Fees and Expenses chapter of this catalog for more information.

Thesis Deadlines and Approval Process

Thesis deadlines are posted on The Graduate College website under "Current Students." The completed thesis must be submitted to the chair of the thesis committee on or before the deadlines listed on The Graduate College website.

The following must be submitted to The Graduate College by the thesis deadline listed on The Graduate College website:

  1. The Thesis Submission Approval Form bearing original (wet) and/or electronic signatures of the student and all committee members.
  2. One (1) PDF of the thesis in final form, approved by all committee members, uploaded in the online Vireo submission system.  

After the dean of The Graduate College approves the thesis, Alkek Library will harvest the document from the Vireo submission system for publishing in the Digital Collections database (according to the student's embargo selection). NOTE: MFA theses will have a permanent embargo and will never be published to Digital Collections. 

While original (wet) signatures are preferred, there may be situations as determined by the chair of the committee in which obtaining original signatures is inefficient or has the potential to delay the student's progress. In those situations, the following methods of signing are acceptable:

  • signing and faxing the form
  • signing, scanning, and emailing the form
  • notifying the department in an email from their university's or institution's email account that the committee chair can sign the form on their behalf
  • electronically signing the form using the university's licensed signature platform.

If this process results in more than one document with signatures, all documents need to be submitted to The Graduate College together.

No copies are required to be submitted to Alkek Library. However, the library will bind copies submitted that the student wants bound for personal use. Personal copies are not required to be printed on archival quality paper. The student will take the personal copies to Alkek Library and pay the binding fee for personal copies.

Master's level courses in Art and Design: ARTC, ARTH, ARTS, ARTT

Courses Offered

Communication Design (ARTC)

ARTC 5199B. Thesis.

This course represents a student's continuing thesis enrollments. The student continues to enroll in this course until the thesis is submitted for binding.

1 Credit Hour. 1 Lecture Contact Hour. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Grade Mode: Credit/No Credit

ARTC 5299B. Thesis.

This course represents a student's continuing thesis enrollments. The student continues to enroll in this course until the thesis is submitted for binding.

2 Credit Hours. 2 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Grade Mode: Credit/No Credit

ARTC 5300. Graduate Assistant Development.

This course is required as a condition of employment for graduate teaching and instructional assistants. It will provide in-service training and evaluations of instructional philosophies, techniques and responsibilities. This course does not earn graduate degree credit.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Course Attribute(s): Graduate Assistantship|Exclude from Graduate GPA
Grade Mode: Leveling/Assistantships

ARTC 5301. Communication Design Foundations.

This course may be taken only to fulfill communication design background. Students will acquire knowledge and graphic design skills necessary for advanced studies. This course does not earn graduate degree credit. Prerequisites: Consent of the graduate advisor. Repeatable with different emphasis.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Course Attribute(s): Exclude from Graduate GPA|Leveling
Grade Mode: Leveling/Assistantships

ARTC 5310. Art Direction.

Advanced in-depth instruction involving conceptual principles, design, copy strategies, and branding methods in print, broadcast, and e-commerce advertising art direction and design. Repeatable up to 3 times when the area(s) of study change.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Grade Mode: Standard Letter

ARTC 5313. Communication Design Advanced Problems.

An independent study in communication design, which requires students to pursue complex design problems. Goals and objectives will be outlined in a written format. May be repeated with different emphasis for additional credit. Prerequisite: Permission of instructor.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 3 Lab Contact Hours.
Grade Mode: Standard Letter

ARTC 5320. Web Design.

Students will research, create, and produce advanced online products for Internet. Emphasis is placed on information architecture, interface design, and navigation constructs in order to produce unique online communications. Repeatable up to 3 times when the area(s) of study change.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Grade Mode: Standard Letter

ARTC 5321. Digital Imaging.

Exploration and experimental usage of digital black and white and color imagery utilizing non-traditional approaches to image making. Repeatable up to 3 times when the area(s) of study change.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Grade Mode: Standard Letter

ARTC 5322. Word and Image.

Exploration and experimental usage of the written word integrated with visual forms by using digital and traditional photographic, illustrated, and graphic media. Repeatable up to 3 times when the area(s) of study change.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Grade Mode: Standard Letter

ARTC 5330. Typography.

This course examines the traditional and experimental advanced usage of type and its relationship to the symbolic or communicative message. Repeatable up to 3 times when the area(s) of study change.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Grade Mode: Standard Letter

ARTC 5331. Corporate Identity Systems.

Students explore complex corporate and institutional identity systems. Concept, design, program continuity, and branding in the marketplace will be emphasized. Repeatable up to 3 times when the area(s) of study change.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Grade Mode: Standard Letter

ARTC 5332. Corporate Marketing Materials.

This course will explore advanced development of typographic elements, layout grid constructs, photo-imagery, and illustration for publication of corporate marketing materials. Repeatable up to 3 times when the area(s) of study change.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Grade Mode: Standard Letter

ARTC 5333. The Experimental Book.

Students explore the experimental printed book including concept, design, and unique production such as unique binding methods. Repeatable up to 3 times when the area(s) of study change.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Grade Mode: Standard Letter

ARTC 5340. Contemporary Issues and Criticism.

This course examines emerging issues in graphic design and design criticism, primarily from the turn of the 21st century to the present. Students will learn to analyze and critique graphic design, and will produce a work of critical writing.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Grade Mode: Standard Letter

ARTC 5341. Modernism and Design.

This course explores the modernist movement in design, as it emerged in Europe and America in the early twentieth century. Topics include: visual cultural theory, the origins of modernism, Dada, Constructivism, DeStijl, the Bauhaus, and American modernism.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Grade Mode: Standard Letter

ARTC 5342. Postmodernism and Typography.

This course explores the relationship between form and content through the lens of graphic design and typography from the 1960s through 1990s, with a focus on postmodernism. Topics include: new wave and experimental typography, design authorship, appropriation, deconstruction, narrative structures, and new media.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Grade Mode: Standard Letter

ARTC 5343. Communication Design Seminar.

This course examines communication design research methods, modes of practice, and models of the creative process. Students will engage in individual research inquiries, in order to develop the topic for their master’s thesis in Communication Design.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Grade Mode: Standard Letter

ARTC 5350. Special Problems in Communication Design.

An independent study requiring complex problem-solving in communication design. Repeatable up to 3 times when the area(s) of study change.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Grade Mode: Standard Letter

ARTC 5360C. Environmental Graphic Design Systems.

This course will explore complex corporate, consumer, and institutional environmental systems. Concept, design, program continuity, and environmental graphic design systems (EGDS) in the marketplace will be emphasized. Repeatable up to 3 times when the area(s) of study change.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Course Attribute(s): Topics
Grade Mode: Standard Letter

ARTC 5360D. Typeface Design.

This course explores the detailed anatomy of typefaces in order to design custom typefaces through various applications. Students with an advanced knowledge of typography will research detailed type anatomy as well as historical and cultural typographic constructs. Repeatable up to 3 times when the area(s) of study change.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Course Attribute(s): Topics
Grade Mode: Standard Letter

ARTC 5360E. Sustainable Packaging Design.

Students will explore the role of sustainable package design in context to meeting the requirements of clients and consumers in the global marketplace. Repeatable up to 3 times when the area(s) of study change.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Course Attribute(s): Topics
Grade Mode: Standard Letter

ARTC 5360F. Communication Design Business Strategies.

In this course, the student will be exposed to the principles of project, studio, marketing, and business development management as it relates to the business operations of a communication design studio. Repeatable up to 3 times when the area(s) of study change.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Course Attribute(s): Topics
Grade Mode: Standard Letter

ARTC 5360G. Interactive Design.

This course explores the concept of interactivity in all its form, from the digital to the physical as it relates to communication design. Repeatable up to 3 times when the area(s) of study change.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Course Attribute(s): Topics
Grade Mode: Standard Letter

ARTC 5360H. Mobile and Social Media.

In this course, the student explores the implications of social networking and mobile communications in contemporary communication design. Repeatable up to 3 times when the area(s) of study change.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Course Attribute(s): Topics
Grade Mode: Standard Letter

ARTC 5360I. Editorial Design.

This course develops typographic skills pertaining to page layout through the use of functional and aesthetic type and its application within the digital environment. Repeatable up to 3 times when the area(s) of study change.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Course Attribute(s): Topics
Grade Mode: Standard Letter

ARTC 5360J. International Perspective in Typography.

This course studies the international perspectives of typography. This course requires a field trip abroad and will conclude with one extensive communication design assessment based upon the field trip experience. Repeatable up to 3 times when the area(s) of study change.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Course Attribute(s): Exclude from 3-peat Processing|Topics
Grade Mode: Standard Letter

ARTC 5360K. Data Visualization.

This course explores methods of combining visual aesthetics with real data to create meaningful and at times complex visualizations. Repeatable up to 3 times when the area(s) of study change.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Course Attribute(s): Exclude from 3-peat Processing|Topics
Grade Mode: Standard Letter

ARTC 5360L. User Experience Design.

This course explores advanced concepts in user-centered mobile applications, Web site, and operating system interface design. Students will solve design problems that take into account a holistic view of the user and how they interact with software. Repeatable up to 3 times when the area(s) of study change.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Course Attribute(s): Topics
Grade Mode: Standard Letter

ARTC 5360M. Design for Social Impact.

This course will provide a platform to explore the ways that design processes can be applied in order to enable positive social change. The course reconsiders the role of the designer in the context of the social sector. Repeatable up to 3 times when the area(s) of emphasis change.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Course Attribute(s): Topics
Grade Mode: Standard Letter

ARTC 5360N. Alternative Printing Methods.

This course will explore hands-on printing methods for designers. Letterpress, screen-printing and other alternative printing methods will be explored to visually express design concepts. Repeatable up to 3 times when the area(s) of study change.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Course Attribute(s): Exclude from 3-peat Processing|Topics
Grade Mode: Standard Letter

ARTC 5360O. Kinetic Typography.

Students will study the creation of moving typography as an extension of typography and animation. The history and development of typography and motion graphics in art will be examined. Students will engage in innovative development of kinetic typography using current digital technology combined with experimental techniques. Repeatable up to 3 times for credit.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Course Attribute(s): Exclude from 3-peat Processing|Topics
Grade Mode: Standard Letter

ARTC 5360P. International Design Student Synergy Project.

Students will collaborate with students from the MFA program at the Jade Hochschule in Wilhelmshaven. This course requires a one-week stay in Wilhelmshaven, Germany. It will conclude with one extensive communication design project that showcases their research done abroad. Students will research German Design values while on location and discuss with German design students, while also presenting American design values. Restricted to students enrolled in the MFA Communication Design major.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Course Attribute(s): Exclude from 3-peat Processing|Topics
Grade Mode: Standard Letter

ARTC 5360Q. Experience Design.

Students will learn how the evolution of computing information has changed the role of technology and experience designers. Students will generate a variety of Web and Mobile applications using Artificial Intelligence as the core technology. Restricted to Communication Design MFA majors.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Course Attribute(s): Exclude from 3-peat Processing|Topics
Grade Mode: Standard Letter

ARTC 5370. Professional Practice.

Students are placed in regional and national advertising agencies, digital media studios, or graphic design firms to gain professional practice experience. Repeatable once for credit.

3 Credit Hours. 0 Lecture Contact Hours. 5 Lab Contact Hours.
Grade Mode: Standard Letter

ARTC 5399A. Thesis.

The course represents a student’s initial thesis enrollment. No thesis credit is awarded until the student has completed the thesis in ARTC 5399B.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Grade Mode: Credit/No Credit

ARTC 5399B. Thesis.

This course represents a student’s continuing thesis enrollments. The student continues to enroll in this course until the thesis is submitted for binding.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Grade Mode: Credit/No Credit

ARTC 5599B. Thesis.

This course represents a student's continuing thesis enrollments. The student continues to enroll in this course until the thesis is submitted for binding.

5 Credit Hours. 5 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Grade Mode: Credit/No Credit

ARTC 5999B. Thesis.

This course represents a student's continuing thesis enrollments. The student continues to enroll in this course until the thesis is submitted for binding.

9 Credit Hours. 9 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Grade Mode: Credit/No Credit

Art History (ARTH)

ARTH 5302. Special Problems Advanced.

An independent study course involved with art history, aesthetics, and criticism. The emphasis of the course in on scholarship, research, and writing. May be repeated with different emphasis for additional credit. Prerequisite: Permission of instructor.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Grade Mode: Standard Letter

Studio Art (ARTS)

ARTS 5301. 2-D Advanced Special Problems.

An independent study in 2-D studio art, which requires a student to pursue a personal conceptual direction and to develop the technical and critical skills necessary for creating a cohesive body of artwork. May be repeated with different emphasis for additional credit. Permission of instructor required to enroll.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 3 Lab Contact Hours.
Grade Mode: Standard Letter

ARTS 5302. 3-D Advanced Special Problems.

An independent study in studio art, which requires a student to pursue a personal conceptual direction and to develop the technical and critical skills necessary for creating a cohesive body of artwork. May be repeated with different emphasis for additional credit. Permission of instructor required to enroll.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 3 Lab Contact Hours.
Grade Mode: Standard Letter

Art Theory & Practice (ARTT)

ARTT 5376. Research in Art Theory and Practice for Children.

Individualized study focusing on art skill and knowledge development related to children’s art learning experiences. May be repeated with different emphasis for additional credit. Teaching experience or admission to graduate degree program and permission of instructor required.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Grade Mode: Standard Letter

ARTT 5377. Research in Art Theory and Practice for Adolescents and Adults.

Individualized study focusing on art skill and knowledge development related to adolescent and/or adult art experiences. May be repeated with different emphasis for additional credit. Teaching experience or admission to graduate degree and permission of instructor required.

3 Credit Hours. 3 Lecture Contact Hours. 0 Lab Contact Hours.
Grade Mode: Standard Letter