Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Communications Design

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1 Program Summary Design plays a central and formative role in shaping communities, technology and business. Never have designers been expected to cultivate such a diverse set of skills and knowledge. MFA ComD prepares individuals to pursue design with passion and cultural relevance. In our distinctive program, we explore design as a means for communicating meaningful messages, organizing information, and creating compelling experiences. We believe the most intriguing and successful designers are cultural innovators who use media to inform, persuade, and entertain. Our graduates develop a voice as authors engaged in seeking and solving problems within cross-disciplinary environments. We approach design as an agent of change a strategy for transforming behaviors of individuals in desirable and sustainable ways. The program provides a framework for both professional practice and academic careers. A 60-credit program administered over two years leading to a Master of Fine Arts terminal degree, the program will emphasize full-time studio practice in Communications Design (print and digital media, artifacts, information, environments, systems). The components of the MFA program will include an emphasis on studio practice, research and scholarship, design teaching methodologies, and academic studies of visual media such as history, theory, critical analysis, aesthetics, and related humanities and social sciences. The MFA program is intended for highly motivated individuals who hold an undergraduate degree in graphic design, or related design fields such as industrial or interior design, architecture, fine arts, or media arts. Exceptional individuals from disparate disciplines may be admitted provisionally and required to take design foundation courses. A residency of two academic years attending full-time is required (one or two additional semesters for provisional admits). There are seven MFA Studios courses that investigate current practice and the future direction of communications design. Courses emphasize research, critical thinking and design strategy, coupled with entrepreneurship and an iterative design process. Students are encouraged to synthesize theory with practice. These are intense studios taught by resident and visiting faculty, sharing a common foundation with the other studios offered in a given semester. Students are encouraged to search for connections and relationships between the studio projects and thesis, with an emphasis on discovering his/her own design voice. A significant proportion of the work will be self-directed and independent, with collaborative and community-based projects as well. Studios will consist of group discussions, critiques, student presentations, individual faculty meetings, and visits with guest designers. Seminars are offered as a forum for critical analysis and discussions of theoretical, historical and contemporary issues in communications design. Design Writing will focus on core writing skills and effective methods for researching, analyzing, evaluation and chronicling design issues. A Teaching Practicum is available for those who desire to enter post-secondary teaching. 01

2 Program Summary MFA candidates in Communications Design will be required to present a thesis and final body of work demonstrating professional competence, which must be approved by a thesis committee and the department chairperson in order to be eligible for degree conferral. The department will support students in frequent opportunities to present their work both publicly and in circumstances that develop connections with the communication design profession. Graduates of the M.F.A. program will demonstrate: The ability to identify a problem (problem seeking), and apply design process and research methodology towards a solution (definition, ideation, synthesis, realization, evaluation) Advanced professional competence, demonstrating depth of knowledge and achievement, in a well-developed, defendable significant body of work A desire for leadership positions in academia and the profession, clearly articulating and demonstrating knowledge of theory and practice The ability to think and plan independently An awareness of current issues and developments in communications design and the basic desire, ability and potential to contribute to the expansion of the field Excellent speaking and writing skills, with the ability to effectively present to the public, as well as in formal or informal teaching situations Advanced capabilities with technologies, demonstrated in the creation, dissemination, presentation, documentation, and preservation of work A basic knowledge of bibliographic and information resources associated with research and analysis, and a facility for in-depth and simultaneous cross-disciplinary study An understanding of sustainable practices in Communications Design, and the underlying social, political, and scientific issues which influence advancements in technology, business processes, and design solutions An understanding of design as a social, political and cultural activity 02

3 Curriculum Courses DES 710A Graduate Studio: Visual Language 3 credits DES 710B Graduate Studio: Visual Language 3 credits DES 720A Graduate Studio: Technology 3 credits DES 720B Graduate Studio: Technology 3 credits DES 730A Graduate Studio: Transformation Design 3 credits DES 730B Graduate Studio: Transformation Design 3 credits DES 741 Cross-Disciplinary Studio 3 credits DES 751 Design Writing 3 credits DES 760A Graduate Seminar 3 credits DES 760B Graduate Seminar 3 credits DES 771 Communications Design Teaching Practicum 3 credits * DES 791 MFA Thesis Research 3 credits DES 794A MFA Thesis Resource 1 credit DES 794B MFA Thesis Resource 1 credit DES 795A MFA Thesis Resource 1 credit DES 795B MFA Thesis Resource 1 credit DES 796 MFA Thesis I 3 credits DES 797 MFA Thesis Production + Exhibition 2 credits DES 799 MFA Thesis II 3 credits DES 799A MFA Thesis in Progress 0 credits Electives 15 credits * Total 60 credits * Students are required to take 15 credits of graduate-level electives; a minimum of 6 credits must be taken in a disparate program; electives can come from courses across the Institute; DES 771 counts as an elective. 03

4 Course Sequence Fall, year 1 Spring, year 1 Fall, year 2 Spring, year 2 DES 710A 03 DES 720A 03 DES 730A 03 DES 760A 03 Elective 03 DES DES DES 771 or Elective 03 DES Elective 03 DES 710B 03 DES 720B 03 DES 730B 03 DES 760B 03 DES 794A 01 DES 794B 01 DES DES 771 or Elective 03 DES 795A 01 DES 795B 01 DES DES Elective cr 15 cr 17 cr 13 cr Course Descriptions DES 710A & 710B, Graduate Studio: Visual Language This studio will focus on strategies to utilize design as a means for communication. Students will apply self-directed creative design strategies employing typography, image, and sound to explore the principles and methodologies associated with the development of communication design as a visual language. Students will utilize design process how form, function and content interrelate to create meaning in the communication of ideas, messages, and information through print and digital media, artifacts, information, environments, and systems. 710A is the first semester and 710B is the second semester of this two semester studio course. DES 720A & 720B, Graduate Studio: Technology Students will critically analyze and explore the tools, skills, and production methods of current and emerging technologies in design media, with an emphasis on effective and appropriate creative visualization, analysis and utilization. Students will investigate technology trends within a historical context, in order to better understand and extrapolate emerging technology systems. 720A is the first semester and 720B is the second semester of this two semester studio course. DES 730A & 730B, Graduate Studio: Transformation Design This studio will focus on strategies to utilize design as a means for transformation. With an emphasis on a human-centered, holistic, and empathic approach, students will apply design thinking methodologies to problems and issues in an attempt to transform the behaviors of individuals in desirable and sustainable ways, while creating meaningful experiences and interactions for people with communications media, artifacts, environments, organizations, services, systems, and each other. Emphasizing that people are participants rather than simply users, students will study ergonomics, usability, and human factors cognitive, physical, linguistic, social and cultural behaviors. 730A is the first semester and 730B is the second semester of this two semester studio course. 04

5 Course Descriptions DES 741, Cross-Disciplinary Studio This course introduces the student to communications design as it interfaces with, and is influenced by, other design disciplines. It will emphasize collaboration and cross-disciplinarity while encouraging students to seek and solve design problems and issues that focus on community and social outreach. The studio will typically be team taught by a faculty member from within the department and a professional from another discipline. DES 751, Design Writing This studio course will focus on core writing skills and effective methods for researching, analyzing, evaluation and chronicling design issues. Students will address both critical thinking about design issues and practical considerations through writing and public discourse. This course allows students to develop a voice through writing prior to beginning their thesis project. DES 760A & 760B, Graduate Seminar Combining lectures, discussions, small groups, and collaboration, seminar is a forum for critical analysis and discussions of theoretical, historical and contemporary issues in communications design. Effective speaking, presentation and writing skills will be addressed. Assigned faculty and guest lecturers will serve as instructors. Topics will vary. 760A is the first semester and 760B is the second semester of this two semester studio course. DES 771, Communications Design Teaching Practicum Intended for those who desire to enter teaching at the college-level, students will explore and observe multiple teaching pedagogies/strategies, design education methodologies, and evaluation techniques in order to develop a knowledge base for curricular and project development, as well as techniques for effective and appropriate course preparation and instruction. Course, program and student assessment processes will be introduced and discussed. Evaluation given by participating faculty will serve to assist students in preparation for post-secondary teaching. This course may be repeated. DES 791, MFA Thesis Research Students will explore various research methods with the goal of identifying a problem or issue that will become the basis of a thesis topic. Students will be expected to formulate a viable hypothesis, bibliography, and plan of action. How to best utilize public and private archives, collections and libraries, as well as online and database research, will be addressed. DES 794A, 794B & 795A, 795B, MFA Thesis Resource 05 Thesis Resource offers the student the opportunity for individual guidance on their Thesis research and development during Thesis. A student s thesis committee is comprised of one primary advisor and a minimum of two secondary advisors.

6 Course Descriptions DES 796, MFA Thesis I Working under the advisement of a thesis committee, students undertake independent research through self-directed projects that represent a coherent voice and makes a meaningful contribution to the field of design. The thesis is not a single project, but rather a body of work consisting of multiple projects/visual explorations based on a single topic/subject area sharing a common methodology. DES 797, MFA Thesis Production + Exhibition Students are required to present and defend their thesis and body of work in a public venue, and submit a written document. This course will allow the student to work with faculty and peers in the design and development, production and exhibition of the written and visual components of the Thesis. DES 799, MFA Thesis II Taken in the final semester of the student s study, students complete their thesis under the advisement of the thesis committee. In addition to demonstrating professional competence and persistent ideas consistently applied within a body of work culminating in a public exhibition, students are also expected to complete a written documentation of the Thesis. DES 799A, MFA Thesis in Progress 06

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