Penn State’s graphic design program gives you the opportunity to take advantage of an internationally renowned design faculty and a huge alumni network.

Every part of Penn State’s program is geared toward your success in the design field. In the classroom, you will be treated like a professional. You will be expected to solve problems, pay attention to detail, take initiative, and show passion for your work. You will be given assignments similar to ones that are found in the real world, which will help you to build a strong and diverse portfolio that you will be proud to show future employers. Outside of the classroom, a summer internship, completed between your junior and senior years will help you gain valuable experience, make strong networking connections, and develop your resume.

Graphic Design Technical Requirements FA12

The graphic design department at Penn State requires all first-year design students to have a laptop computer. An Apple laptop is preferable since this is recognized as the industry standard. However, if a student is already in possession of a PC laptop, that computer is acceptable for first and second year classes. All students whose portfolios are accepted at the completion of sophomore year are required at that time to have an Apple laptop computer, Apple mini-DVI to DVI adapter, and a copy of the most recent Adobe Creative Design Suite Premium.


General Education Requirements

Area Credits (45 total)

  • Skills (15 credits)
  • Writing/Speaking (GWS) 9
  • Quantification* (GQ) 6
  • Knowledge Domains (30 credits)
  • Health and Physical Activity (GHA) 3
  • Natural Sciences (GN) 9
  • Arts (GA) 6
  • Humanities (GH) 6
  • Social & Behavioral Sciences (GS) 6

*No more than 3 credits may be taken in computer science (CMPSC/CSE) or symbolic logic (PHIL) to fulfill the GQ requirement.

**Formerly GHS or GPE

Satisfactory/unsatisfactory grading may not be used for courses taken to satisfy General Education.

Alternatives For Earning Health and Physical Activity Credit

Alternatives may exist for earning credit in health and physical activity (GHA). Veterans, reservists and national guardsmen who are degree candidates and who have completed basic training may request an evaluation of their training for the awarding of credits in these areas.

Students may receive a maximum of 1.5 credits for their varsity sport experience. Varsity credit is given only once in a student's college career provided that activity credit has not been earned for the same sport. Students must enroll for this credit during the semester in which national or team championships are played (i.e., football in the fall, basketball in the spring, etc.). Credit is given only during the semester students are participating in the sport (it may not be added retroactively). Athletes should ask their team coach about registration procedures.

Selecting Courses

General Education courses are meant to help students explore and integrate information beyond the specific focus of their majors. Therefore, in most cases students may not meet the General Education requirements by taking courses in the department or program identical to that of their major. For example, a student majoring in history may not satisfy General Education requirements with history courses. This policy applies to cross-listed courses as well. For example, a student majoring in sociology may not use Women's Studies 110 (GS) to fulfill a General Education requirement because it is cross-listed with Sociology 110 (GS).

However, requirements for certain majors include General Education courses. They are identified in the section describing each major in the Undergraduate Degree Programs Bulletin. For example, for the Industrial Health and Safety major, the bulletin lists the following:

(24 of these 45 credits are included in the REQUIREMENTS FOR THE MAJOR)
(See description of General Education in front of bulletin.)

(This includes 24 credits of General Education courses: 3 credits of GWS courses, 6 credits of GQ courses, 9 credits of GN courses, and 3 credits of GS courses.)

If a student in this major selected the specified courses in GWS, GQ, and GS, then part of his/her General Education requirements and major requirements would be satisfied. When a course is used to satisfy more than one requirement, the credits in the course are counted only once toward graduation.

In addition, some colleges and majors have stipulations regarding course selection. College and major General Education course requirements are listed in the tables provided by the Center for Excellence in Academic Advising.

Flexibility in General Education

Substitution of Higher Level Courses

With the approval of the student's adviser and appropriate dean's representative, a student may substitute 200- to 499-level courses for courses on the General Education list if they are in the same area of General Education. For example, a student might take PHIL 432, substituting it for a lower-level General Education humanities (GH) course.

Developing a Sequence (3-6-9)

In consultation with an adviser and the student's appropriate dean's representative, a sequence of 9 credits may be developed in the arts, humanities, or social and behavioral sciences by substituting 3 credits from one of the other two areas. For example, a student might develop a 9-credit sequence of courses in social sciences (GS) with SOC 001 (GS), PSYCH 100 (GS), and HD FS 249 (GS) and deduct 3 credits from arts (GA). In other words, this student's 3 credits in GA, 6 credits in humanities (GH), and 9 credits in GS would fulfill requirements in these areas.

The University may make changes in policies, procedures, educational offerings, and requirements at any time. Please consult a Penn State academic adviser for more detailed information.

Undergraduate Program

For the Bachelor of Design degree in Graphic Design at Penn State, a minimum of 120 credits is required. Students who enter into pre-design as freshmen can expect to complete the graphic design program in four years; students who enter later should expect to stay five or six years in order to complete all of the required courses.

Penn State’s design program is comprised of two parts: the pre-design program for freshmen & sophomores and the graphic design program for juniors & seniors. The design program offers a variety of interesting courses that will develop your talents, hone your problem-solving skills, and strengthen your ability to develop solid concepts.

Along with the design curriculum, you will be able to take advantage of the huge variety of General Education classes (45 credits required) that the university has to offer. Let’s take a look at the design classes you take:

Freshman Year

GD001S (1): First-Year Seminar in Graphic Design

Orient to University life, the College of Arts and Architecture, and, of course graphic design: its ethics, topics, and philosophy.

GD100 (3): Introduction to Graphic Design

Learn about the practice, history and processes of the graphic design industry in this on-line course.

GD101 (2): Thinking Creatively

Explore the theory and practice of visual creative thinking, problem solving, and the design process.

GD102 (3): Introductory Design Studio

Immerse yourself in the graphic design studio experience. Focus on learning design elements such as form, color and composition, and developing hand-craft skills.

PHOTO100 (3): Introduction to Photography

In this online class, take your own photographs, read articles, and learn about photography’s history.

Sophomore Year

GD200 (3): Graphic Design Studio I

Learn different processes for generating images, including illustration, photography, and collage. This class is also your introduction to typography.

GD201 (3): Typography

Explore typography as both a visual and verbal element in graphic design. Create graphic communications that focus on typographic form.

GD202W (3): History of Graphic Design

Take this writing-intensive seminar that surveys graphic design from a historical, theoretical, and critical perspective.

PHOTO200 (3)

Continue to develop your photography skills: coursework focuses on both the pragmatic, technical aspects of photography and the conceptual, creative process of taking great photographs.

In addition, there are also individualized classes one can take that involve research projects, internships, independent and foreign studies, and special topics. These must be arranged on a one-on-one basis with a professor.

At the end of your sophomore year, if you have gotten a C or better in all of your pre-design classes, you may apply for entrance to the graphic design program by submitting a portfolio of your work, which will be reviewed by the design faculty.

If you are not accepted, you may reapply the following year, but this will push back your graduation date.

If you are accepted into the major, you will spend the next two years in focused graphic design study.

Junior Year

GD300 (4): Design Photography

Rediscover your love of photography as you push it further than you ever have before. You integrate your experimental concept-driven photography with type to make original, dynamic projects.

GD301 (4): Graphic Design Technology I

Spruce up your computer skills by learning new page layout programs and mastering image manipulation and illustration programs.

GD302 (4): Applied Communication

Delve into new design problems that emphasize understanding symbolism and imagery in connecting with your audience.

GD303 (4): Graphic Design Technology II

Increase your understanding of graphic design technology further with programs that enable motion graphics and interactive design.

GD304 (3): Practical Communications

Get real-life hands-on experience by designing for the university and community non-profit organizations.

GD310 (3-6): Studio Apprenticeship

Bond with an established designer as you see and help with his/her creative process.

GD395 (1-18): Internship

Launch into a real-world design experience and return home to show it off in the form of an original presentation.

Senior Year

GD400 (4): Time and Sequence

Tackle the issues of time, and, of course, sequence as you make original short films and take on other assigned challenges.

GD401 (3): Package Design

Sell products to the masses (hypothetically) by making enticing packaging designs, weighing in the factors of the consumer, the client, and societal and environmental concerns.

GD402 (4): Senior Problems

Finish out your design career by designing a magazine on the topic of your choosing.

GD404 (3): Book Design

Write, design, illustrate, and produce (print) your own book.

GD496 (1-18): Independent Study

Choose a creative project that will be supervised on an individual basis.

Interested in Graphic Design? Plan a visit!

Please contact:

Ronda Markley
Administrative Assistant