Visual Communication Designers use color, typography, imagery, layout, formats and media to help individuals, businesses and institutions reach their target audiences. From logos to brand strategy; book covers to packaging; websites to apps and posters to billboards; from kiosks to building façades, visual communication designers are responsible for creating the messages we see and read every day.
The Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Visual Communication Design at Montclair State University is a comprehensive, four-year, pre-professional program that combines focused studio work in the major with liberal arts courses that cross all disciplinary areas. Our curriculum will raise your awareness about the knowledge and themes that surround visual communication design and prepare you for a career in graphic design, creative coding, motion and user interface design. In our program, research, analysis, sketching, concept development and teamwork become an integral part of your design process. Our goal is to help you to become a persuasive design thinker equipped with the disciplinary skills and points of view that will serve you well in the field and in your life beyond college.
Alumni of our program work for companies like Bandai Namco Entertainment, CBS Local, CDGNYC, Circle Media, CLEAR M&C SAATCHI, Dressbarn, Fanbrandz, Instagram, Jet, L’Oréal Professionnel, MLB Network, Monotype Imaging, MSNBC, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide, Pentagram, Simon & Schuster, thinkdm2, UP Design, and VSA Partners. Our alumni also teach at Cooper Union, The City College of New York, and School of Visual Arts.
Your studies will begin with courses in design, composition, color theory and art history. You will also explore the range of theories and practices of visual communication including the selection and use of type and image; professional presentations; concept development; computer applications for professional production; and content preparation for print, multimedia and the web. What’s more, we supplement our curriculum with valuable liberal arts courses that foster critical thinking – essential to professional development in any field. Small classes (18-22 students) ensure personalized attention and opportunity for making real connections.
For complete Visual Communication Design BFA course requirements and descriptions, go to:
Throughout your studies, you will create work incorporating a range of media and techniques that include use of typography, photography, and digital and drawn imagery. By senior year, your portfolio will reflect exploration of a wide range of projects. It will be your most important asset in finding work in the industry.
Visit our Graphic Design Student Work Gallery to see a few examples of our students’ work.
Faculty who teach in the Visual Communication Design program are experts in their fields and passionate about teaching. You will also learn from world-renowned visiting designers known for their expertise in graphic, web and interactive design; branding; print publication; communication technology; and fine arts.
You will be exposed to internationally recognized designers through class visits to their studios and lectures in New York City venues. They will also come to campus to see your work as well.
Our Art Forum lecture series has attracted designers such as Andrew Byrom, Joshua Davis, John Gall, Alexander Isley, Emily Oberman, Stefan Sagmeister, Paula Scher and Jan Wilker, to name just a few.
Learn more about our faculty and Art & Design Forum series:
Montclair’s Visual Communication Design graduates have found work in a variety of professional settings, including design studios, advertising agencies, public relations firms and publishing companies. Some also work as freelancers or start their own businesses. Web design and teaching are additional career options for Visual Communication Designers.
- Advertising Design
- Book Cover Design
- Corporate Creative Services
- Environmental Design
- Exhibition Design for trade shows and museums
- Film, Video and Video Game Graphic Design
- Interactive Design for websites, video games and computer displays
- Logo, Identity and Brand Design
- Magazine and Page Layout Design
- Information Design
- Package Design
- Retail Design
- Television Graphics
- Type Design
- Product Graphics
Please visit the links below for additional information:
What to include in a Visual Communication Design portfolio
- If you are a freshman Visual Communication Design applicant, submit work that demonstrates your range of capability. When preparing your portfolio, we invite you to include a combination of drawings, paintings, photography, three-dimensional, and time-based work. Include no more – and no less – than 15 total pieces. Your portfolio should illustrate your strengths as a highly creative individual.
Additional Guidelines for Preparing a Visual Communication Design Portfolio
Below are the kinds of work you may include in your portfolio. Combination and emphasis are up to you:
- Drawing – Fundamental to visual communication. Whether done with pencils, charcoal, conté crayon, pen and ink, colored pencils, or markers, submit original, observational drawings: objects, still lifes, life drawings, landscapes, or self-portraits. Do not include drawings you have made from magazines or photographs, do not submit drawings of comic book superheroes or cartoon characters.
- Painting – Watercolor, oil, acrylic, or gouache paintings, separately or in combination. Your paintings may be realistic or abstract but should reflect your ideas about color and composition. Paintings, just like drawings, must be original and must feature real/live subject matter.
- Photography – Include photographs only if they are an area of interest. Submit photographs that reveal your discerning eye for placement, cropping, point of view, contrast, and so on. Thematic photographs are ideal.
- Three-dimensional work – Include sculpture, ceramics, architectural models, etc., if they demonstrate a keen sense of space and a high level of craftsmanship.
- Computer Work – Submit visual communication/graphic designs (e.g., logos, posters, flyers, invitations, magazine designs, book cover designs, packaging, and the like), videos, animations, and motion graphics (if you enjoy sequential, time-based storytelling), and interface designs (e.g., Web design, apps, and responsive environments) if you enjoy designing with users in mind. Edit time-based work to no longer than two minutes in length. Show only the strongest sequences.
Required of all Visual Communication Design applicants:
- Sketchbooks – Because sketchbooks show us your thinking and your creativity, they are essential towards evaluating not only how you achieve final visual solutions/work, but also your potential for success in our program. Submit a selection of pages to demonstrate this aspect of your creativity.
Bear in mind that there is no recipe for portfolio preparation. However, a strong, well-rounded, and highly organized portfolio will boost your candidacy for Visual Communication Design.
Freshman and transfer applicant portfolios are evaluated by Visual Communication Design faculty through Slate, the University’s Web-based admissions system. Applicants will be contacted by Undergraduate Admissions regarding portfolio evaluation results and program decisions.
If your focus is visual communication (graphic design) and you are transferring from a two-year program – with or without an Associate degree (e.g., AS, AA, or AAS) – your portfolio should almost exclusively feature visual communication. The same is true if you are transferring from a four-year program.
Do not submit drawings, paintings, photography, or three-dimensional work unless they demonstrate high levels of polish and attention to detail. Submit any of the previously described media (drawings, paintings, etc.) only if they complement your work and your range of interests as a designer.
Visual Communication Design at Montclair State University is a NASAD-accredited, full-time, pre-professional BFA program. If you plan to transfer into our program from a two-year program, we highly recommend that you take only foundations and beginning level studio art and design courses. We accept a maximum of 9 credits in the major. Additional, advanced coursework will be separately reviewed by faculty and may transfer if they are determined to be reasonably equivalent to major coursework. If you are transferring from a four-year program, then your previously completed courses would likewise be evaluated.
If you are an undeclared Montclair State University student, or a Montclair State University student who is changing her or his major, please contact the Program Coordinator for internal transfer applicant procedures.
If you have been accepted by the University and intend to begin your Visual Communication Design studies in the fall of 2020 as a freshman, you may apply to the program via SLATE until May 18th, 2020. In order to have your portfolio reviewed in time for us to notify The Office of Undergraduate Admissions, you must upload your materials by May 18th.
If you are transferring from another institution and wish to begin your Visual Communication Design studies in the spring of 2020, please submit your material as soon as possible.
Current MSU students, please contact the Program Coordinator before applying to the program.
Visual Communication Design majors gain a significant advantage when, early on – and throughout their undergraduate experience – they become involved with groups, organizations, clubs, and societies that expose them to vocabularies, mediums, bodies of work, and array of practices that characterize the profession. In an age defined by outsourcing, gig economies, interdisciplinary settings, persistent change, greater scope, and shifting priorities, it is not enough to simply learn how visual communication design is made.
The following online resources are first steps towards expanding your perspective and your understanding of visual communication design – what it looks like, what it was, what it can be, who it serves, how it is evaluated and put into words: