Graphic Design (BA | BFA)

Columbia College Chicago’s Graphic Design programs will give you the tools and experience you’ll need to launch a career in visual communication. You’ll develop advanced skills in typography, layout, information design, packaging design, and other applications through hands-on courses. You’ll learn the software and technology you’ll need to deliver dynamic visual communications. You’ll also gain experience in research and client management.

UN Declaration of Human Rights poster designs by Ian Preston, Andrew Shike, Essence Mack, and Lexa Funderburg.

You’ll focus on graphic design within a broader program of foundational studies in art and design. You’ll also gain a strong business foundation, which will prepare you to join a design firm, an agency, an in-house corporate design team, or launch your own freelance business.

Degrees Available

Columbia College Chicago offers two programs in graphic design: the Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA). A second Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design is also available if you’ve already earned a bachelor’s degree.

The BFA is a rigorous, professionally focused degree in visual communications. The BFA requires students to learn multiple disciplines and has fewer opportunities to choose electives. The BA provides a foundation in design, but allows students to choose a concentration in one discipline and minor or double major. All Graphic Design students develop a professional portfolio of work as part of the requirements of the degree program.

View course requirements:


Graphic Design BA students may choose from one of two concentrations: Web Design or Publication Design. You may also elect not to choose a concentration, and instead combine courses in a way that suits your skills and career goals.

Publication Design

This concentration will introduce you to the processes and methods of publication design. By studying the identity of publications, you’ll learn how to create systems using unifying elements like typography, images, and illustrations.

Web Design

In the Web Design concentration, you’ll learn advanced methods for creating interactive digital content. You’ll learn HTML, CSS, backend technologies, and content management systems. You’ll practice by building digital products.

In the Classroom

Columbia College Chicago Graphic Design Classroom

  • You’ll start with courses focused on the history and theory of design. Our Design Thinking course will teach you how to ask questions and frame your thinking around design. An Introduction to Visual Culture course will give you the vocabulary and context you’ll need to critique your work and the work of others.

  • You’ll choose from courses that cover design programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. You’ll also learn fabrication techniques like papermaking and laser cutting.

  • You’ll learn about typography and color theory, how to create a graphic language, and how to create visual identities and brands. You’ll complete assignments that will put your skills to the test.

  • A portfolio course will teach you how to develop, document, and curate a body of work for different audiences. You’ll start building your portfolio from day one, updating, refining, and improving it until you graduate.


Internships will give you opportunities to gain experience in a professional environment and add to your portfolio. You’ll make professional connections, beginning with our award-winning faculty members who are active in the industry.

Our students have completed graphic design work as interns for firms such as:

  • Leo Burnett, one of the largest advertising agencies in the world with clients like Procter & Gamble, McDonald’s, and Samsung.

  • Cards Against Humanity, creator of the infamous card game.

  • Foote, Cone & Belding, a global advertising agency with clients around the world.

  • Pivot Design, an award-winning branding, marketing, and advertising agency.

  • Pressley Johnson Design, one of the premiere design communications firms in the Midwest.

  • 50000feet Creative Agency, a firm that has worked with some of the top brands in the U.S.

  • Shure Microphone's internal design department.


Columbia College Chicago graphic design professor Guy Villa

“I always tell my students, ‘Do what makes you feel uncomfortable. That’s how you grow.’”

Guy Villa Jr., assistant professor of instruction and owner of Guy Villa Design

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Our faculty members are designers, artists, and leaders in the field of graphic design. Their award-winning work has been published and exhibited in the U.S. and abroad. They present at conferences and influence the way designers think about design. They bring years of experience into the classroom and give students insight into the industry.

Alumni Success

Our alumni work as graphic designers, brand designers, and creative strategists at firms and studios around the world. They work at design firms, startups, nonprofits, and Fortune 500 corporations. Many have started successful freelance businesses and design consulting firms.

  • Eavan Wallner ’14 is a visual designer at Google. After spending four years at Leo Burnett, where she designed for clients such as Allstate, Samsung, and Kraft, Wallner moved to San Francisco to join the design team at Google.
  • Jared Sawdey ’17 is a designer at Cards Against Humanity. In his free time, he runs the Chicago-based print cooperative Bad Press.
  • Crystal Zapata ’16 is a designer and artist at the Normal Studio in Chicago. Her Italian-design-inspired posters for Bricktown Sound, a bi-weekly dance party, have become recognizable in the city.
  • Seth Abbott ’18 is a junior art director at Time Zone One, a global creative communications agency based in Chicago, Toronto, and Christchurch, New Zealand.
  • Erick Morales ’17 is a junior designer at One Design Company, an award-winning strategic design and development agency.
  • Jehan Abon Cowan ’07 is experience design lead at Fjord, Design and Innovation from Accenture Interactive.
  • Haley Fischer ’17 is a junior designer at Modern Luxury, a lifestyle publisher with titles across industries, including well-known city magazines such as CS, Capital File, and Gotham.

Many Graphic Design BA students pursue a minor or second major in a related field. Minors that complement a major in Graphic Design include:

We also offer BA and BFA programs in Illustration.