Communication Design

A laptop is open with the screen showing colorful graphic elements. Assorted printed graphic design materials are scattered on the table.
 Students seated at rectangular tables work on computers during a typography class

Program Description

The mission of the Communication Design Major is to enable learners to gain the design thinking, knowledge, and skills required of practicing designers in areas like communication design, user experience design, and branding. Learners grow these competencies through exercises, projects, and learning experiences designed to develop practical, analytical, creative, emotional, and social intelligences. Graduates are prepared to enter a wide range of design practices as adaptable problem solvers that consider context and stakeholder need as drivers for design.

Communication Design Majors will be able to:

  • Apply design processes and produce outcomes within practical constraints.
  • Demonstrate relevant and accurate decision-making for needs being addressed.
  • Generate inventive and engaging outcomes.
  • Accurately interpret and express emotions that are appropriate for the context.
  • Demonstrate an ability to effectively engage and collaborate with others.

The Communication Design program has two interrelated goals:

  1. prepare students for the practice of design in the professional context, and
  2. provide the basis for their continued creative and personal growth.

With a problem-solving format, students develop visual communication skills, explore the integration of type and images through a variety of traditional and computer media, and imaginatively deliver messages responsive to the needs of the sender and the receiving audience. Students learn to be aware of the cultural context in which they work, keeping in mind the responsibilities inherent to a discipline that engages our society.

During the upper-level years, students participate in Highwire Brand Studio, a nationally recognized interdisciplinary program where students work with for-profit and non-profit clients. The required design internship experience is another opportunity for applied work for developing career-minded knowledge, thinking, and skills in design.

At Miami, Communication Design majors can:

  • Experience real-world projects through interdisciplinary studios, special projects, and study abroad programs.
  • Enjoy a small supportive environment (About 20 students per class).
  • Be inspired by visiting artist lectures and workshops.
  • Thrive in a liberal arts environment, leaving school a well-rounded, highly marketable individual.
  • Take advantage of innovative fabrication equipment —laser cutter, 3D printer, CNC lab, 3D visualization lab.
  • Gain valuable professional experience through internships within leading firms.

Visit our Design Miami Ohio blog to learn more about our projects and our people.

Portfolio Review

In addition to the entrance portfolio review required by the Department of Art, students desiring to pursue the Communication Design major must undergo an additional portfolio review. This review occurs in the spring semester of the first year before registration for the fall semester. This portfolio and interview process determines advancement into the degree program in the second year. In order to submit a portfolio for admission into the Communication Design major, students must be enrolled in ART 151 Becoming a People-Driven Designer and must have completed or be enrolled in ART 102 Color Theory and Practice, ART 111 Design and Composition, ART 121 Observational Drawing, and ART 252 Image.

For the portfolio-review process, each applicant submits a portfolio of works completed in the above Art Department Foundations courses. Typically, our program receives 35-45 portfolio submissions each March. Applicants whose portfolios demonstrate an aptitude for design participate in an interview with Communication Design faculty to discuss their work and career goals in design. Communication Design faculty, who all have professional experience as working designers, evaluate portfolio strength and interview responses for each applicant who advances to the round of interviews. No more than 24 students can be admitted into the Communication Design program each year to ensure class sizes remain conducive to intense, studio-based learning in design.

All applicants to the BFA in Communication Design can be considered for admission to the Communication Design minor.

Program Requirements (as of Academic Year 2021-22)

  • Admission into the Communication Design program via Portfolio Review (details listed below)
  • 25 credit hours in art/design history and studio art courses
  • 38 credit hours in Communication Design: 1 in the first year, 15 in the second year, with 12 in the third year and 10 in the fourth year
  • 3 additional credit hours of advanced studio art (see list below)
  • 3 credit hours in non-western history of art (see list below)
  • 16 credit hours in approved electives from these areas: Art and Architectural History, Business, Communication, Craft, Cultural Studies, Environmental Design, Experience Design, Human-Centered Design, Interactive Design, Language, Perception & Cognition, and Studio Art (see list below).
  • 3 credit hours in a design internship: typically completed during summer
  • 9 credit hours in Thematic Sequence courses
  • 27 credit hours in Miami Plan Foundations courses.

The program requirements listed below incorporate all requirements in Art and the Miami Plan Foundation (MPF). Students must successfully complete 124 semester hours minimum to earn the B.F.A. in Communication Design.

For catalog years earlier than 2021-2022, please consult with an academic advisor.

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communication Design | First Year

First Semester (16hrs.)
ART 111 Design and Composition (3hrs.)
ART 102 Color Theory (1.5hrs.)
ART 103 Creative Technology (1.5hrs.)
ART 281 Contemporary Art Forum (1hr.)
ENG 111 English Composition (MPF) (3hrs.)
Biological Science (MPF) (3hrs.)
Social Science (MPF) (3hrs.)

Second Semester (16hrs.)
ART 121 Observational Drawing (3hrs.)
ART 188 History of Western Art: Renaissance to Modern (3hrs.)
ART 151 Becoming a People-Driven Designer (1hr.)
ART 252 Image (3hrs.)
Advanced Writing (MPF) (3hrs.)
Inter-cultural Perspectives (MPF) (3hrs.)

Communication Design Portfolio Review in March or April
Applicants must have the following to apply for Communication Design:

  • completed or enrolled in ART 151 and must earn a passing grade
  • completed or enrolled in ART 102, ART 111, ART 121, and ART 252
  • Portfolio on Behance website

Portfolios are submitted using the Portfolio Submission page at the blog site.

This review is in addition to the Art Department portfolio review, typically completed when applying to Miami University or transferring into Art.

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communication Design | Second Year

First Semester (15hrs.)
ART 251 Typography (3hrs.)
ART 227 Design Research Methods Basics (3hrs.)
ART 221 Drawing 3 (3hrs.)
Physical Science (MPF) (3hrs.)
Non-western Art History (3hrs.) Select one of the following:

  • ART 162 Arts of Africa, Oceania, and Native America
  • ART 286 History of Asian Art, China, Korea, and Japan
  • ART 309 The Arts of African Peoples
  • ART 311 Chinese Painting History
  • ART 326 Modern & Contemporary East Asian Art
  • ART 335 Arts of West Africa
  • ART 480C Seminar in Art History
  • ART 480T Seminar in Art History

Second Semester (15hrs.)
ART 254 Communication Design Studio 1 (3hrs.)
ART 253 Design Systems (3hrs.)
Mathematics, Reasoning, Technology (MPF) (3hrs.)
Elective (choose from electives list) (3hrs.)
Studio Elective (3hrs.) Select one of the following:

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communication Design | Third Year

First Semester (15hrs.)
ART 455/555 A History of Design (3hrs.)
ART 460/560 Special Topics Design Studio (3hrs.)
Global or Study Abroad (MPF) (3hrs.)
Global or Study Abroad (MPF) (3hrs.)
Elective (choose from electives list) (3hrs.)

Second Semester (15hrs.)
ART 352 Communication Design Studio 2 (3hrs.)
ART 354 Design for Use (3hrs.)
ART 353 The Business of Design (3hrs.)
Thematic Sequence (3hrs.)
Upper-Level Art History (3hrs.) Select one of the following:

  • ART 309 The Arts of African Peoples
  • ART 311 Chinese Painting History
  • ART 314 The Renaissance in Italy
  • ART 315 High Renaissance and Mannerism
  • ART 316 Baroque Art in Europe
  • ART 317 The Arts of Colonial Latin America
  • ART 326 Modern & Contemporary East Asian Art
  • ART 335 Arts of West Africa
  • ART 382 Greek and Roman Sculpture
  • ART 383 Greek and Roman Painting
  • ART 384 Greek and Roman Decorative Arts
  • ART 326 Modern & Contemporary East Asian Art
  • ART 386 Art of the Weimar Republic
  • ART 406 Art Since 1980
  • ART 486/586 Art of the Late 19th Century
  • ART 487/587 Art of the Early 20th Century
  • ART 488 Art in the Age of Revolution: 1789-1848
  • ART 489/589 Postwar to Postmodern, 1945-1980

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communication Design | Fourth Year

First Semester (13hrs.)
ART 451 The Professional Portfolio (3hrs.)
ART 453 Highwire Brand Studio (Take either fall or spring, 4hrs.) 
Thematic Sequence (3hrs.)
Elective (choose from electives list) (3hrs.)

Second Semester (15hrs.)
ART 452 Communication Design Studio 3 (3hrs.)
Thematic Sequence (3hrs.)
Elective (choose from electives list) (3hrs.)
Elective (choose from electives list) (3hrs.)
Elective (choose from electives list) (3hrs.)

Communication Design Electives

Minimum of 16 credit hours.

Communication Design Majors must take five to six electives (16 hours) to reach the 124-hour graduation requirement. Most Minors at Miami require 18+ credit hours and would fulfill the Elective requirement for Communication Design. Other courses for elective credit may be added to this list. Discuss alternatives with a Communication Design academic advisor.

Groupings below indicate how electives may be grouped to compliment Thematic Sequences or Minors. This approach enables students to customize their course of study any way they like, adding art studio, Interactive Media Studies, and other specialized courses.

Art and Architectural History
Any Art History course beyond the 12 credit hours required for the Major in Communication Design
Any Architectural History course (100-400 level, must meet prerequisites)

MGT 111 Introduction to Business
MGT 291 Introduction to Management & Leadership
STC 231 Small Group Communication
STC 259 Introduction to Strategic Communication and Public Relations

STC 135 Principles of Public Speaking
STC 136 Introduction to Interpersonal Communication
MAC 146 Media Aesthetics
MAC 213 Writing for Media
ENG 215 Workplace Writing
MAC 258 Copywriting for Electronic Media
ENG 224 Digital Writing and Rhetoric: Composing with Words, Images, and Sounds
ENG 226 Introduction to Creative Writing: Short Fiction and Poetry

ART450/550 Letterpress Printing

Cultural Studies
AMS 111 Religion and Popular Culture
STC 436 Intercultural Communication
HST 250 History and Popular Culture
HST 252 Representation of History in Film and Video

Environmental Design
Any Architecture and/or Interior Design Studio (with permission of instructor)
ARC 211 Introduction to Landscape and Urban Design
ARC 212 Principles of Environmental Systems
ARC 225 Design: Behavior, Perception, Aesthetics
ARC 309 Furniture Design & Construction

Experience Design
ART 436/536 Applied Experience Design: Walt Disney World (Study Away / Summer)

Human-Centered Design
ATH 155 Introduction to Anthropology
ATH 175 Peoples Of The World
ATH 231 Foundations of Cultural Anthropology
ATH 411 Applied Anthropology
ATH 425 Ethnographic Field Methods
PHL 103 Society And The Individual
PHL 131 Introduction to Ethics
PHL 221 Problems of Metaphysics and Knowledge
PHL 496 Epistemology
SOC 153 Sociology in a Global Context
SOC 201 Social Problems
SOC 372 Social Stratification
EDP 324 Research and Applied Writing Across the Disciplines

Interactive Design
IMS 413 Usability and Digital Media Design (Recommended)
IMS 418 Social Media Marketing (Recommended)
IMS 419 Digital Branding (Recommended)
IMS 440 Interactive Media Studies Practicum (Recommended)
Any other IMS Course (100-400 level, must meet prerequisites)
CSE 151 Computers, Computer Science, and Society
CSE 163 Introduction to Computer Concepts and Programming
CSE 174 Fundamentals of Programming and Problem Solving
CSE 271 Object-Oriented Programming

Any Language Course (100-400 level, must meet prerequisites)

Perception and Cognition
EDP 101 Psychology Of The Learner
PSY 111 Introduction to Psychology
PSY 221 Social Psychology
PSY 231 Developmental Psychology
PSY 241 Personality
PSY 271 Survey of Perception, Action, and Cognition
PSY 453 Human Factors/Ergonomics

Studio Art
Any art studio course not used to fulfill requirements for the Major in Communication Design

The Miami University Bulletin series is the official source of information about the programs and courses of study offered at Miami University.