Graphic Design Major Guide for 2011-2012

About the School of Art

The University of Tennessee is classified as a Doctoral/Research Extensive institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Courses are taught by our internationally known faculty who conduct a high level of research and creative activity.

The School of Art at the University of Tennessee has a strong national reputation and is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). On the undergraduate level, the School offers curricula leading to the Bachelor of Arts (majors in Art History and Studio Art); the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Art; and the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. These programs prepare students to pursue graduate work or a variety of career options including fine artist, graphic designer, photographer, digital/media artist, gallery director, museum administrator, arts administrator, public school teacher, and college instructor.

Undergraduate majors in the school enjoy the advantages of small art classes augmented by the benefits of a large university with its wealth of activities and course selections. The school takes seriously its role of guiding students toward individual creative and educational fulfillment.

Faculty in the School includes artists, designers and art historians of national stature. The Artist-in-Residence Program and the Visiting Artists, Designers and Scholars Program further enhance the teaching environment by featuring prominent individuals who work with students in a variety of venues.

The School of Art has an active exhibition program supported by the Ewing Gallery of Art and Architecture and the University of Tennessee Downtown Gallery, which host major exhibitions of work by national and international artists. The School also maintains Tennessee’s only student run, non-profit exhibition space, Gallery 1010. Both University of Tennessee Downtown Gallery and Gallery 1010 are located off campus in the heart of the Knoxville downtown art district.

What is Graphic Design

Suppose you want to announce or sell something, amuse or persuade someone, explain a complicated system, or demonstrate a process. In other words, you have a message you want to communicate. How do you send it? You could tell people one by one or broadcast by radio or loudspeaker. That is verbal communication. But if you use a visual medium—if you make a poster, type a letter, create a business logo, a magazine ad, a Web site, or make a computer print-out—you are using a form of visual communication called graphic design.
Graphic designers work with drawn, painted, photographed, or computer-generated images (pictures). They also design the letterforms that make up various typefaces found in movie credits, TV ads, books, magazines, menus, and desktop publishing. Designers create, choose, and organize these elements of typography and imagery to communicate a message. Graphic design is a part of your daily life. From humble things like gum wrappers to huge things like billboards to the T-shirt you’re wearing, graphic design informs, persuades, organizes, stimulates, locates, identifies, attracts attention and provides pleasure.
Graphic design is a creative process that combines art and technology to communicate ideas. The designer works with a variety of communication tools in order to convey a message from a client to a particular audience. The main tools are image and typography.

Career Opportunities in Graphic Design

The projects created by designers give form to the communication between their client and an audience. To do this, designers ask: What is the nature of the client? What is the nature of the audience? How does the client want to be perceived by the audience? Designers also explore the content of the message the client wishes to send, and they determine the appropriate form and media to convey that message. They manage the communication process, from understanding the problem to finding the solution. In other words, designers develop and implement overall communication strategies for their clients.
The process that goes into creating design projects is often invisible. It’s clear that some projects, because of their size, would be inconceivable without considerable project management skills. And the range of content clearly demonstrates the designer’s need for a good liberal arts education to aid in understanding and communicating diverse design content.
The corporate executive oversees design for a large company. The university professor teaches the next generation of designers and thus influences the future of the field. The design entrepreneur engages in design initiation as an independent business. Consider these and other design-related roles as you plan your studies and early job experience.
Areas for careers in design include: multimedia design, type design, film title design, television graphics, exhibit design, signage design, package design, environmental design, design planning, publication systems, educational design, magazine design, identity design, systems design, corporate communication, and nonprofit design.

Salary Trends in Graphic Design

Salary ranges as of 2009:

Creative director $75,000–$120,000
Art director $54,000–$81,000
Senior designer $50,500 –$72,500
Web designer $44,000–$65,000
Designer $40,000–$75,000
Entry-level $30,000–$40,000

Please note that these figures reflect overall averages of a national survey conducted by the AIGA in 2008. For ad­ditional information, see

High School Preparation

As a reflection of their creativity, designers often have an abundance of curiosity. They ask questions, delight in playing the devil’s advocate, and are often reluctant to accept someone else’s habits or customs. Making things is second nature for designers. Somehow thinking something or saying something just isn’t enough. Designers sense intuitively that the process of making something real engages the mind in a different and powerful way: forms and colors change; new ideas emerge. They like projects with definite beginnings, middles and endings, because these kinds of projects are tied to development and achievements. Generally, designers dislike routine or maintenance activities. Starting something new and unknown challenges them.
Designers are attracted to things that perform a definite function—things that are useful and beautiful. They are interested in improving everyday life rather than creating art for museums. To designers, the limitations of design and communication are seen as challenges rather than as straightjackets.
There really is no exact, ideal, universal designer type. General characteristics, including creativity, openness to new ideas, and a desire to explore the visual world, are more important than specific traits or qualities.
Comments excerpted from Graphic Design: A Career Guide and Education Directory, edited by Sharon Helmer Poggenpohl, American Institute of Graphic Arts, 1993.

How to Major in Graphic Design

Before you may progress into the program as a major, you must take Art 101 and 103 (a two-course sequence in two- and three-dimensional design) and an art history survey (Art History 172, 173, 183 or 162).  Students are then admitted in rank order of cumulative average as space allows.  During the first year, students also usually take Art 102, a course in four-dimensional design, a second art history survey and Art 150, The Idea of Graphic Design.  During the second year, you will progress to 200-level classes and choose a concentration.

Requirements for Graphic Design

Requirements for entry into the BFA degree program in graphic design are the same as the entry requirements for the University of Tennessee and the School of Art. At the end of the sophomore sequence, students participate in a portfolio review that determines which students are ready to pursue upper-division work.
You can review the requirements for the BFA in Graphic Design in the School of Art Handbook. Also, reading lists are posted on the Graphic Design Web site at

Special Programs, Co-ops, and Internships

The graphic design program supports an active practicum or internship program. Students interview and are placed in a variety of professional settings including Sony Music, HGTV, Morris Creative, and Atlantic Records. Students are encouraged to work outside of Knoxville in cities like Atlanta, Nashville, Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.
The Design Center is a design studio composed of students in the graphic design program at the University of Tennessee. The purpose of the Design Center is to allow students to participate in interdisciplinary collaboration at an advanced level. The Design Center provides a workshop environment that allows students to explore cutting-edge technology and its relationship to communication.
Students in the Design Center and in practicum experiences have won numerous design awards for their work. The faculty is currently working to arrange a collaborative educational exchange with schools in China and Hong Kong.

Ready for the World logoReady for the World

“Ready for the World” is part of a long-range plan to transform the UTK campus into a culture of diversity that best prepares students for working and competing in the 21st century.  Thus students are encouraged to actively participate in the diverse cultural programs offered on campus.  Some of these events include the guest lecture series, cultural nights at the International House, and international film screenings.  Visit the Center for International Education website ( or the Ready for the World website ( for more information on upcoming cultural programs and activities.
Students are also encouraged to develop a global perspective within their academic program through study abroad.  Visit the Programs Abroad Office website ( for information on study abroad opportunities.

Learn more about UT’s Ready for the World initiative to help students gain the international and intercultural knowledge they need to succeed in today’s world.

Sample Curriculum

Following this four-year plan will help you stay on track to graduate in four years.  Milestone courses have been identified as the minimum courses that must be completed.

Freshman Year Credit Hours
English Composition 6
Art 101 3
Art 103 3
Art 102 3
Art Design 150 3
ARTA 211 3
Art History 172 3
Art History 173 3
Quantitative Reasoning 3
Milestone courses: English 101, Quantitative Reasoning (3 hrs) and one course from Art 101, 102 or 103 and Art Design 150
Sophomore Year Credit Hours
Art Design 251 3
Art Design 252 3
Art Design 350 – Portfolio Review 0
Art Design 255 3
Studio Electives 9
Foreign Language (intermediate level) 6
Computer Science 100 or 102 4
Milestone courses: English 102, elementary foreign language proficiency, Art 101, 102 and 103, and one of ARTH 172 or 173
Junior Year Credit Hours
Art Design 351 3
Art Design 352 3
Electives 3
Art Design 405 3
Art Design 400 3
Art History (300+ level) 3
*Studio Electives 9
Natural Science 7
*Communicating through Writing 3
Senior Year Credit Hours
Art Design 450 3
Art Design 451 3
Art Design 452 (OC) 4
*Art Design Elective (choose from 259, 401, 402, 403, 405, 459, 491) 6
Art Design 456 and/or 444 7
Social Science 6
GRAND TOTAL (minimum) 120

*Students must complete 42 credit hours at the 300 level or above.

For More Information

School of Art Handbook
School of Art Office
213 Arts & Architecture Building



The information on this page should be considered general information only. For more specific information on this and other programs refer to the UT catalog or contact the department and/or college directly.