Graphic Design, B.Des.

Program Code: GD_BDES

Program Description

This degree is intended to prepare students for careers in graphic design. The program includes the technical skills and the creative and intellectual capacity essential to the practices of graphic design and is intended to prepare students for employment in design studios, advertising agencies, packaging, publications and corporate design, film and television graphics, and Web and interactive design.

What is Graphic Design?

The Bachelor of Design in Graphic Design program at Penn State, is a four-year professional program accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Graphic design is a professional field of visual communication, creative thinking, and complex problem-solving. Practitioners connect people with ideas, products, environments, and experiences. Graphic design explores systems, technologies, methods, and strategies for integrating typography, imagery, and form into a visual language that informs, instructs, and persuades. It is an engaging and evolving knowledge for advancing the human experience.

You Might Like This Program If...

  • You enjoy learning and playing with new ideas and emerging technologies.
  • You are creative, focused, and engaged.
  • You love typography and imagery.
  • You want to make things that improve the world and our experience of it.

Entrance to Major

Acceptance into the Graphic Design major is determined by a portfolio review by faculty after the completion of GD 1S, GD 100, GD 101, GD 102, and AA 121 or GD 115N with grades of C or better in all of these courses. Typically, this review will take place in the second semester. Applicants who are not accepted into the major may re-apply the following year but must realize that this course of action could delay their graduation by at least one year.

Entrance Procedures

Students interested in pursuing Graphic Design (B.Des) should follow the appropriate first year, change of major, or transfer application instructions found under Graphic Design at

Degree Requirements

For the Bachelor of Design degree in Graphic Design, a minimum of 121 credits is required:

Requirement Credits
General Education 45
Electives 3-9
Requirements for the Major 73

0-6 of the 45 credits for General Education are included in the Requirements for the Major. This includes: 0-6 credits of GA courses.

Requirements for the Major

A grade of C or better is required for all courses in the major. To graduate, a student enrolled in the major must earn at least a C grade in each course designated by the major as a C-required course, as specified by Senate Policy 82-44.

Prescribed Courses
Prescribed Courses: Require a grade of C or better
GD 1SFirst-Year Seminar in Graphic Design1
GD 100Introduction to Graphic Design Keystone/General Education Course3
GD 101Design Foundation I3
GD 102Design Foundation 23
GD 200Graphic Design Studio I3
GD 201Typography3
GD 202WThe History of Graphic Design3
GD 203Typography 23
GD 300Design Photography4
GD 301Experience Design Process + Methods4
GD 302Applied Communication4
GD 303Applied Experience Design4
GD 400Time and Sequence4
GD 402Senior Problems4
GD 495Internship3
IST 250Introduction to Web Design and Development3
IST 256Programming for the Web3
PHOTO 202Fundamentals of Professional Photography Keystone/General Education Course3
Additional Courses
Additional Courses: Require a grade of C or better
AA 121Design Thinking and Creativity Keystone/General Education Course3
or GD 115N Visualizing Information Keystone/General Education Course
Select 6 credits from History of the Arts coursework, which may be counted toward General Education Arts requirement6
Select two of the following:6
Special Topics
Practical Communications
Studio Apprenticeship
Special Topics
Package Design
GD 404
Special Topics

General Education

Connecting career and curiosity, the General Education curriculum provides the opportunity for students to acquire transferable skills necessary to be successful in the future and to thrive while living in interconnected contexts. General Education aids students in developing intellectual curiosity, a strengthened ability to think, and a deeper sense of aesthetic appreciation. These are requirements for all baccalaureate students and are often partially incorporated into the requirements of a program. For additional information, see the General Education Requirements section of the Bulletin and consult your academic adviser.

The keystone symbol Keystone/General Education Course appears next to the title of any course that is designated as a General Education course. Program requirements may also satisfy General Education requirements and vary for each program.

Foundations (grade of C or better is required and Inter-Domain courses do not meet this requirement.)

  • Quantification (GQ): 6 credits
  • Writing and Speaking (GWS): 9 credits

Breadth in the Knowledge Domains (Inter-Domain courses do not meet this requirement.)

  • Arts (GA): 3 credits
  • Health and Wellness (GHW): 3 credits
  • Humanities (GH): 3 credits
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences (GS): 3 credits
  • Natural Sciences (GN): 3 credits

Integrative Studies

  • Inter-Domain Courses (Inter-Domain): 6 credits


  • GN, may be completed with Inter-Domain courses: 3 credits
  • GA, GH, GN, GS, Inter-Domain courses. This may include 3 credits of World Language course work beyond the 12th credit level or the requirements for the student’s degree program, whichever is higher: 6 credits

University Degree Requirements

First Year Engagement

All students enrolled in a college or the Division of Undergraduate Studies at University Park, and the World Campus are required to take 1 to 3 credits of the First-Year Seminar, as specified by their college First-Year Engagement Plan.

Other Penn State colleges and campuses may require the First-Year Seminar; colleges and campuses that do not require a First-Year Seminar provide students with a first-year engagement experience.

First-year baccalaureate students entering Penn State should consult their academic adviser for these requirements.

Cultures Requirement

6 credits are required and may satisfy other requirements

  • United States Cultures: 3 credits
  • International Cultures: 3 credits

Writing Across the Curriculum

3 credits required from the college of graduation and likely prescribed as part of major requirements.

Total Minimum Credits

A minimum of 120 degree credits must be earned for a baccalaureate degree. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 credits. Students should consult with their college or department adviser for information on specific credit requirements.

Quality of Work

Candidates must complete the degree requirements for their major and earn at least a 2.00 grade-point average for all courses completed within their degree program.

Limitations on Source and Time for Credit Acquisition

The college dean or campus chancellor and program faculty may require up to 24 credits of course work in the major to be taken at the location or in the college or program where the degree is earned. Credit used toward degree programs may need to be earned from a particular source or within time constraints (see Senate Policy 83-80). For more information, check the Suggested Academic Plan for your intended program.

Academic Advising

The objectives of the university's academic advising program are to help advisees identify and achieve their academic goals, to promote their intellectual discovery, and to encourage students to take advantage of both in-and out-of class educational opportunities in order that they become self-directed learners and decision makers.

Both advisers and advisees share responsibility for making the advising relationship succeed. By encouraging their advisees to become engaged in their education, to meet their educational goals, and to develop the habit of learning, advisers assume a significant educational role. The advisee's unit of enrollment will provide each advisee with a primary academic adviser, the information needed to plan the chosen program of study, and referrals to other specialized resources.


University Park

Sarah Watson
Stuckeman School Undergraduate Academic Adviser
121 Stuckeman Family Building
University Park, PA 16802

Nate Schierman
Stuckeman School Undergraduate Academic Adviser
121 Stuckeman Family Building
University Park, PA 16802

Suggested Academic Plan

The suggested academic plan(s) listed on this page are the plan(s) that are in effect during the 2024-25 academic year. To access previous years' suggested academic plans, please visit the archive to view the appropriate Undergraduate Bulletin edition.

Graphic Design, B.Des. at University Park Campus

The course series listed below provides only one of the many possible ways to move through this curriculum. The University may make changes in policies, procedures, educational offerings, and requirements at any time. This plan should be used in conjunction with your degree audit (accessible in LionPATH as either an Academic Requirements or What If report). Please consult with a Penn State academic adviser on a regular basis to develop and refine an academic plan that is appropriate for you.

First Year
ENGL 15, 15A, or 30H3GD 102*#3
GD 1S*#1Additional Course for Major (see list below)*13
GD 100*‡#3General Education Course3
GD 101*#3General Education Course3
GD 115N or AA 121*#3General Education Course3
General Education Course3 
 16 15
Second Year
GD 200*3GD 202W*3
GD 201*3GD 203*3
IST 250*3IST 256*3
Additional Course for Major (see list below)*13PHOTO 202*3
General Edcuation Course3General Education Course3
 15 15
Third Year
CAS 100A, 100B, or 100C3ENGL 202A, 202B, 202C, or 202D3
GD 300*4GD 302*4
GD 301*4GD 303*4
General Education Course3Additional Course for Major (see list below)*13
 General Education Course3
 14 17
Fourth Year
GD 400*4GD 402*4
GD 495*3Additional Course for Major (see list below)*13
General Education Course3Elective3
General Education Course (GHW)1.5General Education Course (GHW)1.5
 14.5 14.5
Total Credits 121

Course requires a grade of C or better for the major

Course requires a grade of C or better for General Education


Course is an Entrance to Major requirement

Course satisfies General Education and degree requirement


-Select 6 credits from History of the Arts coursework, which may be counted toward General Education Arts requirement.
-Select 6 credits from GD 297(3); GD 304(3); GD 310(3); GD 397(3); GD 401(3); GD 404(3); GD 495(3); GD 497(3) (Sem: 5-8)

University Requirements and General Education Notes:

US and IL are abbreviations used to designate courses that satisfy Cultural Diversity Requirements (United States and International Cultures).

W, M, X, and Y are the suffixes at the end of a course number used to designate courses that satisfy University Writing Across the Curriculum requirement.

General Education includes Foundations (GWS and GQ), Knowledge Domains (GHW, GN, GA, GH, GS) and Integrative Studies (Inter-domain) requirements. N or Q (Honors) is the suffix at the end of a course number used to help identify an Inter-domain course, but the inter-domain attribute is used to fill audit requirements. Foundations courses (GWS and GQ) require a grade of 'C' or better.

All incoming Schreyer Honors College first-year students at University Park will take ENGL 137H/CAS 137H in the fall semester and ENGL 138T/CAS 138T in the spring semester. These courses carry the GWS designation and satisfy a portion of that General Education requirement. If the student’s program prescribes GWS these courses will replace both ENGL 15/ENGL 30H and CAS 100A/CAS 100B/CAS 100C. Each course is 3 credits.

Career Paths

Penn State Graphic Design develops a pathway for placement in the nation's top creative firms and companies. The undergraduate B.Design program prepares students for broad opportunities in today's global marketplace. In addition to providing students with a robust foundation in technical skills, key concepts, methods, and knowledge, the program fosters and prepares students’ overall creative and intellectual capacity. This degree prepares students for employment in design studios, advertising agencies, publishing, corporate design, and more — creating motion graphics, data visualization, packaging, print products, websites, apps, user experience design, and interactive media. Students may also choose to undertake specialized graduate studies.


All graphic design students at Penn State complete at least one summer internship with leading creative agencies worldwide or study abroad. This provides real-world experience and global perspectives to help students build a professional network even before they graduate. Graphic design students enjoy an excellent job placement rate in top agencies and companies. In addition to gaining active faculty and alumni connections nationwide, Penn State graphic design students benefit from an in-house career adviser who can connect them with professional opportunities. Graphic designers are in high demand across industries, and graduates of the Penn State program are active in such diverse fields as branding design, motion design, web design, publishing, and environmental design.


Opportunities for Graduate Studies

While graduates of Graphic Design programs may opt to pursue Master of Fine Arts (MFA) programs in specialized topics or focus areas, professional practice opportunities are readily available to Bachelor of Design graduates.


Professional Resources


The Penn State Graphic Design program is accredited through the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. NASAD is an association of approximately 323 schools of art and design, primarily at the collegiate level, but also including postsecondary non-degree-granting schools for the visual arts disciplines. It is the national accrediting agency for art and design and art and design-related disciplines.



University Park

30 Borland Building
University Park, PA 16802