MFA Graphic Design

Degree Type

  • Graduate


  • In-Person


  • Full-Time


  • On-Campus
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The Master of Fine Arts Graphic Design program provides a two-year, sequenced studio approach to advanced design thinking and problem solving for visual communication, preparing students to thrive in a dynamic, creative professional environment.

During the first year of study, students are challenged to articulate a design perspective and method through studio projects, emphasizing the key principles of form, communication, authorship, audience, and medium. Students are invited to think creatively and strategically—developing content, defining an audience, and determining an optimum communication platform. This development of a body of work culminates in the second year of study with the Master’s thesis, a personally driven creative research project that presents the individual student’s visual and critical methodology and examines topics relevant to contemporary design practice.

Design at BU

Develop advanced design thinking.

Problem solve for visual communication.

Learn from professionally practicing designers.

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Faculty work closely with students to strengthen both technical skills and conceptual capacity through a mixture of carefully defined and open-ended projects. As professionally practicing designers with broad networks in and beyond Boston, faculty serve as an entry point into the field through active mentorship.

Graduate Graphic Design students are encouraged to actively participate in the Boston-based design community to cultivate their own professional network through special programs including Graduate Open Studios and a visiting designer lecture series.

Jackie Cimino

Daria Nikolaeva

Nicholas Samendinger

Brittany Latham

Chi Tran

Haoping Liu

Program of Study

The Graphic Design studio forms the program’s core. All graduate Graphic Design students are expected to demonstrate a deep commitment to their design practice by maintaining regular studio habits. During the first year of study, students are challenged to develop a design methodology and hone their skills and interests. Through a combination of carefully defined and open-ended projects, first-year graduate students articulate a design perspective and method through studio projects, emphasizing the key principles of form, communication, authorship, audience, and medium.

The second year of graduate study is devoted primarily to research and production of the Master’s thesis. Presented as a group exhibition at the Boston University Art Galleries, the thesis student ensures that each graduate student produces an original contribution to the field of Graphic Design at the conclusion of their two years of study.

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Required courses in Graphic Design Theory and various design electives complement the core Graphic Design studios, affording students the opportunity to specialize in areas of interest and providing the broad skillset and knowledge essential to navigating in an ever-changing discipline. Graphic Design elective courses currently include Information Design, Design for the Web, Interactive Design, Experience Design, Motion Graphics, History of Graphic Design, Editorial Design, and Exhibition Design. Students are also encouraged to take electives in studio art within the School of Visual Arts, which include Printmaking, Photography, Drawing, Painting, Sculpture and Installation, and more.

An annual program of visiting designers, artists, and critics brings nationally and internationally distinguished creative professionals to present their work, host workshops, and participate in group critiques of students’ work, providing a multitude of voices and essential contact with the industry. In order to take full advantage of the benefits offered by a large university, graduate students are required to take 4 credits of liberal arts courses from across the University.

Shadan Al-Mana

Alicia Dewitt

Sarah Cooper

Mark Zhu

Marianne Schoucair

Anvi Sarin

Siyi Wang

Facilities and Resources

Graduate students have 24-hour access to design studios on the 4th floor of the 808 Building, including private studios spaces and larger communal work spaces.

Facilities also feature cutting-edge equipment to realize design projects, including large-format printers, a Risograph printer, vinyl cutters, and bookbinding equipment. Students have access to BU’s Engineering Product Innovation Center (EPIC), an impressive 15,000-square-foot, multi-million dollar engineering, and manufacturing facility located right near the College of Fine Arts buildings.


Students are given numerous opportunities to display work in Boston University galleries. The culmination of the two-year program is the Thesis Exhibition, held in the Boston University Art Galleries.

Teaching Assistantships are available starting in the second year. Graduate Assistantships are also available in the BU Art Galleries and in numerous facilities in the School of Visual Arts during the first and second year.

BU’s partnership with AIGA Boston brings leaders in the field to campus, and provides opportunities for students to network with Boston area designers and studios.

The Graphic Design program participate in numerous design and art book fairs, including the Boston Art Book Fair and the Odds and Ends Art Book Fair.

Graduate Visiting Artists & Critics

In addition to working closely with core full-time faculty, graduate students benefit from regular visits with working designers and critics, who present lectures and conduct studio visits.

Recent visitors include:

  • Peter Bilak
  • Matthew Carter
  • Kyle Cooper
  • Aaron Draplin
  • Keith Godard
  • Hilary Greenbaum
  • April Greiman
  • James Goggin
  • Miranda July
  • Chip Kidd
  • Stefan Sagmeister
  • Susan Sellers
  • Paul Soulellis
  • Wonyoung So
  • James Victore
  • Zipeng Zhu

Ye Chen

Jen Wilkens

Yi Meng

Jaime Stilwell

Molly Haig

Vaishnavi Kumar


Important Dates

Winter 2023

JAN 16

Application Deadline

Spring 2023


Notification Deadline

Fall 2023


Classes Start

James Grady


Designer and educator with over two decades of experience, James Grady, assistant professor of graphic design at BU School of Visual Arts and creative director at BU Spark!, came to BU with an interdisciplinary career leading design projects for clients such as Google, Nike, and Samsung.

In CFA’s Faculty Feature series, Grady talks with CFA about the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Thesis experience, what faculty look for in MFA applicants, and the teaching philosophy of sending graduates into the world to make a difference in society through the lens of graphic design.

Our programs are built to assist students through the long term, not just create a portfolio style to get a job. We want them to have a long-range philosophy and process that they can adapt to the current climate and also to five, ten, or twenty years from now. It’s not just about learning Illustrator and making logos. That’s fun and I love doing that but that does not define graphic design.

James Grady, Assistant Professor

read Q&A with grady


“My teaching philosophy posits that to be a successful designer, one must be a fearless maker. The more students produce, the more mistakes they will make: a process that can lead to profound discoveries and personal growth. In the classroom, the strategies I employ combine practical, real-world knowledge with new and experimental ways of looking, thinking, and talking about graphic design. When developing any assignment or course, I consistently ask, ‘What is it that inspires and motivates students to create more work? What can this class provide that will help students be more prolific?’

“One goal that I set for students—and myself—is to be genuinely engaged with both the work and the process.  I believe that the marriage of research and active teaching creates a fertile space for meaningful contributions to the field of design.”

Christopher Sleboda, Associate Professor of Art, Graphic Design

Read Q&A with Sleboda

Program Faculty

Next Steps for Applicants

The best way to determine if BU is right for you is to visit us in-person or remotely. Observe classes. Faculty members are available to meet with you and to discuss your educational interests, individual learning needs, and career goals.

Explore our admission requirements, financial tools, and resources to determine if the program is the right match. Reach out to with any questions along the way.

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