Visual Communication Design

Visual Communication

At its most basic level, visual communication design (formerly graphic design) is a creative process that combines the visual arts and technology to communicate ideas. It begins with a message that, in the hands of a talented designer, is transformed into visual communication that transcends mere words and pictures. By controlling color, type, movement, symbols, and images, the visual communication designer creates and manages the production of visuals designed to inform, educate, persuade, and even entertain a specific audience.

At its core, the Notre Dame visual communication design program supports the idea that a designer can make a difference not only in the strategic plan of a business but also in the world. During their time on campus, students develop projects that aspire to positively influence the lives of culturally diverse people, critique the ethical dimensions of contemporary culture, and give visual form to complex social issues. As design professionals, Notre Dame graduates will be responsible for the future of our visual culture. Apply now.

Bachelor of Fine Arts & Bachelor of Arts

The Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree requires 66 hours of coursework (or 21 courses) in the major area while the Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree requires 36 (or 12 courses). Students will be advised by faculty with respect to which degree fits their interests. Generally, the BFA affords a larger portfolio due to considerably more design studio experiences. A candidate for a BFA also has the opportunity to pursue a year-long, self-driven thesis project. BFA entrance will be based on a cumulative GPA of 3.25 or higher in the seven core courses. The seven core courses must be completed before taking the BFA studio seminar. See the Bachelor of Fine Arts course requirements.

The BA is more suited to students who wish to double major or desire to create a custom experience combining visual communication design with art, art history, marketing, psychology, athletics…and more. See the Bachelor of Arts course requirements. 

Sample BFA Curriculum

First Year
VCD 1: Fundamentals of Design
2D Foundations
3D Foundations
Art History
VCD 2: Type & Icon
VCD 3: Web Design
Industrial Design: Design Drawing (2D core)
Photography 1
Figure Drawing
Drawing 1
Art History
VCD 6: Motion Design
VCD 7: Interaction of Design
VCD 8: Social Design: Initiatives, Challenges & Innovation
Industrial Design: Product Design 1 (3D core)
Art History
VCD 9: Package Design - Professional Practice
VCD 10: Visualization of Data
VCD 11: BFA Thesis Research and Concept Development
BFA Seminar
Art History or Elective

Study Abroad

Thinking of perhaps London or Rome to take an Art History course requirement? Students are encouraged to spend a semester abroad to get credit towards their degree in visual communication. Your academic advisor will help with options and scheduling.


Students are encouraged to seek out an internship after their second year of study. The program maintains relationships with design firms in the Chicago area and across the country with many opportunities coming from alumni. Internships are encouraged during the summer, but may also substitute for credit towards a degree. Download the internship PDF.


Depending on the path you choose in visual communication design, the opportunities wide and varied. Here are some of the types positions held by former students:

print designer web designer
book designer interaction designer
type designer motion designer
illustrator animator
environmental graphic designer game designer
advertising experience designer

Recommended Technology

Each course in visual communication design may require different materials and technologies, and those requirements will be specified by the instructor. By the middle of the sophomore year, students are encouraged to purchase their own laptop and design software (see recommendations). The department has specialized computing labs for student designers. However seats are limited, and courses are routinely taught in these spaces. As students progress into the higher level courses, the near necessity of having a personal laptop with design software becomes more important.

Contact for Advising

Contact Director of Undergraduate Studies, Emily Beck, for general questions about the various Art, Art History & Design programs. If you have specific questions about visual communication design, feel free to contact a faculty member directly.

Visit the Program

If you are in the area, please visit the Design Center at West Lake Hall. The second floor is dedicated to industrial design and visual communication design showcasing design work in the Cregg Commons, the public corridor spaces, and undergraduate studios. The building is open Monday-Friday from 6am-9pm. If you are considering design at Notre Dame, feel free to contact a visual communication design faculty member for a tour. Please seek out all the facilities associated with design: West Lake Design Studio, Riley Hall, and the Snite Museum of Art.


Declaring a major? Visit the department's main office: 306 Riley Hall of Art. General questions about majoring in visual communication can be sent to the Department of Art, Art History & Design at Applying or transferring to Notre Dame?