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Visual Communication Design

Degree: BSD

Campus: Columbus

College: Arts and Sciences

Students pursuing visual communication design at Ohio State explore a range of technologies that support the varied specializations offered by this complex profession. Such technologies include digital tools, including advanced computing technology, to visualize and present translations of complex data and ideas. Students gain understanding of user interfaces to better develop interactive design solutions for web and mobile applications.

Students also study and explore research-based approaches to the visual design of information, the development of brand identities based on present and future conditions, and the creation of way-finding systems for navigating complex environments.

The production of printed materials such as books, brochures, packaging and posters is also supported as a fundamental aspect of visual communication design. 

Admitted students who indicate their major as visual communication design directly enroll in the College of Arts and Sciences declaring an area of interest in visual communication design. Entrance into the Department of Design then occurs by a two-part, competitive process.

  1. The Department of Design selects a very limited number of students to go through its first-year design foundation course sequence on an annual basis. The sequence includes four required visualization and fundamentals studios, as well as two lecture-based courses. To be considered for selection to our Design Foundations program, a student must be eligible for Columbus campus coursework. Additionally, we encourage you to review the information at regarding the University Admissions process for the Columbus campus, as the Department of Design reviews this same information and follows a similar process. We DO NOT accept portfolios for new first-year student admissions.
  2. An annual portfolio review and interview process occurs at the end of spring semester. The students previously selected for the first-year foundation course sequence submit project outcomes from the autumn and spring semester courses in the form of a web-based portfolio. After these materials are reviewed by design faculty and finalists are interviewed, approximately 16-18 major students will be offered acceptance to the visual communication design major program.

Students not accepted to one of the major programs via the Entrance Review process will have completed the requirements for the Design Foundations Minor and will be able to pursue another major in the university.

Freshman year

Survey course    
Design Fundamentals 1–4  
Visual Principles 1–4    
Introduction to Design Practice    
Design History    

Sophomore year

Introduction to Visual Communication Design 1–2    
Design Research 1    
Design Media 1–2    
Typographic Design    
Materials and Processes    

Junior year

Intermediate Visual Communication Design 1–2    
Design Research 2    
Design Media 3    
Collaborative Design    
Professional Practice    

Senior year

Advanced Visual Communication Design 1–2    
Design Research 3    
Design Seminar    
Design Media 4    

Students can take advantage of opportunities to participate in a collaborative studio with students from Mackenzie Presbyterian University in São Paulo, Brazil, or to examine the history (and future) of design from an Italian perspective during Design Week in Milan, Italy. 

Visual communication design students are able to pursue the Arts Honors Program. Interested students should first join the University Honors Program and then work with their academic advisor during their second year to transition to the Arts Honors Program.

Undergraduate research opportunities for visual communication design students begin on day one and culminate in senior thesis projects displayed annually at the Urban Arts Space

Student organizations popular with visual communication design students include:

  • Columbus Society for the Communicating Arts at Ohio State (CSCA@OSU)
  • Design for 90
  • D3: Design Develop Deploy, An Entrepreneurial Startup Club
  • NOMA: Designers for Diversity

Students graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Design take positions with design consulting offices, corporate design departments and government design agencies and work on consumer and industrial products, building and equipment systems, and public and corporate communication projects.

Students in visual communication design can find employment opportunities with large corporations, small graphic design firms, department stores, publishing companies, advertising agencies, television stations or they can be self-employed. 

According to Coroflot's latest Design Salary Guide, the median salary for a visual communication designer is $48,400.

Students majoring in visual communication design will achieve the following learning outcomes.

  • Students will gain a lifelong desire and ability to create new knowledge and foster problem-solving skills through creativity and the application of a creative process.
    • Students will apply design thinking and the design process in all studio projects.
    • Students will develop the ability to design and develop ideas for new products, spaces and/or interfaces that may not have existed before.
    • Students will be able to apply design and creative skills learned in one studio to problems encountered in the new context of a successive studio.
  • Students will develop an understanding of a human-centered focus on design and research.
    • Students will be able to conduct and complete user research studies for all studio projects.
    • Students will create designed artifacts that will be evaluated by design professionals and potential users.
  • Students will prepare for a successful career in the design profession.
    • Students will prepare a portfolio that documents their creative work throughout the undergraduate program.
    • Students will develop the skills of presenting themselves and their design competencies in a professional practice context.
  • Students will develop an understanding of and familiarity with the tools and methods of the design profession.
    • Students will demonstrate proficiency in model-making techniques using various materials to explore three-dimensional design ideas.
    • Students will demonstrate proficiency in the use of relevant design technology in the problem-solving and creative process.
    • Students will exhibit proficiency in both 2D and 3D design methodologies.
  • Students will hone the skills that are central to communicating design ideas and solutions.
    • Students will demonstrate proficiency in drawing, sketching and digital visualization techniques for the purpose of exploring multiple ideas and using storytelling techniques to express them.
    • Students will present and defend their design projects in public critiques.
    • Students will be able to create documentation that describes the processes associated with a capstone thesis project.
  • Students will develop an understanding of and appreciation for the role of the designer in environmental relationships.
    • Students will be able to synthesize knowledge and skills learned in a liberal arts environment and apply them to issues and problems in their specific area of design.
    • Students will develop a knowledge of and appreciation for the concept of sustainable design practices.

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Students who study design at Ohio State have the advantage of collaborating with students in other design disciplines in several courses and studios in a setting that models that which is often found in emerging professional design practices.