Visual Communication Design Master of fine arts degree

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This visual communications degree gives designers exciting opportunities to shape interactive experiences by integrating graphic design, user experience design, design studies, motion graphics, and 3D digital design into their work.


Outcome Rate of RIT Graduates


Median First-Year Salary of RIT Graduates


Graduate Studies in Multimedia/Visual Communications (MFA)

U.S. News & World Report, 2021


This visual communications degree offers a comprehensive opportunity to investigate the intersection of graphic, interaction, and motion design. You will focus on conceptualizing and creating user-centered design wherever there is a screen or digital experience. This can include mobile phones, automotive instrument panels, medical devices, wearables, and more. This major reinforces the importance of user experience design by combining insight from all areas of design. Choose to focus your studies or combine course sequences from communication design, interaction design, motion design, and design studies. By combining historical, communication and aesthetic theory, principles, and creativity, your work will anticipate design evolution and lead innovation.

The MFA in visual communication design focuses on all areas of design, including graphic design, user experience/interaction design, design studies, motion graphics, and 3D digital design. The changing landscape of people’s everyday interactions has blurred the lines between respected design fields, giving designers new responsibilities to shape experiences. The MFA program embraces this new technology through its curriculum, which addresses these merging skill sets.

Plan of study

The MFA in visual communication design provides a learning environment for advancement in innovative research, user-centered design, and professional practice focusing on the creative potentials of visual communication through a full spectrum of media. Students may advance their design knowledge and technical skills by choosing an option in communication design, interaction design, or motion and 3D digital design.

The cross-disciplinary nature of the program offers a greater potential to foster innovation and creativity in visual communication design. The program reflects the current views and changes occurring in the professional design field. The skill sets required of graphic, interactive, and digital design have now crossed over and are interrelated.

Creative Industry Day

RIT’s Office of Career Services and Cooperative Education hosts Creative Industry Day, which connects students majoring in art, design, film and animation, photography, and select computing majors with companies, organizations, creative agencies, design firms, and more. The 2021 Creative Industry Day will be a week-long virtual event where you’ll be able to network with company representatives and interview directly for open co-op and permanent employment positions.


  • Design

  • Internet and Software

  • Electronic and Computer Hardware

  • Advertising, PR, and Marketing

Typical Job Titles

Consulting Art Director and Visual Designer Designer/Animator
Type Designer UI/UX Designer
UI/UX Designer and Developer User Experience Designer
UX and Visual Designer

Featured Work

Featured Profiles

Curriculum for Visual Communication Design MFA

Visual Communication Design, MFA degree, typical course sequence

Course Sem. Cr. Hrs.
First Year
Design History Seminar
This seminar focuses on a basis in the history of design, which complements the overall graduate studies in the School of Design. Interdisciplinary in nature, the course is thematic and emphasizes performance on the part of the student in dynamic dialogue on course topics. The course content focuses on subjects relative to the history and theory of design (people, processes, products, environment, culture and places), critical thinking and contextual historical issues. Students are expected to read seminal design articles, write critical essays and questions and to participate in weekly discussion groups. On-line technology is utilized in addition to slide lectures. (This course is restricted to students in the VISCOM-MFA, GRDE-MFA, CMGD-MFA and IDDE-MFA majors and other CIAS and RIT graduate students with permission of instructor.) Seminar 3 (Fall).
3D Modeling and Motion
This course is an introduction to digital three-dimensional visualization. Students learn all aspects of 3D design, from modeling all the way through rendering the final images to setting keyframes for animation. Once familiar with the basics of production, students are encouraged to focus on specific topics such as lighting and texturing and the creation of visual effects for gaming, broadcast, visualization and education. (This course is restricted to students in the VISCOM-MFA, GRDE-MFA and CMGD-MFA programs.) Lecture 2, Studio 3 (Fall).
Web and UI Design
This course provides an in-depth look at human-centered interface design. Students develop interactive web pages with functional design and usability for e-commerce, education, and the communication of visual communication. Emphasis is placed on the integration and application of design skills applied to information architecture, user navigation and orientation. Projects are focused on designing alternative navigational solutions for online Web applications and touch-screen devices such as mobile phones and touch-pads. (This course is restricted to students in the VISCOM-MFA, GRDE-MFA and CMGD-MFA programs.) Lecture 2, Studio 3 (Fall).
This course examines the historical, theoretical, and perceptual aspects of typography for print and screen use. Grid structure, composition, hierarchy, message conveyance, and formal aspects of typographic design are explored with an emphasis on developing harmonious type and image integration into cohesive, sequential design applications. How temporal structural elements such as rhythm and pacing affect visual communication in a dynamic medium is also investigated and applied. (This course is restricted to students in the VISCOM-MFA, GRDE-MFA and CMGD-MFA programs.) Lecture 2, Studio 3 (Fall).
Digital Design in Motion
This course focuses on motion design from story reels to the final project. Course content focuses on visual components, and assignments translate production techniques used in traditional filmmaking into the online environment. This includes the use of line, space (two and three-deminsional), composition and framing, simulated camera movements, color, and sound. Using a time-based application as the authoring tool and the techniques outlined in this course, a student will be able to produce interactive stories, such as online graphic novels and webisodes. (This course is restricted to students in the VISCOM-MFA, GRDE-MFA and CMGD-MFA programs.) Lecture 2, Studio 3 (Fall).
Design Studies Seminar
As an introduction to the field, this course will present the many complex roles of design–as process, product, function, symbol and use. This seminar will approach critical views of design studies from an interdisciplinary perspective. Faculty colleagues representing diverse campus expertise and beyond will contribute from their respective knowledge bases. The course will require readings, discussion, critical thinking, and writings as we examine the impact of history, theory and critical analysis as related to the interpretation and understanding of design. Lecture 3 (Spring).
Choose one of the following:
   Project Design and Implementation
This course provides students with the necessary skills to further develop a research plan into a specific design inquiry with an application component. Emphasis is placed on identifying connections and integrating content between this course and the culminating first-year experience in the MFA Visual Communication Design program. Students will chose a topic, write a design proposal, and design and implement a project from inception to conclusion. This involves research, development, evaluation, refinement, completion of a finished creative project, and documentation of the process. The project can be produced independently or collaborative with advice from the instructor. (This course is restricted to students in the VISCOM-MFA, GRDE-MFA and CMGD-MFA programs.) Lab 3, Lecture 2 (Spring).
   Design Praxis I
Professional Electives
Open Elective
Second Year
Professional Practices
This course will help students prepare for a professional career in design. Equally as important as design theory, the content focuses on the practical knowledge of production and design skills, and exposure to basic business practices. An overview of business and economics related to the design world, goal setting and productivity skills, professional ethics, marketing, the interviewing process, and strategic analysis is addressed. Projects provide an in-depth look at creating an effective digital portfolio and curriculum vitae based upon personal strengths and interests, with professional standards, and career expectations in mind. (Prerequisites: VCDE-701 or equivalent course.) Lecture 3 (Spring).
Thesis Research and Planning
Research is the backbone for any project. This course will focus on the design research and planning stages of a thesis project. Students will define a design problem that provides a significant addition to the design field while addressing needs in the local, regional and/or global community. Course content addresses establishing content, planning, scheduling, and research seeking innovative solutions through the process of concept development, ideation, and in-process evaluation. (Prerequisites: VCDE-718 or VCDE-722 or equivalent course.) Thesis 3 (Fall).
Thesis: Implementation and Evaluation
This course will focus on the physical thesis project. Students will continue with concept development concluding with the implementation and retrospective evaluation of their chosen design problem. Solution is presented in a public exhibition, complemented by a written articulation of how the theories and methods employed in the project impact the current and future state of design in society. (Prerequisites: VCDE-790 or equivalent course.) Thesis 9 (Spring).
Professional Electives
Open Electives
Total Semester Credit Hours

Admission Requirements

To be considered for admission to the MFA program in visual communication design, candidates must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Complete a graduate application.
  • Hold a baccalaureate degree (or equivalent) from an accredited university or college.
  • Submit official transcripts (in English) of all previously completed undergraduate and graduate course work.
  • Submit a portfolio of work demonstrating strong design skills, visual sophistication, and aesthetic awareness. (Refer to Graduate Portfolio Guidelines for more information.)
  • Submit a personal statement of educational objectives that details attributes the candidate brings to graduate study, including expectations and professional goals they wish to achieve.
  • Submit three letters of recommendation from academic or professional sources.
  • International applicants whose native language is not English must submit scores from the TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE. A minimum TOEFL score of 88 (internet-based) is required. A minimum IELTS score of 6.5 (with balanced sub-scores) is required. The English language test score requirement is waived for native speakers of English or for those submitting transcripts from degrees earned at American institutions.


The portfolio, along with written records of achievements and recommendations, serves to inform the faculty of the applicant’s readiness for advanced graduate study. It provides understanding into the applicant’s performance to date, ability to create advanced, self-directed work and his/her aesthetic development and maturity. Please visit the Graduate Portfolio Requirements page to learn more about portfolio requirements and submission information. 

Learn about admissions, cost, and financial aid 

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