As an inherently interdisciplinary practice, graphic design plays an important role at every level of contemporary culture. Graphic design courses deliver skills and expertise that are in demand for all graphic design and related communications fields. Students develop abilities to think critically while working seamlessly across disciplines. In current and future iterations of the field, graphic designers must function as the “fusion” between art, business, engineering, research, and science.

Graduates of the Graphic Design named option programs will have experienced a range of forms and media that provide professional preparation, as well as the development of unique intellectual and visual voice. Graduating students will also possess the flexibility to adapt to a changing, unpredictable world where the methods of communication will continuously evolve and expand.

The named option requirements listed here are components of the BFA - Art degree requirements.

Aesthetics Requirements - Graphic Design Option

The BFA Graphic Design option program requires a total of 18 aesthetics credits, including four required courses. The remaining credits will be met by selecting from a list of aesthetics electives. Additional aesthetics courses may be approved by the art department advisor.

Required Aesthetics Courses

ART 108 Foundations of Contemporary Art (component of the Foundations Program)3
ART 208 Current Directions in Art (component of the Foundations Program)3
ART 438 History of Graphic Design and Typography3
Select one additional courses from the following:4
History of Western Art I: From Pyramids to Cathedrals
History of Western Art II: From Renaissance to Contemporary
Global Arts

Aesthetics Electives

Select from the following to complete the required 18 credits. Liberal studies coursework in fine arts and literature can also double count as aesthetics electives.

Elective Courses 

AFRICAN/​FOLKLORE  210 The African Storyteller3
AFRICAN/​AFROAMER/​ANTHRO/​GEOG/​HISTORY/​POLI SCI/​SOC  277 Africa: An Introductory Survey4
AFRICAN/​ASIAN/​RELIG ST  370 Islam: Religion and Culture4
AFROAMER 151 Introduction to Contemporary Afro-American Society3
AFROAMER 155 They: Race in American Literature3
AFROAMER/​GEN&WS  222 Introduction to Black Women Writers3
AFROAMER 231 Introduction to Afro-American History3
AFROAMER/​ART HIST  241 Introduction to African Art and Architecture3
AFROAMER/​ART HIST  242 Introduction to Afro-American Art3
AFROAMER/​GEN&WS  267 Artistic/Cultural Images of Black Women3
AFROAMER/​AFRICAN/​ANTHRO/​GEOG/​HISTORY/​POLI SCI/​SOC  277 Africa: An Introductory Survey4
AFROAMER/​GEN&WS  323 Gender, Race and Class: Women in U.S. History3
AFROAMER/​HIST SCI/​MED HIST  523 Race, American Medicine and Public Health3
AFROAMER 631 Colloquium in Afro-American History3
AFROAMER/​ENGL  672 Selected Topics in Afro-American Literature3
AFROAMER 673 Selected Topics in Afro-American Society3
ANTHRO 102 Archaeology and the Prehistoric World3
ANTHRO 104 Cultural Anthropology and Human Diversity3
ANTHRO/​AFRICAN/​AFROAMER/​GEOG/​HISTORY/​POLI SCI/​SOC  277 Africa: An Introductory Survey4
ANTHRO 300 Cultural Anthropology: Theory and Ethnography3
ANTHRO/​AMER IND  314 Indians of North America3
ANTHRO 321 The Emergence of Human Culture3
ANTHRO 391 Bones for the Archaeologist3
ANTHRO 424 Historical Anthropology3
ANTHRO/​LINGUIS  430 Language and Culture3-4
ART 236 Bascom Course3
All Art History courses
ASIAN AM 101 Introduction to Asian American Studies3
ASIAN AM/​SOC  220 Ethnic Movements in the United States3-4
ASIAN AM/​ENGL  270 A Survey of Asian American Literature3
CLASSICS 322 The Romans3
COM ARTS 250 Survey of Contemporary Media3
COM ARTS 260 Communication and Human Behavior3
COM ARTS 350 Introduction to Film3
COM ARTS 351 Television Industries3
COM ARTS 352 Film History to 19603
COM ARTS 354 Film Genres3
COM ARTS 355 Introduction to Media Production4
COM ARTS 357 History of the Animated Film3
COM ARTS 358 History of Documentary Film3
COM ARTS 450 Cultural History of Broadcasting3
COM ARTS 454 Critical Film Analysis3
COMP LIT 201 Introduction to Pre-Modern Literatures/Impact on the Modern World3
COMP LIT 202 Introduction to Modern and Contemporary Literature3
COMP LIT 203 Introduction to Cross-Cultural Literary Forms3
COMP LIT 990 Research and Thesis1-12
DANCE 255 Movement Composition for the Performing and Visual Arts2
DANCE 265 Dance History I: Western Theatrical Dance from the Renaissance through the 1920s3
ENGL 207 Introduction to Creative Writing: Fiction and Poetry Workshop3
ENGL 219 Shakespearean Drama3
ENGL 236 Bascom Course3
ENGL/​ASIAN AM  270 A Survey of Asian American Literature3
ENGL/​HISTORY/​RELIG ST  360 The Anglo-Saxons3
ENGL 417 History of the English Language3
DS 221 Person and Environment Interactions3
DS 355 History of Fashion, 1400-Present3
DS 421 History of Architecture and Interiors I: Antiquity through 18th Century3
DS 422 History of Architecture & Interiors II: 19th and 20th Centuries3
FOLKLORE 100 Introduction to Folklore3
FOLKLORE/​MUSIC  103 Introduction to Music Cultures of the World3
FOLKLORE/​AFRICAN  210 The African Storyteller3
FOLKLORE 220 The Folk Tale3
FOLKLORE 230 Introduction to American Folklore3
FOLKLORE 320 Folklore of Wisconsin3
FOLKLORE/​MUSIC  401 Musical Cultures of the World3
FOLKLORE/​SLAVIC  444 Slavic and East European Folklore3
FOLKLORE 460 Folk Epics3
GEN&WS 101 Gender, Women, and Cultural Representation3
GEN&WS 102 Gender, Women, and Society in Global Perspective3
GEN&WS/​AFROAMER  222 Introduction to Black Women Writers3
HISTORY 101 Amer Hist to the Civil War Era, the Origin & Growth of the U S4
HISTORY 102 American History, Civil War Era to the Present4
HISTORY/​CLASSICS  110 The Ancient Mediterranean4
HISTORY 115 Medieval Europe 410-15004
HISTORY 119 Europe and the World, 1400-18154
HISTORY 120 Europe and the Modern World 1815 to the Present4
HISTORY 142 History of South Asia to the Present3-4
HISTORY 200 Historical Studies3
HISTORY 201 The Historian's Craft3-4
HISTORY/​INTL ST/​LACIS  242 Modern Latin America4
HISTORY/​ASIAN/​GEOG/​POLI SCI/​SOC  244 Introduction to Southeast Asia: Vietnam to the Philippines4
HISTORY/​GEOG/​POLI SCI/​SLAVIC  253 Russia: An Interdisciplinary Survey4
HISTORY/​AFRICAN/​AFROAMER/​ANTHRO/​GEOG/​POLI SCI/​SOC  277 Africa: An Introductory Survey4
HISTORY 302 History of American Thought, 1859 to the Present3-4
HISTORY 303 A History of Greek Civilization3-4
HISTORY/​MEDIEVAL/​RELIG ST  309 The Crusades: Christianity and Islam3-4
HISTORY 336 Chinese Economic and Business History: From Silk to iPhones3-4
HISTORY/​ASIAN  341 History of Modern China, 1800-19493-4
HISTORY 344 The Age of the American Revolution, 1763-17893-4
HISTORY 351 Seventeenth-Century Europe3-4
HISTORY/​GEN&WS  353 Women and Gender in the U.S. to 18703-4
HISTORY 359 History of Europe Since 19453-4
HISTORY 361 The Emergence of Mod Britain: England 1485-16603-4
HISTORY/​ED POL  412 History of American Education3
HISTORY 418 History of Russia3-4
HISTORY 425 History of Poland and the Baltic Area3-4
HISTORY 434 American Foreign Relations, 1901 to the Present3-4
HISTORY/​CHICLA  435 Colony, Nation, and Minority: The Puerto Ricans' World3
HISTORY/​ASIAN/​RELIG ST  438 Buddhism and Society in Southeast Asian History3-4
HISTORY/​ECON  466 The American Economy Since 18653-4
HISTORY 500 Reading Seminar in History3
HISTORY/​HIST SCI/​MED HIST  508 Health, Disease and Healing II3-4
HISTORY/​JOURN  560 History of U.S. Media4
HISTORY 600 Advanced Seminar in History3
HISTORY 680 Honors Thesis Colloquium2
HISTORY 681 Senior Honors Thesis1-3
HISTORY 682 Senior Honors Thesis1-3
HISTORY 690 Thesis Colloquium2
HISTORY 691 Senior Thesis1-3
HISTORY 692 Senior Thesis1-3
ILS 201 Western Culture: Science, Technology, Philosophy I3
ILS 202 Western Culture: Science, Technology, Philosophy II3
ILS 204 Western Culture: Literature and the Arts II3-4
ILS 205 Western Culture: Political, Economic, and Social Thought I3
ILS 206 Western Culture: Political, Economic, and Social Thought II3
ILS 251 Contemporary Physical Sciences3
LINGUIS 101 Human Language3
LITTRANS 202 Survey of 19th and 20th Century Russian Literature in Translation II3
LITTRANS/​ENGL  223 Vladimir Nabokov: Russian and American Writings3
LITTRANS 234 Soviet Life and Culture Through Literature and Art (from 1917)3-4
LITTRANS 236 Bascom Course-In Translation3
LITTRANS 240 Soviet Literature in Translation3-4
LITTRANS/​MEDIEVAL/​RELIG ST  253 Of Demons and Angels. Dante's Divine Comedy3
LITTRANS 262 Survey of Chinese Literature in Translation3
LITTRANS 264 Survey of Japanese Literature in Translation3
LITTRANS 274 In Translation: Masterpieces of Scandinavian Literature-the 20th Century3-4
LITTRANS 275 In Translation: The Tales of Hans Christian Andersen3-4
LITTRANS/​GERMAN  276 Special Topics in German and World Literature/s3
LITTRANS/​GERMAN/​JEWISH  279 Yiddish Literature and Culture in America3
LITTRANS/​THEATRE  335 In Translation: The Drama of Henrik Ibsen3-4
LITTRANS 410 In Translation: Special Topics in Italian Literature3
LITTRANS 473 Polish Literature (in Translation) since 18633
JEWISH/​GERMAN/​LITTRANS  279 Yiddish Literature and Culture in America3
JEWISH/​HEBR-MOD  301 Introduction to Hebrew Literature3
JOURN 201 Introduction to Mass Communication4
JOURN/​HISTORY  560 History of U.S. Media4
JOURN 561 Mass Communication and Society4
MEDIEVAL/​HISTORY/​RELIG ST  309 The Crusades: Christianity and Islam3-4
MEDIEVAL/​HIST SCI  322 Ancient and Medieval Science3
MEDIEVAL/​SCAND ST  408 Intermediate Old Norse3
MEDIEVAL/​GERMAN  651 Introduction to Middle High German3
MUSIC 101 The Musical Experience3
MUSIC/​FOLKLORE  103 Introduction to Music Cultures of the World3
MUSIC 105 Storytelling on Stage: Introduction to Musical Theater and Opera3
MUSIC 106 The Symphony3
MUSIC 113 Music in Performance1
MUSIC 211 Survey of the History of Western Music3
PHILOS 101 Introduction to Philosophy3-4
PHILOS 201 Introduction to Philosophy for Juniors and Seniors3-4
PHILOS 341 Contemporary Moral Issues3-4
PHILOS 430 History of Ancient Philosophy3-4
PHILOS 432 History of Modern Philosophy3-4
PHILOS 553 Aesthetics3
PHYSICS 109 Physics in the Arts3
RELIG ST 361 Early Christian Literature: Pauline Christianity3
RELIG ST/​AFRICAN/​ASIAN  370 Islam: Religion and Culture4
RELIG ST/​ASIAN  444 Introduction to Sufism (Islamic Mysticism)3
SOC 125 American Society: How It Really Works3-4
THEATRE 327 History of Costume for the Stage3

Major Requirements - Graphic Design Option

Complete a minimum of 72 studio credits, including the specific coursework below. The BFA degree requires 126 credits. At least 36 credits of major studio coursework be completed in residence at UW–Madison.

Art and BFA degree students have priority access to studio courses. Note: Some courses are offered for 3 or 4 credits; it is preferred that the course be taken for 4 credits.

Required Studio Foundation Courses - Graphic Design Option

ART 102 Two-Dimensional Design3
ART 104 Three-Dimensional Design3
ART 107 Introduction to Digital Forms3
ART 212 Drawing Methods & Concepts3

REQUIRED STUDIO BREADTH Courses - Graphic Design Option

Complete one course in each of the Graphic Design, 2D, 3D, and 4D areas. Students will also take ART 508 at least once and complete a 500-level or 600-level art studio course in graphic design and also in another discipline.

Graphic Design

ART 346 Basic Graphic Design4

2D Studio

Select one of the following:

ART 222 Introduction to Painting3-4
ART 232 Life Drawing I4
ART 242 Watercolor I3-4
ART 302 Color4
ART 312 Intermediate Drawing I3-4

3D Studio

Select one of the following:

ART 214 Sculpture I4
ART 224 Ceramics I4
ART 244 Art Metal I3-4
ART 334 Wood Working3-4
ART 343 Metal Fabrication and Welding in Sculpture3-4
ART 354 Glassworking4
ART 454 Neon: Light as Sculpture4

4D Studio

Select one of the following:

ART 309 Digital Art and Code4
ART 318 Introduction to Video, Performance & Installation Art4
ART 338 Service Learning in Art2
ART 409 Digital Fabrication Studio4
ART 428 Digital Imaging Studio4
ART 429 3D Digital Studio I4
ART 470 Special Topics in 4D Art3-4
ART 521 Installations and Environments4
ART 531 Screen Performance3-4

Visiting Artist Lecture Series _ Graphic Design Option

Complete the following:

ART 508 Colloquium in Art (Students are encouraged to enroll in this visiting artist lecture series multiple times)1

Additional Studios - Graphic Design Option

Complete at least 20 studio credits of graphic design coursework, to include at least one 500 or 600 level course, from the following list:

ART 458 Graphic Design for Branding and Identity4
ART 463 Information Graphics4
ART 465 Graphic Design for Packaging4
ART 467 Graphic Design for Posters4
ART 525 Advanced Typography4
ART 546 Graphic Design for Publications4
ART 556 Graphic Design for Interactive Media4
ART 558 Product Development for Graphic Design4
ART 563 Graphic Design for Games4
ART 565 Typeface Design4
ART 568 Motion Typography4
ART 575 User Experience for Graphic Design4
ART 656 Design Portfolio and Professional Practice4
ART 663 Graphic Design Practicum2

Advanced Level course in a second discipline

BFA-Art Graphic Design option students must plan for and complete an advanced-level (500-600) studio course in a secondary discipline of their choice. Common selections are in digital media, drawing/painting, video, glass, printmaking, and photography.

Elective Studio Courses

Select additional elective studio courses to reach the minimum of 72 credits.

GPA and other Graduation Requirements

Graduation Requirements

Requirements are based on UW–Madison coursework.

  • 2.5 minimum cumulative grade point average. This may be modified by the Last 60 Credits Rule.
  • Cumulative major grade point average: 3.0 cumulative grade point average in all major studio coursework.
  • Upper-level major coursework: 3.0 cumulative grade point average in all upper-level major coursework (Art courses numbered 214 and above, excluding ART 236 and ART 338).
  • Major Residency: Must complete at least 36 credits of major coursework in the UW-Madison Art Department. All graphic design coursework must be completed in residence.
  • Senior Residency: Degree candidates must complete their last 30 credits in residence on the UW–Madison campus, excluding retroactive credits and credits granted by examination.
  • Total Credits: A minimum of 126 credits must be completed to earn the BFA degree.

Degree Audit (DARS)

UW–Madison uses “DARS” to document a student's progress toward the completion of their degree, including any additional majors and certificates. A DARS (Degree Audit Reporting System) report shows all the requirements for completing a degree and, against courses that are planned or completed, shows the requirements that have been met, and those that are unmet. A report can offer suggestions about courses that may be taken to meet specific requirements and can assist in the academic planning and enrollment process. Students can access a DARS report in the Course Search & Enroll app or Student Center via My UW.

DARS also has a "what-if" function. This feature makes it possible to request a DARS report as if pursuing another program, major or certificate. It is an excellent tool if considering a new or additional area of study. School of Education students in a pre-professional classification such as Pre-Elementary (PRE), or Pre-Kinesiology should request a "what if" DARS report of their professional program of interest.

More information on how to request a DARS report is available on the registrar’s website.

DARS is not intended to replace student contact with academic advisers. It creates more time in an advising appointment to discuss course options, research opportunities, graduate school, or issues of personal interest or concern to students.

DARS is used as the document of record for degree program, major and certificate completion in the School of Education.

Bachelor of Fine Arts: Art - Graphic Design Named Option

Sample Four-Year Plan

This four-year sample graduation plan is designed to guide your course selection throughout your academic career; it does not establish a contractual agreement. Use it along with your DARS report, the Guide, and the Course Search and Enroll app to create a four-year plan reflecting your placement scores, incoming credits, and individual interests. Consult with your academic advisor(s) to develop a personalized plan of study and refer to the Guide for a complete list of requirements. You will likely revise your plan several times during your academic career here, based on your activities and changing academic interests.

A minimum of 126 credits are required. Six credits of liberal studies course work must be aesthetics-related and will count toward both liberal studies and aesthetics requirements.

Communication A (fall or spring)3Communication A (fall or spring)3
ART 1083ART 2083
ART 1023ART 1043
ART 2123ART 1073
ART 5081Additional Studio Elective (ART 508 recommended)1
Liberal Studies course work2-5Liberal Studies course work2-5
 15 15
ART 438 (Aesthetic)3Aesthetic Elective3-4
ART 3464Art Studio Breadth course from 2D, 3D, or 4D categories4
Art Studio Breadth course from 2D, 3D, or 4D categories4Graphic Design Studio course4
Quantitative Reasoning A3Communication B3
 Liberal Studies course work2-3
 14 18
BFA Application Graphic Design Studio Elective4
Graphic Design Studio Elective4Art or Design Studio Elective4
Art or Design Studio Electives8Quantitative Reasoning B3
Liberal Studies course work4Ethnic Studies3
 Liberal Studies course work3
 16 17
Graphic Design Studio Elective4Capstone Professional Practice Course2
Area 2 Advanced Studio Elective, Intermediaate Level4Area 2 Advanced Studio Elective4
Art or Design Studio Elective course work4Advanced Graphic Design Studio Elective4
Liberal Studies course work4Liberal Studies course work5
 16 15
Total Credits 126