School of Art

Graphic Design at TCU

Mio Commercial by Katie Honeycutt

Writing video by Ashley Moon

Graphic Design (also called Visual Communication) is essentially the process of combining verbal and visual information—words and pictures—to solve a communication problem. Unlike the arts, which encourage self-expression, the message in visual communication is determined not by the designer, but by an external source—the client. This message must be communicated to an explicit audience. It becomes the designer’s task to communicate that message in the most effective way possible, in order to elicit a specific response. Successful visual communication also involves a thorough understanding of marketing issues. For example, if the client has a warehouse full of shoes, the problem becomes to inform people who would be interested in that particular type of shoes, that they are available for a reasonable price. The style, look and “feel” of the ad will therefore be determined by what kind of shoes they are, and what type of person would be interested in buying that kind of shoes.


The placement rate of graduates of this program is over 90%. TCU alumni work in design studios, Web design and interactive media design studios, advertising agencies, corporate design departments, magazine and book publishers and newspapers. Many find employment in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, but we also have successful alumni in New York, Miami. Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Houston, Austin, San Antonio and many other major markets in the US, as well as the UK, Panama, Ecuador and Mexico.

 The average starting salary ranges from $30,000 to $40,000 annually. In most cases, there is good potential to double this figure in five to seven years.

Degree Plan

The course of study for the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree in Graphic Design is rigorous and competitive. Our goal is to prepare students for successful careers as graphic designers and art directors upon the completion of the program. This involves a strong grounding in Typography, with intensive topical courses in Corporate Identity; Advertising, Publication, Packaging, Web and Interactive Design. Upper-level elective courses include Visiting Designers, an invitation-only class where students work directly with design and advertising professionals from the Fort Worth-Dallas design market. The curriculum is capped with the Portfolio & Marketing and Senior Thesis classes. The Graphic Design Degree Plan lists all required classes for the Bachelor of Fine Arts at TCU. The Four-Year Plan shows the sequence of classes in prerequisite order. Download the Four-Year Plan.

Student Qualifications

A portfolio is not required for entry. However, once enrolled, students must pass an annual qualifying portfolio examination in order to continue in the graphic design program. The first required examination is positioned at the conclusion of Art 20323 Typography I. Download the information about the Qualifying Examination.


We are fortunate to be located in the heart of a major national design and advertising market. Our program has very close ties with the local advertising and design communities. Students regularly participate in program opportunities offered by the Dallas Society of Visual Communications(DSVC).

Student Activities

Graphic Design majors are encouraged to become active in Design Focus, a campus organization for students interested in design. In addition, students regularly participate in DSVC monthly meetings; the Creative Summit Annual Student Design Conference in San Marcos, TX; the Art Directors Club of Houston Annual Student Design Competition; the AAF Fort Worth Annual Student Design Competition; and other professionally-relevant events.


Students are required to complete a professional internship for upper-division academic credit, during the summer between the third and fourth years in the degree program. This involves working in a creative capacity at a design studio, advertising agency, corporate design office, or other appropriate venue. Most students intern in the Fort Worth-Dallas area. However, our majors have also recently worked in London, UK; Lima, Peru; New York; Chicago; Miami; Los Angeles; and San Francisco. The faculty assists in placement.


Graphic Design has a fully equipped Macintosh computer lab, featuring regularly-scheduled hardware and software upgrades. Primary software includes Adobe Creative Suite. While not required, many students elect to bring their own computers to campus. We recommend Macintosh laptop or desktop machines with the maximum amount of memory affordable. Once students are enrolled at TCU, they qualify for a generous institutional discount on software.

Scholarship Opportunities

Some non-need based scholarships are available. These funds are awarded strictly on the basis of portfolio quality. For information, visit our Scholarships & Fellowships page.


For further information, or to make an appointment to visit (strongly recommended), contact:

Lewis Glaser
Professor, Coordinator of Graphic Design
TCU Box 298000
Fort Worth, Texas 76129
(817) 257-7643