Skip navigation

Visual Communication

graphic-design

The visual communication program provides an intellectually-based, professional education that focuses on graphic form and communication, cultural factors and design processes. Students graduate with creative, theoretical and interpersonal skills necessary to enter the graphic design profession.


Admission to the visual communication program is available if you are a transfer or current students. You must successfully fulfill the following portfolio guidelines:

  • Obtain successful admissions to the university
  • Maintain a minimum overall grade point average of 2.50 on a 4.00 scale for all courses including transfer courses
  • Interview with the visual communication faculty selection committee
  • Submit a portfolio of work that meets the admission criteria for the program (for portfolio instructions, please refer to the portfolio section below for details)

The interview and portfolio will be used to determine which students are admitted.

Core Requirements

Course Title Number of Credits
ARTD 201 Introduction to Visual Communication 3
ARTD 211 Typography  3
ARTD 212 Type and Image 3
ARTD 311/312 Intermediate Visual Communication 3
ARTD 318/319 Interaction Design 3
ARTD 405 Professional Practices in Design 3
ARTD 411/412 Advanced Visual Communication I 3
ARTD 406 Senior Project  3

Available Electives

Course Title Number of Credits
ARTD 320 Motion Graphic Design 3
ARTD 404 Design Methodologies  3
ARTD 414 Information Design  3
ARTD 418A Special Problems in Visual Communication  3
ARTD 418B Advanced Problems in Visual Communication  3

View a suggested visual communication four-year plan.


The selection of pieces in your portfolio tells us a great deal about you, so thoughtfully and carefully choose those pieces you think best show your design talent and potential for further development. Be prepared to present a digital version of your design portfolio during your interview. Your portfolio should include design work, such as:

  • brochures
  • posters
  • logos
  • magazine layouts
  • typography work
  • web design
  • motion design

Requirements

  • You must present a minimum of 10 individual projects, but no more than 20
  • All work must be submitted via USB flash drive at the time of your interview
  • must be formatted as JPEG, PDF or HTML for web design work
  • All files are to be individual files
  • websites or online portfolios are not permitted

We recognize that you may not design work that is similar to the above design examples. Thus we are open to reviewing drawings, paintings, photography or other 2-D or 3-D creative work that we can evaluate for design sensibilities. However, we strongly encourage if you do not have design work to develop design projects on your own, if they have not had the opportunities to work on design projects in your schools.

As a recommendation, the book Graphic Design School by David Dabner is very informative in introducing its audience to graphic design. You will find this book instructive, providing you with projects that will assist in building and strengthening your portfolio.

Please note that the visual communication portfolio review process is repeatable. Because portfolios are works in progress, we appreciate the potential for improvement. You are encouraged to re-apply for admission to the program if initial reviews are not in your favor.

For questions about the portfolio review process, contact Steve Quinn, Associate Professor, at squinn@niu.edu.


The on-campus interviews will be held at Jack Arends Hall(Art Building) Room 314, of Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, IL. Please come dressed for an interview.  You will be notified of an admissions decision by email within five business days of your interview. To schedule an interview, please call 815-753-0291.

Upcoming 2018 Dates

  • Friday, March 23
  • Friday, April 27
  • Thursday, August 9

During the Interview

You will be asked questions to assess your interest, commitment and level of understanding of a career as a professional designer. Questions will be concerned with general cultural awareness, design fundamentals and your academic and professional goals. You are encouraged to ask the interviewers questions regarding the Visual Communications program.

Student Work


View more visual communication student work.