Gerry Snyder
Director of the School of Art
116 Fine Arts Center

Alison Place
Program Director of Graphic Design
116 Fine Arts Center

Bree McMahon
Director of Graduate Studies
116 Fine Arts Center


School of Art Website

Degree Conferred:
M.Des. in Communication Design (CDESMDES)

Program Description: True to the mission and purpose of the state flagship institution, the Master of Design program prepares designers to build a better world through design that strengthens their community, the state of Arkansas, and beyond. Through applied and speculative studio projects, the two-year Master of Design in Communication Design prepares students for emerging roles the field can play in involving communities in participatory design processes that generate equitable and sustainable solutions to design problems. The curriculum also addresses a research-led professional context increasingly defined by information, product, and service ecologies in which digital technologies are primary means of delivery and venues for citizen and consumer experiences.

Requirements for M.Des. in Communication Design

The graduate degree consists of 60 credit hours within a two-year period. For those applicants who derive from interdisciplinary undergraduate degrees or require a foundational design education prior to entering the Master of Design's two-year sequence, a foundational year will be offered. This single-year non-degree status program enables instruction in the foundational tenets necessary to succeed within the subsequent M.Des. program.

Admission requirements: Admission to the program requires an undergraduate degree in graphic design or a related discipline, or the equivalent in relevant work experience. The application for admission is a two-step process and may require fees associated with its completion. Candidates must be successful in both processes to be admitted to the University of Arkansas and Graduate School, as well as the School of Art and M.Des. graduate program. 

  1. Apply to the Graduate School at
  2. In addition to the graduate school application, submit the following materials to the School of Art using SlideRoom, web-based system at
    1. A brief statement describing why you are interested in the Master of Design degree.
    2. A one- to two-page autobiographical statement outlining your education, experiences, achievements, and goals for graduate study.
    3. A one-page statement addressing your perspectives on diversity, equity, and inclusion. 
    4. Resumé/Curriculum Vitae
    5. A professional portfolio comprising 12 projects captured as digital images and uploaded as directed with appropriate attributions. Consideration should be given to high levels of detail, consistency, and a curated body of work representing your professional and/or research interests.
      The uploading of these assets must conform to outlined standards. Physical examples of work will not be accepted nor can a personal website substitute for this component of the application.
    6. A PDF of unofficial transcripts from all previous colleges and universities attended.
    7. Three Letters of Recommendation are required and your application is not considered complete until such are received. All individuals serving as a reference should be from representatives of higher education or professionals who are able to offer insight into the applicant's academic and research ability and potential at the graduate level.
    8. English Proficiency Test Scores (TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE), if necessary. (Refer to Graduate School and International Studies admissions for more information at

Application deadline is January 15 for Fall admission only. The application portal on Slideroom will close at midnight (Central time) on January 15. It is recommended that you submit your application at least two weeks prior to the deadline to allow your faculty recommenders time to upload their letters.

The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is not required for applicants to the Master of Design program in the School of Art at the University of Arkansas.

Students who are accepted into the Foundational Year are also conditionally accepted into the M.Des. degree tract concurrently [Foundation Year 1 + M.Des. Year 1 + M.Des. Year 2 = 3 Total Years]. However, at the end of the Foundational Year, students must undergo an extensive academic, research, and grade review. Students whose performance does not meet the assessment criteria could be asked to leave prior to commencing the Master of Design first year. While years 1 and 2 of the M.Des. are funded through the endowment, the Foundational Year is not.

Program Requirements: The program requires 60 graduate credit hours from the following:

Graduate Studios (33 credit hours)
GDES 6306Design and Communities6
GDES 6346Design and Culture6
GDES 6316Design and Technology6
GDES 6366Thesis Preparation6
GDES 6399Design Thesis9
Graduate Seminars (12 credit hours)
GDES 5333Design Research Methods3
GDES 5303Design Pedagogy and Leadership3
GDES 5383Design Writing and Dissemination3
GDES 5393Design Theory: Past, Present, and the Future3
Graduate Special Topics
GDES 6353Special Topics in Communication Design (Must complete three times for 9 credit hours total)9
Approved electives6
Requires prior approval from the Graduate Program Director.
Total Hours60

Graduate Faculty

Chioffi, David Charles, M.A. (Wesleyan University), B.F.A. (The Rochester Institute of Technology), Professor, School of Art, 2013, 2019.
Hapgood, Thomas Layley, M.F.A., B.A. (University of Arizona), Associate Professor, School of Art, 2005, 2012.
Hernandez, Sarah, Ph.D., M.S. (University of California, Irvine), B.S. (University of Florida), Associate Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, Walter E. Hicks and Blossom Russel Hicks Professorship for Infrastructure Engineering, 2015, 2021.
Lane, Marty Maxwell, M.G.D. (North Carolina State University), B.F.A. (University of Illinois at Chicago), Associate Professor, School of Art, 2014, 2019.
McMahon, Bree, M.A., B.A. (North Carolina State University), Assistant Professor, School of Art, 2018.
Place, Alison L., M.F.A (Miami University), Assistant Professor, School of Art, 2017.
Slone, Ryan B., B.F.A (University of Arkansas), Instructor, School of Art, 2001.


GDES 5303. Design Pedagogy and Leadership. 3 Hours.

Explores the history and application of pedagogy related to careers in academia and professional practice. Focuses on methodologies for teaching, assessment, and curriculum writing. (Typically offered: Fall and Spring)

GDES 5313. Interactive Language. 3 Hours.

Advanced course utilizing interactive languages to create responsive experiences for the web, touch screens. Exploration of the intersection of linear and non-linear design experiences in the application of motion to web. Graduate degree credit will not be given for both GDES 4313 and GDES 5313. (Typically offered: Spring)

GDES 5323. Technology in Context. 3 Hours.

Advanced course focusing on speculative explorations in the world of interaction design. Much of the work will be touch and gesture based and dealing with the built environment. Application of knowledge about proper workflow and execution in an advanced way. Graduate degree credit will not be given for both GDES 4323 and GDES 5323. Prerequisite: GDES 4303 and GDES 4313 or GDES 5313 (formerly GDES 4313). (Typically offered: Fall)

GDES 5333. Design Research Methods. 3 Hours.

Examines research methods from other disciplines to apply those methods to contemporary design practice, focusing on the means of collecting information throughout the creative process, and incorporating the roles of visual research, including imaging, modeling, prototyping, and diagramming. (Typically offered: Fall and Spring)

GDES 5343. Identity Systems. 3 Hours.

Advanced identity design course emphasizing creating cohesive messaging systems that cover a wide range of media. Creation of identity systems that are based on research and appropriate to content, context and audience. Media may span environmental, motion, print, web and packaging. Graduate degree credit will not be given for both GDES 4343 and GDES 5343. Prerequisite: GDES 4303 and GDES 4313 or GDES 5313 (formerly GDES 4313). (Typically offered: Fall)

GDES 5353. Human Centered Design. 3 Hours.

Research-based studio introducing design methods that focus on an audience centric process. Exposure to communication theory, modes of persuasion, sustainability, how to design for niche audiences. Graduate degree credit will not be given for both GDES 4353 and GDES 5353. Prerequisite: GDES 4303 and GDES 4313. (Typically offered: Fall)

GDES 5363. Design Co-op. 3 Hours.

Collaboration with an organization, or design firm, providing opportunity to address problems existing outside of the classroom with the focus shifting between design for good initiatives. Collaboration, research, problem seeking and solving will be addressed. Graduate degree credit will not be given for both GDES 4363 and GDES 5363. Prerequisite: GDES 5323, GDES 5343, and GDES 5353. (Typically offered: Fall and Spring)

GDES 5373. Advanced Typography. 3 Hours.

Culminating typography course, exploration of typography at an advanced level through a variety of projects. Projects may range from type design to type in motion to complex publication design. Exhibition of the utmost professional ideation, process, execution and craft expected. Graduate degree credit will not be given for both GDES 4373 and GDES 5373. Prerequisite: GDES 5323, GDES 5343, and GDES 5353. (Typically offered: Spring)

GDES 5383. Design Writing and Dissemination. 3 Hours.

Explores diverse modes of writing in design, including reviews and the peer-review process, journal articles and abstracts, books, popular culture, grant and funding applications, thesis writing, and other mediums. (Typically offered: Fall and Spring)

GDES 5393. Design Theory: Past, Present, and the Future. 3 Hours.

Explores design theory that is both discipline-specific and interdisciplinary. Examines the application of theory and frameworks within the context of design, including the history of design theory as well as contemporary and future practices. (Typically offered: Fall and Spring)

GDES 594V. Graphic Design Internship. 1-6 Hour.

Credit for practical experience gained through internship in graphic design. Report required form intern and field supervisor on progress and significant accomplishments. 3 credit hours per semester. Graduate degree credit will not be given for both GDES 494V and GDES 594V. Prerequisite: Any 4000 level GDES visual design course except GDES 4343. (Typically offered: Fall, Spring and Summer) May be repeated for up to 6 hours of degree credit.

GDES 6306. Design and Communities. 6 Hours.

Community-based design research focusing primarily on people and users, covering topics related to "wicked problems" and complexity in design that require a system-level approach. (Typically offered: Fall and Spring)

GDES 6316. Design and Technology. 6 Hours.

Explores emerging technologies through the lens of what is plausible, possible, and preferable in the future of design. Examines topics related to data, policy, and the future of making while also considering interdisciplinary approaches and potential design outcomes. (Typically offered: Fall and Spring)

GDES 632V. Graduate Design. 1-6 Hour.

Individual problems in two and three dimensional design. Prerequisite: Graduate standing. (Typically offered: Fall and Spring) May be repeated for degree credit.

GDES 6346. Design and Culture. 6 Hours.

Examines the culture of the design discipline to further provoke the confines of the discipline, and understand the ways in which practitioners are accountable for design outcomes through interdisciplinary approaches. (Typically offered: Fall and Spring)

GDES 6353. Special Topics in Communication Design. 3 Hours.

Topics dealing with trends, movements, and new elements within the design field, such as entrepreneurship, diversity, sustainability, critical issues, and data. (Typically offered: Fall and Spring) May be repeated for up to 12 hours of degree credit.

GDES 6366. Thesis Preparation. 6 Hours.

Develops a written thesis project proposal that demonstrates a viable project with a clear research direction. (Typically offered: Fall and Spring)

GDES 6399. Design Thesis. 9 Hours.

Students will complete a thesis project that includes a designed system, written research paper, and public presentation. The thesis project should demonstrate the ability to tackle significant design and research challenges. (Typically offered: Fall and Spring)