Graphic Design Named a GDUSA Top Program Nine Years in a Row

Graphic Design USA (GDUSA), a leading source of news and trends for graphic design professionals, compiles an annual list of its 50 top ranked institutions, and Auburn University’s Graphic Design program (GDES) has been named a top program every year for the last nine years. Additionally, Auburn’s students and faculty are frequently featured in GDUSA’s print magazine, monthly e-newsletter and digital publications as well as on its popular website.

Program chair Robert Finkel says that Auburn’s graphic design students are some of the best because they meet core learning objectives while simultaneously gaining skills and experiences that are relevant to the profession. “Our courses and assignments are designed to give students opportunities to enhance their creative problem solving skills within a range of graphic design processes and media that bridge the hand-craft traditions of print with the emerging digital-based formats,” he explained. “Simply put, our students are very well-rounded and experienced when graduating from our program.”

At Auburn, students first enroll in the program as pre-graphic design majors and take foundational courses like Drawing, Foundations of Design and Art History. They are evaluated for admission to the second year of study based on their GPAs in their design courses and must then submit a portfolio of work for review by a faculty committee for admission to the graphic design major. Graphic design majors continue the next two and half years with a mix of studio courses and specialty courses like Typography, Interactive Media, Photography and design electives. Graduates earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts, an indication of a hands-on learning experience. “The fact that the degree is a B.F.A and not a B.A. means the program is more studio-based than other schools,” explained alumna and College of Architecture, Design and Construction (CADC) Communications Coordinator Madison Champion. “You’re not just sitting in a lecture hall with 100 other people learning how to manipulate images in Photoshop. You’re in the studio creating work and solving problems through design.” During their time at Auburn, students exhibit their work, attend guest lectures and design symposiums and have opportunities to study abroad and complete internships.

Finkel highlighted several reasons why GDES continues to be ranked so high year after year. He says that all students, no matter their year in the program, are taught by full-time faculty whose experiences range from working as industrial designers in professional practice and exhibiting fine artists to design research and writing. Also, small class sizes allow for one-on-one instruction and ensure a sense of community in the program. And finally, each student completes Senior Project, a required capstone project under the advisement of a faculty committee. “Students are responsible for the research, conceptualization, scheduling and proposal of work for that semester,” Finkel stated. “Senior Projects represent the culmination of skills, techniques and processes students have learned during their time in our program.”

“Auburn’s studio-based Graphic Design program combines innovative ideas, powerful communication and context to create visual displays that inspire and inform,” stated Ben Farrow, CADC’s Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. “Powerful peer connections built through a cohort-based program, deep industry connections and engagement, the senior capstone project and strong student-faculty connections are just some of the elements that distinguish Auburn’s program as a leader in graphic design education.”

“Our faculty are remarkable,” stated Chris Arnold, interim head of the School of Industrial and Graphic Design. “Their dedication to the discipline and to student learning is our greatest strength. They serve the university’s research mission and continue to produce award-winning creative work all while teaching at the highest level.” In recent years, GDUSA has recognized Graphic Design faculty members Robert Finkel and Courtney Windham as “Educators to Watch.”

Auburn’s students are often named by GDUSA as “Students to Watch.” GDUSA featured one Auburn student in 2015 and has featured two students every year since then. Students are frequently recognized in GDUSA’s annual Package Design Award as well. “The students are always excited to submit work to the GDUSA Package Design competition,” Finkel stated. “They work hard on their projects and deserve to be recognized. It’s always a thrill to see Auburn GDES in the pages of GDUSA.”

GDUSA’s “Students to Watch” included Alex Crowe and Lane Mullins in 2022, Anna Porter and Ethan Smith in 2021, Megan Kesting and Rebecca Riemersma in 2020, Jackson Glass and Morgan Searcy in 2019, Will Givens and Anna Rogers in 2018, Emily Prestridge and Kathryn Stalnaker in 2017, Sara Hagale and Kristen Harlin in 2016 and Marcelo Blanco in 2015.