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VMA Spotlight: Graphic Design

Photo: A branding concept done at the Graphic Design senior exhibition.

Graphic design, simply put, is the practice in which we communicate messages and ideas to an audience using visual and textual content. Often, graphic design finds itself in the intersection between art and business. It is a very versatile and far-ranging degree in the Department of Visual and Media Arts. Graphic design professionals work in a variety of media, including but not limited to magazines, logos, posters, books, mobile apps, websites, packaging, exhibitions, and large branding campaigns.

Students are trained to communicate visual messages that will suit client needs. They start with typography, then go on to learn about images and symbols – the building blocks of graphic design. As their skills develop, students start combining these elements in the design of  logos, print layouts, websites, and digital interfaces. In the end, students take a deep dive on branding strategy and identity while learning to bridge physical and digital experiences. Courses teach students critical thinking, problem solving, software literacy, print production techniques, and give them business experience. Due to the major being deeply connected to business, an internship is required for the curriculum.

Graphic design majors also have a required photography course to practice composition and learn to see through a camera. A drawing course is required to effectively conceptualize ideas and sketch them for clients, and develop visual assets for their works.

The graphic design club, AIGA: Grand Valley, is part of the national organization American Institute of Graphic Arts. It is another opportunity to get more involvement. It has mini workshops, presentations on designers, and an annual “design crawl” in downtown Grand Rapids, when they visit design studios and companies to observing their relationship to design. Meetings are every other Tuesday.

Every year, the seniors present their work in a group exhibition at the end of each semester. This year, the area also held an exhibition of cumulative selected works from students 2016 until present. Students also work on a collaborative project with the Mary Idema Pew Library in which the library serves as their client and students design something to be produced. This is organized through Vinicius Lima, head of the graphic design area since fall of 2016. In the past they’ve designed posters and information campaigns.

For those with an interest in what graphic design holds, there is a course open for non-majors called Graphic Design Basics. Questions to Vinicius are also welcome, as he has taught nearly every class in the major and is more than happy to share his knowledge on the matter. Grand Valley strives to prepare its students for the field they have in mind, and it’s wonderful to see all the ways graphic design achieves that.


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