Bachelor of Science in Visual Communication Design

The 58-unit Bachelor of Science in Visual Communication Design encompasses and integrates graphic design and interactive design while offering additional study addressing advanced concepts and a changing technological landscape. Students are prepared to collaborate with other design disciplines in technology, user experience, and creative problem-solving.

Design Programs are no longer impacted. We are requesting to have 6 units of Foundation Requirement (these classes articulate to Community College offerings), and the department maintains a Laptop Requirement. See the School of Design website for details.

Program Learning Outcomes

    Upon graduation students will be able to:

    - Demonstrate proficiency in skills pertinent to design practice and its applications, including but not limited to: typography, composition, color, selection of media, sequence, motion, material exploration, creative coding, systems thinking, storytelling, experiential design, information architecture.
    - Use software and technology intended for design and its diverse applications.
    Upon graduation students will be able to:
    - Apply a structured design process to various situations of different scope and complexity, incorporating elements of design thinking and user-centered design.
    Design process stages might include: research, ideation, prototyping, testing and refinement, finalizing, implementation and evaluation.
    Upon graduation students
    will be able to:
    - Recognize how design theories, principles,
    and practices have changed over time in response to shifting contexts.
    - Critically identify how design responds to, reflects and/or interacts with its broader contexts, including but not limited to: community, cultural, accessible, socioeconomic, technological, environmental, social, political.
    - Use their understanding of context to inform their own practice of responsible design.
    Upon graduation students
    will be able to:
    - Analyze the design landscape and think critically about the users and stakeholders, feasibility, functionality, aesthetics, and broader social impact of the design.
    - Identify appropriate research and testing methods for the context, user needs, and outcome.
    - Apply findings throughout the design process.
    Upon graduation students will be able to:

    - Demonstrate fluency in visual language and design vocabulary.
    - Demonstrate familiarity with critical theory and principles of perception, semiotics, rhetoric, and cultural context across relevant and evolving media.
    - Select and utilize materials and approaches based on their relevance to the context of use, user needs, and their environmental and cultural impact.
    Upon graduation students will be able to:
    - Document and present work according to professional expectations employing verbal, visual, and written means, including but not limited to:
    process books, creative briefs, technical documentation, critiques, summary documents, and portfolio.
    Upon graduation students will be able to:

    - Collaborate effectively with others both within and outside the field, including but not limited to: community organizations and industry partners.
    Upon graduation students will be able to:

    - Identify and critically evaluate how design impacts and is impacted by systemic bias and discrimination.
    - Develop a socially just, ethical, respectful, responsible, and inclusive practice.

    - Demonstrate knowledge about traditionally excluded, non-Western, and emergent design practices.
    Upon graduation students will be able to
    - identify fundamental aspects of environmentally sustainable design practice, including but not limited to:
    sustainable materials and manufacturing processes, product life cycle, environmental impact.


At the time of admission to the University, all students may elect to be Visual Communication Design majors. No special permission, application, or portfolio is required. Before advancing to courses at the 300 level or higher, however, all majors must:

  • Complete the foundation courses DES 200 and DES 222 with a grade of C or better.
  • Have upper-division standing.
  • Complete the lower-division General Education requirements at SF State or the equivalent at another institution.

Visual Communication Design (B.S.) — 58 units

All courses for the major must be completed with a grade of C or better, except for DES 305, DES 370, and DES 576, which must be completed with a CR grade.

General Education Requirements Met in the Major

The requirements below are deemed “met in the major” upon completion of the courses listed (even though the courses and their prerequisites are not approved for GE). This is true whether or not the student completes the major.

  • Upper-Division General Education, Arts and/or Humanities (UD-C) is satisfied upon completion of DES 356 .

Foundation Requirements (9 units)

DES 200Visual Design Literacy3
DES 222Digital Design Foundations I3
DES 228Introduction to Web Design3

Core Requirements (13 Units)

DES 300Design Process3
DES 322Digital Design Foundations II3
DES 324GWResearch and Writing for Design - GWAR3
DES 356A History of Design and Technology3
DES 370Introduction to The School of Design1

Major Requirements (15 units)

DES 325Graphic Design I3
DES 327Interactive Design I3
DES 425Graphic Design II3
DES 427Interactive Design II3
Select one of the following:3
Graphic Design III: Advanced
Interactive Design III

Major Electives (15 Units)

The Major Electives are intended to build a professional design portfolio, and as such, upper-division courses are strongly encouraged. Select five classes from the list below. Take no more than two classes (6 units total) at the lower-divison.

CSC 101Introduction to Computing3
DES 220Introduction to Drawing for Designers3
DES 226Modern Letterpress Printing: Traditional and Digital Techniques3
DES 252Rethinking Digital Visual Media: History, Technology, and Content3
DES 256Design and Society: Contemporary Design Issues and Applications3
DES 277Exploration in Meaning and Discourse Through Design3
DES 305Lab Safety Basics1
DES 310Product Design I3
DES 311Image Making for Designers3
DES 320Drafting and Sketching for Design3
DES 321Technical Drawing I: Introduction to CAD3
DES 367Introduction to Game Design3
DES 377BVisual Storytelling3
DES 405How to Develop, Patent, and Market an Idea3
DES 448User Experience Design3
DES 456Design Thinking Principles and Practices3
DES 475Topics in Design3
DES 523Information Design I: Data Visualization3
DES 525Graphic Design III: Advanced 13
DES 527Interactive Design III 13
DES 575Contemporary Design Workshop3
DES 576Practical Experience: Internship3
DES 625Graphic Design Practicum: Design Working Group3
DES 627Advanced Projects in Visual Communication Design3
DES 628Design Gallery: Exhibitions and Communications3
DES 677Exploration in Delightful Design3
DES 699Independent Study in Design3
JOUR 235Photojournalism I: Foundations of Photojournalism3
JOUR 450Publication Design and Graphics3
Other electives as approved by an advisor1-3

Culminating Requirements (6 units)

DES 505Senior Design Project (to be taken in the last semester)3
DES 570Professional Practices for Designers3

DES 525 and/or DES 527 can be counted as elective credit if they were not used to satisfy the major requirement. If both courses are taken, students will get credit for both the Major Requirement and Major Electives, but if only one is taken, students will get credit for the Major Requirement only.

General Education Requirements

Requirement Course Level Units Area Designation
Oral Communication LD 3 A1
Written English Communication LD 3 A2
Critical Thinking LD 3 A3
Physical Science LD 3 B1
Life Science LD 3 B2
Lab Science LD 1 B3
Mathematics/Quantitative Reasoning LD 3 B4
Arts LD 3 C1
Humanities LD 3 C2
Arts or Humanities LD 3 C1 or C2
Social Sciences LD 3 D1
Social Sciences: US History LD 3 D2
Lifelong Learning and Self-Development (LLD) LD 3 E
Ethnic Studies LD 3 F
Physical and/or Life Science UD 3 UD-B
Arts and/or Humanities UD 3 UD-C
Social Sciences UD 3 UD-D
SF State Studies
Courses certified as meeting the SF State Studies requirements may be upper or lower division in General Education (GE), a major or minor, or an elective.
American Ethnic and Racial Minorities LD or UD 3 AERM
Environmental Sustainability LD or UD 3 ES
Global Perspectives LD or UD 3 GP
Social Justice LD or UD 3 SJ

Note: LD = Lower-Division; UD = Upper-Division.

First-Time Student Roadmap (4 Year)

The roadmaps presented in this Bulletin are intended as suggested plans of study and do not replace meeting with an advisor. For a more personalized roadmap, please use the Degree Planner tool found in your Student Center.

First-Time Student Roadmap

SF State Scholars

The San Francisco State Scholars program provides undergraduate students with an accelerated pathway to a graduate degree. Students in this program pursue a bachelor’s and master’s degree simultaneously. This program allows students to earn graduate credit while in their junior and/or senior year, reducing the number of semesters required for completion of a master’s degree.

SF State Scholars Roadmap

General Advising Information for Transfer Students

  1. Before transfer, complete as many lower-division requirements or electives for this major as possible.
  2. The following courses are not required for admission but are required for graduation. Students are strongly encouraged to complete these units before transfer; doing so will provide more flexibility in course selection after transfer.
    • a course in U.S. History
    • a course in U.S. & California Government

For information about satisfying the requirements described in (1) and (2) above at a California Community College (CCC), please visit Check any geographically accessible CCCs; sometimes options include more than one college. Use ASSIST to determine:

  • Which courses at a CCC satisfy any lower-division major requirements for this major;
  • Which courses at a CCC satisfy CSU GE, US History, and US & CA Government requirements.

Remedial courses are not transferable and do not apply to the minimum 60 semester units/90 quarter units required for admission.

Additional units for courses that are repeated do not apply to the minimum 60 units required for upper-division transfer (for example, if a course was not passed on the first attempt or was taken to earn a better grade).

Before leaving the last California Community College of attendance, obtain a summary of completion of lower-division General Education units (IGETC or CSU GE Breadth). This is often referred to as a GE certification worksheet. SF State does not require delivery of this certification to Admissions, but students should retain this document for verifying degree progress after transfer.

Credit for Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or College-Level Examination Program courses: AP/IB/CLEP credit is not automatically transferred from the previous institution. Units are transferred only when an official score report is delivered to SF State. Credit is based on the academic year during which exams were taken. Refer to the University Bulletin in effect during the year of AP/IB/CLEP examination(s) for details regarding the award of credit for AP/IB/CLEP.

Students pursuing majors in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines often defer 6-9 units of lower-division General Education in Areas C and D until after transfer to focus on preparation courses for the major. This advice does not apply to students pursuing associate degree completion before transfer.

Transferring From Institutions Other Than CCCs or CSUs

Review SF State's lower-division General Education requirements. Note that, as described below, the four basic skills courses required for admission meet A1, A2, A3, and B4 in the SF State GE pattern. Courses that fulfill the remaining areas of SF State’s lower-division GE pattern are available at most two-year and four-year colleges and universities.

Of the four required basic skills courses, a course in critical thinking (A3) may not be widely offered outside the CCC and CSU systems. Students should attempt to identify and take an appropriate course no later than the term of application to the CSU. To review more information about the A3 requirement, please visit

Waiting until after transfer to take a single course at SF State that meets both US and CA/local government requirements may be an appropriate option, particularly if transferring from outside of California.