Am I ready to start the GDC Program?

The courses that begin the GDC program sequence are equivalent to sophomore level courses in an undergraduate graphic design program. If you have no background in art-making, you need to spend some time developing visual language skills before being admitted. Continuing Education courses, such as Drawing for the First Time, Drawing Fundamentals, or Elements of Design, are recommended for preparation. A drawing course can also provide you with work to include in your application portfolio. If you have skills but it has been some time since you have done art work, a Continuing Education drawing class or local adult education drawing class might provide you with a structure to create work for your portfolio.

Once you are in the program, the program requires knowledge of software programs used for graphic design. For students who do not have these skills, Continuing Education offers a 3-credit introductory course Intro to Computer Design with the Adobe Creative Suite, which will provide basic working knowledge of Illustrator, Photoshop, Flash and Dreamweaver, and other courses are available to learn InDesign.

Application and Portfolio

What does "Portfolio must demonstrate basic skills in visual language" mean?

Visual language consists of the elements visual artists use to express ideas and/or convey a message or mood: drawing, color, shape, line, texture, interactions of form and counter form (composition), technique, and craft. Your portfolio should show experience and a basic understanding of those design elements, ideally in a variety of media. A portfolio should include evidence of drawing skills—either drawings themselves—or illustrations or paintings that show drawing ability.

What else do you look for in an application portfolio?

Variety. The best graphic designers have a versatility that allows them to develop tailored solutions to the particular needs of a specific project, client, and audience. Strong application portfolios usually show an openness and interest in exploring variety in visual form making. If you have taken a variety of art courses or explored a variety of media, include a few images of each. If you are an accomplished artist specializing in a particular medium, you need to show an ability and interest to translate skills in one visual medium to another (graphic design). In addition to your work in your medium, you should include a few images that show you have experimented with or explored other media, ideas, color palettes, etc.

How many images should I submit? What is best? 

Fifteen images are suggested and more than twenty is like to be redundant.

Is it a problem if my portfolio images are all 3D artwork?

Since graphic design work mainly requires mastery of design on a 2D surface, we recommend including a few slides of 2D work such as drawings or paintings, in addition to your 3D specialty.

What if my work is in photography?

Unless your photography work is truly distinctive and accomplished, a portfolio of all photography is NOT advised. Amateur photography is best kept to no more than 4 or 5 images maximum, combined with other artwork that shows drawing and/or other art-making skills.

Should I include computer-generated artwork in the portfolio such as images created in Photoshop and Illustrator?

Although certain technical skills are required to begin the program, computer generated artwork will be judged on artistic merit showing an understanding of visual form, color, composition, etc., not on technical skill alone. Do not include a Photoshop collage, website design, or other digital work in your portfolio unless you think it demonstrates your understanding and skill with applying visual art principles such as composition, color, etc.

At my job (or on my own), I produce brochures, newsletters, flyers, etc. using desktop publishing software. Should I include this work in my application portfolio?

Most of what people produce in the way of brochures, flyers, newsletters, logos, etc. without benefit of graphic design training looks amateur in the eyes of the design professional; this can hurt , rather than help your portfolio. On the other hand, your efforts may show talent that will develop in the GDC program. Include no more than 4 pieces of this kind of work, choosing that which seems the most unique and creative and/or sophisticated.

I work in a professional design environment (agency, studio), where I do graphic design under the supervision of a professional designer. Should I include this work in my application portfolio?

Include only pieces which you can claim to be uniquely your creative work. If design decisions about fonts, color, etc. were made by others, please limit the number of these in your portfolio to two or three at most and include an explanation of your exact role and what was designed by others (for example, if there is a logo on the brochure, did you design the logo?).

Can I send in my work on disk?

You may choose to submit your portfolio on CD instead of 35mm slides.  Include no more than 20 images in no more than one folder. CDs including more than 20 pieces of art work will not be viewed! If you use PDF format, be sure to embed fonts and save for Screen. For  JPGS, GIF, or TIFF: to avoid long opening times, please down sample high-res or very large files to a clear screen resolution at 100% size. Do not expect reviewers to take the time to browse your website. You must submit a portfolio!

Any suggestions on photographing art work?

If you are a MassArt Continuing Ed student, you can use the Audio Visual lab to shoot; please call them for an appointment (617-879-7160). They will provide camera and photography set-up and will show you how to use it. If you prefer to take photos on your own, make sure the quality of the images are reflective of the quality of the work. DO NOT submit out of focus or distorted images. Shoot the images straight on on an appropriate neutral backdrop and make sure the images reflect the truest color and are at the best exposure for the work.

Should I include letters of recommendation?
Letters of recommendation are not required but can be helpful. Letters of recommendation should be on the recommender's letterhead and sent in with your other application materials.

Program Questions

Can I get transfer credit for related courses I took at other schools?

Courses taken at other educational institutions can be transferred only if the course is applicable to the GDC program, it appears on the submitted transcripts with a final grade of B- or higher, the credit system is translatable to MassArt's, and your application portfolio clearly demonstrates competency in the material covered. It is helpful to include a note if there are specific courses you want to transfer into the program.

How much time is required outside of class for the program?

Students who commit the time required to produce high-quality work, will find a wealth of opportunities available to them. Instructors and design professionals who visit classrooms, sit on review panels, and otherwise view students’ work have been impressed by the level of sophistication, originality, and skill of MassArt’s GDC student body and have served as resources to students after graduation.

Time required outside the classroom to complete assignments varies by instructor and student. Approximate estimated time for different classes (depending on the student and workload) :
     Foundations of Graphic Design: 10-12 hours/week
     Typography, GD1, GD2, Intermediate Type, Interaction Design:
         12-15 hours/week
     Advanced design classes: 15-20 hours/week
     Intermediate and Final Portfolio: 20-25 hours/week

Do I have to complete the program in three years?

No. Although the program can be completed in three years, it is not required to do so. GDC students are required to register for at least one course every fall and spring or apply for a leave of absence. Students are allowed a leave of absence for up to one year. Summer coursework is not required. Students wishing to take summers off from school are not required to file for leave of absence.

For more information

Contact Continuing Education
617 879 7200



Fall semester: April 1
Spring semester: November 1
Application Fee: $35

Download an application (PDF)