Design is the visual communication of ideas. Western's Design program emphasizes the process of problem solving and encourages students to make connections between culture and design, and their role as visual communicators. Students learn to combine personal expression and critical thinking as they create solutions that connect industry to an audience and themselves to the world. 

Western's program is unique in its size and depth of curriculum. Students have significant opportunities to work with their faculty outside of class. Western’s Design faculty members are active in the profession, but place teaching first and foremost in their activities. Because industry expects designers to be fluid in both traditional print based graphic design and interaction design (web/app), the Design program does not offer areas of specialization within its curriculum. 

Western's design production lab provides students access to equipment found in the industry and establishes a learning environment that allows for hands-on education. Through the lab, students have access to: hand and power guillotine paper cutters, foil-stamping, various mechanical and perfect binding units, offset and photopolymer plate making units, medium and large format inkjet printers, two Vandercook proofing letterpresses as well as a Heidelberg GTO offset press.  

Western offers both Bachelor of Arts (BA) and a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degrees in Design. The BFA is the professional degree option for students admitted to the Design Program. The BFA degree option is a highly competitive degree limited to a maximum of 18 students per year. Courses in the senior year focus on the integration of graphic, production and digital media design in the solution of visual communication problems. 

Majors are also eligible for the Arts Enterprise and Cultural Innovation minor (“AECI”), a unique program of WWU focused on launching successful creative careers in the arts. Scholarships are available to students pursuing the AECI minor.

Portrait of Analese Webster

“I have had the best professors who have taught me, guided me and prepared me to enter the professional world of design. The confidence and skills I learned at Western have allowed me to feel that I can make a significant impact in the world of design.”

Anelese Webster
Design Major

Anelese participated in the 100 Portfolio Night of the Art Director’s Club that takes place in 26 cities around the world. She signed up for the New York event because she wanted to work in New York City upon graduation. She was selected as the top portfolio and was also hired by the design firm Huge that sponsored the event.

Beyond the Classroom

The Design BFA seniors travel to San Francisco for the annual Design field trip. Recently, the students visited the following firms: Chronicle Books, Elixir, Hatch, Highlight, Hybrid, Manual, McSweenys, Neo, Public, Salesforce, and Volume.

Completing an internship is a requirement for Design BFA students. Faculty members are responsible for finding firms that meet department expectations for this experience, then contracts are negotiated so all parties are aware of what is expected of each other. This is a paid internship that happens during the summer. Since the internship is required during summer quarter, students earn enough money to pay for their summer tuition (10 credits) and have something left over. The department strives to find local quality design sponsors for student convenience. 

Recent BFA Student Internship Firms: 

  • Curator 
  • Ratio 
  • LiveAreaLabs
  • Ten Gun Design 
  • Push Design 
  • Disney 
  • Smashing Ideas  
  • Superfeet
  • Toolhouse  
  • Highlight (San Francisco) 

Through coursework and a variety of on-and-off-campus opportunities, Western Design students build on their skills while adding to their portfolios. Campus-wide opportunities are available through the VU Publicity Center, Klipsun Magazine, The Planet Magazine, Jeopardy Magazine, Labyrinth Literary and Fine Arts Magazine, and more. Students also have the opportunity to earn credit while studying abroad over a summer.

90% of Design, BFA graduates found field related employment within six months of graduation, of those who responded to Western's 2015-2016 Employment Survey

Careers and Graduate Studies

Career opportunities are found in all segments of industry, both in the private and public sector. Western Design graduates go on to work in advertising agencies, design firms, in-house departments, paper companies, printing firms, and serve as private consultants in corporate identity, environmental graphic design, packaging, publication, and web design. Many graduates work as Designers, Art Educators, Production Managers, Web Designers, and Digital Image Makers.

Some employers of recent Western graduates include:

  • Amazon (Seattle, WA): Interactive Designer 
  • Creativebug (San Fancisco, CA): Digital Designer 
  • Facebook (San Fancisco, CA): Product Designer
  • Nordstrom (Seattle, WA): Web Designer 
  • TranTech Engineering (Bellingham, WA): Designer, Marketer, AudoCAD

Sample Jobs

  • Graphic Designer
  • Web Designer
  • Project Manager
  • Art Director
  • Digital Image Maker 
  • Creative Director
  • Interactive Designer
  • UX/UI

Requirements and Course Details

To learn more about this program, including grade requirements, a course listing, how to declare the major, and more, see the Program of Study Details.