Apr 18, 2024  
2023-24 Western Washington University Catalog 
2023-24 Western Washington University Catalog


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“Design” is both noun and verb, product and process. The products of design form the interface between humans and the environment. Design as a professional field of study is based on the foundations of visual communication. The study of design encompasses cultural, aesthetic, ergonomic, technical, ethical, and economic fields. Designers create communications that serve many needs–everything from warning labels to multimedia interfaces. They solve communication problems of all types and sizes. The solutions require creativity, lateral thinking, research, and excellent verbal and written communication skills.

The Department of Design prepares students to successfully communicate information and abstract concepts visually. The faculty strives to provide each student with a broad education in visual communication. The curriculum is designed to promote intellectual rigor, critical thinking and creativity, through a combination of courses that are both theoretical and practical. The theoretical component emphasizes creative problem solving and critical assessment. The practical component focuses on the building of aesthetic and technical skills. The development of these two components culminates in a portfolio of design work. The portfolio also provides evidence of the student’s creative and analytical talents, enabling the student to apply their scholarship in regional, national, and global communities. Each portfolio is highly personalized allowing the students to exhibit specific strengths and interests, thus promoting the diversity of perspectives for which our students’ portfolios are known in the professional design world. The development of specialized skills in spatial organization, color, visualization, problem solving methodologies, conceptual thinking and the acquisition of digital tool skills, in combination with an excellent liberal arts foundation, provide graduates of the program with the skills necessary for seeking employment as a graphic designer or pursuing graduate studies.

Design Faculty

KACEY MORROW (2008) Chair and Professor, BA, University of Iowa, School of Art and Art History; MFA, University of Illinois, School of Art and Design.
PAULA S. AIRTH (2012) Associate Professor. BA, Western Washington University; MFA, University of Utah.
CRISTINA de ALMEIDA (1997) Professor. BFA, Escola Superior de Desenho Industrial, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; MFA, University of Massachusetts.
ALEXANDER EGNER (2017) Associate Professor. BFA, University of Northern Texas; MFA, Virginia Commonwealth University.
JOHN GIALANELLA (2017) Associate Professor. BFA, Siena Heights University; MFA, University of Arizona.
BRITTANY SCHADE (2013) Associate Professor. BFA, Florida Atlantic University; MFA, Florida Atlantic University.
AUSTIN SHAW (2020) Associate Professor. BS, New York University; MS, Pratt Institute; MFA, Savannah College of Art and Design.

Mission Statement

The Department of Design utilizes a curriculum that emphasizes the process of problem solving to direct students to make connections between culture and design and their role as responsible visual communicators. As a professional field of study, students learn to combine personal expression and critical thinking as they create solutions that connect industry, individuals, and institutions to specific audiences and themselves to the world. Students develop adaptive learning strategies to sustain successful communication careers in a constantly changing world.

Why Consider a Design Major

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, as well as serving as private consultants in corporate identity, environmental graphic design, packaging, publication, UX and web design. They work as Graphic Designers, Project and Production Managers, Product Designers and Web and Interactive Designers.


The Department of Design offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in design. This professional degree starts with a solid basis of fundamental design principles and practices, progressing through specific courses in print and digital media design, culminating in a fully integrated professional senior year in the development of the exit portfolio. Students are first admitted as minors/pre-majors through a portfolio review. As minors/pre-majors, they gain access to all the 200-level courses in Fall and Winter. At the end of the Winter quarter, they can apply for the BFA major. If admitted, they start taking upper division courses. If they are not admitted into the major or if they decide not to continue beyond the 200-level, they will be awarded a design minor.

Learning Outcomes for Design Majors

1. Demonstrate functional competence with principles of visual organization, visual language and theory as applied to visual communication problems.

2. Understand and apply creative and abstract thinking skills to visual communication problems.

3. Understand, embrace and use current tools, software and technology as a vehicle of effective communication (conceive, design, produce, and create visual forms to successfully communicate ideas, opinions, concepts).

4. Demonstrate facility in visual communication practice, including written and verbal communication skills.

The Learning Outcomes identified for the Design Program reflect recommendations by AIGA and an external advisory board.

Formal assessment occurs in concert with strategic planning and catalog revisions. Access to an advisory board provides additional layers of informal review to stimulate positive change. The nature of lab pedagogy results in the constant observation and evaluation of student work (outcomes) by faculty and students. Students are consistently involved in assessment of their learning through reflection, class and self-critique of their work and the work of their peers.

Advisement and Plan of Study

Once admitted in the major, the student should meet with  the department program coordinator within the first quarter of acceptance. The courses in the Design program are only offered once a year during specific quarters and must be taken in a sequential order, as they are pre-requisites for the following classes. Students are expected to become familiarized with the course requirements for each quarter and plan their schedule accordingly. They are also welcome to reach out to the program coordinator or the faculty with questions about the program’s structure. For a complete list of classes for each quarter, please refer to our program requirements document at wwu.edu/design/images/documents/BFAProgramRequirements.pdf.

Design majors must maintain a cumulative 2.50 GPA both overall and in Design courses taken at Western.

Declaration Process

Most classes in Design are currently restricted to minor/pre-majors or majors only. To access classes, a formal application to the Department of Design is required. Application for the minor/pre-major happens once a year in early Spring through a portfolio review process. The portfolio will be reviewed by the Design faculty and evaluated on the basis of a demonstrated understanding of the elements of visual communication, technical proficiency, creativity, and problem-solving.

For the latest updates on how to apply, please refer to the department website: wwu.edu/design/admissions.html.

Application Requirements

To become a pre-major or design minor, students must submit an application which includes a candidate’s statement, unofficial transcripts, and a portfolio.

The portfolio should consist of 7 specific assignments plus 3 projects of your choice. For the latest updates on how to apply, please refer to the department website: wwu.edu/design/admissions.html.


The Department of Design offers a limited number of scholarships to recognize individual talents, promise, and meritorious achievement. Please consult the scholarship brochure available through Student Financial Resources for information on other scholarships.





    Courses numbered X37; X97; 300, 400 are described in the University Academic Policies  section of this catalog.

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