There seems to be emerging two schools of "Graphic Design" which I use very loosely in the world today.

The traditional school of Graphic Design is about "Art". Creating, exhibiting, and the history of graphic design, symbology, typography and all of that stuff.

The second school of Graphic Design is about "Application". As in designing solutions to real-world problems, business problems, social problems and the like.

To just ask which of the two has more value could be too vague. So instead I'll ask which of the two has more value specifically towards advancing the field of Graphic Design?

My go to example is the University of Minnesota which has an MFA in Interactive Media in their school of art, but also an MFA in Graphic Design in their school of design. Both could potentially use the same tools and accept the same students but the outcome is very different in how each approaches design. So the question is - which one does more to advance the field?

  • 1
    I'm not sure I know what you mean by "advancing the field of Graphic Design" — could you clarify?
    – hamstu
    May 3, 2012 at 21:46
  • Well these are MFA's and Master's of Design (depending on school) - the point of undergrad is to teach technical. The point of Master's and the few PhD programs out there are research degrees like any other intended to advance the field. I can't say in what way particularly there's all sorts of research going on. The question is more which type of school does a better job at this.
    – Ryan
    May 3, 2012 at 23:17
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    experience and portfolio i guess play the major part not these schools. and for being advance you have to at-lest cross the basics (a big pool) and never ending sea
    – Jack
    May 4, 2012 at 12:09

3 Answers 3


Having never gotten a degree in this field but instead working experience, I'd say I was definitely an outsider looking in. From my perspective, it seems to me that the 'art theory' end of things would be so much harder to advance, whereas the 'application' side of it is progressively and explosively easier to advance, considering the massive usage of computers in this industry ('application' can be widened the more advanced computers get).

The nature of beauty and what is art is is such an... almost eternal and timeless thing that people have had literally thousands of years to explore and verbalize. Any new concepts that might emerge would I imagine be slow in coming. And I would imagine that quite a bit of what goes on at the master's and PhD level is arguing back and forth about semantics (which is common in all academia) instead of blazing forward with innovation and theory testing.

Just my uneducated two cents.


An MFA is where you really are deciding what you want to focus on. They come in a lot more custom flavors than the BFA or BAs do. So this is really up to you. Most masters programs will be reputable in this profession.

Now will a masters, itself, advance you in the design profession? Hard to say. From my observations, the only main benefit of a masters is if you want to head down the professorship path. Otherwise, I can't say I've seen a direct correlation between having a masters and instant job promotions or higher salary.

All that said, that's really a different question than the first part of your question...which seems to be talking about art degrees vs. art production degrees/certificates.

A 'proper' graphic design program would be housed in some form of a art program. Within that art program, there will be a spectrum of focus. On one end, it'd be pure art theory. On the other end, would be specific trade skills. Each school tends to put their program on different spots on that spectrum. I can't say one side is any better/worse than the other--they're just different.

And then there's 'art production' which is really more along the lines of the 2-year art-school-chains. That can be useful, but isn't likely to lead you to an actual graphic design job in the traditional sense. My rule of thumb: If the school advertises on late night TV, it's not a reputable design school. ;)


Snooping at your profile it looks like you'd like to focus on environmental graphics and/or academic research. In both cases, the UofM seems like an excellent choice, given they have both art and architecture schools.

  • Hmm I think I need to revise my question... and my profile.
    – Ryan
    May 4, 2012 at 18:58

You mention 'art' and ' application' as two disciplines you can graduate in, but the world of schooling in design is wider than that. I myself did Interaction Design for instance. That lies more or less in the field of application, but not application schooling as you described it.

As this choice greatly depends on what you want to do, I advise to look for different schools and disciplines and find out what they're all about. What do they teach you, and what can you do with it when you have your diploma. It 's always a personal choice.

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