MFA in Graphic Design: Eastern Michigan University

Posted inDesign Education
Thumbnail for MFA in Graphic Design: Eastern Michigan University

Editor’s Note: Writer, esteemed designer and educator Steven Brower profiles graphic design MFA programs in this series. Click here to view other programs profiled. Below, find out more about Eastern Michigan University’s MFA in graphic design program.

Eastern Michigan University is located in Ypsilanti, MI, situated 15 minutes from Ann Arbor, MI, and 40 minutes from Detroit. Each semester, graphic design MFA students take an intensive “studio block” and the critique and professional practice seminar. Students enrolled in the “studio block” work independently with one or more faculty members. The projects are self-initiated and self-driven and culminate in a thesis exhibition.

In addition, students take two art history seminars. Graphic design students who have not previously taken history of graphic design are required to take that to fulfill one of those requirements. Students also take a Seminar in Contemporary Art and a theory in art course as well as approximately four elective courses at the graduate level: two within the Art Department and two in any discipline. Students interact with faculty and students from across the entire Art Department. This encourages interdisciplinary thinking and cross-pollination in various techniques, processes, and dialogues from artistic practices outside of traditional graphic design. Students may also work with faculty beyond the Art Department; recent MFA students have worked with faculty from Creative Writing, Literary Theory, Theater, and Computer Science. It’s a full time, in-residency program.

Are you looking to immerse yourself in the field of graphic design? Get started with this kit that covers branding, typography and web design.

The MFA program at Eastern Michigan University was established in 1971. Doug Kisor added Graphic Design as an area of concentration for MFA students in 1984. The MFA program at Eastern Michigan University is relatively small, typically between 12 to 18 students. They develop their own course of study within the discourse of art and design.

According to Porfessor Ryan Malloy, “We define design processes as methods/means for interpreting cultural, technological, social, cultural, and material concerns. At the MFA level we have an expectation that our MFA students create design objects (applied or non-applied) that begin to question traditional functions, formats, methods, and aesthetics in response to those concerns.

Many of our recent graduate students either come from other disciplines (with some previous design and art experience), others from professional practice, and others who are adjunct instructors at nearby institutions. Anecdotally, it’s an even mix. We encourage applicants with bachelor degrees in other disciplines.”

Current faculty is comprised of Leslie Atzmon, Andrew Maniotes and Ryan Malloy. Atzmon and Molloy were recently awarded a National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) Art Works Design grant to support The Open Book Project, which includes a series of experimental book workshops, and The Open Book Project ( an experimental book on the history and future of the book.

Visiting artists have included Michael Worthington, Steven Farrell, Armin Vit, and Keetra Dixon. Next year, Aaron Draplin and SonnenZimmer are scheduled to visit. Visiting artists often hold workshops or one-on-one critiques with MFA students. The Open Book Workshop ( is another place where they bring in visiting artists such as Denise Gonzales Crisp, Jon Sueda, Danielle Aubert, and Paul Elliman.

Alumnus includes Lori Young, a professor of graphic design at Bowling Green State University. Her work is featured in Philip Megg’s History of Graphic Design. Jennifer Stucker is an associate professor of graphic design also at Bowling Green State University and a co-founder of AIGA Toledo.

Tuition: The cost of tuition for the entire residency: resident students tuition and fees cost approximately $32,000; non-residents $60,500. They offer scholarships.


by Jennifer Stucker

Pages from Visual Communication-2005-Young-151-6-3

by Lori Young


by Erik Simmons


by David Gazdowicz