Graduate Curriculum Overview

The Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is designed to offer maximum flexibility in addressing your individual needs as a student. Following admission through a department, you will design your two-year plan of study based on optimizing the offerings and opportunities available throughout SAIC. You are encouraged to seek out curricular advising as needed from a variety of available sources including the dean, graduate dean, graduate division chair, department heads, academic advising, the graduate admissions office, and your peers.

Studio—MFA 6009 Graduate Projects, Seminars and/or maximum of 12 credits of 3000-level and above studios39  
Art History12  
  • ARTHI 5002 Graduate Survey of Modern and Contemporary Art OR ARTHI 5120 Survey of Modern and Contemporary Architecture and Design(3)
  • Art History Courses, 4000-level or above (9)
 
Electives—any course in any area at 3000 level or above9  
Participation in four graduate critiques 
Participation in ONE of the following as appropriate to artistic practice:* Graduate Exhibition, AIADO or Fashion Exhibition, Graduate Performance Event, Graduate Screenings 
Total Credit Hours60 

*Students who wish to use an alternative venue or presentation outside of these options must receive permission from the Dean of Graduate Studies. The AIADO Department encourages students in their MFA design programs to participate in the AIADO and Fashion Graduate Exhibition.

Degree Requirements and Specifications
Completion schedule: You have a maximum of four years to complete your MFA in Studio degree. This includes time off for leaves of absence. Students will have access to studios for four semesters only.

Transfer credits: You must complete a minimum of 45 credit hours in residence at SAIC. You can request up to 15 transfer credits at the time of application for admission, which are subject to approval at that time. No transfer credits are permitted after a student is admitted.

Art History requirement: MFA students are required to take ARTHII 5002 Graduate Survey of Modern and Contemporary Art OR ARTHI 5120 Survey of Modern and Contemporary Architecture and Design. Art History courses must be at the 4000-level and above.

Undergraduate studio courses: Graduate students are permitted no more than one undergraduate studio course (3000-level and above) per semester without permission of the Dean of Graduate Studies. Courses at the 1000 and 2000-level are allowed only with permission.

Full-Time Status Minimum Requirement: 12 credit hours

MFA 6009 Graduate Projects
MFA 6009 Graduate Projects advising, an ongoing individual dialogue with a wide range of full-time and part-time faculty advisors, is at the heart of the MFA program at SAIC, encouraging interdisciplinary study across the curriculum. You are required to register for one MFA 6009 Graduate Projects advisor each semester, and we highly recommend you register for two.

In the registration process, you may elect to earn 3 or 6 hours of credit with each advisor. This option is designed to allow for maximum flexibility in designing your program. You can earn as few as 3 and as many as 6 credits with each advisor each semester, thus dedicating a maximum of 12 credit hours to your studio activity. The number of credits you earn has no correlation with the length or frequency of the advising sessions or to faculty assessment of student work.

The remainder of credits required for the full-time 15 credit hour load may include graduate seminars and academic or studio electives. MFA students are urged to take graduate seminars, and an introductory seminar in their department of admission is highly recommended. In addition, the MFA student may choose from all the art history, studio, and academic offerings across the curriculum (including undergraduate offerings above 3000 level) in any given semester to customize their degree experience.

Graduate Critiques
As one of the principle means of assessment each semester, you will be required to participate in Critique Week, a week-long schedule of critiques during which classes are suspended.

Fall semester critiques are organized by department with panels representing the discipline. This provides you with an opportunity to understand the department’s expectations, have your work reviewed from a disciplinary point of view, and to reiterate the expectations for graduate study.

Spring semester critiques are interdisciplinary, with panel members and students from across SAIC disciplines. Interdisciplinary critiques allow for a broad range of responses to your work, and are intended to assess the success of your work for a more general, albeit highly informed audience. Critique panels include faculty, visiting artists, and fellow graduate students.

Graduate Exhibition or Equivalent
At the conclusion of your studies, you will present work in the SAIC Graduate Thesis Exhibition, other end-of-year events at SAIC, or the Gene Siskel Film Center—or arrange with the graduate dean or division chair for an alternative thesis of equal professional quality. Each year more than 200 graduate students exhibit work, screen videos and films, and present time-based works, writings, and performance to a collective audience of 30,000 people.

Students wishing to install work around prevalent themes, strategies or stylistic affinities can participate in a juried and curated section of the SAIC Graduate Thesis Exhibition. A faculty and staff committee conducts extensive studio visits and as a collaborative project with student participants, organizes and installs the show in designated space at the exhibition.

Undergraduate Courses
MFA students are advised to understand the expectations of their faculty when enrolled in undergraduate studio classes. Although graduate students are an asset to the group dynamic, faculty requirements for graduate students in undergraduate classes are variable. The student is responsible for understanding the faculty member's expectations about completion of assignments, attendance, and any other criteria for earning credit. To assure that graduate students are working at degree level, they are permitted no more than one undergraduate studio course (3000 level and above) per semester without permission of the dean of graduate studies. Courses at the 1000 and 2000 level are allowed only with permission.

Courses

Title Catalog Instructor Schedule

Description

This research, discussion, and critique course develops a visual and verbal vocabulary by examining relationships between form and content, word and image. Study includes symbolic association and the problem of effective communication in a highly complex culture.

Prerequisites

Corequisite: VISCOM 1002.

Class Number

1385

Credits

3

Department

Visual Communication Design

Area of Study

Graphic Design

Location

Sharp 1117

Description

This research, discussion, and critique course develops a visual and verbal vocabulary by examining relationships between form and content, word and image. Study includes symbolic association and the problem of effective communication in a highly complex culture.

Prerequisites

Corequisite: VISCOM 1002.

Class Number

1386

Credits

3

Department

Visual Communication Design

Area of Study

Graphic Design

Location

Online

Description

This research, discussion, and critique course develops a visual and verbal vocabulary by examining relationships between form and content, word and image. Study includes symbolic association and the problem of effective communication in a highly complex culture.

Prerequisites

Corequisite: VISCOM 1002.

Class Number

1387

Credits

3

Department

Visual Communication Design

Area of Study

Graphic Design

Location

Sharp 1114

Description

This research, discussion, and critique course develops a visual and verbal vocabulary by examining relationships between form and content, word and image. Study includes symbolic association and the problem of effective communication in a highly complex culture.

Prerequisites

Corequisite: VISCOM 1002.

Class Number

1422

Credits

3

Department

Visual Communication Design

Area of Study

Graphic Design

Location

Sharp 1114

Description

Digital visualization is essential to all contemporary creative communication. This class will familiarize students with the syntax, tools and methods of vector-based drawing and reinforce analogies to traditional methods of image-making covered in the First Year Program. Students will begin with an introduction to the computer as a graphic design tool: the relationship of vector to raster graphics and the peripherals. The focus on building proficiency with industry-standard Adobe Illustrator software will be reinforced via tutorials and short design exercises which target specific topics and techniques covered during lectures. Students apply technical competencies to formal design problems during the second half of this course and in Beginning Graphic Design class.

Prerequisites

Corequisite: VISCOM 1001 or VISCOM 1101.

Class Number

1389

Credits

1.5

Department

Visual Communication Design

Area of Study

Graphic Design

Location

Sharp 1108

Description

Digital visualization is essential to all contemporary creative communication. This class will familiarize students with the syntax, tools and methods of vector-based drawing and reinforce analogies to traditional methods of image-making covered in the First Year Program. Students will begin with an introduction to the computer as a graphic design tool: the relationship of vector to raster graphics and the peripherals. The focus on building proficiency with industry-standard Adobe Illustrator software will be reinforced via tutorials and short design exercises which target specific topics and techniques covered during lectures. Students apply technical competencies to formal design problems during the second half of this course and in Beginning Graphic Design class.

Prerequisites

Corequisite: VISCOM 1001 or VISCOM 1101.

Class Number

1388

Credits

1.5

Department

Visual Communication Design

Area of Study

Graphic Design

Location

Online

Description

Digital visualization is essential to all contemporary creative communication. This class will familiarize students with the syntax, tools and methods of vector-based drawing and reinforce analogies to traditional methods of image-making covered in the First Year Program. Students will begin with an introduction to the computer as a graphic design tool: the relationship of vector to raster graphics and the peripherals. The focus on building proficiency with industry-standard Adobe Illustrator software will be reinforced via tutorials and short design exercises which target specific topics and techniques covered during lectures. Students apply technical competencies to formal design problems during the second half of this course and in Beginning Graphic Design class.

Prerequisites

Corequisite: VISCOM 1001 or VISCOM 1101.

Class Number

1423

Credits

1.5

Department

Visual Communication Design

Area of Study

Graphic Design

Location

Sharp 1108

Description

Digital visualization is essential to all contemporary creative communication. This class will familiarize students with the syntax, tools and methods of vector-based drawing and reinforce analogies to traditional methods of image-making covered in the First Year Program. Students will begin with an introduction to the computer as a graphic design tool: the relationship of vector to raster graphics and the peripherals. The focus on building proficiency with industry-standard Adobe Illustrator software will be reinforced via tutorials and short design exercises which target specific topics and techniques covered during lectures. Students apply technical competencies to formal design problems during the second half of this course and in Beginning Graphic Design class.

Prerequisites

Corequisite: VISCOM 1001 or VISCOM 1101.

Class Number

2250

Credits

1.5

Department

Visual Communication Design

Area of Study

Graphic Design

Location

Sharp 1108

Description

In this course students explore the principles of visual communication by creating two-dimensional printed comprehensive layouts, and three-dimensional mock-ups. Stress is placed on process and development of solutions to problems; idea and form exploration; research; image and text development; compositional structure and hierarchy; verbal, technical, and hand skills. The course also covers the technical aspects of graphic design such as printing methods, papers, and binding. Students will produce 3?4 finished pieces exploring the use of image and type in both single page format, multi-page format, and possibly three-dimensional format. These projects are to be included in the VCD department's obligatory portfolio review for advancement into the VCD intermediate courses.

Prerequisites

Prerequisite: VISCOM 1001 and 2011

Class Number

1391

Credits

3

Department

Visual Communication Design

Area of Study

Graphic Design

Location

Sharp 1214

Description

In this course students explore the principles of visual communication by creating two-dimensional printed comprehensive layouts, and three-dimensional mock-ups. Stress is placed on process and development of solutions to problems; idea and form exploration; research; image and text development; compositional structure and hierarchy; verbal, technical, and hand skills. The course also covers the technical aspects of graphic design such as printing methods, papers, and binding. Students will produce 3?4 finished pieces exploring the use of image and type in both single page format, multi-page format, and possibly three-dimensional format. These projects are to be included in the VCD department's obligatory portfolio review for advancement into the VCD intermediate courses.

Prerequisites

Prerequisite: VISCOM 1001 and 2011

Class Number

1411

Credits

3

Department

Visual Communication Design

Area of Study

Graphic Design

Location

Sharp 1213

Description

In this course students explore the principles of visual communication by creating two-dimensional printed comprehensive layouts, and three-dimensional mock-ups. Stress is placed on process and development of solutions to problems; idea and form exploration; research; image and text development; compositional structure and hierarchy; verbal, technical, and hand skills. The course also covers the technical aspects of graphic design such as printing methods, papers, and binding. Students will produce 3?4 finished pieces exploring the use of image and type in both single page format, multi-page format, and possibly three-dimensional format. These projects are to be included in the VCD department's obligatory portfolio review for advancement into the VCD intermediate courses.

Prerequisites

Prerequisite: VISCOM 1001 and 2011

Class Number

1421

Credits

3

Department

Visual Communication Design

Area of Study

Graphic Design

Location

Sharp 1214

Description

Image Studio is a course that challenges students to interpret, critically read text, conceptualize, and assess project parameters to implement design solutions. The creative process is a core focus throughout the assignments. The goal of this course is to explore the process of creating original imagery and visual information. We utilize digital and analog means to create design solutions to projects that also require fundamental explorations with typography. We explore a diverse means of image construction from paper collage to photography and Photoshop manipulation. Form studies examine design basics such as juxtaposition, repetition, and progression as well as the use of metaphor, analogy, and semiotics. The introduction of design context, audience awareness, and sequential narrative is also addressed.

Prerequisites

Prerequisite: VISCOM 1001 or VISCOM 1101.

Class Number

1393

Credits

3

Department

Visual Communication Design

Area of Study

Graphic Design, Digital Imaging

Location

Online

Description

Image Studio is a course that challenges students to interpret, critically read text, conceptualize, and assess project parameters to implement design solutions. The creative process is a core focus throughout the assignments. The goal of this course is to explore the process of creating original imagery and visual information. We utilize digital and analog means to create design solutions to projects that also require fundamental explorations with typography. We explore a diverse means of image construction from paper collage to photography and Photoshop manipulation. Form studies examine design basics such as juxtaposition, repetition, and progression as well as the use of metaphor, analogy, and semiotics. The introduction of design context, audience awareness, and sequential narrative is also addressed.

Prerequisites

Prerequisite: VISCOM 1001 or VISCOM 1101.

Class Number

1392

Credits

3

Department

Visual Communication Design

Area of Study

Graphic Design, Digital Imaging

Location

Sharp 1213

Description

This studio course explores typography's impact on language to create meaning, organization and tone. Students experiment in typographic composition and page structure with special regard to the flow and rupture of different text types and reading scenarios. Students learn the technical aspects of typography (specification and copyfitting), methods for composing dynamic multipage formats (combining digital and analog), and contexts (both historical and structural) for understanding the vast repository of typefaces. This course is a core requirement for the Visual Communication Design portfolio review. The framing text for this class is Ellen Lupton's Thinking with Type. But students will be introduced to numerous examples from the history of (predominantly Western) letterforms and concretized language. Understanding these historical forms in their contexts will reveal the logic behind the modern classification of digital type. Students produce weekly type projects which are critiqued and handed in as three project sets. The first set analyses letterforms, structurally and then programmatically. The next project set covers text setting and typographic compositions of increasing semantic and syntactic complexity. The last project is a multilingual, illustrated book layout where students engage the fundamental concept of 'structured variety' over a series of pages.

Prerequisites

Prerequisite: VISCOM 1001 or VISCOM 1101. Corequisite: VISCOM 2012.

Class Number

1394

Credits

3

Department

Visual Communication Design

Area of Study

Digital Communication, Graphic Design, Books and Publishing

Location

Sharp 1213

Description

This studio course explores typography's impact on language to create meaning, organization and tone. Students experiment in typographic composition and page structure with special regard to the flow and rupture of different text types and reading scenarios. Students learn the technical aspects of typography (specification and copyfitting), methods for composing dynamic multipage formats (combining digital and analog), and contexts (both historical and structural) for understanding the vast repository of typefaces. This course is a core requirement for the Visual Communication Design portfolio review. The framing text for this class is Ellen Lupton's Thinking with Type. But students will be introduced to numerous examples from the history of (predominantly Western) letterforms and concretized language. Understanding these historical forms in their contexts will reveal the logic behind the modern classification of digital type. Students produce weekly type projects which are critiqued and handed in as three project sets. The first set analyses letterforms, structurally and then programmatically. The next project set covers text setting and typographic compositions of increasing semantic and syntactic complexity. The last project is a multilingual, illustrated book layout where students engage the fundamental concept of 'structured variety' over a series of pages.

Prerequisites

Prerequisite: VISCOM 1001 or VISCOM 1101. Corequisite: VISCOM 2012.

Class Number

1396

Credits

3

Department

Visual Communication Design

Area of Study

Digital Communication, Graphic Design, Books and Publishing

Location

Sharp 1117

Description

This studio course explores typography's impact on language to create meaning, organization and tone. Students experiment in typographic composition and page structure with special regard to the flow and rupture of different text types and reading scenarios. Students learn the technical aspects of typography (specification and copyfitting), methods for composing dynamic multipage formats (combining digital and analog), and contexts (both historical and structural) for understanding the vast repository of typefaces. This course is a core requirement for the Visual Communication Design portfolio review. The framing text for this class is Ellen Lupton's Thinking with Type. But students will be introduced to numerous examples from the history of (predominantly Western) letterforms and concretized language. Understanding these historical forms in their contexts will reveal the logic behind the modern classification of digital type. Students produce weekly type projects which are critiqued and handed in as three project sets. The first set analyses letterforms, structurally and then programmatically. The next project set covers text setting and typographic compositions of increasing semantic and syntactic complexity. The last project is a multilingual, illustrated book layout where students engage the fundamental concept of 'structured variety' over a series of pages.

Prerequisites

Prerequisite: VISCOM 1001 or VISCOM 1101. Corequisite: VISCOM 2012.

Class Number

1395

Credits

3

Department

Visual Communication Design

Area of Study

Digital Communication, Graphic Design, Books and Publishing

Location

Sharp 1117

Description

This studio course explores typography's impact on language to create meaning, organization and tone. Students experiment in typographic composition and page structure with special regard to the flow and rupture of different text types and reading scenarios. Students learn the technical aspects of typography (specification and copyfitting), methods for composing dynamic multipage formats (combining digital and analog), and contexts (both historical and structural) for understanding the vast repository of typefaces. This course is a core requirement for the Visual Communication Design portfolio review. The framing text for this class is Ellen Lupton's Thinking with Type. But students will be introduced to numerous examples from the history of (predominantly Western) letterforms and concretized language. Understanding these historical forms in their contexts will reveal the logic behind the modern classification of digital type. Students produce weekly type projects which are critiqued and handed in as three project sets. The first set analyses letterforms, structurally and then programmatically. The next project set covers text setting and typographic compositions of increasing semantic and syntactic complexity. The last project is a multilingual, illustrated book layout where students engage the fundamental concept of 'structured variety' over a series of pages.

Prerequisites

Prerequisite: VISCOM 1001 or VISCOM 1101. Corequisite: VISCOM 2012.

Class Number

1424

Credits

3

Department

Visual Communication Design

Area of Study

Digital Communication, Graphic Design, Books and Publishing

Location

Sharp 1115

Description

This class is a co-requisite with Beginning Typography and closely couples with the activities of this particular studio course. The lab components will introduce students to page layout software (namely Adobe InDesign), its terminology and its specific functions, its relationship to other software packages, techniques for composing and outputting digitally, and the technical aspects of digital typography. This information will be reinforced via tutorials and short design exercises which target specific topics and techniques covered during lectures. As the semester progresses, this class also functions as a working lab for the Beginning Typography studio class, allowing students to work on the same project across both classes and receive technology assistance from the instructor. This crossover reinforces the links between digital and non-digital composing and terminologies.

Prerequisites

Corequisite: VISCOM 2011 or VISCOM 1102.

Class Number

1397

Credits

1.5

Department

Visual Communication Design

Area of Study

Graphic Design, Digital Imaging

Location

Sharp 1115

Description

This class is a co-requisite with Beginning Typography and closely couples with the activities of this particular studio course. The lab components will introduce students to page layout software (namely Adobe InDesign), its terminology and its specific functions, its relationship to other software packages, techniques for composing and outputting digitally, and the technical aspects of digital typography. This information will be reinforced via tutorials and short design exercises which target specific topics and techniques covered during lectures. As the semester progresses, this class also functions as a working lab for the Beginning Typography studio class, allowing students to work on the same project across both classes and receive technology assistance from the instructor. This crossover reinforces the links between digital and non-digital composing and terminologies.

Prerequisites

Corequisite: VISCOM 2011 or VISCOM 1102.

Class Number

1398

Credits

1.5

Department

Visual Communication Design

Area of Study

Graphic Design, Digital Imaging

Location

Sharp 1115

Description

This class is a co-requisite with Beginning Typography and closely couples with the activities of this particular studio course. The lab components will introduce students to page layout software (namely Adobe InDesign), its terminology and its specific functions, its relationship to other software packages, techniques for composing and outputting digitally, and the technical aspects of digital typography. This information will be reinforced via tutorials and short design exercises which target specific topics and techniques covered during lectures. As the semester progresses, this class also functions as a working lab for the Beginning Typography studio class, allowing students to work on the same project across both classes and receive technology assistance from the instructor. This crossover reinforces the links between digital and non-digital composing and terminologies.

Prerequisites

Corequisite: VISCOM 2011 or VISCOM 1102.

Class Number

1399

Credits

1.5

Department

Visual Communication Design

Area of Study

Graphic Design, Digital Imaging

Location

Sharp 1115

Take the Next Step

Visit the graduate admissions website or contact the graduate admissions office at 312.629.6100, 800.232.7242 or gradmiss@saic.edu.