Department of Design

The Department of Design impacts the global design marketplace through top-level instruction, integrating individualized attention with design-practice perspective.

The Department of Design, part of the College of the Arts, offers a design studies major and design studies minor, as well as a master’s degree in user experience design, all of which feature top-level instruction that infuses faith, imagination, and design praxis, preparing new generations of designers to make a difference in the design industry.

Department Overview

Explore the Horizons of Your Creativity with APU’s Design Studies Major or the MA in User Experience Design

The design studies major prepares students for the creative professions of the present and future. The process of design incorporates skills required for the 21st century. Design is everywhere—from the Nike logo and stop signs to the menu you read at In-N-Out Burger. The influence of design includes how you decide what to wear in the morning and when you choose to use a particular toothpaste. Design is about making connections where others do not see them; it involves asking “What if?” questions that motivate creativity and encompasses the resources to solve everyday problems. If you enjoy the challenge of learning, thinking strategically, and expanding ideas using visual communication, APU’s Bachelor of Arts in Design Studies could be for you. 

The core values of beauty, story, and meaningfulness, guided by an inclusive pedagogy, help students identify the complexity of contemporary visual communication problems and apply interdisciplinary collaboration as part of human-centered design solutions. This focus emphasizes critical thinking skills, the importance of design research, the application of technology, and fine-tuning the design message through iterative feedback. Students at APU identify their social and ethical responsibilities as designers, from the Christian-based focus of a God First education. Coursework emphasizes learning design foundations that integrate artistry with technology; identifying and exercising the creative voice; and building collaborative relationships with practicing designers and alumni.

All design studies majors and minors are required to have a laptop computer with access to the Adobe Creative Cloud.

At the graduate level, the department offers a Master of Arts in User Experience Design, which prepares current and aspiring UI/UX professionals to tailor and shape human-centered interactive tools to be intuitive, useful, and pleasing. The program approaches human-centered design from an artistic perspective in which students learn to manage and lead creative and collaborative projects that communicate effectively through design across a range of art, technology, commercial, and cultural domains. 

DSGN 115, Using Digital Media in a Visual World, 3 Units

This course introduces students to common software/media used to create digital, visual communications. Emphasis includes the application of software to improve communications in a culture that is increasingly visual. The course is for design studies majors and minors as well as for students who are not but nonetheless desire to learn to use digital media more effectively. Students are required to have access to professional-level software. Meets the General Education Requirement: Humanities: Fine Arts. 

DSGN 120, Introduction to Computer Graphics, 3 Units

This course introduces the computer as a medium used for graphic design and art. Design principles are explored in creating and organizing visual communication and other media. Students are introduced to software programs that are included in the Adobe Creative Suite. Meets six hours weekly.

Special Fee Applies

DSGN 121, Design Fundamentals I, 4 Units

Students in this course learn the principles and elements of design (line, shape, color, composition, typography) as they learn about and begin using vector-drawing tools. Students also learn drawing for ideation (quick sketching techniques using various media) and craftsmanship skills used by designers.

Special Fee Applies

Prerequisite: DSGN 115 or instructor permission

DSGN 122, Design Fundamentals II, 4 Units

Students in this course learn page-layout and typography skills, with an emphasis on understanding the fundamental aspects of the use of type in design work. Students also learn drawing for ideation (quick sketching techniques using various media) and craftsmanship skills used by designers.

Special Fee Applies

Prerequisite: DSGN 115 or instructor permission

DSGN 123, Design Fundamentals III, 4 Units

This course introduces aspects of pixel-based, bitmapped, or digital image-making and design. Students apply principles of design using Photoshop, Lightroom, or other relevant software. Original digital photography is applied to design projects. Ideation skills are enhanced, appropriate craftsmanship skills are developed, and time-based media is introduced. This course is necessary for completing the Design Portfolio Review requirement.

Prerequisite: DSGN 115 or instructor permission

DSGN 220, Introduction to Print Interface, 2 Units

This course introduces the necessary production skills used for commercial printing, using current software. This course is necessary for completing the Design Portfolio Review requirement.

Prerequisite: DSGN 115

DSGN 221, Production for Print Design, 3 Units

The commercial printing process requires exacting pre- press production skills and knowledge. This studio course provides graphic design students the opportunity to learn those skills and production techniques. Projects provide students real life experiences that challenge creativity but also solve the technological needs of production. Meets six hours weekly. It is recommended that this class be taken following ART 220.

Special Fee Applies

Prerequisite: DSGN 281 (may be taken concurrently)

DSGN 222, Introduction to Digital Interface, 2 Units

This course introduces the fundamentals of working with digital interfaces using current software. This course is necessary for completing the Design Portfolio Review requirement.

Prerequisite: DSGN 115

DSGN 258, History of Graphic Design and Illustration, 3 Units

Students in this course study the evolution of printed words and symbols across time and through various cultures. From the printing press to the computer, art and design reflect and influence society. This lecture course examines chronologically the development of visual communication.

DSGN 281, Graphic Design I, 3 Units

This studio course focuses on the appropriate use of type, image, and layout, building upon the fundamentals of designing with type. Course material emphasizes the development of skills needed for integrating type and image, and students work on becoming visual storytellers and applying metaphor.

Prerequisite: DSGN 115 or DSGN 120

DSGN 282, Digital Design I, 3 Units

This course introduces students to current web and mobile design concepts and technologies, with a focus on responsive layout techniques. Students plan and design web and/or mobile applications using an online platform that adjusts itself for a wide range of devices, while intentionally considering the communication objective.

Prerequisite: DSGN 115 or DSGN 222 or instructor consent.

DSGN 320, Digital Imaging, 3 Units

Students in this intermediate-level graphic design course work on projects using art, graphics, and illustration techniques. Traditional media and software from Adobe Creative Cloud are utilized.

Prerequisite: DSGN 120 and ART 130 or instructor's permission.

DSGN 380, Writing 3: Visual Storytelling and Design Identity, 3 Units

Good design, like good storytelling, brings ideas to life. In this course, students apply the idea of "design as storytelling" and write about their identity, first as imago Dei ("image of God") created individuals, and second as designers who contribute to the cultural world of visual communication. Course material covers ideas that speak to aspects of identity within the profession of design that also parallel principles from Christian faith. Meets the General Education Requirement: Writing 3: Writing in the Disciplines. 

Prerequisite: Writing 2 course

DSGN 383, Graphic Design II, 3 Units

Students in this intermediate-level studio course explore and develop concepts used in solving graphic design and visual communication problems. Projects provide opportunities for creatively integrating traditional media and contemporary design processes and techniques. Emphasis is on design research and applying it to current software resources and design issues.

Prerequisite: DSGN 281 or instructor consent.

DSGN 384, Digital Design II, 3 Units

This intermediate-level studio course equips students with a broad set of skills needed for user interface (UI) and user experience design (UXD). Students develop skills in ideation, needs assessment, rapid prototyping, and evaluation of interfaces. Course material includes research approaches, wire-framing, data-driven design, emotional design, analytics, and basic coding.

Prerequisite: DSGN 282 or instructor permission.

DSGN 385, Graphic Design III, 3 Units

This upper-division studio course encourages design students to identify and develop their individual creative voice. Projects include opportunities to express an understanding of visual cultures by emphasizing conceptual thinking and visualization.

Prerequisite: DSGN 383 or instructor permission.

DSGN 386, Multimedia I, 3 Units

This course introduces students to the concepts and methods of Motion Graphics This course starts with graphic design concepts and sets them into motion. Graphics such as; Titles, VFX panel simulations, educational graphics are designed and animated.

Special Fee Applies

DSGN 430, Applied Design, 3 Units

This upper-division elective course requires that students apply "design thinking:" research, ideation, visual story-telling, and creative production to design products to raise awareness of local or national social, political, and/or civic concerns. Under supervision from the professor, students identify an issue of personal interest that will activate their curiosity, cultivate creativity, and design products that visually communicate an awareness of social and civic issues. Meets the General Education Requirement: Civic Knowledge and Engagement. 

Prerequisite: DSGN 115 or instructor consent.

DSGN 446, Graphic Design Processes, 1-3 Units

This course for the advanced graphic design major tailors experiences to meet the individual student's goal as a graphic designer, and may be repeated for 6 units total.

Special Fee Applies

DSGN 450, Portfolio, 3 Units

This course provides opportunities for design studies students to prepare a professional portfolio and develop skills and resources that will be beneficial to pursuing a creative profession. Instruction includes portfolio, website and resume design, interview preparation, writing designer goals, client relations, graduate school options, business networking, and the role of the Christian designer in today's culture. Meets the General Education Requirement: Integrative and Applied Learning. 

DSGN 475, Design Internship, 1-4 Units

In keeping with the belief that learn-by-doing experiences afford the greatest opportunities for growth and development, the design studies program recommends internship experiences in a variety of possibilities: experiential and interactive design, branding and identity design, entertainment design, time-based media, and concept development. Internships are individually tailored to meet the needs of the student.

Prerequisite: Design studies major or minor

DSGN 481, Graphic Design IV, 3 Units

This capstone design studies studio course engages students beyond the classroom by providing networking, mentorship, resources, and professional experience working to rebrand visual identity systems. Students work in teams to develop solutions for systems-level design problems as a way to build their portfolio and gain practical insight working in partnership alongside actual clients.

Prerequisite: DSGN 385 or instructor permission.

DSGN 495, Special Topics in Design, 3 Units

This advanced level studio/research or lecture course allows for occasional offerings of diverse topics in art not covered by regular department courses. Special interests of faculty and students may be targeted under this category. Selection varies depending on student interest and faculty availability. May be repeated for credit as topic varies.

DSGN 503, Research and Design Process Methods, 3 Units

This is a foundation course in user experience design (UXD), covering the fundamental theories, techniques, practices, workflows, and tools associated with the practice. Students learn how to apply these concepts through a semester-long project. Key concepts include user research, contextual design, design thinking, ideation, iterative design, prototyping, and design documentation.

DSGN 504, Digital Experience Design, 3 Units

This seminar course examines how different UX designers function and thrive in various fields and organizations, especially within our increasingly digital society. Topics include UX in social media and marketing, product and service development, entertainment media, and digital innovation.

DSGN 506, Web Design Principles [Proposed], 3 Units

Equipped with a historical understanding of the Web's evolution and key industry-standard design guidelines to ensure strong online presentation, students will have a foundational knowledge of website creation, and will apply it to the planning, design and development of your own Web page over the course of the semester. Students will create, code and post basic HTML and CSS files to the Internet. Critical thinking will be encouraged through class interactions, projects, and online postings.

DSGN 507, Digital Imagery in Web Design [Proposed], 3 Units

This course familiarizes students with the development and impact of imagery in interactive media. Students will learn how visual 'language' is the basis for developing contextual symbolic meanings that are shared throughout a culture. Semiotics, information design and persuasive communication will be explored in this course. Students will develop communicative images using their knowledge gained through lectures, discussion, projects, collaboration and Adobe Photoshop training.

DSGN 514, UX Research A/B Testing, 3 Units

This course focuses on research methods, data analysis, and synthesis in A/B testing for user experience research and design. Students explore a strategic process of how to create their own tests and platforms for gathering information and data on users with digital and accessible tools. By the end of the course, students understand how to plan, create, and launch online research.

DSGN 515, Innovation Design, 3 Units

Students learn a unique process of design through idea conception, experimentation, and prototyping in order to experience the process of innovation. Students also learn how to translate experiential learning into something that can be performed in the digital world, and are encouraged to seek multi-disciplinary methods and inspirations when innovating new digital products and experiences.

DSGN 516, Interactive Narrative/Story, 3 Units

Students in this course examine the application of storytelling within the context of user experience design (UXD). Students investigate the creation and analysis of narratives to provide clarity and distinctiveness, capture attention, inspire to action, create a meaningful journey, and forge a lasting, emotional impact with end users.

DSGN 517, Digital Media Layout and Design [Proposed], 3 Units

This course introduces students to the skills and concepts that will help create documents for both print and interactivity. Using Adobe InDesign, students will apply their understanding of color, type, layout, and design to create a portfolio project. While InDesign permits several possible workflows, this course will focus on those that most readily translate into digital design.

DSGN 518, Web Interactivity and Engagement [Proposed], 3 Units

The purpose of this course is to provide students with an understanding of the most practical tool of a web manager, the content management system (CMS). Using WordPress, students will gain an understanding of CMSs and how they are valuable tools for saving time and handling large amounts of data. Students will also learn more about server scripting using PHP and database integration with MySQL.

DSGN 521, Research Methods and Collaboration in Digital Communications [Proposed], 3 Units

This course is designed to make students think strategically about how, why and with whom they interact via digital media. By the end of the course, students should have fundamental understanding of research tools that will help them plan for and evaluate the effectiveness of online communication methods, including a multitude of social media and web tools. Students will understand search engine optimization (SEO) and the consequences - costs and benefits - of local and global messaging and interactivity.

DSGN 599, Independent Study, 1-3 Units

This course is an opportunity for graduate students to explore an idea, contribute to research, examine industry trends/methods, or develop a project under the guidance of a faculty member in the graduate design area.

DSGN 606, Database Management and Scripting, 3 Units

This is an introductory course on the concepts of computer programming using Python programming language. Students learn to theorize the steps required to perform a task and create loops and functions. By the end of the course, students have a basic understanding of computer programming, basic knowledge of Python programming language, and the ability to share their scripts and collaborate with others.

DSGN 607, Design Business and Entrepreneurship, 3 Units

Students in this course examine the fields of study related to the design business and explore the basic tenets of entrepreneurship as related to creating and running a design business.

DSGN 608, Mobile Web Technology [Proposed], 3 Units

Mobile Web Technology concentrates on the importance of responsive design and how it has changed the way websites are designed to adapt to mobile devices. The class will include the use of JavaScript and jQuery as well as designing with advanced CSS and HTML5. The course will also include the creation of a mobile app.

DSGN 609, Advanced Web Design: Corporate and Brand Identity on the Web [Proposed], 3 Units

This course synthesizes two different but complementary tools of communication: graphic design and assembly. Students will learn the fundamental design principles and techniques for effective visual communication. These principles and techniques are applied, through projects, to achieve a communication objective across different platforms. Students can expect a practical, hands-on experience. A key tool for creating your digital work in this course is Adobe Illustrator. Illustrator is an effective tool for creating original artwork, and for designing logos, banners, icons and navigational elements for online and print. The artwork can then easily be exported to the Web or imported into other programs.

DSGN 612, Strategic Communication: Ethical Issues and Web Design [Proposed], 3 Units

This course introduces students to the discipline of strategic communications and the ethical and social issues that can arise from its practice. Students are given a background in important concepts in strategic communication, including branding, target audiences, technologies of strategic communication, the history and evolution of strategic communication, and other topics. With this knowledge, students utilize ethical thought and Christian principles to apply these to real-world strategic communications contexts.

DSGN 613, Web Design Internship [Proposed], 3 Units

This course will provide students with the opportunity to complete projects related to the students' career goals under the supervision of an experienced practitioner in the field. By the end of the internship, students will have first-hand knowledge of trends in the field, the skills necessary to be employable after graduation, and the importance of networking. Each student will set goals from the beginning of the course with a supervising professor about what the student needs to accomplish during the internship, and the student will self-reflect about the progress made at the end of the term. The internship must be approved by the program director.

DSGN 614, Web Design Independent Study [Proposed], 3 Units

This course is an option for students already employed in the web design field or in an area of the country where an internship is not available. Students will meet with the program director to outline goals, projects, and outcomes for the independent study. The goals is for the students to gain knowledge of trends in the field, skills necessary for employment, and the importance of networking. Course enrollment must be approved by the program director.

DSGN 616, UXD Internship, 1-3 Units

This course provides an opportunity for direct experiences in applying the principles and skills of user experience design while performing specific tasks in the professional setting through an internship. Under faculty supervision, students individually arrange their work in positions related to user experience design. Students may also work with a faculty supervisor to develop learning objectives and complete reflective assignments that complement their experiences in the work environment. Other exercises and training may include career and group leadership meetings.

Prerequisite: Department approval

DSGN 618, Master's Capstone I, 3 Units

Students in this course research and write a capstone proposal and case study review related to the field of user experience design.

Prerequisite: Successful completion of the required courses in the user experience design (UXD) program.

DSGN 619, Web Design Project and Portfolio [Proposed], 3 Units

The course is designed to incorporate acquired design and communication skills into a real-world website, a communications pitch to a client, and a portfolio the student can use to find employment. The capstone project will incorporate skills such as branding, layouts, strategic communication, research methods, coding and web design. Students will develop a comprehensive communication campaign based on research and client needs. The completed campaign will be presented at the end of the course, and a professional portfolio of the students work will be critiqued and assembled for use. Students must have completed 24 units of DSGN graduate web design courses prior to enrolling in this course.

DSGN 625, Master's Capstone II, 3 Units

Students in this course apply previous research in user experience design to the creation and pitching of a product prototype.

Prerequisite: DSGN 618




William Catling, MFA


Terry Dobson, MFA

Adjunct Faculty

Charity Capili Ellis, MFA

Angela Lee, MFA

Nathan Lu, BFA

Jessica Paik, MEd

Stephanie Sabo, MFA

Vance Sanders, BA

Brenda Whitehill Schlenker, MFA

Graduate Program Coordinator

Pamela Fisher, MA, MBA