University of North Texas

College of Visual Arts and Design

UNT CVAD - Images
  • CVAD Alum Carl Finch heads the two-time Grammy winning band, Brave Combo.

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  • The CVAD Art Education Doctoral Program is a nationally ranked program, #13 in North America

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  • One of every fifteen students at the University of North Texas is a CVAD major! 

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  • UNT is an institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design

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  • Art Education faculty members Chris Bain and Nadine Kalin served on the Editorial Review Board of the Journal of Art Education, one of the most prestigious journals in the field.

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  • UNT‘s MFA program ranks in the upper 25% nationally according to US News and World Report

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  • CVAD‘s Communication Design students won nine of fifteen Best of Show prizes in this year‘s Dallas Society of Visual Communication 4th Annual National Student Show.

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  • As of Fall 2008, all new CVAD MFA students will receive $1000 scholarships.

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  • In Spring 2008, CVAD donors sponsored over $50,000 in scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students!

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  • The CVAD NAEA student chapter won the 2008 Student Organization Distinguished Service award from the University

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  • The Department of Art Education and Art History prepares more art teachers each year than any other university in Texas.

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  • CVAD‘s Ph.D. program in Art Education is among the top-rated programs in the U.S.

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  • Recent graduates of the art history program have pursued advanced degrees at University of Texas, Tufts University, University of Rochester, City College of New York, University of Arizona, Southern Methodist University, and Texas Christian University.

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  • CVAD art historians were the first UNT faculty chosen to participate in UNT‘s Next Generation course redesign. This program is considered to be a national model.

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  • The Department of Art Education and Art History faculty includes presidents of three national and international professional societies and the 2006 Art Educator of the Year.

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  • CVAD offers regular opportunities to study and travel in countries such as China, England, Ireland, Russia, and Scotland.

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  • CVAD‘s Texas Fashion Collection includes over 15,000 fabulous dresses by designers such as Balenciaga, Dior, de la Renta, and many others.

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  • CVAD Art Education alum Susan Gabbard is the former president of the National Art Education Association.

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  • CVAD alum, sculptor, Jesús Moroles, is on the Board of the Smithsonian Institute

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  • “I learned a lot about the creative process for producing a complete original work.”

    - Jezzalie Gill (Drawing 1)

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  • CVAD‘s Texas Fashion Collection includes over 15,000 fabulous dresses by designers such as Balenciaga, Dior, de la Renta, and many others.

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  • CVAD Art Education alum Susan Gabbard is the former president of the National Art Education Association.

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  • CVAD alum, sculptor, Jesús Moroles, is on the Board of the Smithsonian Institute

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  • Interior Design MFA student Greta Buehrle was named one of two IDEC Foundation Graduate Scholars for 2009.

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UNT CVAD - Images

Communication Design


A student who intends to pursue a degree in Communication Design will be classified as a Communication Design Pre-Major when admitted to the University. In order to achieve major status the student must complete at least 30 hours of college courses (including the following) and have:

  • Completed ART 1200, 1440, 1500, 1510 and ADES 1500 with a grade of C or better;
  • Submitted an entry portfolio to the Communication Design Entry Portfolio Review and have been admitted to starting the Communication Design Freshman and Sophomore studio Sequence;
  • Completed ADES 1510, 2500, 2510, 2520, 2530 with a grade of C or better;
  • Submitted a portfolio to the Communication Design Mid Point Portfolio Review and have been selected in the spring semester
  • Earned at least a 2.75 GPA on the required Art courses;
  • Earned a minimum 2.25 UNT grade point average.

After successfully meeting these requirements a degree plan will be processed converting the student to Communication Design major status.


Our BFA in Communication Design seeks as its primary objective (aside from teaching the basic principles of design, image making, color theory and typography) to help students learn to be effective conceptual thinkers and, most importantly, creative problem solvers in the disciplines of advertising and of graphic design. Ours is not a program designed for the student who is merely interested in learning the most advanced technology.

The MA and MFA in Design programs exist to teach students from design and a diverse array of other disciplinary backgrounds how to utilize design-driven knowledge and skills within select theoretical frameworks to identify and solve complex social, technological, economic, and environmental issues. The 36 credit-hour Master of Arts in Design (MA-Des-IS) and the 60 credit-hour Master of Fine Arts in Design (MFA-Des-IS) are both taught as concentrations in Innovation Studies. The curriculums of both programs have been designed to place students in interdisciplinary teams so they can master core theoretical and problem-solving competencies rooted in collaborative innovation, including: imaginative and adaptive thinking, visual argumentation supported by select types of reasoning, iterative prototyping, project based workflow development and fostering ethically rooted empathy for others.

The communication design area is housed in the Art Building, which include studio classrooms, a dedicated computer lab/classroom, a general access computer lab, and faculty offices. Additionally, the communication design area maintains valuable resources consisting of over a thousand reference books, magazines and paper/print samples of photography, illustration, typography, graphic design, and advertising for its majors.

Undergraduate Program

Our undergraduate curriculum is a three-and-a-half year sequence of studio coursework. One must submit a portfolio in the Entry Portfolio Review (occurring each December) in order to gain admittance to this competitive and demanding program. The sophomore year introduces basic skill sets for communication design such as typography, color rendering, design thinking, software proficiencies, and creative methodologies for problem solving. At the end of the sophomore sequence, each student must participate in the Mid-Point Portfolio Review. This review is used to select those students who have demonstrated an appropriate degree of proficiency necessary to continue in the program. The junior year offers a variety classes featuring different design experiences in graphic design, art direction, linear design (such as magazines and annual reports), and non-linear design ( such as motion graphics design and web/interface design). At this point in the curriculum, students are required to make a career choice of either graphic design or art direction. The senior year is an intense set of classes dedicated to helping the student hone conceptual and design skills, and to preparing a competitive, final portfolio. Additionally, students are encouraged to take advantage of an internship course for experience, and of advanced computer software and digital media classes.

At the end of the undergraduate program (whether in art direction or graphic design), our students should be able to successfully identify problems; develop strong, appropriate, conceptual strategies for specific target audiences; and implement, design and produce those concepts in a manner that effectively communicates to an intended audience.

Assistant Professor Alex Egner is the Undergraduate Program Coordinator for Communication Design.

  • Suggested Undergraduate Curriculum for Communication Design 2013-2014 (PDF opens in a new window).
  • December 5, 2013 - revised 10/22/2013- Entry Portfolio Review (PDF opens in a new window).
  • Visit the Communication Design Blog (opens in a new window).
  • All students who are accepted in the program will be required to have a laptop with the appropriate software for the Spring semester 2014.
  • Required computer and software for Communication Design.
  • For up last minutes information regarding the December 2013 Entry Portfolio Review, please check the Communication Design blog.

Master of Fine Arts in Design with a Concentration in Innovation Studies (MFA-Des-IS; formerly the MFA in Communication Design)

The MFA program has been designed to teach graduate students who have accrued professional experience in communication design or a related discipline to "discover the power of ideas" by immersing them in learning situations wherein they actually have to invent methods that can potentially fuel the development of new processes, products and systems. What students learn during this experience will allow them to address the types of complex communications problems currently emerging in the world, and will prepare them to create or assume essential positions as leaders, collaborators, provocateurs, and empowered advocates for change within it.

The active approach to learning that informs this curriculum emphasizes real-world problem identification and problem solving supported by empathy-building, select types of reasoning and iterative thinking. Students who emerge from this Masters of Fine Arts program will be prepared to pursue successful careers as communication design strategists, managers and project-based collaborators in the corporate world, the non-profit sector, or in the arena of communication design education at the post-secondary school level. Graduates from this program who wish to pursue academic careers will emerge from it well-equipped to function effectively in the university environment, and will have identified areas of design research that will be necessary for their growth and the attainment of tenure at the university level.

Master of Arts in Design with a Concentration in Innovation Studies (MA-Des-IS)

The Master of Arts in Design with a Concentration in Innovation Studies exists to immerse graduate students who have not studied or practiced design in a series of learning experiences that will help them build and apply knowledge regarding design theories, methodologies and practices as a means to identify and test solutions for real-world social, technological, environmental and economic problems. This 36-credit hour program of study is unique to UNT, to graduate education in the state of Texas, and in this part of the U.S. The students who enroll in it represent a very diverse array of academic fields, professions and life experiences. Students will be challenged to work across disciplinary boundaries as they engage in design processes guided by select UNT CVAD Department of Design faculty. Some course projects within this curriculum may be taught all or in part by faculty from outside the CVAD Department of Design where knowledge or research interests complement or catalyze design processes.

Associate Professor Michael Gibson is the Graduate Program Coordinator for the MA and MFA programs with concentrations in Innovation Studies. Please contact him for more information about these programs at You may also request information from us by e-mailing

Design Research Center

The Design Research Center (DRC) is a Dallas-based research enterprise sponsored by the University of North Texas (UNT) and led by the College of Visual Arts and Design (CVAD) in conjunction with the Department of Design. The center will focus on three distinct but interrelated activities:

First, it will function as an applied solutions provider where interdisciplinary teams of scholars, students and professionals collaboratively fuse design thinking with innovative methods to create practical, sustainable solutions to complex social, environmental, technological, economic and public policy problems.

Second, it will exist as a basic research space where original insights into "design-driven" interdisciplinary theory and best practices are formulated and shared.

Third, its combined applied and theoreti¬cal research activities will support CVAD'S Master of Fine Arts and Master of Arts in Design with a Concentration in Innovation Studies

For more information about the DRC visit the Center's website at:

Faculty & Staff

David Blow |Emeritus Associate Professor

Clinton Carlson | Assistant Professor

Bio to come

Karen Dorff | Lecturer

Karen Dorff is a lecturer in our Communication Design program with over 19 years design experience in both corporate and design studio environments. She's taught for six years and holds a bachelor's degree in fine art from the University of North Texas. Karen has won design awards in PRINT magazine, Neenah Paper Promotions, The Black Book AR100, Dallas IABC Bronze Quill, LACP Annual Report Competition, Dallas Society of Visual Communicators, Dallas Tops Awards competitions as well as CASE, The Council for the Advancement and Support of Education.

Alex Egner | Assistant Professor and Undergrad Coordinator

Bio to come

Michael Gibson | Associate Professor and Grad Coordinator

Michael R. Gibson teaches communication design studio courses, as well as design research, criticism, history, theory and interactive media. He has spoken at a variety of conferences within and outside the discipline, and his publications and professional projects reflect his interest in formulating and implementing processes that transcend boundaries. He has managed a strategic design consultancy since 1987, which has afforded him several opportunities to attempt to bridge the divide between the practical demands of professional practice and the need to account for how the results of designing affect and are affected by a broad spectrum of social, technological and political issues. His original and applied research projects have addressed issues in education, children's and women's health, media ethics and developing usable and useful user experiences in dynamic media applications. Professor Gibson earned his MFA in Graphic Design from the University of Michigan and his BFA in Design from the Kansas City Art Institute.

To browse through two websites that Professor Gibson has planned, design directed and designed or co-designed, please visit the following URLs:

Eric Ligon | Professor

Eric Ligon is the program coordinator for the communication design program, in which he teaches the full array of courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. (He especially loves the typography courses.) He is president and cofounder of BrailleInk., a non-profit organization that produces dual-use, braille and print children's books that encourage sighted and blind individuals to share reading time. His design work on this format has been featured in People Magazine, the Lions Club International Magazine and a variety of local and national newspapers, radio and television news programs. Additionally, with his colleague Keith Owens, he redesigned the entire identity system for UNT, as well as the new identity system for the University of North Texas Dallas. Associate Professor Ligon earned his MFA in Communication Design from the University of North Texas and his BFA in Communication Design from Pratt Institute.

Keith Owens | Associate Professor

Keith Owens is the Director of the Design Research Center (DRC) and an associate professor in the CVAD Communication Design program. Owens teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses. Articles by him addressing the need for increased design responsibility have appeared in the International Journal of the Humanities, Design Philosophy Papers, Design Philosophy Politics and Visual Communications Quarterly. Professor Owens has also taught at Texas Tech University and worked as a designer, design director and design firm owner in Houston, San Francisco and Dallas. Recently as a design volunteer in Haiti, Owens has been engaged in socially focused design practice.

Jack Sprague | Emeritus Professor

In 2010 after 21 years as professor in Communication Design, Jack Sprague was promoted to Professor Emeritus allowing him to explore new creative and educational opportunities nationally and internationally. As the Founder and Educational Director of "The Smart Center Santa Fe" New Mexico, a creative think-tank for practicing and developing business leaders, technologists, artists and educators in all the arts, he is working to build bridges between UNT's College of Visual Arts and Design and other universities, community colleges, institutions and corporations.

The Smart Center Santa Fe workshops focus upon the merging together of the "Art of Business and the Business of Art." His goal is to provide a platform where educational specialist (workshop leaders) can offer unique and extremely relevant content that may be overlooked in traditional curriculums, that address the multi-dimensional needs of communities, developing business people, educators, creative artists, visual communicators, and established fine artists, performing artists and writers as well as innovative thinkers, historians, philosophers and entrepreneurs. The Center's educational philosophy has been built on a guiding principle of selecting and providing only the "most experienced creative process educators and business leaders" able to teach the broadest array of methodologies for creative problem solving, addressing local, regional, national and international issues through short-term immersive workshops.

TBA | Administrative Coordinator I

940-565-3621 |

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