students in sleek looking cafe

Department of Design

The Department of Design housed in Chalmers Hall prepares animators, illustrators, experience designers, graphic designers, marketing creatives, motion designers, photographers, product designers, UX/UI developers, and other multidisciplinary communicators to thrive as innovative practitioners and socially-engaged leaders in an ever-changing professional field. 

The Design Department offers...
BFA in Design with programs in AnimationIllustration, Industrial Design, Visual Communication Design, Interaction Design, and Photography. The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Design is a four-year, 120-credit-hour degree program. All design students spend the first semester in foundation courses and in the second semester begin taking courses in their chosen major. 

Minors in Design, Photography, Design Entrepreneurship, and Certificates in Book Arts

Graduate programs in Design, M.A. in Interaction and User Experience Design, and M.A. in Management and Strategy. The Master of Arts in Design is 31 credit hours of coursework, a thesis that documents independent discovery and research, and an oral examination.

Design students have access to studio spaces, computer labs, a letterpress lab, a Riso lab, a robust photography area, and digital fabrication labs. Students gain insights from lectures and workshops with world-renowned designers, collaborations with industry partners, and opportunities to participate in short-term study abroad programs and semester-long internships in the US and abroad.

The University of Kansas is an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) since 1968.

In 1867, the University of Kansas was composed of six faculty members including one music professor. The first art studio class was taught just two years later. The Department of Music was established in 1884 with the Department of Art (painting and art education) being established one year later. The combined School of Music and Art was formed in 1885 and was renamed the School of Fine Arts in 1894. By 1915 courses in the Department of Art included Drawing and Painting, Design, and Pottery.

The Department of Design began in 1921 with courses in Poster Design, Textiles, Metalwork, Bookbinding, Ceramics, and Weaving. The Bachelor of Fine Arts degree program began in 1929 with programs in Design, Public School Art, and Drawing & Painting and required 120 credit hours. Industrial Design was added in 1941, interior design in 1946, jewelry and silversmithing, art history, and the Masters of Fine Arts program in 1948. 

Until 1962, Art History and the University’s art collection were located administratively in the School of Fine Arts. The History of Art Department had been housed in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences since 1962. The Kress Department of Art History is located within the building of the Spencer Museum of Art, west of the Kansas Memorial Union. The collection of the art museum was first housed in Spooner Hall, the location of the first KU library. In 1926 the art collection was named the Spooner-Thayer Museum of Art, housing collections that were a 1917 gift of Sallie Casey Thayer in memory of her late husband, Kansas City department-store magnate William B. Thayer of Emery, Bird, Thayer. These collections included ceramics, glassware, textiles, and Asian paintings. In 1978, the artwork was moved to the Spencer Museum of Art. 

In 2009, the University reorganized the School of Fine Arts. The five professional design practice programs (EnvironmentalDesign, Illustration & Animation, Industrial Design, Photography, and Visual Communication Design) became the Department of Design, administratively located in the School of Architecture and Design. 

The mission of the Department of Design is to engage its students in the practice of design-thinking and visualization to create beautiful, innovative, and responsible solutions (products, spaces, systems, messages, and services) that respond to human needs and enhance the quality of everyday life.

Develop all degree programs that together are rigorous and provide the intellectual and practical skills, that are linked pedagogically and structurally to enhance practice and research.

Foster team-building through collaborative coursework.

Maintain and further develop additional experiences and venues that provide students with practical knowledge relevant to real-world settings.

Expand engagement and service learning opportunities for faculty and students including strong community and industry-based relationships.

Encourage an entrepreneurial attitude toward design practice.

Enhance and develop research opportunities to further the impact of design.

Foster a cross-department, cross-school pedagogy that furthers collaboration and cross-disciplinary opportunities.

Support student and faculty scholarship by creating research incentives and support through internal and external funding sources

Continue to develop research-driven projects at the Center for Design Research to engage multidisciplinary teams

Encourage the growth and development of masters programs in Design

Enhance global awareness to prepare student and faulty understanding of the large and increasingly complex problems.

Encourage faculty to develop meaningful study abroad experiences; encourage students to prepare and study abroad during their time at the university.

Support faculty to continue to build collaborative programs with design practitioners and others abroad

Continue to seek to place our students in foreign design firms or exchanges with other design educational programs.

BFA in Design

student works on watercolor

Illustration & Animation

Illustrators and animators illuminate ideas, enrich narratives, and build entire worlds through imaginative visual solutions. Graduates of the Illustration & Animation program work in analog and digital media for publications, film and television, video games, motion graphics, fashion, advertising, and more.
designed remote

Industrial Design

Every manufactured object we interact with – from faucets to electronics, footwear to toys, medical devices to sports gear – is a product of industrial design. The Industrial Design (ID) program prepares graduates to enter professional life ready to create innovative, beautiful, and sustainable solutions that improve products, businesses, and lives.
student uses old fashioned camera


Photography students learn to apply and decipher photography and video in a world where image is everything and images are everywhere. Graduates of the Photography program possess the personal vision and conceptual, technical, and critical thinking skills vital to success as practitioners working in film, video, digital media, publishing, and more.
student holds magazine

Visual Communcation

VisCom prepares graphic designers, experiential designers, motion designers, UX/UI developers, marketing creatives, and other multidisciplinary communicators to thrive as practitioners and socially-engaged leaders in an ever-changing professional field.