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The Graphic Arts area combines aspects of design, illustration, web design, comics art/sequential narrative, and bookmaking in order to build a set of flexible skills adaptable to students' specific projects and goals in commercial settings, in book publishing, on the web, in the streets, and in the world of fine arts.

Studio course content and seminars are structured around critical thinking and histories of artist's books, publishing, graphic novels, public art, and, significantly, strategies for a socially engaged practice, in the form of urban interventions, street graphics, distributed editions, subverted corporate designs, web interventions, or ephemeral communications.

SMFA's end-to-end bookmaking curriculum encompasses both the design and production of books as art-objects using techniques ranging from the hand-made to the mass-produced. A strong emphasis of our curriculum is on the craft, design, production, and distribution of artist’s book publications. Students may also produce editions and unique art-objects; sculptural and conceptual books; pamphlets, zines, comics (as in our new annual anthology of comics produced each year on the SMFA campus), digital content; publications as editions, gallery-objects, and mass communications.

Sample Courses

GRA 0114 The Graphic Arts Toolbox: Design, Production & Alternative Strategies for Artists
Since conceptual art in the 70's, artists have employed new strategies to expand the border of the gallery space. This course is for the artist who is interested in creating work exploring these alternative strategies. It will introduce you to the basic tools and skills used in the graphic arts today. Students will be exposed to various techniques from offset and RISO printing to making work for the web. Through project assignments students will also learn to use some of the essential software on the Mac platform along with more traditional processes. The class will encourage students to think about text and image relationships in linear and non-linear narratives and consider your work in a public setting.

GRA 0115 - Core Design Praxis
In this class we will conduct experiments in craft through color production, typographic composition, and computation—leading to a creative apex of architecturally inspired fabrications. Grounded in practical skill building, functional ideation, and critical craft making. Push the limits of graphic design fabrication—breaking some established rules and leaving a trail of epistemological scaffolding for creative making.  

GRA 0126 - Design for Social Change
Explore design as a catalyst for social change. Focus on marrying design to activism and examine established methodologies for developing and fostering a successful call to action. Create and disseminate engaging messages and materials in service of promoting an idea or product. Students will work individually or in groups to design and implement a campaign for a concept of their choosing; final deliverable forms will vary but may include posters, websites, or public art installations. Through lectures, in-class activities, and critiques, students will learn about the role design and designers play in social activism, as well as strategies for research, ideation, prototyping, and testing design solutions. 

GRA 0179 - History and Politics of Typography
From Garamond to Helvetica, typography, by default, carries a Eurocentric history. This course will trace the history of western typography starting with the calligraphic forms of the Romans, to Guttenberg’s first movable font, Modernism, Post-modernism and ending with contemporary trends. Each meeting we will look at a few sample font faces, study their design and specifically, how they connect to cultural and political ideologies of their times. Does Canada 150 represent Decolonialism, the same way Didot embodied ideas of the Enlightenment, and Futura the ideology of Fascism? Class lectures will focus on their use in printed documents, web and advertising.

GRA 0123 - Narrative in Sequential Art
This course will explore various narrative techniques in order to develop a short graphic novel or picture book. Weekly assignments will challenge students to use their writing, drawing and photography skills in engaging stories with an emphasis on personal and political narratives. Examples will be drawn from the history of comics, graphic novels, children’s picture books, and storyboarding for film to create engaging stories in a variety of formats and mediums.  In-class workshops develop drawing skills, problem solving, editing, and revising. Computer tools such as page layout and panel design will be covered, but much of the work will begin with the most analog of materials: pencil and paper, scissors and tape. 

Round Table Discussion

SMFA Graduate Round Table Discussion

We sat down with Graduate Program Director Jeannie Simms and MFA students Jamie Kay and Kimberly Barnes, for a discussion on contemporary art practice through the lens of their experiences at SMFA.

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