A Peek Inside the Graphic Design Program at HFC

Student work from the design program done by Becca Franklin - Candy Bar Packaging Design (2021)
Becca Franklin - Candy Bar Packaging Design (2021)

The Visual, Performing, and Media Arts Program at Henry Ford College houses three graphic design degree programs and two certification programs. At HFC, depending on the program chosen within the graphic design program, students typically have a variety of transfer opportunities.

One of the graphic design degrees offered at HFC is an Associate in Applied Arts degree with an established 2+2 transfer agreement with Lawrence Technological University. This means that students will finish at HFC as sophomores and begin as juniors at LTU upon completion of the program at HFC.

Another program offered is the Applied Arts: Graphic Design Career degree. This is a career-oriented program, designed to equip students with the knowledge and tools necessary to enter the workforce upon graduation, or even start their own business. This program has fewer general education requirements, but four additional design courses that help to round out the skills needed to work freelance or as a contracted designer.

Student work from the design program done by Vita Medina - Magazine Layout (2023)
Student work from the design program done by Vita Medina - Magazine Layout (2023)

The main program within the Graphic Design program is the Associate of Arts: Graphic Design degree. This program completes the Michigan Transfer Agreement, which helps ensure credits transfer to a Michigan four-year university.

Most of the HFC alumni who have transferred have wound up at Wayne State University. HFC and WSU recently signed an agreement called “Learn4ward,” an innovative program that guarantees admission to WSU upon completion of a program at HFC, with all your credits being transferred.

Victoria Shepherd, head of the Graphic Design program at Henry Ford College, stated that Wayne State instructors have communicated to her that HFC students always come over very well prepared. Shepherd has also mentioned that the graphic design program at HFC is specifically designed and modeled to reflect other design programs at four-year universities. For example, studio classes at HFC meet for six hours during the week, much like universities such as WSU and the College for Creative Studies, so classes can easily transfer to such universities.

HFC and the Graphic Design program are also in the process of setting up a 2+2 transfer agreement with the College of Creative Studies in Detroit. This agreement would allow students to begin as juniors in the interdisciplinary arts program at CCS. However, Shepherd has seen HFC alums in the past accepted based on the merits of their portfolio of student work and successfully transferred to complete their studies at CCS. A recent graduate of HFC and former Mirror News graphic artist, Samuel Marsh, recently completed the HFC graphic design program and transferred to CCS this past year.

While COVID has slowed the program down, new modalities, such as online learning, allowed for a broader range of students completing an associate program in the Graphic Design program. Students who started the program just before COVID had experienced a harder time to complete the program, as adaptations were being made to continue teaching with the pandemic.

“We had a couple of low graduation years,” Shepherd said. At the same time, Shepherd saw that those who started during the COVID pandemic led to higher completion rates. In May of 2023, the program saw 24 students successfully complete one of the Design and Graphic Arts programs. This May, the program is expected to see 29 graduates, nearly double since 2019.

The Design and Graphic Arts programs teach print and web design, motion graphics, and includes an introduction to branding, packaging design, social media content and management, and UX design. The program equips students with design experience and the skills needed to obtain an entry-level position or to be able to freelance. The program also offers certificates in animation and illustration, for students who want to foster their skills in a specific field.

Student work from the design program done by Nathan Abbott - Noodle Eki Branding Project (2023)
Student work from the design program done by Nathan Abbott - Noodle Eki Branding Project (2023)

Shepherd says that her students within the graphic design program “work across platforms and emerge from the program ready to continue in an ever-evolving field of communication design.” Students from the program have received top honors in the LAND Conference design competition for several years, including this year. Several students are currently working on the Mirror News at HFC.

HFC design graduates have obtained positions in design firms including Ford, Germack Pistachio in Detroit, Yazaki, AlixPartners, Big Frog Custom T-Shirts, Dearborn Heights Public Schools, and more.

To learn more about the graphic design program at HFC, go to: www.hfcc.edu/academics/programs/digital-and-graphic-arts.