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Graphic Design at AU

Ideas That Quench Your Thirst

The design program teaches the theory and practice of graphic communications design. Our courses cover publication and editorial design, corporate identity, packaging, illustration, poster design, multimedia, experience and interactive design, etc.

Selected Portfolios

View portfolios from recent alums and current students:

Award Winners

  • Student Logan Dulski is a finalist in the AIGA Flux Design competition.

  • Professor Chemi Montes won a Platinum award in the Graphis Annual Poster Competition for his fall 2022 American University Symphonic Band poster design.  

  • Student Tan Bui ('23), award winner in 2022 Creative Quarterly, Issue 68, and runner-up, student Rossie Haase ('22).
  • Student Iris Hills ('21), award winner in the 2021 Creative Quarterly, Issue 67.
  • Student Hayley McMillon ('22) and alum Atousa Ostovartafti ('21), runners-up in 2022 Creative Quarterly, Issue 65.
  • Student Ben Black ('22), runner up in the 2021 Creative Quarterly, Issue 63 and silver medal winner in the 2021 ICDE Website Design Competition.
  • Students Iris Hills ('21), Graphic and Media Design winner, and Tasmia Haq ('21), Graphic and Media Design honorable mention, in 2021 Horizons Exhibition at the Marymount University.
Tasmia Haq, Journey to the Stars.

Tasmia Haq, Journey to the Stars (website), 2020.


The Design program offers its students two fully and exclusively dedicated computer labs, each with 20 high-end Macintosh computers up to date with all the professionally demanded design software for web and interactive design, print design, and motion graphics design. The labs are accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to design majors through a secure id card swipe system.

Additionally our students have access to a variety of additional devices and equipment, including Wacom digital pens and tablets, multiple scanners, color laser printers, and photo-quality and large format inkjet printers. Students registered for design courses can use these labs and print their design projects free of charge. Additionally, our students can also rent digital SLR photographic cameras and tripods, also free of charge for design majors. The program counts with a photographic studio with high-end lighting equipment with which our students can prepare and carry out photo-shoots under completely controlled conditions.

The Katzen Arts Center brings all the visual and performing arts programs at AU into one 130,000 square foot space. Designed to foster interdisciplinary collaboration in the arts, the new center provides state-of-the-art instructional, exhibition, and performance space for all the arts disciplines. The Center features an extraordinary 30,000 square foot art museum with a variety of gallery spaces for exhibition of exciting contemporary art from the nation's capital region and the world, along with AU's own Watkins Collection and the collection of Cyrus and Myrtle Katzen. The Katzen Arts Center stands as a clear statement to the community that at the heart of the city, there exists a place where the arts are honored as the heart of higher education. That place is American University.

Building Information
Overall building length - 660 feet
Building square footage - 130,000 square feet
Museum - 30,000 square feet
Studio/Fine Arts Space - 37,000 square feet
Performing Arts Space - 33,000 square feet
Sculpture Garden - 6,000 square feet
Parking square footage - 211,000 square feet, 550 car spaces
Support Space - 13,000 square feet

Faculty Spotlight

Tom Elder

Tom Elder, Senior Professorial Lecturer for the Graphic Design program, comes to American University from Boise State University after over 20 years of teaching and practice. He received his MFA in Graphic Design from Iowa State University. Elder has been professionally creating traditional design, signage, and digital art for much of his design career. Some of his expertise includes consultation for physical accessibility to structures and the use of Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG). His work is acknowledged in Access for Everyone: A Guide to the Accessibility of Buildings and Sites with References to ADAAG, Osterberg, A. E., & Kain, D. J. (2005). His perspective piece “Which is Worse: Comic Sans or Papyrus?” was featured in American magazine this summer. 

In past projects, Tom was one of the original consultants for Adventure Island Playground; the first accessibly designed playground located in Meridian, Idaho; he also designed the original entrance sign for the playground. Tom also designed City Centre Garage signage on 9th and Front, Boise, Idaho including the interior signage structure. He also designed and planned the location of exterior wayfinding to the College of Idaho and some informational direction signs for the City of Nampa, Idaho. He is also an accomplished label designer using hand-drawn and digital lettering techniques for his designs. Tom also creates artwork in virtual 3D creating 3D rendered art that has been curated and exhibited in select national exhibitions.

Design Club

AU Design Club

AU Design Club provides undergraduate students a way to get critique, share resources, and become more involved in the AU and DC design community. Anyone from AU is welcome—no need to be a design major or minor! In addition to club meetings, Design Club also hosts our annual Spring Design Show. 

Logan Forbis '23 - Co-President

Teddy Gabrielli '24 - Co-President

Kirah Tianga '25 - Secretary

Asja Thomas '23 - Co-Marketing Coordinator

Saabiah Hussain '24 - Co-Marketing Coordinator

Five Design Club student officers sit on stairs.

Arts ·

Why We Love Graphic Design

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