Bethel graphic design program takes shape

February 28, 2014 | 11 a.m.

News | Rachel Wilson

The Twin Cities are recognized worldwide for the arts. Be it photographers, art directors, writers, authors, graphic designers, painters, musicians or singers, Minneapolis has a thriving creative scene. According to the Minneapolis Creative Index 2013, Minneapolis is the sixth most creatively vital metropolitan area in the country, pumping over $700 million into the local economy in a single year.

Bethel is jumping on board. While it boasts theatre and studio arts programs, Bethel is debuting yet another avenue for students to pursue the visual arts: graphic design. Beginning in the fall of 2014, Bethel will officially offer a graphic design major and minor.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Jessica Henderson, an assistant professor in the art department.

With the addition of the major, the department will also be changing its name from the art department to the department of art and design. Likewise, Henderson’s title will also be changing from assistant professor of art to assistant professor of design. In her three years at Bethel, Henderson has played an integral role in the creation and foundation of the major and minor.

“We have a really rich studio art history,” Henderson said. “The demands for design increased so quickly that we woke up and were really behind.”

Prospective students have displayed significant interest in a graphic design degree. Adding a major and minor will set Bethel apart from other nearby liberal arts schools. Aside from St. Mary’s and the University of Northwestern, Bethel is unique in offering such a program.

While Bethel has had the infrastructure for a while, the board is finally formalizing the program. Countless Bethel graduates are working as designers both in the Twin Cities and elsewhere.

“We’ve had a lot of students who have made a design career out of what we have had here,” Henderson said. “Students who are in business, in communication, in studio art . . . a lot of them are working as designers.”

The graphic design major ranges from 68-75 credits and focuses on the physical, visual and theoretical principles of graphic design. The major consists of foundation classes, core classes (design and studio art) and an integrated emphasis, the latter of which allows students to hone in on one of three areas. Such areas include anthropology and sociology, business, and communication. Through the integrated emphasis, students become well prepared to function in an ever-changing field using a variety of skills.

“Good designers have the ability to draw connections across disciplines… to understand how people think, how culture works, how marketing and business principles work… which is an awesome fit for our institution,” Henderson said.

Minors are made up of 21 credits and pair well with journalism majors, business marketing majors and literature majors, among others.

Sophomore art major Tim Evancho is one of many students expressing his excitement over the new addition. "I am really drawn to creating graphics and [designing] things for a specific purpose," he said.

Evancho plans on switching from art to graphic design as soon as the option is implemented.

“Everyone needs designers now… it’s just our visual culture,” Henderson explained.

Students majoring or minoring in graphic design have a plethora of options to choose from for future work. Advertising agencies, design shops, branding agencies, in-house design teams and corporate companies, among countless other businesses, all have a high demand for graphic designers.

Designers can work on internal or corporate communications or choose to freelance, a popular option today. Most designers, whether employed full time, part time or self-employed, freelance here and there.

For more information about a four-year plan or class scheduling and sequencing, contact Jessica Henderson at


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