The state has approved a new SUNY Oswego master’s degree program in graphic design and digital media, enabling graduate students to pursue skillsets that could propel them into higher-level jobs in a variety of visually intensive fields.

The college continues to offer a master of arts degree in art, with the option for study in other studio art areas, such as painting, sculpture and printmaking. The new degree makes it “more transparent” for candidates interested in gaining specific skills in the growing graphic design fields impacted by digital media, according to Cynthia Clabough, chair of the art department.

“The new advanced degree has interdisciplinary appeal,” Clabough said. “We’ve had interest in a graphic design degree in digital media from theater, cinema and screen studies, and communication studies students.”

Brad Korbesmeyer, dean of graduate studies, said he believes the new program will encourage interdepartmental projects as candidates work on portfolios across such disciplines as human-computer interaction, cinema and screen studies, and broadcasting.

“We are just very excited about graphic design and digital media, because we feel with this program students are able to specialize more,” he said. “We’ve got master’s programs now that encompass the whole spectrum of art interests.”

SUNY Oswego also offers a master of arts in art education degree to prepare K-12 teachers in both traditional and digital art.

Clabough said the new degree program will offer two emphases—specialist and generalist. Those who choose the specialist track likely will have had an undergraduate background in graphic design, allowing them to focus in a specific medium, such as web, interactive or digital-to-print, or on a specific production type—promotional, informational, illustrative or multimedia. This could open career opportunities in such areas as visual identity, branding, packaging and interactive media.

Generalists may be students who want a broader exposure to multiple facets of graphic design or who have not previously had as much exposure to the discipline. “This track opens the degree program up to people wanting to augment their undergraduate experience,” Clabough said.

Both tracks will include coursework in the history, theory and practice of graphic design. All candidates will need to complete thesis and portfolio requirements, culminating in an exhibition.

Recent master of arts thesis exhibitions bode well for the types of projects that Tyler Art Gallery attendees can expect to see from candidates for the new degree, Clabough said. She listed students who’ve studied typography as a communication form, the interaction of type and painting, and the intersection between fine and commercial art as examples.

“The students will define the box they run around in,” she said. “They will call the shots on theme.”