a Black female graphic designer uses a color wheel to assess the design on her panel monitor

The human experience is inherently interactive and visual. And today, so much of what we do and see is mediated by technology. We experience aspects of our lives and absorb information on phones and laptops, through virtual assistants, on giant LCD panels, via responsive touch screens, and even in simulated 3D worlds.

Graphic design creates the beauty and appeal that draws us to those devices, platforms, and programs for the first time and compels us to return. Graphic design is also essential to function: ensuring that these technologies offer an intuitive, satisfying experience for users of all kinds.

Developing epic technologies requires an understanding of computing and graphic design. UIC developed the CS + design major to give you — our future creators — an education in both.

What do people in this field do?

These are a few of the many careers you can pursue with an education that blends computer science and graphic design (and their approximate annual pay, according to sources including the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Built in Chicago, and PayScale):

examples of jobs in the computer science and design field, ranging from $63,000 for a computer graphics designer to $100,000 for a data visualization specialist

Tech, design, and diversity

Could you imagine if every piece of art were made by artists with exactly the same perspectives, backgrounds, and ideas? No, we can’t, either.

a UIC computer science student against a colorful mural artwork in Pilsen

The world of graphic design is at its most vibrant, exciting, and useful when a broad constellation of people contributes.

That’s why UIC values diversity among its CS + design majors. We especially welcome female and nonbinary students and people from other underrepresented backgrounds who can design a future that is functional and beautiful for all.

The CS + design major, start to finish

You can think of the CS + design major as covering three primary areas:

  • Computer science courses: Computer science requirements and electives will teach you how to program. You’ll learn how computers store and process information, how humans interact with computers (visually and otherwise), how virtual and augmented reality environments are created, and how computers can help to present data.
  • Design courses: Ten design courses will immerse you in the creation and use of photography, typography, and other key visual elements. You will become fluent in the design process, practice using industry-current design software, and work in teams with other design students on practical projects.
  • General education courses: These courses allow you to explore writing, art and design history, culture and society, math, science, and other subjects that will enhance your critical thinking skills and your understanding of context.

One of our computer science faculty members, Shanon Reckinger, drew this flow chart to help you visualize the structure of the courses in the first of the three areas, computer science:

colorful illustration depicting the computer science courses that make up the computer science and design major

Course highlights

Through a mix of required and elective courses, each CS + design student gets the chance to choose a unique set of classes that appeals to them and meets their goals. Here are three courses that might be a part of your UIC CS + design degree:

CS 427 Creative Coding. This course focuses on interactive media, virtual reality, 3D interaction, audio design, typography, theater, audiovisual media, and seminal works. We take a deep dive into the techniques and challenges of designing for virtual reality. We will investigate novel forms of creative practice and develop collaborative virtual reality projects in interdisciplinary teams of computer science and design students, which will be presented during a public exhibition at the end of the term.

DES 150 Digital Media Design I. This studio-style class introduces the basics of motion design and narrative/storytelling through motion. We will think deeply on why and how something can move to communicate effectively. The goal of the class is to expand motion literacy by focusing on narrative sequence planning and animation design process through the use of multimedia technologies such as Adobe After Effects. We will go through every step of the multimedia animation process, including research, concept, formulation/exploration, experiments/tests, and storyboard development. Finally, we will also discuss how to design with type for motion and how to integrate audio components in your motion design.

DES 208 Typography I: Form. This course provides an introduction to the aesthetics and mechanics of typographic form and usage. We will explore the use of type as an element of graphic design composition. Students will gain an understanding of the measurement system used in typography, learn recognition and classification, and explore alignment, hierarchy, and legibility. We will analyze the universal and essential qualities of typography in the context of design practice, which is essential learning for the upper-level design classes to come.

The CS + design major in depth

Ready to explore the computer science + design major in detail? Use these links to access everything you need to know about pursuing your CS + design degree at UIC.

  • Degree requirements in full: See the UIC course catalog page for CS + design
  • Computer science courses: Read descriptions of all the undergraduate courses in the computer science department
  • Design courses: Read descriptions of all the undergraduate courses offered by the School of Design

Declaring a CS + design major

Learned everything you need to know about the CS + design major and are ready to add it to your UIC program?

If you are applying for admission to UIC …

Visit the UIC undergraduate admissions website to start or continue your application.

If you are already a UIC student …

Visit this page and start from step 2.

Not sure yet? Test the waters by enrolling in CS 111, a no-experience-required course that introduces UIC students to computer science from the very beginning.

You are welcome to set up a time to talk anytime — either with a member of the Break Through Tech Chicago team or a UIC computer science advisor.