Green and white designs for Hawaii Roots
Designs created by students for the Sierra Club group’s “Hawaiʻi Roots” tree planting project

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa was recently ranked among the nation’s top 50 graphic design schools, according to Animation Career Review. More than 700 higher education institutions from across the U.S. were considered. The ranking also published a regional list where UH Mānoa’s graphic design program in the College of Arts, Languages and Letters earned the number 12 spot out of the top 25 schools on the West Coast.

“Unlike many graphic design programs in the country which focus primarily on vocational or technical training, the graphic design curriculum includes study in the history and theory of design,” said Anne Bush, a design professor in the UH Mānoa Department of Art and Art History. “Ultimately, we seek to instill in students the idea that design is an intellectual, visual and collaborative activity that can be applied to pressing problems in society today.”

An integral part of the program is providing high-quality graphic design services for non-profit organizations in the state through the Graphic Design Workshop. This spring, advanced graphic design students enrolled in the Workshop created visual identity systems for the Sierra Club Oʻahu group’s “Hawaiʻi Roots” tree planting project, for the Sierra Club Maui group’s stream preservation project and for Hawaiʻi Literacy. Past clients include the State of Hawaiʻi Department of Health, the State of Hawaiʻi Environmental Council, Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, Mālama Maunalua, PlayBuilders Hawaiʻi, the Mānoa Alcohol Project and the UH Mānoa School of Architecture. The design work has been recognized locally by the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) Hawaiʻi, the Pele Awards, and Honolulu Magazine, and nationally by the AIGA Los Angeles, the Adobe Design Achievement Awards, HOW magazine and Print magazine.

“Most businesses need designers who can think on their feet and not merely apply technical skills,” Bush explained. “I believe that our graphic design students are successful at obtaining jobs after graduation (and often before) precisely because the graphic design area balances visual and technological expertise with historical, theoretical, and critical information.”

The award-winning graphic design program at UH Mānoa thrives on workplace development. Currently, 86% of its graduates are working in the design field locally, nationally and internationally in a range of positions.

This program is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Enhancing Student Success (PDF), one of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.