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Visual Development

"A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."

~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Academy of Art University offers an innovative curriculum that emphasizes the skills needed to succeed in the growing field of visual development. Visual development artists communicate narrative, thematic and design ideas using visual media. They design and stage stories based on a script with effective camera choices that enhance the development and mood of the story. Visual development is key to visualizing complex movie scenes before filming.

The Visual Development program offers students a solid grasp of all fundamental visual development principles and is designed to create a well-rounded education in the arts. Emphasis is placed on mastery of traditional, technical and conceptual abilities, as well as an emotional response, in all aspects of the visual development process. The program fosters a strong development of the individual's style as well as a wide range of methods to transform their traditional skills into those reflecting the breadth of the updated industry technology. Students will become skilled at the full range of tasks related to visual development from concept to post production enhancing their creativity, problem solving and professionalism.

Students will create unique portfolios that demonstrate not only a personal style, but also a wide range of styles. Emphasis is placed on creating a portfolio that demonstrates functionality of all design elements, perspective, composition, figure drawing, background and environment design, concept and storytelling, effective use of color to convey feeling and mood, and mastery of technique, both traditional and digital. Industry standards, marketability and professional presentation are also stressed and will be evident in graduate's portfolios.

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

The Master of Fine Art (MFA) degree provides advanced study for students pursuing a career in Visual Development. Studio courses focus on the techniques necessary to develop and master technical skills. Graduate Liberal Arts courses promote the expression of ideas and effective communication utilizing visual, oral and written presentation skills. The program culminates with an independent final thesis project. Students will graduate from the Visual Development degree program equipped with a portfolio of work and prepared for professional opportunities in the competitive field.

Graduate students will develop a high level of professional skills enabling them to enter the job market at an advanced level.  Upon graduation the student is ready to succeed in the Visual Development industry in a number of roles including character and environment designer, concept and storyboard artist and background painter.

Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)

Rooted in practical skills and professional knowledge, the BFA degree provides students with a disciplined approach to the study of Visual Development. The general education program (Liberal Arts) supports major coursework by promoting the breadth of knowledge, critical thinking and communications skills necessary to analyze issues from multiple perspectives. Student portfolios will demonstrate the variety of skills and creativity developed. Graduates enter the field prepared for professional opportunities in Visual Development.

The BFA degree programs provides students with the skills needed create a unique portfolio that demonstrates not only a personal style but also a wide range of styles to satisfy the needs of a professional production.  Emphasis is placed on creating projects that demonstrates functionality of all design elements, perspective, composition, figure drawing, background and environment design, concept and storytelling, effective use of color to convey feeling and mood, and mastery of technique, both traditional and digital.

Associate of Arts (AA)

The Associate of Arts Visual Development degree provides students with an introduction to a particular field of study in art and design with a firm foundation in the concepts and problem-solving skills of the field. Once earned, the Associate?s degree can also be used as a stepping stone to the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. The Academy of Art University Associate of Arts Degree is specifically designed for seamless transition into the Academy of Art University Bachelor of Arts Degree.

Career Opportunities


  • Art Director
  • Background/Layout Designer
  • Character Designer
  • Concept Artist
  • Creature Designer
  • Environment Designer
  • Level Designer for Games
  • Maquette Sculptor
  • Model Packet Designer
  • Production Artist
  • Production Assistant
  • Production Designer
  • Prop Designer
  • Set Designer
  • Sketch Artist
  • Texture Artist
  • Texture Artist/ Prop Designer
  • Visual Development Artist
  • and more!

Firms Hiring Our Grads


Visual Development students have gone have gone on to work at companies such as Pixar, Dreamworks, Zynga and many others including: Bandai Namco, Blue Sky, Dreamworks, EA Games, Fantasy Flight Games, ILM, Lolapps, Lucas Arts, Massive BlackNickelodeon, PDI, Disney Mobile, Pixar, Valve, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Warner Bros. Studios, Zynga, and more

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