Technical and Essential Functions

Required in the Graphic Design Program (GDSN)

The University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) is committed to providing a supportive, challenging, diverse, and integrated environment for all students. UIW is dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion of students who are representative of the diverse populations served by the University.


The UIW School of Media and Design’s Graphic Design (GDSN) program has identified technical standards and essential functions critical to the effective preparation of GDSN students and to their success in the academic program.

  • Technical standards establish the knowledge, skills, and aptitudes a student applicant possesses at admissions, indicating their preparation for entry into the program.
  • Essential functions are the knowledge, skills, and aptitudes that all students must be able to execute, with or without reasonable accommodations in order to graduate from the program.

The University is committed to excellence in accessibility and encourages students with disabilities, who are otherwise qualified, to disclose and seek accommodations. The GDSN program’s requirements are not designed to deter applicants for whom reasonable accommodation will allow fulfillment of the complete curriculum.

Individuals interested in applying for admission to the Graphic Design program should review the technical standards listed below to develop a better understanding of the types of skills, abilities, and aptitudes required to successfully complete the program.

Please note that acceptance to the University does not guarantee admission to the Graphic Design major.


The Graphic Design program provides intensive hands-on courses taught by seasoned educators and industry professionals. With small class sizes (usually 14 or less), students engage with knowledgeable faculty who not only continue to engage with industry but are committed to student success. Students receive personalized support and create a portfolio to prepare them for future careers.

The GDSN program offers an in-person Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA). The program, and the university are soon to be accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. The vision of the GDSN program is to provide excellent student-centered graphic design training and to prepare students for the competitive and rewarding field of design.

The GDSN program offers hands-on applied learning with 53% studio based (classes meet for 2.75 hours twice a week for a total of 5.5 hours per week) and 47% lecture (including the UIW Core Curriculum).1 The studio courses are held in on-campus computer labs that are specifically equipped with computers and software specifically used in the GDSN industry to simulate the professional GDSN working environment. For the undergraduate program, studio courses are exclusively delivered face-to-face to facilitate the learning of the essential functions needed for students in the program.

GDSN courses are rigorous and challenging. The studio based face-to-face courses require a great deal of time be spent working in the labs outside of the scheduled class times. The requirement for classes to be offered face-to-face allows for personal, real, physical interaction between students and faculty for development and building new knowledge and skills. It takes a considerable amount of time in class and in the student labs to develop these skills. GDSN students and graduates have a strong sense of connection to other students in their cohort, to the program faculty, and to the UIW campus.

1 On rare occasions, slight modification may result due to unexpected or unforeseen emergent situations.

Technical Standards

Technical standards are the knowledge, skills, and aptitudes a student applicant possesses at admissions, indicating their preparation for entry into the program.

Emotional Requirements

Students must have the ability to manage personal emotions and behavior in response to stressful situations produced by both academic study and while being observed and assessed by faculty in a live in-person setting. The ability to recognize personal emotional responses and maintain a professional demeanor is an essential element of this program.

Behavioral and Social Abilities

Students must possess the psychological ability required for the utilization of their intellectual abilities, for the exercise of good judgment, for the prompt completion of responsibilities inherent to the demands of the GDSN program.

Teamwork-critical realm of graphic design process, the development of effective relationships with faculty, and other members of the student’s cohort is crucial. Students must have the ability to communicate and collaborate effectively within groups in-person or online (depending upon course modality).

Students must be able to tolerate physically and mentally taxing workloads and function effectively under the stress inherent to the competitive and timely nature of graphic design processes. Respect, empathy, honesty, integrity, accountability, interest, and motivation are necessary personal qualities. Students must demonstrate ethical behavior at all times.

Cognitive Requirements

Students must have sufficient cognitive ability to read, write, calculate, process, apply information, analyze, synthesize, and reason through studio problems promptly in classroom simulation. Cognitive ability to meet all GDSN course outcomes is required.


Students must be able to communicate effectively in English, both in person and in writing. Basic keyboarding skills and the ability to participate in the documented modality of an offered course (i.e., in person for a face-to-face course, online for an online course) are vital. Ability to perceive, comprehend, and respond effectively to oral, written, electronic, and non-verbal communication is required.

Neurosensory Skills

Functional use of the senses, adequate gross motor skills, and fine motor dexterity are required to manipulate the tools (hardware and software) required in this field. Students must be able to observe and comprehend face-to-face lectures and studio demonstrations, and immediately use digital input devices including mice, keyboards, and tablets to practice.

Essential Functions

Essential functions are the knowledge, skills, and aptitudes that all students must be able to execute, with or without reasonable accommodations in order to graduate from the program.

Portfolio Review

  • After the completion of the first year, all GDSN students are required to submit a portfolio of the work completed in the GDSN first-year core. Portfolios are reviewed in May at the end of the first year.
  • Only upon passage of the Portfolio Review, may students enter the graphic design program and continue as a major.
  • All transfer students who wish to start in the Graphic Design program must submit a portfolio at the scheduled portfolio review time during the spring semester before they plan to attend.

Course Modalities

GDSN courses are offered in person only. The pedagogical design of each course has been tailored for the modality of its delivery. In particular, participation in face-to-face instruction is critical as an essential function and develops essential skills because of the following necessary factors:

  1. Cohort Structure. Students move through the GDSN curriculum as a cohort. GDSN is a teamwork-driven program and developing a relationship and working partnership with other students in that cohort is crucial to academic success. Participation in face-to-face undergraduate studio courses is critical to building and maintaining this cohort structure that is an essential function of the GDSN program.
  2. Hardware and Software Access. The GDSN program requires the use of many specialty hardware and software tools standard to the Graphic Design industry. As part of study in the GDSN program, students have access to these tools in all their studio classes. Further, the GDSN department and UIW provide access to these tools outside of class in labs. The licenses secured by UIW for these software tools are restricted to on-campus use.
  3. Team Learning. In a studio course, students quickly move from tutorials to solving problems unique to individual projects. This learning-through-doing is an essential function to providing students with the critical-thinking and problem-solving skills necessary for degree completion. Critiques, small group discussion, small team problem solving, note sharing and comparison, students assisting other students, and team competitions are all part of this essential learning process and can only be done when students are all in the same modality. All students need to be in person for team formation (for face-to-face modalities), consistent with the course design and pedagogy.
  4. Faculty Interactions. Working with faculty is crucial to academic progress, technical prowess, and soft-skills (interpersonal) development. Undergraduate face-to-face studio courses, taught in computer labs, allow, and require faculty to be able to manipulate student projects in a quick and meaningful manner on their assigned computer in the labs. Faculty calling a small group of students together to discuss a shared problem, to observe a technique on a certain student’s project, and meaningful group critiques are only possible when all students share modality and are critical to development of the essential functions required for GDSN degree completion.


UIW ensures that access to its facilities, programs, and services are available to students with disabilities and provides reasonable accommodations to students as outlined Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and, where and as applicable, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments ACT (ADAAA) of 2008.

A reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to an instructional activity, facility, program, or service that enables a qualified student with a disability to have an equal opportunity to participate in the GDSN program. To be eligible for reasonable accommodations, a student must have a documented disability as defined by the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Students admitted to the University and who have reviewed the program’s technical standards and determine that they require reasonable accommodations to fully engage in the program, should contact Student Disability Services at (210) 829-3997 or visit UIW's Student Disability Services web site. Given the technical nature of the GDSN program, additional time may be needed to implement accommodations. Accommodations are never retroactive, therefore, timely requests are essential. This process is informed by the knowledge that students with disabilities can become successful GDSN professionals

Temporary Disabilities

Student Disability Services will review, on a case-by-case basis accommodation requests for students with temporary disabilities.