Storytellers Needed Help Get the Message Out Utilizing Visual Design and the Technology of Storytelling

Social Media Design Management

@ Northern Michigan University

Social Media Design Management students will have the diverse skill set needed for creating innovative marketing materials for companies or assist not-for-profits or social movements in getting their story out to supporters with creative campaigns and fostering relationships online.

Students will learn how to communicate, inform, and brand in creative and compelling ways, including understanding social media analytics. Students will additionally be able to present themselves to prospective employers effectively.

Courses Across Disciplines Interdisciplinary Skillsets

Design Courses

  • AD101 Process & Design
  • AD118 Graphic Design Foundations
  • AD218 Graphic Design: Typographic Systems
  • AD285 History of Graphic Expression
  • Marketing Courses

  • MKT 230 Intro to Marketing
  • MKT 335 Consumer Behavior Analysis
  • MKT 432 Advertising and Integrated Marketing Comm
  • MKT 470 E-Commerce and Digital Marketing
  • Public Relations

  • PR 231 Intro to Public Relations
  • PR 330 Public Relations Message Design
  • SP 320 New Media Literacy
  • Capstone Course

  • AD488 Social Media Design Management
  • Art Skills

    Choose 2

  • AD112 Digital Cinema Foundations
  • AD117 Photography Foundations
  • AD134 Computer Art Foundations
  • Program Electives

    Choose 3

  • AD212 Digital Cinema: Image Design
  • AD217 Photography: Methods & Techniques
  • AD318A Graphic Design: Web Design & Production
  • AD318B Graphic Design: Layout & Production
  • AD418BA Graphic Design: Interactivity Seminar
  • AD418B Graphic Design: Branding Seminar
  • AD492 Art & Design Internship
  • EN217 News Writing and Reporting
  • PR350 Sports Public Relations Theory & Strategy
  • MKT491 Marketing Internship
  • Program Faculty

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    Tomas Adolphs

    Graphic Design Professor
    Ph.D.,M.A., Michigan Technological University
    B.F.A. Northern Michigan University

    Professor Adolphs received his Ph.D. in Rhetoric, Theory, and Culture at Michigan Technological University. A common thread throughout Professor Adolphs’ education and professional life has been the synthesis of practice and theory as it relates to the production of visual communication, as well as the analysis of emerging digital media technologies.

    Professor Adolphs has been teaching graphic design, digital imaging, and other media focused classes at the collegiate level for the past twelve years. His expertise resides in design research, identity branding, advertising, photography, motion graphics, and user interface design. The programs Professor Adolphs engages with most frequently are Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, After Effects, Dreamweaver, and XD.

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    Gary Brunswick

    Marketing Professor
    Ph.D., Business Administration, Arizona State University
    M.B.A., Marquette University
    B.S., Business Administration, Northern Michigan University

    Dr. Gary J. Brunswick holds a Ph.D. in Business Administration from Arizona State University, and currently holds the rank of Professor of Marketing at Northern Michigan University. His research interests include marketing strategy, services marketing, and e-commerce. He also holds an M.B.A. from Marquette University (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) and two undergraduate degrees from Northern Michigan University (Associate Degree, and Bachelor of Science - Summa Cum Laude).

    His research has been published in wide range of journals including, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Journal of Consumer Behavior, The Marketing Management Journal, The Journal of Professional Services Marketing, The International Journal of Case Studies and Research, The Journal of the International Academy of Case Studies, The Academy of Educational Leadership Journal, The Journal of Business Case Studies, and The Academy of Marketing Studies Journal.

    He has received the Distinguished Faculty Award from NMU, as well as the Outstanding Young Alumni Award, along with 3 teaching awards within the College of Business, including the M.B.A. Program Professor of the Year Award.

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    Daric Christian

    Digital Design Professor
    M.F.A. Ohio University
    B.F.A. Savannah College of Art & Design

    Professor Christian has taught Art & Design courses across two distinctly different studio art areas, Computer Art and Digital Cinema. He was the first in the school to develop web design instruction teaching web and interactive design within the Computer Art program for many years before it was migrated to the Graphic Design program.

    He was instrumental in the implementation of a technology plan for the School of Art and Design which supported many of the school's programs and directly contributed to the growth of the school; involving research, internal grant proposals, purchasing, installation, and maintenance of equipment. In addition, he has been a constant contributor to the publicity of the school's programs through the development of web sites and other multimedia presentations both on and off-campus.

    Professor Christian has often worked on national commercial projects within the web design and interactive media fields along with pursuing personal artwork displayed in gallery settings.

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    Keith Ellis

    Graphic Design Professor
    M.F.A. Savannah College of Art & Design
    B.F.A. University of Tennessee

    Professor Keith Ellis received his B.F.A. in Art with a concentration in Graphic Design from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, while working for web firms, print houses, and even television. After school, Professor Ellis worked in various industries, including design, photography, and medical education. Professor Ellis received his Graphic Design from the Savannah College of Art and Design.


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    Thomas E. Isaacson

    Public Relations Associate Professor
    Ph.D.,M.A.,Michigan State University
    B.S., Northern Michigan University

    Tom Isaacson is an Associate Professor of Public Relations and PRSSA Faculty Mentor at Northern Michigan University. Dr. Isaacson started at NMU in 2012 and teaches a variety of core courses in the PR curriculum along with specialty courses in sports PR and international PR.Prior academic appointments include full-time work at Marquette University, graduate assistant teaching at Michigan State University and summer appointments at the American University of Rome. For 12 years, he brought students to Rome, Italy, and Cannes, France, for a 6-week Advertising/PR study abroad program. The program included attendance at the world’s largest advertising festival, the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.

    Prior professional experience includes technology PR agency work in the Seattle area, working with early-stage companies seeking VC funding or positioning for future acquisitions. The bulk of the PR strategy and tactics for these companies focused on media and analyst relations. His sports PR work crossed the gamut of levels – NCAA Division I, Division II, Pro Sports, Minor-league Sports – while holding full-time or internship positions with Ferris State University, MSU, Chicago White Sox and Greensboro Bats.

    During the summer 2014, Dr. Isaacson served as NMU’s acting AVP of Identity, Brand and Marketing while a search was completed to fill the position permanently. In that position, he assisted with the launch of a new external branding campaign and developed internal launch concepts.Research interests include crisis communication in sports and WOM communication. Dr. Isaacson authored or co-authored three book chapters on Sports PR. His most recent chapter, published in a book titled Reputational Challenges in Sport (2018), is about the PR work behind the Chicago White Sox current rebuilding effort. Research has been published in Mass Communication and Society and Journal of Advertising Research.

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    Jane Milkie

    Associate Dean and Director Art & Design
    M.F.A. Rochester Institute of Technology
    B.S. State University of New York, Buffalo

    Professor Jane Milkie received her MFA in Computer Graphic Design with an additional emphasis in Graphic Designfrom Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York. Professor Milkie teaches Graphic Design courses. Her freelance commissioned and pro bono print and web design work serve mainly non-profit clientele. She is a member of the AIGA Professional Association for Design and the UCDA University College Design Association where she has presented at many National Design Education Summits. Before teaching at NMU she taught graphic design for four years at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

    Professor Milkie became the Associate Dean and Director of the School of Art and Design in 2023.

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    Jessica L. Thompson

    Public Relations Associate Professor
    Ph.D.,M.S.,University of Utah
    B.S.,Northern Michigan University

    Jessica Thompson is an Associate Professor in the College of Business. She teaches courses in public relations, new media, sustainability and environmental communication. She serves on the Marquette Climate Adaptation Task Force and is the current coordinator for the Northern Climate Network and faculty advisor for the EcoReps – a sustainability brand ambassador program.

    Prior to NMU, she was on the faculty in the Human Dimensions of Natural Resources department at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. She has more than fifteen years experience working on collaborative climate change related projects across the Western US, Mexico, India, Singapore and Mongolia. She has published more than 40 manuscripts including her dissertation, which became a book, “Interdisciplinary Team Dynamics: A Systems Approach to Understanding Communication and Collaboration in Complex Teams.” She is currently finishing editing her second book, which is collection of 20 case studies of learning in America’s national parks, “America’s Largest Classroom: What We Learn From Our National Parks” – forthcoming in April 2020.

    Jes earned her doctoral degree in Environmental Communication and Conflict Resolution at the University of Utah in 2007. She is also a trained facilitator and has a graduate certificate in Adaptive Management of Environmental Systems. Finally, she is a proud graduate of NMU (class of 2001).

    Dr.Thompson is the Director of the NMU Sustainability Hub for Innovation and Envrironment (SHINE).(SHINE)

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    Brian Zinser

    Marketing Assistant Professor
    D.B.A., Marketing, Anderson University
    M.B.A., J.L.Kellogg Graduate School of Management
    A.B., Finance, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

    Brian Zinser, Associate Professor of Marketing in Northern Michigan University's College of Business, is the 2020-21 recipient of NMU's Faculty Leadership Award. He also serves as an assistant department head responsible for management, marketing, entrepreneurship, ski area business management and the bachelor of applied science (B.A.S.) programs.

    Zinser is credited for his creative, forward-thinking ability to reduce barriers and assist transfer students. He represented the college in the Michigan Pathways Program, meeting several times with community colleges and university registrars to map out a reasonable and seamless pathway for business transfer students.

    He also developed the B.A.S. in Management program, the only such program in Michigan specifically designed for employed adults. It gives those with a technical associate degree the opportunity to complete a bachelor's in two to three years while working, with the flexibility of taking online courses.

    Prior to joining the faculty in 2014, he had previously served as an adjunct instructor for the college while working as director of marketing and co-director of NMU Communications and Marketing from 1998-2004. In between the two assignments at Northern, he taught at Lake Superior State University and across the border at Algoma University in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

    Zinser holds a doctorate in business administration (D.B.A.) from the Falls School of Management at Anderson University, an M.B.A. in marketing and finance from the J.J. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University, and a bachelor's degree in finance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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    Course Descriptions

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    Design - Courses

    AD 101 Process and Design

    4 credit hours

    An exploration of various technical methods of construction, production, and assembly used in the creation of art forms (2D, 3D, and 4D), integrated with an introduction to and application of the visual vocabulary of art (visual elements, principles of design, color theory).

    AD 118 Graphic Design: Foundations

    Offered: Fall, Winter
    4 credit hours

    Introduction to graphic design concepts with the development of technological and craft skills. Emphasis is placed on the use of process, typography and composition as well as the foundational skills of gestalt and color theory.

    AD 218 Graphic Design: Typographic Systems

    Offered: Fall, Winter
    4 credit hours
    Prerequisites: AD 118

    Implementation of typographic systems in concept and composition. Emphasis is placed on process, letterform, and layout as well as typography’s use in interactivity and motion.

    AD 285 History of Graphic Expression

    4 credit hours
    Offered: Fall

    Chronological exploration of the history of graphic design and illustration from the era of the illuminated manuscript to the present. Emphasis is given to graphic expression in modern society from the mid-19th century on. Digital design and illustration are included.

    Marketing - Courses

    MKT 230 Introduction to Marketing

    Offered: Fall, Winter, Summer
    4 credit hours

    Study of the basic marketing functions from a managerial standpoint. Emphasis is placed on the development of a marketing mix to enhance the operational performance of all organizations that undertake marketing activities. Students further develop marketing-related knowledge and skills through integrated assignments and exposure to additional topics in marketing; emphasis is on the strategic implications of marketing decision-making.

    MKT 335 Consumer Behavior Analysis

    Offered: Fall
    4 credit hours

    Study of important psychological, sociological and cultural determinants of buying. Students are expected to make applications of concepts, theories and principles to specific marketing problems.

    MKT 432 Advertising and Integrated Marketing Communications

    Offered: Winter
    4 credit hours

    Study of the need to consider consumer needs and experiences in developing advertising and sales promotion campaigns for both traditional firms and new service firms. Students are expected to make applications of concepts, theories and principles to specific marketing problems.

    MKT 470 E-Commerce and Digital Marketing

    Offered: Contact department for information
    4 credit hours
    Prerequisites: MKT 230, junior standing or instructor’s permission.

    As e-commerce and the usage of social media and mobile devices continue to grow in importance from a marketing perspective, a variety of strategic issues and implementation challenges arise when either transforming a firm’s existing business model or developing a new one. An understanding of existing and emerging issues and successful practices related to marketing in a digital environment will be developed.

    Public Relations - Courses

    PR 231 Introduction to Public Relations

    Offered: Fall
    4 credit hours
    Prerequisites: Admission to PR 231 requires a 2.25 GPA.

    The theory and practice of public relations, its function in organizations and its role in society. Topics include the history, communication theories and ethics of public relations, areas of practice in public relations and career opportunities.

    PR 330 Public Relations Message Design

    Offered: Winter
    4 credit hours
    Prerequisites: EN 211 and a "C" or better in PR 231.

    Focus is on research, writing and planning skills unique to public relations. Topics include news releases and media kits, backgrounders and position papers, newsletters and brochures, advocacy advertising and special event design.

    SP 320 New Media Literacy

    Offered: Fall
    4 credit hours

    The study of various forms of “new” media. Topics include description of and practices associated with various forms of new media, the ethics associated with usage, and the impact of new media on society.

    Capstone Course

    AD 488 Social Media Design Management

    Offered: Winter
    4 credit hours
    Prerequisite: Senior Standing, AD218, AD285, PR330, MKT 432 or MKT470

    Advanced research and visual problem-solving. Emphasis is placed on the creation and application and coordination of branding and identity systems for social media platforms.

    Art Skill Courses

    AD 112 Digital Cinema: Foundations

    Offered: Fall, Winter
    4 credit hours

    The foundations of digital video production; how to shoot and edit short-form cinematic works; survey of fiction, nonfiction, and experimental video production.

    AD 117 Photography: Foundations

    4 credit hours
    Offered: Fall, Winter, Summer

    Introduction to the fundamental technical and compositional aspects of digital photography. Students practice compositional strategies, methods of controlling manual digital SLR cameras, and basic non-destructive digital post-processing techniques through relevant and interrelated readings, lectures, discussions, demonstrations, assignments, and individual and group critiques.

    AD 134 Computer Art: Foundations

    Offered: Fall, Winter
    4 credit hours

    Introduction to the concepts and practices of computer art. Foundational approaches to photoillustration, animation, and 3D modeling will be explored.

    Program Electives

    AD 212 Digital Cinema: Image Design

    Offered: Winter
    4 credit hours
    Prerequisites: AD 112 or instructors permission

    Continued development of digital video production skills and knowledge emphasizing fiction video production; lighting strategies, camera work, composition, and post-production. 

    AD 217 Photography: Methods and Techniques

    4 credit hours
    Offered: Fall, Winter
    Prerequisites: AD 117

    The course focuses on extending students’ knowledge of fundamental photographic methodologies including professional lighting techniques, basic film and silver-based darkroom processes, and advanced non-destructive digital post-processing techniques. Students explore traditional photographic concepts and genres through relevant and interrelated readings, lectures, discussions, demonstrations, assignments, and individual and group critiques.

    AD 318A Graphic Design: Web Design and Production

    Offered: Fall and Winter, odd numbered years
    4 credit hours
    Prerequisites: AD 218

    Advanced studies in the design and development of web sites. Emphasis is placed on the conceptual development and layout of websites as well as its use in multiple devices and environments. Front-end HTML and CSS coding will continue to be developed throughout this course.

    AD 318B Graphic Design: Layout and Production

    Offered: Fall and Winter, even numbered years
    4 credit hours
    Prerequisites: AD 218

    Advanced studies in visual systems; emphasis is placed on conceptual development, complex layout, production skills and three-dimensional design.

    AD 418A Graphic Design: Interactivity Seminar

    Offered: Fall and Winter, even numbered years
    4 credit hours
    Prerequisites: AD 318A or AD 318B, or instructor's permission.

    Students will learn to apply research, problem solving, and the user’s experience to interactivity. This course’s focus is on app/software interfaces and other media, wayfinding and the conceptual development of interaction and design.

    AD 418B Graphic Design: Branding Seminar

    Offered: Fall and Winter, odd numbered years
    4 credit hours
    Prerequisites: AD 318A or AD 318B, or instructor's permission.

    Advanced research and visual problem solving. Emphasis is placed on the creation and application of large-scale branding and identity systems.

    AD 492 Internship in Art and Design

    Offered: On Demand
    1-4 credit hours
    Prerequisites: Approval of the major professor

    The object of this course is to provide Art and Design majors with professional work experience in their chosen area of concentration.

    EN 217 News Writing and Reporting

    Offered: Fall, Winter
    4 credit hours
    Prerequisites: EN 211

    The mechanics of hard news reporting and writing in a converged media environment. Frequent exercises and critiques.

    PR 350 Sport Public Relations and Media

    Offered: Every Three Semesters
    4 credit hours
    Prerequisites: A 2.25 GPA, declaration of a major in Public Relations, and a “C” or better in PR 231.

    Students learn about the sport public relations field with a focus on publicity and promotion techniques used to attract fan attention and generate revenue. Unique aspects related to media relations and social media promotion are also covered.

    MKT 491 Internship in Marketing

    Offered: On Demand
    1-4 credit hours
    Prerequisites: College of Business permission, junior standing or instructor’s permission.

    Professional experience for qualified marketing students. Working relationships will be established with organizations. Students are required to write a paper and will be evaluated by their faculty supervisor in consultation with the employer.

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    Frequenty Asked Questions

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    What is Social Media Design Management?

    The student completing this program will be able to manage the online social identity/branding of a company with the knowledge that includes understanding and reaching customers, creating high-quality media, and marketing. The graduates will be attractive to small and mid-range companies due to their diversity of skill sets allowing those entities to hire fewer people to construct their online branding/presence, but they could also navigate in media structures at large organizations.

    The Social Media Design Management program will provide students with an interdisciplinary approach to their education that utilizes the skills and resources from three separate disciplines. Students will develop software and design skills in the School of Art & Design, build knowledge of Marketing in the College of Business, and communication and presentation skills from Public Relations in the College of Business. Internship course opportunities will exist in both the College of Business and the School of Art & Design.

    The growth of social media use in the professional sector has been explosive over the last ten years. The program offers a combination of skills, producing a student with hands-on design experience and knowledge of brand identity developed from three different perspectives. The interdisciplinary nature of the program will encourage independent critical thinking and strong communication skills.

    Is Social Media Design Management Advertising?

    Advertising encompasses paid activities designed to sell a product or service. Social Media Design is about connection building and storytelling through the use of emerging technology and visual design. Both fields share the intention of communicating in compelling ways, many times through creative visuals to convey concepts. Social Media Design Management includes both Graphic Design and marketing strategies. A variety of delivery formats and online platforms are utilized.

    What technology do graphic communication students learn?

    Most of the software learned in graphic design deals with print production as well as web. Adobe Photoshop CS, Adobe Illustrator CS, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Dreamweaver, and other web and ap design software are covered throughout the courses.

    What are the costs of the Program?

    Students receive a computer and Adobe Creative Cloud software. Other art supplies needed for graphic design or art courses are supplied with small art share fees. Printing and mounting projects take up the bulk of the cost and available at a reasonable price.

    What opportunities are available outside of the program?

    The Art and Design Internship course is available as an elective to junior students. Students find there own positions typically during the summer. Students find internships and or freelance design work both locally and at home. Design and social media jobs are available on the NMU campus. Work obtained before graduation expands the learning process and aids in securing a job upon graduation.

    Are there jobs in the field when I graduate?

    The Social Media Management degree would prepare students for a variety of job titles (Digital Engagement Specialist, Social Media Strategist, and Online Community Manager) across several fields: including Public Relations (9%), and Graphic Design (4% Job Growth ), and Advertising and Promotions and Marketing Managers (10% Job Growth). The program provides students a more varied skill set should be useful in creating strong candidates for these needed types of positions. NMU already has a successful history of preparing Graphic Design graduates who have migrated more towards these mixed positions, especially for mid-sized companies.

    Do I need a portfolio to become and Social Media Design Management major?

    No. If accepted at Northern Michigan University, you can immediately enter the program.

    More Questions?
    Please write Professor Daric Christian
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    Student 4 Year Plans

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