Traditional design education consists of three phases: perceptual, transitional, and professional. This study explored three independent variables (IVs) as predictors of success in the Transitional Phase of a visual communication design (VCD) program: (a) prior academic performance (as reported by GPA); (b) cognitive style (assessed with Peterson, Deary, and Austin's Verbal Imagery Cognitive Styles Test [VICS] and Extended Cognitive Style Analysis-Wholistic Analytic Test [E-CSA-WA]); and (c) learning style (assessed with Kolb's Learning Style Inventory [LSI] 3.1). To address the research problem and hypothesis, this study examined (a) the relationship between academic performance, cognitive style, and learning style, and visual communication design students' performance in the Transitional Phase; (b) the cognitive style and learning style preferences of visual communication design students as compared with other samples; and (c) how the resulting knowledge can be used to improve instructional design for the Transitional Phase in VCD programs. Multiple regression analysis revealed that 9% of Transitional Phase performance was predicted by studio GPA. No other variables were statistically significant predictors of Transitional Phase performance. However, ANOVA and t tests revealed statistically significant and suggested relationships among components of the independent variables, that indicate avenues for future study. The results are discussed in the context of style-based learning theory, and the cognitive apprenticeship approach to instructional design.