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Animation. Graphic Design. Game Art.

Best Animation Programs Top 20 list: The Midwest

Written by Bonnie Boglioli...October 10, 2012
Mid-West
Did you know... Historically, The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School (DAVE School at Universal Studios Orlando) has placed a fair number of its graduates in the gaming industry, but now they have a new program specifically designed for careers in gaming. The program was designed and is overseen by a senior production supervisor who led teams on Ghostbusters and Kinect Star Wars. Learn more at www.DaveSchool.com.
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10.  Michigan State University- Offering a B.A. and B.S. in Media Information, MSU students take advantage of a multidisciplinary approach to the study of emerging media technologies. All students gain fluency in the tools of the trades, but they expand into the realm of artistic, design-driven innovation. Courses on the historical, economic and social implications and context of new technologies flavor the course offerings. Bringing Media to Market, Story Sound & Motion, and Interactivity in Media Settings are just a few classes to whet the appetite. This more socially-based approach makes MSU’s program one of the best, we think, for entrepreneurial types who are interested in creating new media with diverse real world applications.

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Located in the college town of East Lansing, Michigan State University is a powerhouse national university with all of the academic and organizational opportunities that you might expect. Internships, volunteering and some 200 study abroad programs are just a few of the things that many MSU students take advantage of.

Current Tuition: $12,203 in-state; $31,148 out-of-state

9.  Art Institutes International of Minnesota- Minneapolis, MN. The Art Institute (AI) of Minnesota is one of a select few that stands out for animation students thanks to the sheer variety of programs and courses offered on its campus. With a Bachelor of Science offered in Media Arts & Animation, Visual Effects & Motion Graphics, Digital Film & Video Production, and Web Design & Interactive Media along with a slew of A.A. degrees, it’s little wonder that many budding artists hone in on AI-Minnesota from the get-go. Unlike traditional four year colleges, AI students don’t spend time learning outside of their desired program for better and for worse.

Unlike other schools, many AI students are not fresh out of high school. There are plenty of opportunities for them that may not readily be found elsewhere. Many find placement within the digital industries given their tailored ability to get up and running in the production pipeline. Steep tuition rates are to be found at all Art Institute locations, but the proprietary school also features considerable career counseling services, portfolio fairs and considerable tech resources and equipment which it prides itself on. This is a great program for the self-starting type eager to tackle the opportunities presented.

Current Tuition: $23,088 full-time

88.  Bowling Green State University- Bowling Green, OH. Boasting one of the nation’s largest Digital Arts program, Bowling Green is noted for the ambitious scope of its digital areas of study that include animation. Drawing undergraduates and graduate students alike from incredibly diverse fields of study (175 majors to be exact), tracks are available in Computer Animation & Video, Imaging, and Interactive Multimedia. BFA students develop their creative voices and narrative skills while taking a multitude of digital imaging, modeling, 3D animation and effects courses. Additionally, interesting industry-related classes in subjects such as professional practices and presentation dot most semester catalogs. Senior year students draw from their cumulative education and put their new skills to work in the studio course.

A large national university, Bowling Green State University is a public institution with attractive tuition for in-state residents and all the bells and whistles that one might expect from a large institution. The Digital Arts programs, for all intents and purposes, have retained a more intimate feel that encourages close collaboration and networking among students, faculty and industry. Student life is active for animation students, who participate in SIGGRAPH along with a variety of film festivals.

Current Tuition: $10,520 in-state; $17,828 out-of-state

7.  DePaul University- Chicago, IL. DePaul is one of these universities that seem to have hit the mother lode for prospective animation students interested, in particular, in game animation. With a B.S. in Animation that encompasses cross-disciplinary courses in game production and development, the university also boasts bachelor programs in Digital Cinema and Interactive & Social Media. Unlike most animation programs, DePaul has taken a refreshing perspective on the art of animation and its many applications outside of the cinema industry. A slew of 3D coursework, much of which can be tailored for a gaming focus, is enough to make you salivate if you’re anxious to embark on game-changing 3D technology.

It’s all thanks to DePaul’s Game Dev programs which include Game Design, Systems Programming and Gameplay Programming degrees. An offshoot of the university’s well established Computer Science department, students learn the intricacies of design and programming alongside the likes of courses in project management and business that ensure they have what it takes in a competitive industry. Students round out their degree with a senior year capstone project, armed with an arsenal of projects to show for their hard work. And with many game industry execs visiting classes and offering advice, it generally isn’t too long before new grads find great gigs.

Current Tuition: $32,295 full-time undergraduate


6.6. 
University of Illinois at ChicagoChicago, IL. Another Chicago school to make our list, the University of Illinois’s School of Art & Design plays home to several high caliber programs that are worthy of a closer look. Emphasis on critical aesthetic is inculcated early on, with all first-year students participating in foundational coursework that culminates in an all-school portfolio review before gaining acceptance to one of the school’s tracks. The BFA in Moving Image is a broadly-based program focusing on the processes, methods and applications of electronic media and animation.

A New Media Arts program is similarly compelling, though not always open to undergraduate admission. New Media Arts students leverage CG to find their unique creative expression and put their 3D skills to use in conjunction with their artistic voice.  Along with the undergraduate degrees, UIC’s School of Art & Design is home to several globally-renowned MFA programs including Graphic Design. Thanks to the urban setting of one of the continent’s largest cities, students have ready access to top notch faculty members, local events, internships and job opportunities.

Current Tuition: $13,050 in-state; $25,440 out-of-state

5.  University of Nebraska at Lincoln- Lincoln, NB. It may seem unlikely that the land of corn and football harbors an exciting new media department, but with Johnny Carson as one of its legendary alums and benefactors, UNL boasts a premier film department smack in the middle of the country. The compelling Film and New Media program is virtually tailored to each student whether they want to concentrate on CG, stop motion or any number of other areas. You won’t find any pigeon-holing going on in this department- a diverse array of liberal arts studies combined with one-on-one projects creates what some believe to be one of the nation’s best kept secrets.

The program is taking hold thanks in no small part to the university’s supercomputer, an in-the-making $80M Innovation Campus and a talented CG artist-turned professor with considerable experience. A strong emphasis on production is a key attribute of the program, as well as the close collaboration with the theater department. Of course, students also have access to those Cornhusker football games, not to mention the broad array of minors and courses at this national university.

Current Tuition: $8,068 in-state; $20,968 out-of-state

More: Read our recent Q&A with Assistant Professor Steve Kolbe!

4.  Cleveland State University- Cleveland, OH. Combining visual effects with the craft film making, CSU’s Film & Digital Media major offers another unique curriculum that makes our list in the Midwest. Focused on the production end of the spectrum, the program seeks to create digital film makers ready to tackle any challenge. The Digital Media track addresses all of the ins and outs of the intricate digital landscape that we live in. Students take coursework in video and audio production, editing, project management and media programming.

The Digital Communication Center is just one of many unique attributes that the campus boasts, with a television studio, digital servers and video editing workstations sure to please. Located in downtown Cleveland, many Digital Media students find ample internship and job opportunities, as well.

Current Tuition: $9,289 in-state; $12, 411 out-of-state

3.  Columbus College of Art & Design- Looking for a strong program that stresses the craft of animation while offering small class sizes with one-on-one time with faculty? Set virtually across the street from the looming Ohio State University, art students flock to Columbus College of Art & Design (in small numbers, of course) for its tried, tested and true approach to animation and its small setting. But there’s nothing small about the sights of its animation department, which has a compellingly long list of veteran faculty members and an enviable roster of working alumni.

Foundational studies set new students on the path to tackle more nuanced approaches as they progress. An emphasis on narrative is a hallmark of CCAD’s animation program with ample coursework in prerequisite writing, literature and social sciences. Perhaps most uniquely for a school the size of CCAD are its affiliations with other universities and studios, allowing students to take credits at Ohio State University or spend a semester in New York perfecting their art.

Current Tuition: $29,222 full-time undergraduate

2.  The Ohio State University- Columbus, OH. The Ohio State University’s Advanced Computing Center for the Arts & Design (ACCAD) is home to some of the most innovative and promising digital artists, many of whom are graduate students. That’s because ACCAD is a non-degree offering program that allows current OSU grad (and a few of the best undergrad) students to study the craft of animation vis-à-vis their area of interest. This multidisciplinary approach allows for a refreshingly full range of student work in conjunction with their degree program. ACCAD leverages technology to advance art and utilizes a full suite of software and hardware to do so. Much of the student work is experimental in form, though the nuts and bolts of the program are the hands-on approach to research projects.

Given the tremendous potential of ACCAD students and the eagerness of many undergraduates to embark on similar studies, the university’s art department offers its own compelling BFA in Art & Technology. Not to be overlooked, the program features an incredibly compelling array of courses in traditional and 3D art and animation, internet art, animatronics, game art and much more. In addition, all students have access to some of the finest classes offered anywhere thanks to the university’s prominent role as a venerable public institution. OSU consistently ranks high nationally and offers a high value education for in-state residents in particular.

Current Tuition undergraduate: $10,037 in-state; $25,445 out-of-state.

1.  Minneapolis College of Art & Design- Minneapolis, MN. The idea is simple enough: artists with a strong foundation in traditional, hand-drawn techniques make for better animators- even in a CG environment. Yet finding a school that devotes so much attention to the 2D arts is not easy to come by everywhere. At a time when many animation programs decided to focus more on the latest (and ever-changing) tools and technologies of the trade, MCAD and a few others have held steady to the belief that a good artist is a good artist, no matter what their medium of choice.

To start, applicants are carefully screened for their artistic capabilities. Then, the school utilizes a foundational studies curriculum that graduates to more nuanced art and design concepts through each of the four year BFA. The Animation program is all-encompassing and general- meaning that students take both 2D and 3D courses from storyboard and sound to life drawing and stop motion. Internships and professional practice coursework (i.e. getting your reel up to date and learning how to market your assets) add the final element to MCAD’s well-rounded approach to animation education. The program seems to work incredibly well for graduates, many of whom can be found working for some the biggest CG and game studios around.

Current Tuition: $31,650 full-time undergraduates