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Animation. Graphic Design. Game Art.

Illustration Schools in Illinois

Written by ACR StaffSeptember 24, 2015
Did You Know.....Full Sail University offers online degree programs in computer animation, game art, and game design? Learn more about Full Sail University's online programs.
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The State of Illinois is no stranger to firsts. The world’s first skyscraper was built in Chicago and Des Plaines, Illinois is home to the world’s very first 'McDonald’s'. The state is home to one of the world’s largest public libraries, and one of the world’s largest shopping districts—Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. Ok, so Illinois is home to lots of big things, but when it comes to education, the list gets even bigger. 

Illinois is home to one of the top five universities in the nation—the University of Chicago and a top 15 school—Northwestern University. The state is home to 181 Title IV degree-granting colleges and universities and many offer top-tier art and design programs. Just a few include the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), Columbia College and the Illinois Institute of Art. Aspiring illustrators can earn anything from a Certificate to an MFA in Drawing or Illustration.

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Continue reading to find out which Illinois schools offer illustration programs and where you can find them.

Illinois Illustration Schools

Illinois is home to several schools that offer a degree in illustration or drawing or a concentration/focus in illustration. Some popular options include:

Columbia College - Degrees Offered: BA/BFA Illustration

International School of Comics – Degrees Offered: Three-Year Programs in Illustration, Comics.

School of the Art Institute of Chicago – Degrees Offered: Certificate Illustration, Drawing

The Illinois Institute of Art – Degrees Offered: BFA Illustration and Design

Northern Illinois University - Degrees Offered: BFA Illustration, Time Arts, MFA Studio Art – Design, Time Arts

Illinois State University - Degrees Offered: BA/BS Studio Arts with a Specialization in Drawing

Bradley University - Degrees Offered: MA, MFA Drawing/Illustration

More Illinois Schools with Illustration related programs:  

Employment and Salary Trends for Illinois Illustrators

Illinois is home to 66,830 professionals working in Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media (ADESM) occupations. In 2013, the state was home to 69,530. Despite a dip in population, Illinois is still home to more professionals in this field than most states. In addition, salaries have increased. In 2013, ADESM professionals averaged $50,020 per year. Today the average salary is $54,690 per year.

Fine artists (painters, sculptors, and illustrators) are part of the ADESM group. Illinois is home to 320 salaried fine artists averaging $55,860 per year, up from $49,400 in 2013, when the state was home to 400 fine artists. Nationwide, the median annual wage for fine artists is $43,890. The highest earners average $92,400 per year and the lowest average $18,260 per year.  Employment for fine artists overall is projected to grow four percent for the 2012-2022 decade.

It is important to note that salaries and employment levels vary by industry, location, and more. For example, the Chicago-Joliet-Naperville Metropolitan Division has the nation’s sixth highest employment level for fine artists (among metro areas nationwide). At $58,710 per year (average), the Chicago-Joliet-Naperville area is number nine on the list of the nation’s top paying metro areas for fine artists.

The top five industries with the highest levels of employment for illustrators are:

  1. Independent Artists, Writers, and Performers (average $43,390 per year)           
  2. Motion Picture and Video Industries ($66,210)
  3. Other Miscellaneous Store Retailers ($36,200)
  4. Newspaper, Periodical, Book, and Directory Publishers ($57,770)
  5. Software Publishers ($94,680)

Illinois is home to a wide variety of employers in these industries such as Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing (Evanston), Cinespace Chicago Film Studios, Shatterglass Studios (Chicago, Champaign), Tribune Company (Chicago), and Barnes & Noble/Sterling Publishing (Skokie). Although not listed, advertising offers plenty of opportunities for illustrators as well. Fortunately, Chicago is home to some of the top creative agencies in the world such as DDB Chicago, Leo Burnett, Ogilvy & Mather, Y&R, and Cramer-Krasselt. Razorfish, Draft FCB, and Burrell Communications are other options.

Awesome Animation Fact: Bugs Bunny was popular during World War II because of his free and easy attitude, and began receiving special star billing in his cartoons by 1943. By that time, Warner Bros. was the most profitable cartoon studio in the United States. Like other cartoon studios, such as Disney and Famous Studios had been doing, WB put Bugs in opposition to the period’s biggest enemies: Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and the Japanese. The 1944 short “Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips” features Bugs at odds with a group of Japanese soldiers. This cartoon has since been pulled from distribution due to its racial stereotypes. –Facts ‘O Fun, A.J. Kovitz