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Top 10 Graphic Design Schools and Colleges in the Southwest - 2016

Written by ACR StaffNovember 28, 2016
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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Our 2016 list of the Top 10 Graphic Design School Programs in the Southwest. For an explanation of our ranking criteria, click here.

1. Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona (Top 2% of schools considered)

Arizona State University (ASU) was founded in 1885 and it is home to more than 82,000 students (2014) enrolled in over 290 academic undergraduate programs and hundreds of graduate programs across 17 colleges and schools. The ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts houses the Design School, which offers programs in the areas of Architecture, Environmental Design, Industrial Design, Interior Design, Landscape Architecture, Urban Design and Visual Communication Design (Graphic Design). 

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Visual Communication Design (VCD) options include a BSD in Graphic Design, an MSD with a Concentration in Visual Communication Design (VCD MSD), and a Master of Visual Communication Design (MVCD). The MVCD has two options—a two-year studio-based program designed for students with a degree in VCD or Graphic Design and a 3+ program designed to be a first professional degree for those students who do not have an undergraduate degree in VCD or Graphic Design. The undergraduate program allows students to work on projects in the areas of Information Design, Interaction Design, Exhibition Design, Animation, Motion Graphics, Branding, Publication Design, Web Design, Interface Design and multiple contemporary facets of sensorial design. 

2. University of North Texas, Denton, Texas (Top 5% of schools considered)

University of North Texas (UNT) was founded in 1890 and it is home to 37,000 students enrolled in 100 bachelors, 83 masters, and 37 doctoral degree programs across 11 colleges and schools. The Design Department of the College of Visual Arts & Design houses the Communication Design Program. Degree options include a BFA, MA, and MFA in Communication Design. The 36 credit hour Master of Arts in Design and the 60 credit-hour Master of Fine Arts in Design are both taught as concentrations in Design Research. 

The BFA program covers the basic principles of design, image making, color theory and typography. It is also designed to “help students learn to be effective conceptual thinkers and, most importantly, creative problem solvers in the disciplines of Advertising and of Graphic Design.” Students in all Graphic Design programs have the opportunity to complete an internship, study abroad, and access “valuable resources” consisting of over 1,000 reference books, magazines and paper/print samples of photography, illustration, typography, graphic design and advertising. 

3. University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona (Top 5% of schools considered)

Established in 1885, the University of Arizona (UA) is home to more than 42,000 students enrolled in more than 300 undergraduate and graduate degree programs across 20 colleges, 11 schools, and three campuses. The College of Fine Arts, School of Arts offers several programs for aspiring graphic designers including a BFA in Studio Art (2-D, 3-D, Photography, Visual Communication) and an MFA in Studio Art-Visual Communications. Other options include BFA and MFA degrees in Studio Art with an Emphasis in Illustration + Design. 

4. Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas (Top 5% of schools considered)

Texas State University was authorized by the Texas legislature in 1899. It is home to 38,849 students enrolled in 98 bachelors, 90 masters and 12 doctoral degree programs through nine academic colleges. The College of Fine Arts & Communication houses the School of Art and Design, which offers several programs for aspiring graphic designers. Options include BFA and MFA degrees in Communication Design. 

Considered one of the largest public programs in the country, the Communication Design Program (undergraduate) allows students to pursue interests within four areas of professional study: Graphic Design, Art Direction, Interactive Media, and Illustration. The graduate program is designed to provide advanced study in the areas of Corporate Advertising, Art Direction, Graphic Design, and Digital Media Design. 

Per the school, students and graduates of the program have received recognition in design journals by having their work published in CMYK, Step Inside Design, Graphis New Talent Annual, and PRINT, and they have also received recognition in competitions such as The One Show, American Advertising Federation Awards, National DSVC Student Show, Creative Summit, Art Director's Club of Houston, Austin Addy Awards, and San Antonio Addy Awards. 

5. University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas (Top 10% of schools considered)

The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) opened in 1883. It is home to 50,950 students enrolled in more than 500 degree programs and fields of study across 18 colleges and schools. The College of Fine Arts, Department of Art and Art History, offers BA, BFA and MFA degrees in Design, and a BFA in Visual Studies. All students have the opportunity to participate in the internship program, which may include working at major companies with offices in the Austin area. Just a few include Google, Dell, IBM, Apple, Samsung, Frog, Pentagram, EA Games, and more. 

6. Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah (Top 10% of schools considered)

Founded in 1875, Brigham Young University (BYU) is home to 32,615 students enrolled in more than 380 undergraduate majors and minors, master’s programs and doctorate programs. The school houses dozens of colleges, schools, and departments that offer everything from Accounting to Visual Communications. The College of Fine Arts and Communications is home to 3,655 students enrolled in programs in the Department of Art, the School of Communications, the Department of Dance, the Department of Design, the School of Music, and the Department of Theater and Media Arts. 

Programs for aspiring graphic designers can be found in several departments and schools. Options include BA and BFA degrees in Graphic Design, and Minors in Design or Advertising Design in the Department of Design and a BFA in Art with a Focus in New Genres or Printmaking in the Department of Art. Other areas of study include Interaction Design, Motion Design, Visual Development, and Branding. 

7. University of Houston, Houston, Texas (Top 10% of schools considered)

Founded in 1927, the University of Houston (UH) is home to 40,914 students enrolled in more than 300 academic programs across 12 colleges and the UH Law Center. The College of Arts, School of Art, offers several programs for aspiring graphic designers. Options include and a BFA in Graphic Design, an MFA in Studio Arts with a Concentration in Graphic Design, and a Minor in Studio Arts. All design students have access to the school’s large internship program, which highlights jobs with both national and international companies. Students may also study abroad in dozens of countries around the world. 

8. University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, Texas (Top 10% of schools considered)

The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) was established in 1895 as Arlington College. The school is home to 37,008 students from every state and 100 countries, and it offers more than 180 degree programs across 10 colleges and schools. Programs for aspiring graphic designers are offered in the College of Liberal Arts, Department of Art & Art History. Options include a BFA in Visual Communication Design (Graphic Design, Web and App Design, Illustration, Packaging, Gaming) and an MFA in Visual Communications. With more than 300 students enrolled, the Visual Communication Program is the largest in the Art and Art History Department. 

9. Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma (Top 15% of schools considered)

Established in 1890 as Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College (OAMC) with just a few students, Oklahoma State University (OSU) is home to more than 35,000 students across its five-campus system and more than 24,000 on its combined Stillwater and Tulsa campuses. Students are from all 50 states and around 120 nations. The school offers more than 200 programs across 10 colleges and schools. The College of Arts and Sciences houses the Department of Art, Graphic Design and Art History, which offers an MFA in Graphic Design. 

The OSU MFA in Program in Graphic Design offers the terminal degree in this discipline required to teach at the university level. Primary focus areas include Interaction Design (IxD, User Experience Design, or UX Design), Motion Design (Motion Graphics) and Visual Communications. Sample graduate courses include Graphic Design Graduate Studio, Motion Design Graduate Studio, Interaction Design Graduate Studio, Teaching Practicum, Off-campus Summer Internship, and Graduate Seminar. 

10. Baylor University, Waco, Texas (Top 15% of schools considered)

Baylor University was established in 1842. It has a total enrollment of 16,959 students enrolled in 142 undergraduate degree programs, 75 master's programs, and 42 doctoral programs across 12 colleges and schools. The College of Arts & Sciences, Department of Art offers a Graphic Design Emphasis within the Studio Art Major. Per the Department, the program, which leads to a BFA in Studio Art – Graphic Design, “offers students the opportunity to develop their hand and aesthetic skills, and conceptual development.”

Students in the program will take liberal arts courses, visual arts courses, and marketing courses, and an optional internship is also on the menu. Per the Department, “graduates have gone on to work in design studios and major advertising agencies and some have also started design studios and advertising agencies of their own.”