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Top 20 Animation and Game Design Schools on the East Coast
We define the East Coast as Virginia, Rhode Island, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.
For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.
1. Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island
According to The World's Best 25 Design Schools by Business Insider Rhode Island School of Design (RISD or “RIZ-dee”) is the best school in the world for design. It is also the second best school in the nation for Fine Arts, according to U.S. News & World Report. Established in 1877, RISD is home to The Fleet Library at RISD, which houses 150,000 volumes of art, design, architecture, and photography. The campus is also home to the Museum of Art, which houses 86,000 works of fine and decorative art from ancient times to the present, and the Nature Lab, which consists of more than 80,000 natural history objects.
In addition to a lively campus filled with art venues and more, this private, co-educational college is home to more than 2,300 students, enrolled in 32 undergraduate and graduate programs. The school, which sits on 30+ acres, offers a number of degrees and related degrees for aspiring animators and game artists. While the school’s most popular majors are Illustration, Industrial Design, Architecture, and Graphic Design, the BFA in Film/Animation/Video (FAV) is well respected in the world of animation and game art. In addition to the BFA in FAV, Rhode Island School of Design offers an excellent game design program for young adults.
The program, which is open to middle and high school students ages 12-17, allows students to receive a certificate before graduating from high school. Certificate holders typically enroll in the BFA in Film/Animation/Video (FAV) after graduating from high school. The BFA in FAV + Game Design Certificate may enhance your career opportunities and earning potential. Related degree programs include the BFA Illustration (IL), the MFA in Digital + Media (DM), and the BFA in Graphic Design (GD), which ranks number one in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
Regardless of major, students may participate in RISD’s coveted Study Abroad program. Semester-long experiences are available at 45 participating institutions in 26 countries. Past destinations include Bali, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Copenhagen, Rome, Ghana, Japan, New Zealand, Scotland, Cuba, Switzerland, and Russia.
2. Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York
The Pratt Institute welcomed its first class of just 12 students in 1887. By fall 1888, enrollment had increased to a whopping 1,500 students. Today, the school is number six on the list of The World's Best 25 Design Schools by Business Insider, and it is home to more than 4,600 students from 46 states and 78 foreign countries. Pratt Institute offers more than 60 programs (up from a single drawing program in 1887), throughout five schools.
Located on two campuses (Brooklyn, 25 acres and Manhattan, 80,000 square feet) are the Schools of Art and Design, Architecture, Information and Library Science, Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Continuing and Professional Studies. The School of Art and Design offers Associate of Applied Science (AAS), Associate of Occupational Studies (AOS), and Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degrees in 22 areas of study. The Graduate School of Art and Design offers Master of Fine Arts (MFA) and Master of Science (MS) degrees in 25 areas of study. The Graduate School also offers seven double-degree programs.
Aspiring game designers and animators will find an endless number of top-tier programs to choose from at all levels. Offerings include BFA/MFA degrees in Animation (2D and 3D), Interactive Arts, Digital Design, Digital Arts, Drawing, Motion Design, Graphic Design, and Web Design. The school offers BFA degrees only in Film & Video and Illustration, and MFA degrees only in Digital Imaging and Interaction Design.
Students interested in a shorter path should consider Pratt’s 2-year AAS and AOS programs. Offerings include Graphic Design/Illustration (AAS/AOS), Painting/Drawing (AAS), Digital Design & Interactive Media (AOS), and AOS degrees in Graphic Design and Illustration. Graduates of The Pratt Institute School of Art and Design can be found working at major studios such as Disney Animation, Sony Imageworks, DreamWorks, Digital Domain, Rhythm and Hues, and Cartoon Network.
3. Parsons The New School for Design, New York, New York
Founded in 1896, Parsons The New School for Design is considered one of the world’s top design schools. The School holds the number 36 spot in U.S. News & World Report's Fine Arts School Rankings; the Multimedia/Visual Communications program ranks number 8, and the Graphic Design program ranks number 10. Parson’s game design programs are also highly regarded in the academic world and the entertainment industry.
Home to around 5,000 students, five schools, and a large continuing studies division, Parsons offers a BFA and a MFA in Design & Technology with a Game Design focus. Program highlights include paid summer internships at some of New York’s top design and technology firms, Study Abroad opportunities at the Paris campus (est. 1921), and the Visiting Artists Series. All students are eligible to take seasonal courses or study for a semester or even a year in Paris. The Design & Technology with a Game Design focus is offered through the School of Art, Media, and Technology (AMT).
AMT also offers a BFA in Art, Media, and Technology where students can study Game Design, Illustration, and Visual Arts, and a BFA in Communication Design with an Interactive Core. In this program, students may study Animation and Motion Graphics, Computer Graphics, Interface Design, Graphic/Communication Design, Illustration, and more. The BFA in Illustration also allows students to focus on Animation and Motion Graphics, Drawing, Visual Arts, and even Toy Design. AMT also offers an AAS in Graphic Design.
4. Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Founded in 1900, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) is a global research university that ranks number 22 in the world by Times Higher Education of London. The school, which also ranks number 15 in the world for Engineering and Technology, is home to more than 12,000 students. Carnegie Mellon’s main campus sits on 144 acres in Pittsburgh—“one of America’s Most Livable Cities,” and the school has campuses in Doha, Qatar and Silicon Valley (NASA Research Park, Moffet Field, CA). Students may also earn a degree through a number of CMU campuses around the world in places such as Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and Latin America.
Carnegie Mellon University is home to seven notable schools. Among them are the College of Fine Arts (CFA), the Carnegie Institute of Technology (CIT), and the School of Computer Science (SCS). The School of Computer Science and the College of Fine Arts co-sponsor several Game Design programs at CMU. Offerings include a Bachelor of Computer Science and Arts (BCSA) and a Masters of Entertainment Technology (M.E.T.).
The BCSA program prepares students to work in the Computer Animation, Game Design, and Robotic Art industries. The M.E.T. program at the Carnegie Mellon Entertainment Technology Center (ETC-Global) is the only program of its kind in the U.S. This unique two-year advanced program combines fine art, technology, and entrepreneurship with the help of the Donald. H. Jones Entrepreneurial Center within CMU’s Tepper School of Business. The MET is “considered a professional, terminal degree.”
Carnegie Mellon has yet another option for aspiring game designers and animators—the Master of Design in Interaction Design (IxD). This two-year professional degree program allows students to develop marketable skills in all areas of design. The program also offers access to sponsors such as Microsoft, Motorola, and Samsung, as well as a path to opportunities at companies such as Google, IDEO, Method, and Frog; Apple, Intel, and Nokia.
5. School of Visual Arts, New York, New York
The School of Visual Arts (SVA) was founded in 1947 as “Cartoonist and Illustrators School.” Today, the school ranks number 12 on Business Insider’s The World's Best 25 Design Schools, and it is home to more than 4,000 students, enrolled in 11 undergraduate and 21 graduate degree programs. Just a few offerings include Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degrees in Animation, Computer Animation & Visual Effects, Computer Art, Illustration, Film and Video, Graphic Design, Advertising, and Cartooning. SVA also offers MFA degrees in Interaction Design, Computer Art, and Video & Related Media, as well as a Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Short Film.
Graduates of the School of Visual Arts programs are entrepreneurs (Plympton, Titmouse and Augenblick studios are all alumni-owned), and many have gone on to work for renowned studios such as Lucasfilm Animation, Sony Pictures Animation, Disney Animation Studios, Blue Sky Studios, Nickelodeon, DreamWorks Animation SKG, and Warner Bros. Animation. Others have won “awards for their short and feature films,” from the Association of International Film Animators (ASIFA), The International Animation Festival, and the famed Academy of Motion Pictures.
6. New York University Tisch School of the Arts, New York, New York
New York University Tisch School of the Arts was established in 1965. Home to more than 4,000 students, Tisch is located in the heart of New York City’s historic Greenwich Village. The Tisch School of the Arts, which consists of three buildings and a campus in Asia (The School of the Arts Asia), offers several top-tier programs for aspiring animators and game designers.
The New York campus is home to the Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film and Television, the Institute of Performing Arts, the Skirball Center for New Media, the famous Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, and the Department of Art & Public Policy. The Skirball Center for New Media houses the NYU Game Center. Established in 2008, the NYU Game Center offers a 2-year Master of Fine Arts that “explores the design and development of games as a creative practice.” The program focuses on creating games and includes courses such as criticism, game design, programming, and visual design.
The Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film & Television offers a BA in Film & Television with an Animation Core. The Kanbar Institute and the NYU Stern School of Business also offer a joint MBA/MFA in Film. Students interested in attending the School of the Arts Asia will find an advanced degree (MFA) in Animation & Digital Arts, along with a variety of valuable game design courses.
7. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania (UPenn or Penn) was founded in 1751 as The Academy of Philadelphia. The Academy, which was established by Benjamin Franklin, opened its doors in 1751. Within 14 years, the school had established the nation's first medical school and the first teaching hospital. In 1972, the school established the nation’s first law school. Today, UPenn consists of several campuses and facilities and it is home to nearly 25,000 students, enrolled in four undergraduate schools and 12 graduate and professional schools.
University of Pennsylvania campuses include the 302-acre west Philadelphia main campus, the 600-acre New Bolton Center, and the 92-acre Morris Arboretum. The main campus houses the Center for Human Modeling and Simulation (HMS), Department of Computer & Information Science. The Department offers a competitive Master's Degree program in Computer Graphics and Game Technology (CGGT).
The School of Engineering and Applied Science, in collaboration with UPenn’s Annenberg School for Communication and the School of Design, offers a BSE in Digital Media Design (DMD). This “elite BSE degree program” accepts a limited number of students. The Penn School of Design (PennDesign) also offers a Certificate in Time-Based and Interactive Media.
University of Pennsylvania alums have won a variety of awards and work with many of the world’s top studios. Nick Foster of PDI/DreamWorks ("Shrek"), and Cary Philips of Industrial Light and Magic Computer Graphics and Game Technology and in Digital Media Design programs have help graduates land jobs at Disney, Microsoft, Pixar Activision, DreamWorks, Blue Sky Entertainment, Electronic Arts, and Sony.
8. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York
Established in 1824 as the Rensselaer School, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) is America’s oldest technological research university. The school, which sits on a 275-acre hilltop campus overlooking the Hudson River, offers more than 145 programs at the Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral levels, including more than 100 degree programs in the areas of engineering and technology. RPI is home to around 7,000 students and it houses five schools including the Lally School of Management & Technology; Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences; Engineering; Science; and Architecture
The School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS) offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Offerings include BS degrees in Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences, Electronic Arts, and Electronic Media, Arts, & Communication. The School also offers MFA and PhD programs in Electronic Arts, and Certificates in Graphics and Communication Design. HASS also offers an Electronic Media, Arts, and Communication (EMAC) program.
The BS in Electronic Media, Arts, and Communication offers several concentrations for game design students including Digital Storytelling, Interaction Design, Marketing Communication & Design (includes interactive media study), and Sound Design. The Sound Design concentration includes sound design for computer games, animation, and films. The School also offers a competitive Game Design Studies Minor and the opportunity to select a Dual Major in EMAC and Computer Science.
Graduates of programs offered through the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS) work for a variety of top studios and companies. Just a few include DreamWorks Animation, Intellidemia, Environmental Data Resources (EDR), and WWE TV.
9. Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston, Massachusetts
Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) was established in 1873 as the Massachusetts Normal Art School. This independent, public college of art and design provides “rigorous professional programs in the visual arts, grounded in the broader context of liberal learning and designed to encourage individual creativity.” The school, which is home to 2,426 students, offers more than 30 Graduate and Undergraduate programs and several Certificate programs.
MassArt has several offerings for aspiring animators and game artists. Offerings include BFA degrees in Animation, Illustration, Film and Video, and Graphic Design. The school offers a MFA in Film and Video, and a Graphic Design Certificate. The Massachusetts College of Art and Design has an impressive Continuing Education department that has even more offerings for aspiring artists of all kinds.
The Continuing Education department offers more than “100 art and design classes and workshops on the MassArt campus in over twenty disciplines.” Classes and workshops are offered four times a year—Fall, Spring, Summer, and Winter intersession. Offerings include Animation, Computer Arts, Drawing, Film and Video, Film School, Graphic Design, Illustration, Web Design, and more.
10. Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, Maryland
Founded in 1826, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is the oldest continuously degree-granting college of art in the nation. It is also one of the nation’s top visual arts colleges. The school is listed among the 25 Best U.S. Design Schools by ID Magazine, and it ranked in the top 10 of MFA programs in Visual Arts, number three in Graphic Design, and number five in Painting/Drawing by U.S. News & World Report.
A “Best Northeastern College” for the past six years by Princeton Review, Maryland Institute College of Art is home to more than 2,000 graduate and undergraduate students, enrolled in more than 40 academic programs. Undergraduate students have access to 14 studio majors, two liberal arts majors, 13 studio concentrations, six liberal arts minors, and a variety of dual degree and 5th year capstone masters programs. Graduates students have 19 programs to choose from leading to the MFA, MA, MBA, MAT, and MPS and Post-baccalaureate Certificate.
Aspiring animators and game artists/designers have a number of BFA programs in the Interactive Arts Department to choose from. MICA offers BFA degrees in Animation, Drawing, Interaction Design and Art, Illustration, and Video and Film Arts. Studio Concentrations include Animation, Game Arts, Illustration, Interaction Design and Art, Graphic Design, Video and Film Arts, Sound Art, and Filmmaking.
Animation students “work in 2D hand-drawn animation, 3D computer imaging, stop-motion and history of animation and innovative combinations of these processes,” while Game Art students have two main areas of focus—Game Art and Game Design. Game Art courses will focus on “the conceptualization and production of game assets,” while Game Design courses will focus on “the theory and development of game systems.”
MICA graduates have the skills needed to pursue a position in the industry at some of the world’s top studios. MICA alums work with DreamWorks, Blue Sky Studio, Disney, Yahoo, Laika, MTV, and many others.
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