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Top 20 Animation and Game Design Schools in the Midwest
We define the Midwest as Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota.
For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.
1. Columbia College Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Columbia College Chicago was established in 1890 as the Columbia School of Oratory. When it opened, the school offered study in the areas of Elocution, English, Literature, Visible Speech, and Voice Culture. Today, the school offers more than 120 programs to 12,000+ students.
Located in the South Loop neighborhood of Chicago, among celebrated art museums and skyscrapers, artsy Millennium Park and tony Magnificent Mile, Columbia College Chicago is recognized as a “pioneer in arts and media education.” The school’s game design and animation programs have the same stellar reputation in both the academic sector and the world of gaming entertainment.
Columbia College of Chicago offers several programs for aspiring animators and game designers, along with a large assortment of related programs. The school offers a BA/BS in Game Programming and a BA in Game Design with concentrations in Game Development, Game Art, and Game Sound Design. Related programs include a BA/BFA in Interactive Arts Media (IAM), and a BA in Mobile Media Programming.
Aspiring animators typically opt for the BFA in Computer Animation or the BFA in Traditional Animation. The school also offers a Motion Graphics Minor. Related programs for aspiring animators include a BA in Film and Video, a BFA in Illustration, and MFA degrees in Film and Video-Cinema Directing, and Film and Video-Creative Producing. A BFA in Graphic Design is also available.
Columbia’s game design and related programs may pave the way to a position at some of the industries top companies. Graduates have found employment at Dreamation, Havas Worldwide Chicago, Jellyvision, RedEye Studios, Razorfish, Liquid Generation, and WMS Gaming. Internship opportunities run the gamut from the Museum of Science and Industry and the Mayor’s office to interactive agencies such as Rise Interactive. Every year for the past 4-5 years Animation Program graduates have received internships at Nickelodeon studios (4 went on to full-time positions), and are also working at Disney, Warner Brothers Animation, and Pixar on the west coast. Another has just joined WETA.
2. Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) opened in 1886 as the Minneapolis School of Fine Arts. When it opened, the school was housed in a rented downtown Minneapolis apartment and it was home to just a few students. By 1889, the school had welcomed its first president, Douglas Volk, "an accomplished portrait painter who studied with Jean-Léon Gérôme," and it relocated to a bigger space on the top floor of the Minneapolis Public Library.
Today, MCAD sits on a seven acre shared arts campus, just south of downtown Minneapolis. The campus is also home to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Children's Theatre Company. The school has a student body of nearly 800 students, and it offers Bachelor of Fine Arts, Bachelor of Science, and Master of Fine Arts Degrees as well as several Certificate programs.
Minneapolis College of Art and Design offers some of the regions top programs for aspiring animators. Animators may choose the BFA or BS in Animation, Comic Art, Filmmaking, Graphic Design, Illustration, or Web and Multimedia Environments. A MFA program is also offered in the following areas of study: Animation, Comic Art, Drawing, Filmmaking, Graphic Design, Illustration, and Web and Multimedia Environments.
Aspiring game designers may consider MCAD’s BFA in Web and Multimedia Environments or the Online Certificate in Interactive Design and Marketing. MCAD also offers Certificate programs in Graphic Design, Studio Art, and Sustainable Design. Students in both the animation and related game design programs also have access to MCAD DesignWorks and a number of local and nationwide internship opportunities.
MCAD DesignWorks is an “in-house, on-campus design studio committed to providing MCAD students with client-based experiences in a professional creative environment.” Graduates have completed internships at Nickelodeon, MTV, Ogilvy & Mather, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, and more.
3. Dakota State University, Madison, South Dakota
Dakota State University (DSU) was founded in 1881 as the Dakota Territory's first teacher education institution. Today, this public institution specializes in computer technology and it is listed in Yahoo Magazine as one of the 100 most wired universities in the U.S. According to the most recent figures, DSU is home to more than 3,100 students (in a municipality of just 6,500 residents), and it ranked number one in the category of Top Public Baccalaureate Colleges in the Midwest region by U.S. News & World Report.
Dakota State University offers a wide variety of degree, certificate, and minor programs for game designers and animators. The school offers a BS in Computer Game Design, Computer Science, and Digital Arts and Design (DAD) with specializations in Production Animation, Computer Graphics, Digital Storytelling, and Web Design and Production. Certificate program offerings include Multimedia, Multimedia Design and Production, and Web Design and Development, and Web Application Development. Minors include Computer Graphics, Computer Science, Digital Editing, Multimedia/Web Design, and Art.
In April 2013, the school approved two new minors—the Production Animation 2D Minor and Production Animation 3D Minor. The minors "provide students with the skills necessary to produce professional-quality animation/motion graphics for numerous digital arts and design industry applications." These programs may also enhance specializations within the Digital Arts and Design major (as listed), and the Computer Game Design, English for New Media, and Marketing majors.
4. DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois
DePaul University was founded in 1898 by the Congregation of the Mission religious community. With nearly 25,000 students enrolled, DePaul University is one of the nations 10 largest private universities and the nation’s largest Catholic University. The school, which offers nearly 300 undergraduate majors and graduate programs, made the list of “Great Schools for 15 of the Most Popular Undergraduate Majors” by Princeton Review (2010), and it offers several top-tier majors for aspiring game designers.
DePaul’s College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM), School of Cinema and Interactive Media offers a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Computer Game Development with a Gameplay Programming or Game Design Concentration, a BS in Animation with a Game Art Concentration and BS degrees in Digital Cinema and Interactive and Social Media. The School also offers a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Animation and in Digital Cinema, as well as a BFA in Graphic Design. The Graphic Design program offers courses in Animation, Interactive Media, Motion Graphics, Digital illustration, Drawing, Semiotics and Visual Design, Production Design, and more.
Student’s interested in pursuing an advanced degree should consider the MS in Computer Game Development program, the MS in Cinema Production, the MA in Animation or the MA in Communication Media Arts. The school offers a Bachelor's/Master's of Animation degree program as well. This program allows students to complete a Bachelor's degree and a graduate degree in Animation in five years. To enhance the DePaul’s degree programs, students in good standing are eligible for a number of internship opportunities. Past internships include Disney, WMS Gaming, Arc Worldwide/Leo Burnett, Richter Studios, and Dailey Planet Ltd.
5. Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland, Ohio
Established in 1882 as the Western Reserve School of Design for Women, the Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) is an independent coed college of art and design. The school, which sits on a five-acre campus, is home to more than 525 students, enrolled in 16 majors. Although smaller than most traditional schools, the Cleveland Institute of Art campus offers some of the most unique (and private) studio spaces in the region.
Cleveland Institute of Art has a vast classroom/studio space, which is the former home of a Ford auto assembly factory. The space, named the Joseph McCullough Center for the Visual Arts (JMC), is now listed on the National Register of Historical Places in Ohio. With an abundance of studio space, CIA is “one of the only art and design schools to assign studio space in a student’s sophomore year.” In addition, students are guaranteed personal studio space until graduation.
CIA plans to expand its studio space by adding an interconnected building that will also house a state-of-the-art cinema. Besides an exceptional studio space, Cleveland Institute of Art offers a notable collection of programs for aspiring game designers and animators. CIA offers BFA degrees in Game Design, Animation, Illustration, Graphic Design, Video, and Drawing. The Game Design and Illustration programs are two of the school’s top five programs.
The Cleveland Institute of Art has been accredited by several major agencies—one of a select number of independent art and design schools with multiple accreditations. The school holds accreditation by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, and the Ohio Board of Regents. The school is also a member of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD).
6. Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio
Founded in 1910, Bowling Green State University (BGSU) was named one of the top public universities nationwide, with a strong commitment to first-year programs that lead to success, by U.S. News and World Report. Located just 25 miles from Toledo—the state’s fourth largest city, this top school is home to more than 20,000 students, enrolled in more than 200 undergraduate majors and programs. The school, which sits on a 1,338-acre campus in a “park like” setting, has an additional campus—BGSU Firelands in Huron, Ohio. The second campus is home to around 2,000 students and offers everything from Aviation Studies to World Music.
Among the school’s unique collection of programs are a number of top-rated programs for aspiring game designers and animators. Offerings include a BA in Art with a Digital Arts specialization and a BFA in Digital Arts with a focus in Computer Animation & Video, Interactive Multimedia, or Imaging. The school also offers a BFA in Graphic Design and a BFA in 2D Studies with a focus in Painting and Drawing.
The School of Art at Bowling Green University offers a fine Study Abroad program that offers experiences in Ghana, Africa; Bali, Indonesia, and Florence, Italy. In Florence, students may study at BGSU's affiliated school—Studio Art Centers International (SACI). SACI is an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).
7. Lawrence Technological University, Southfield, Michigan
Established in 1932, Lawrence Technological University (Lawrence Tech or LTU) is the creation of Henry and Edsel Ford. The pair provided “guidance and space in their sprawling former Model T assembly plant for the fledgling school.” Today, Lawrence Tech sits on a 102-acre campus in the City of Southfield Michigan, and it is one of the nation’s top schools for applied technology, architecture, engineering, and science.
Ranked number 40 among regional universities by U.S. News & World Report, LTU is home to more than 3,000 students and it houses four colleges. The school offers more than 50 academic programs, including several top programs for aspiring game designers. The College of Architecture and Design, Department of Art + Design offers BA and BFA degree programs in Game Art, a BFA in Interaction Design, and a BFA in Graphic Design. The College of Arts & Sciences offers a BS in Computer Science with a concentration in Game Software Development. The Computer Science major is one of the school’s most popular programs.
8. Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD) was incorporated in 1928. The school opened its doors in 1931 to just 35 art students. Today, the school is home to 1,419 students and it offers study in the areas of visual arts, design, art history, and art education. The school, which sits on a two-acre campus, offers around 20 undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs.
Kendall College of Art and Design has several offerings for individuals seeking a career in game design or animation. The school offers BFA degrees in Digital Media (with concentrations in 2D Animation, 3D Animation, Illustration, Interactive Design, and Motion Graphic Design), Fine Art (with a concentration in Drawing), Graphic Design, and Illustration. KCAD also offers a MFA degree with a concentration in Drawing. The most popular program for aspiring animators and game designers is the BFA in Digital Media.
The Digital Media program allows students to complete a portfolio in the areas of 2D Animation, 3D Animation, Digital Imaging, Interactive Design, and Video and Motion Graphics. Graduates will have the skills needed to enter the game, animation, film, and interactive media (web, mobile) industries, with titles such as Character Animator, Motion Graphics Animator, 3D Modeler/Animator, Effects Artist, Modeler, and more.
Kendall holds accreditation by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) and The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, as part of Ferris State University.
9. University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) was chartered in 1869 and is part of the University of Nebraska system. The system, which serves as the land grant and comprehensive public university for the state of Nebraska, consists of four campuses including Lincoln, Kearney, Omaha, and the Medical Center (also in Omaha), and five research and extension centers. The Lincoln, Nebraska campus sits on 622 acres and it is home to around 24,600 students.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln offers dozens of top programs for artists and designers from Design and Technical Theater to Textiles, Clothing, and Design. Aspiring game designers and animators typically choose the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) with a Film & New Media production emphasis (FNM). Offered through the coveted Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts, Johnny Carson School of Theater & Film, the BFA with a FNM emphasis has a wide variety of focus areas.
Focus areas include Computer Animation, Virtual Reality, Digital Media Content, New Media Design, Film Special Effects, Film and Digital Video Production and Post-Production, Screenwriting, and Website Design. UNL also offers a BA in Studio Art with an emphasis in Drawing or Graphic Design, as well as a BFA with an emphasis in Graphic Design or Painting/Drawing. Students have the option to study in one or two emphasis areas.
10. Ohio University, Athens, Ohio
Established in 1804, Ohio University was chartered in 1804 by the state of Ohio, making it the ninth oldest public university in the Northwest Territory. The school opened its doors in 1808 with three students, and awarded its first two Bachelor’s degrees in 1815. Today, Ohio University has a total enrollment of more than 36,000 students (all campuses), making it one of the largest universities in the U.S. The school, which sits on 1,774 acres, is home to 11 colleges.
Ohio University’s Scripps College of Communication, School of Media Arts & Studies
offers a top-tier program for aspiring animators and game designers. The BS in Communication features emphasis areas such as Games and Animation, Screenwriting and Producing, and Integrated Media. The Games and Animation emphasis is the number one choice for game designers and animators. Graduates typically pursue careers in game production and design, computer animation, and digital effects.
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