Although Illinois is home to several other growing cities including Aurora (Pop. 197,899),Rockford (pop. 152,871), Joliet (pop. 147,433), and Naperville (pop. 141,853 and one of CNNMoney’s “Best Places to Live”), just about everything that’s “big” happens in Chicago. With a population of nearly 2.7 million, the city sets the tone and trends that every other aspiring Mid- western city follows. Not only this, but Chicago is home to a thriving art and culture scene that rivals most other larger cities throughout the U.S.
For starters, the Windy City is home to one of the top Art Museums (and schools) in the world— The Art Institute of Chicago. Other top Chicago schools for artists and designers include Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy, Columbia College, and The American Academy of Art. Besides an aggressive art and culture scene and top tier art and design schools, Chicago is an urban oasis that offers inspiration at every turn. The city is filled with some of the most famous skyscrapers in the world including Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) and the John Hancock Center. It also has one of the largest high-end shopping districts in the country (The Magnificent Mile), and the skyline is considered one of the longest and most beautiful in the world.
Fortunately, many of the city’s learning institutions are located in Downtown Chicago (near the Magnificent Mile) and along the scenic Lakefront. A number of other schools for artists and designers can also be found across the Prairie State, from Champaign to Springfield.
Illinois Graphic Design Schools
Illinois is home to a number of art schools and traditional colleges that offer Graphic Design programs. Some offer 2-year programs, while others offer 4-year programs that may lead to a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Fine Arts. Several schools also offer an advanced degree in Graphic Design. These programs help students develop the skills needed to enter the competitive world of Graphic Design. This career field is very active in Chicago where the advertising industry is one of the largest and most progressive in the country. Scroll through the list below to review some of the best Graphic Design schools in Illinois and what they have to offer.
University of Illinois at Urbana - Degrees Offered: B. F. A. Graphic Design, New Media; M. F. A. Art and Design with Concentration in Graphic Design, M. F. A. Studio with Concentration in New Media
Eastern Illinois University - Degrees Offered: B. F. A. Graphic Design
Columbia College - Degrees Offered: B. F. A. Graphic Design, Illustration; B. A., B. F. A. Interactive Arts and Media; B. A. Art and Design; B. A. Film and Video with Animation (Traditional or Computer) Concentration; B. A. Game Design with Concentration in Game Art, Game Development, Programming or Game Sound
DePaul University - Degrees Offered: B. F. A. Graphic Design; M. S. Computer Game
Development, Computer Graphics and Motion Technology; B. A./B. S. Animation; B. A. Art, Media and Design with Concentration in Art and Design or Media Arts; B. S. Computer Game Development, Computer Graphics and Motion Technology
School of the Art Institute of Chicago - Degrees Offered: B. F. A. with departmental orinterdisciplinary emphasis; SAIC departments include Animation, New Media, and Visual Communication Design (similar curriculum to Graphic Design); M. F. A. Visual Communication
University of Illinois at Chicago - Degrees Offered: Graphic Design; M. F. A. Graphic Design, New Media Arts; M. F. A. Electronic Visualization
Illinois State University - Degrees Offered: B. A., B. S., B. F. A. Graphic Design
Western Illinois University - Degrees Offered: B. F. A. Art with Emphasis in Graphic Design; B. S. Instructional Simulation and Gaming
Bradley University - Degrees Offered: B. A., B. S., B. F. A. Art with Concentration in Graphic Design; B. A., B. S. Interactive Media with Concentration in Animation and Visual Effects, Game Design or Web and Application Design; M. A., M. F. A. Drawing/Illustration, Visual Communications and Design
University of Illinois, Springfield - Degrees Offered: B. A. Visual Arts (students may choose an option, such as Graphic Design)
Employment and Salary Trends for Illinois Graphic Designers
Illinois is home to nearly 10,000 graphic designers working in advertising, web design, public relations, and many other industries. In 2010, the state was home to approximately 9,870 salaried graphic designers, up from 9,240 in 2006. Salaries are on the rise as well. In 2006, Chicago graphic designers averaged $46,060. In 2010, they averaged $51,220.
As of 2010, the mean annual wage for graphic designers nationwide was $48,140 per year. The lowest paid graphic designers earned less than $26,110 (median), and the highest 10 percent earned more than $74,660 (median). The middle 50 percent earned between $32,600 and $56,620 (median). It is important to keep in mind that hundreds of Chicago designers work as independent contractors or they are self-employed. Salaries for these individuals are typically more than the average salary.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, solo designers who freelanced or worked under contract reported median earnings of $57,000, while graphic designers with ownership or partnership interests in a firm or who are principals of the firm in some other capacity average $95,000 per year. The Bureau states that “senior designers, who may supervise junior staff or have some decision-making authority that reflects their knowledge of graphic design” earn a median salary of $60,000. “Design directors, the creative heads of design firms or in-house corporate design departments” average around $95,000 a year.