What are the top graphic design school programs in New York for 2021?

Top 10 New York Graphic Design Schools - 2021 College Rankings
1School of Visual ArtsNew York
2The New School’s Parsons School of DesignNew York
3Pratt InstituteBrooklyn
4Cooper UnionNew York
5Fashion Institute of TechnologyNew York
6Rochester Institute of TechnologyRochester
7Syracuse UniversitySyracuse
8State University of New York at New PaltzNew Paltz
9Russell Sage CollegeAlbany
10Queens CollegeQueens

Our 2021 ranking of the top graphic design school programs in New York. For an explanation of the ranking criteria, click here.

1. School of Visual Arts, New York, New York
School of Visual Arts

The School of Visual Arts (SVA) opened in 1947 with just three teachers and 35 students (mostly World War II veterans). Known as the Cartoonists and Illustrators school, the school employed New York City-based professionals working in the arts as faculty—a practice that continues today.

SVA currently serves 7,000 students enrolled in 31 programs. Offerings for aspiring graphic designers include a BFA in Design and a Design/Designer as Entrepreneur MFA. The BFA Program “is a multidisciplinary educational system in itself, offering separate majors that include Graphic Design, Motion Graphics, Interaction Design and 3D Design,” says the school.

The program can be further divided into package design, editorial design, information graphics, corporate identity, publication design, CD packaging, book jacket design, environmental design and website design. Other program highlights include intensive one-week workshops, exhibitions that are routinely covered by NBC, CBS. ABC, and CNN, competitions, enrollment in the AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Artists) and the Art Directors Club—two of the most prestigious design organizations in the country, industry review, and internships.

The Design/Designer as Entrepreneur MFA “inspires” students to conceive, produce, brand and market their own innovative content. Interaction, motion graphics, branding, and user experience are covered as well as typography as a visual language, video and new media directing, and art book and digital publishing. Students will also take classes in business, marketing, ethnography, strategy, research, advertising, promotion, intellectual property and networking.

The MFA program includes “advanced instruction in a variety of authoring skills, such as writing, editing, criticism, typography as a visual language, Film and new media directing, visual journalism and book and magazine publishing,” during the first year. Students will also take courses in marketing, research, advertising, promotion, publicity, intellectual property and networking. In the second year of the program, students will design and write a proposal for a product that will be presented to a panel of "guest faculty" who will decide whether it has enough merit to progress to the developmental stage. In this stage, “students will produce a prototype for backers, publishers, producers or distributors. Working individually, this final proposal, dummy or prototype will be professionally produced for presentation purposes.”

Graduate students will have access to the SVA MFA studios, open 24 hours a day and “designed to simulate an operational design/media firm with spacious workstations that allow for individual and collaborative work.”

Graduates of the SVA Graphic Design Programs have gone on to work for commercial and not-for-profit corporations, institutions and businesses. Many founded their own start-ups, design firms and studios. Some have become partners in businesses and individual projects. Graduates have started over 50 design studios around the globe.

2. The New School’s Parsons School of Design, New York, New York
The New School’s Parsons School of Design

The New School was founded in 1896 as The Chase School by American Impressionist William Merritt Chase. In 1904, Arts Educator Frank Alvah Parsons joined the school, later becoming its sole director. Between 1904 and 1910, parsons launched an Advertising Program, Costume Design and Interior Decoration.

Today, known as The New School/Parsons, this art and design college serves 5,100 students enrolled in 130 degree and diploma programs across five schools including the Schools of Art and Design History and Theory; Art, Media, and Technology (AMT); Constructed Environments; Design Strategies, and the School of Fashion.

The School of Art, Media, and Technology offers several degree programs for aspiring graphic designers including AAS, BFA and MPS degrees in Communication Design. The School of Continuing & Professional Education offers a Graphic and Digital Design Certificate. The program, which consists of eight courses, can be completed online or through a combination of online and on-campus courses.

The curriculum for the 60 credit hour AAS in Communication Design program (formerly Graphic Design) “is grounded in typography and interaction design for print and digital media, integrating socially responsible technology-driven design approaches,” says the school. Course highlights include Design History & Practice, Interaction, and Typography. The program consists of a Professional Practices & Portfolio course and a Capstone is required. Students in the program have the option to take an elective or complete an internship.

The Communication Design BFA is the oldest undergraduate program of its kind in the U.S. The program begins with “an intensive study of typography and interaction.” Students will expand their “expertise in brand and editorial design, digital products, type design, motion graphics, and spatial graphics.” Course highlights for the program include Drawing/Imaging, Interaction Studio, Sustainable Systems, and Visual Culture (Advanced Research Seminar).

The one-year, 30 credit hour MPS program offers a concentration in Digital Product Design. This graduate program “combines instruction in advanced interaction design with coursework that develops your user-experience, design-thinking, and collaboration abilities.” Students will graduate with “industry-ready conceptual and front-end development skills and a network of design professionals to help” them “advance in or enter a rapidly growing field.”

Career opportunities for Communication Design graduates include Digital Product Design, Graphic Design, Interaction Design (IxD), Product Development or Management, and User Experience (UX) Design, to name a few.

3. Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York
Pratt Institute

Founded in 1887, Pratt Institute is situated in the historic Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn, New York. The school, which prepares its nearly 5,000 students for careers in architecture, art, design, information science and liberal arts, and liberal arts and sciences, offers more than 25 undergraduate degree programs and concentrations along with more than 26 graduate degree programs. In addition to the Brooklyn campus, programs are offered at campuses in Manhattan and Utica, New York.

At the main campus in Brooklyn, students are enrolled in programs in the schools of Architecture, Art, Design, and Liberal Arts and Sciences. Founded in 2014, The School of Design offers “up to four of Pratt’s oldest and most esteemed disciplines,” says the school, including Communications Design (BFA, MFA), Fashion Design, Industrial Design, and Interior Design. The School of Art offers an Associate of Occupational Studies (AOS) in Graphic Design and an AAS in Graphic Design/Illustration. All programs offer the opportunity to complete an internship.

The AOS is an intensive 69 credit hour program integrates “the best of new media and technologies with a strong commitment to a traditional art and design curriculum.” This career track option takes just two years to complete. The AAS program is also 69 credit hours. Students in the program” follow an exciting art and design curriculum that includes a liberal arts component.” This positions students to transfer to Pratt’s Fine Arts Department or the BFA in Communications Design.

In the Communication Design Program, “students learn to engage audiences, explore technologies, develop visual languages, challenge preconceptions, redefine problems, and identify opportunities through the lens of communication design.” Students in the BFA program have the opportunity to choose a focus area. Options include Graphic Design, Illustration, and Advertising Art Direction.

Graphic Design students will “explore topics and modes of practice, such as typographic and identity systems, visual rhetoric, interactivity, experience design, sustainability, and inclusivity.” Projects in the program “encourage critical inquiry, collaborative processes, and experimentation with multiple technologies and platforms.” Through electives students can explore a “wide spectrum of specializations in graphic design, including user experience, motion graphics, type design, independent publishing, data visualization, and post-artifact books.”

The 60 credit hour MFA in Communications Design emphasizes studio practice in graphic design—communications, identities, objects, environments, and systems. Graduates are prepared to enter careers in print and digital media, typography, identity systems and branding, design strategy, social media and interaction design, motion design, environmental design, data visualization, information design, and user experience design.

For aspiring graphic designers seeking an advanced degree with a specific focus, the School of Design-Communications Design Program offers a MS in Package Design. First offered in 1966, this 48 credit hour program is an initial master’s degree that offers students structured courses on the decision-making process for new product and package development, featuring direction in package design, typography, brand development, marketing, structural packaging, packaging technology, fragrance packaging, and the business aspects of the package industry. This is a full-time program, which culminates in a capstone thesis project.

For students who are not yet ready to commit to a degree program, the School of Continuing and Professional Studies (SCPS) offers Certificate Programs in Digital Design including Graphic Design, Digital Product Design, Human-Centered Design, Motion Graphics, and many others. These programs may be taken individually or “stacked,” producing an “accelerated path to completion.” Like the undergraduate and graduate Communication Design/Graphic Design programs, Certificate programs offer the opportunity to complete an internship. 

Students in all programs will have the opportunity to enroll in one of more than 20 study abroad programs and international exchange programs in over a dozen locations such as Florence, Milan, Copenhagen, London, and Tokyo.

Graduates of the Graphic Design and Communication Design Programs at Pratt are “equipped to pursue a spectrum of exciting career paths as creative professionals.” Pratt alumni “continue to distinguish themselves in design studios, cultural institutions, branding agencies, and independent enterprises making significant contributions to the fields of art and design, publishing, education, film, gaming, advertising, and many more.”

4. Cooper Union, New York, New York
Cooper Union

The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art (Cooper Union or CU) was founded in 1859 by industrialist, inventor, and philanthropist Peter Cooper. Considered one of the most prestigious private institutions in the world, CU awards all admitted undergraduate students a half-tuition scholarship currently valued at $22,275 per school year.

Serving nearly 900 students, Cooper Union offers programs in the areas of Art, Architecture and Engineering, with 55% of undergraduates enrolled in engineering, 28% in art, 17% in architecture, and 81 graduates in the Maurice Kanbar Graduate Institute working toward the Master of Engineering (MEng) degree and Master of Architecture (MArch). The school also offers courses in the humanities and social sciences.

Cooper Union School of Art offers a flexible BFA in Art with a Specialization in Graphic Design. Students in the program may take elective studio classes and seminars, offered on a rotating basis, and they have the option to focus their work in one or more areas of specialization. Besides Graphic Design, options include Drawing, Film and Video, Painting, Photography, Printmaking, and Sculpture. Students may also enroll in advanced studio classes with the same course number multiple times.

The school says students are also “encouraged to follow an integrated approach by selecting from various areas while observing a prerequisite system designed to allow in-depth study in specific disciplines.” Other program highlights include internship and study abroad opportunities.

5. Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, New York
Fashion Institute of Technology

Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) opened in 1944 with just 100 students on the top two floors of the High School of Needles Trades. Today, as part of the State University of New York (SUNY) system, FIT spans an entire city block and serves more than 10,000 students enrolled in a variety of programs. Just a few include Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing, and Menswear, which are unique to the college, and Fashion Business Management, Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design, and Toy Design, the first of their kind in the country.

Programs are offered in five academic divisions including the Schools of Art and Design, Liberal Arts, and Graduate Studies, Jay and Patty Baker School of Business and Technology, and the Center for Continuing and Professional Studies.

The School of Art and Design offers 17 programs that provide “a practical, hands-on, real world based education,” says the school. Programs for aspiring graphic designers include an AAS in Communication Design Foundation and a BFA in Graphic Design.

The Communication Design AAS “focuses on computer technology, typography, color theory, layout design, and conceptual problem solving. Students develop their own styles while studying design principles, theory, and communication skills.” Other program highlights include field trips to top design firms in New York City, guest lectures, and internship opportunities. Graduates of the program will be prepared for entry-level design positions or for further study in a related BFA program at FIT. Options include Advertising and Digital Design, Graphic Design, Packaging Design, and Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design.

The curriculum for the Graphic Design BFA includes “the study and design of products such as magazines, posters, websites, annual reports, books, and signage.” The program covers advanced typography, corporate identity systems, art history, and more. Besides versatile design skills “that can be applied to magazine and newspaper publishing, catalog production, and promotional publication design,” students will develop “critical thinking, research, analysis, and presentation skills.”

Other program highlights the opportunity to study with practicing professionals and to gain first-hand experience through internships at major institutions and design firms such as MoMA, Pentagram, the Art Directors Club, and many others. Students also have the opportunity to study abroad in England at Chelsea College of Art & Design, the London College of Communication, or Nottingham Trent University.

The Graphic Design BFA Program concludes with a senior thesis project and a juried design exhibition. Students will graduate with “a strong portfolio to present to potential employers.” 

6. Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York
Rochester Institute of Technology

Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) began with the merging of the Rochester Athenaeum (est. 1829), and a technical training school known as Mechanics Institute (est. 1885). With campuses in Rochester, New York, Dubai, Croatia, Kosovo, and China, RIT serves nearly 19,000 students majoring in everything from Art and Design to Robotics and Science Exploration. Programs for aspiring graphic designers include a BFA in Graphic Design and an MFA in Visual Communication Design (VCD).

Offered through the College of Art and Design’s School of Design, the BFA integrates major courses, studio and free electives, and liberal arts, and aspects of business and professional practices, collaborative projects, computer-based skills, and workflow. Students are “exposed to a full range of topics throughout the curriculum, including information design, web and interaction design, branding and identity design, design systems, exhibit and wayfinding design, user experience design, and professional practices,” says the school.

Other program highlights include access to RIT's Vignelli Center for Design Studies, the Cary Graphic Design Archive, and the Cary Library along with alumni and guest speaker events, internship opportunities, co-ops, and freelance experiences. In addition, “interdisciplinary and collaborative projects within RIT and with outside organizations result in innovative and meaningful hands-on projects that encourage students to explore the social, ethical, and environmental impact of design.”

Graduates of the BFA in Graphic Design will leave the program with a completed portfolio and the skills needed to pursue positions within advertising agencies, corporations, design firms, and technology companies around the world. Potential job titles include Digital Designer, Graphic Designer, Freelance Designer, Interactive Designer, and many others.

The MFA in VCD is a cross-disciplinary 60 credit hour program that “focuses on all areas of design, including graphic design, user experience/interaction design, design studies, motion graphics, and 3D digital design.” Students have the option to enhance the degree by choosing an option in Communication Design, Interaction Design, or Motion and 3D Digital Design.

The MFA in VCD, which enrolls around 100 students, also allows all eligible students to participate in an optional co-op program the summer between their first and second years. Some students may have the opportunity to participate during the fall and spring terms.

Graduates of the MFA program are prepared to seek positions in industries such as Advertising, PR, and Marketing, Design, Electronic and Computer Hardware, and Internet and Software, to name a few. Potential job titles include Consulting Art Director and Visual Designer, Designer/Animator, Graphic Designer, Type Designer, UI/UX Designer or Designer and Developer, UX and Visual Designer, and many others.

7. Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York
Syracuse University

Syracuse University (SU) established some of the nation’s earliest architecture and fine arts programs. Founded in 1870, the school serves approximately 22,322 students enrolled in more than 200 majors and minors, and 200 advanced degree programs across 13 academic units. Programs are offered at SU’s main campus in Syracuse and at locations in New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C.

SU houses the College of Visual and Performing Arts’ (VPA) School of Design and the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Both offer programs for aspiring graphic designers. Options include a BFA in Communications Design in the VPA School of Design and a Bachelor’s in Graphic Design offered in the Newhouse School.  

Coursework for the BFA in Communications Design explores “the creative process, communications theory, design history, and project management,” says the school “in addition to illustration, photography, typography, and production processes.” Students in the program will have the opportunity to work on group or solo projects that incorporate advertising, marketing, packaging, publication, web and social media, and best business practices. Study abroad experiences in London, England, are also part of the program.

The Communications Design BFA culminates in VPA’s annual two-day senior portfolio show in New York City, open to design professionals in the tristate area. Graduates of the program work as designers and creative directors at many of the top firms in the country.

The Newhouse School’s Graphic Design program covers print, digital, web and video. Students in the program will learn “how to express ideas visually in every medium, using the latest technology, all while getting a well-rounded liberal arts education that prepares them for creative careers in a variety of digital, print, motion, immersive and emerging fields.

Program highlights include courses such as Introduction to Graphic Design, Typographic Design, and User Interface and User Experience (UI/UX) Design and the Fall Workshop, which “brings creative professionals in from around the world to serve as mentors for student projects.”

Newhouse Graphic Design graduates have landed positions at places such as Amazon, Google, and The Washington Post, and some have even started their own creative agencies. 

8. State University of New York at New Paltz, New Paltz, New York
State University of New York at New Paltz

Established in 1828 as New Paltz Classical School, State University of New York at New Paltz (SUNY New Paltz) is one of the founding schools of the SUNY system. The school serves nearly 8,000 students enrolled in close to 100 undergraduate and more than 50 graduate degree programs in six academic schools.

The School of Fine & Performing Art (F&PA) houses the Department of Art—home of the BFA in Graphic Design Program. Courses for the program are offered in hybrid studio/seminar format,” in which demonstrations, lectures, discussions, and critiques alternate with work periods,” says the school. Projects for the program “are often undertaken in collaboration with other campus programs.”

One of the highlights of the Graphic Design BFA is the study abroad program. Students have studied in a number of countries including Australia, England, France, Italy, and Scotland. In addition, the Department of Art hosts field trips to design studios and museums, along with lectures in New York City and Albany.

Graduates of the program go on to become Art Directors, Commercial and Industrial Designers, Graphic Designers, Marketing Specialists, Public Relations Specialists, Software Applications Developers, Web Developers, and many others. Graphic Design alumni who have graduated in the past 1-5 years have obtained employment with companies such as MasterCard, NBC Universal Media, LLC, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Random House. Some have completed graduate programs at the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University, NYIT, NYU, Yale, and more.

9. Russell Sage College, Albany and Troy, New York
Russell Sage College

Russell Sage College (Sage College) was founded in Troy, New York, in 1916. The school granted its first baccalaureate degree in 1918 and graduated its first class in 1920. Today, Russell Sage College, Sage College of Albany and Sage Graduate Schools are united under a single name: Russell Sage College, one college with two co-educational campuses in Albany and Troy, New York.

Sage College serves nearly 2,400 students enrolled in more than 50 bachelor’s, master’s and doctorates  in the schools of Arts & Sciences, Health Sciences, Management, and Esteves School of Education. The School of Arts & Sciences houses the Graphic + Media Design (GMD) Program, which leads to a BFA.

Program highlight include frequent speaker events, internship opportunities in places such as Boston, NYC, London, and Germany, portfolio reviews by professional organizations such as the Art Director’s Club and AIGA, and the opportunity to work on design projects at places such as the Albany Institute of History & Art, Albany Public Library, and the Museum Association of New York.

The GMD Program includes a COLAB course, which is an interdisciplinary experience that provides the opportunity for students from Graphic + Media Design, Art + Extended Media and Interior + Spatial Design to work in teams to develop a concept and design for various companies and organizations. Recently, students worked on a project for a boutique hotel.

Other course highlights for the program include 2D Studio Techniques, Animation, Digital Studio Techniques, Graphic Design, Imaging, Innovate, Interactive Design, Intercultural, Photography, Spatial Design, Time Arts, and Type & Design. Students will also compete Professional Practices and two Senior Capstone courses.

Graduates of the GMD Program find jobs in a variety of settings, including boutique design firms, in-house marketing departments, and large communication agencies. Recent graduates are working as Graphic Designers at places such as Brawn Media, Jane Iredale Mineral Cosmetics, and Trampoline Design; as a Creative Director at Mohawk Fine Papers; and as a Designer for a 2020 presidential candidate.

10. Queens College, Queens, New York
Queens College

Founded in 1937, Queens College (QC) is a public institution and part of the City University of New York (CUNY) system. The school, which serves more than 19,000 students enrolled in bachelor’s and master’s degrees in over 170 areas in four Academic Divisions. The Division of Arts and Humanities consists of 11 departments including the Art Department (Queens College Art). Here, students can earn a BFA in Design with a Concentration in Communication Design. A 21 credit hour Minor in Graphic Design is also available.

Queens College Art students can "specialize in techniques and approaches that prepare them for a multitude of design-based careers, including graphic designers, software and web developers, animators, marketing and advertising specialists, or product designers," says the school. The program also has an "extensive network of internships that allow students to get real-world experience as a designer while receiving college credit and building their resume."

Course highlights include Basic Software for Design, Design Foundations, Introduction to Animation, Typography, and Web Design. During the final year of the program, students will create a portfolio of their best work during the Senior Portfolio course.