What are the top graphic design school programs in Ohio for 2021?
|University of Cincinnati
|The Ohio State University
|Kent State University
|Columbus College of Art and Design
|Bowling Green State University
|Cleveland Institute of Art
|University of Dayton
|University of Akron
Our 2021 ranking of the top 10 graphic design school programs in Ohio. For an explanation of the ranking criteria, click here.
1. University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio
Founded in 1819, the University of Cincinnati (UC) serves nearly 47,000 students enrolled in more than 400 academic programs across 14 colleges and a graduate school. UC is the global founder of cooperative education (co-op), so students also have access to some of the world’s best experience-based learning opportunities. UC co-op students “earn a collective $75 Million per year working in 22 countries and 44 states for more than 1,300 employers,” says the school.
The College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning (DAAP) houses the Myron E. Ullman Jr. School of Design, which offers a BS in Communication Design (BSDES). The program, which takes five years to complete, offers three concentration areas including Graphic Design, Interaction Design, and Motion Design.
Students in the BS program will take a broad range of courses such as Design Ideation, Foundational Drawing and Design, Kinetic Communication, Photodesign, and Typography. Courses are supplemented with general education requirements, directed electives, design history, and interdisciplinary courses in design thinking and user-centered design. Studios “will refine and develop specific or general skills,” says the school “and be enhanced with further study in design history, methodology, research methods, and global studies.” Students in the program also reinforce their skills in the field through several co-ops.
Besides the BS in Communication Design, aspiring graphic designers might consider another program offered through UC’s Blue Ash College. The Art and Visual Communication (AVC) Department at Ash offers a two-year Associate of Applied Business (AAB) in Applied Graphic Communication. The program is designed for “students seeking foundational skills appropriate for further study in the design field or for employment in areas of design support.” Classes are small, so students receive considerable personal attention and direction from faculty. Though the program is a two-year degree, students may take up to three years to complete it.
Graduates of the Communication Design and Graphic Communication programs at UC have career opportunities in advertising, branding and corporate identity, digital product design, exhibit design, interface design, motion graphics and post-production design, package design, service design, user experience design, and web design.
2. The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
The Ohio State University (OSU) was established in 1870 as Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College. This land-, sea- and space-grant university houses more than 200 academic centers and institutes, where research, policy-making, knowledge creation and student engagement happen daily across many disciplines. Serving more than 68,000 students, the school offers over 200 majors, minors and specializations in 18 colleges and schools.
OSU’s College of Arts and Sciences houses the Department of Design. Established in 1968, the Department has an 18:1 student to instructor ratio and more than 3,000 Design alumni. Programs for aspiring designers include a Bachelor of Science in Design (BSD) in Visual Communication Design and a Design Thinking Minor.
Students in the BSD program use digital tools “including advanced computing technology, to visualize and present translations of complex data and ideas,” says the school. Students will “study and explore research-based approaches to the visual design of information, the development of brand identities based on present and future conditions, and the creation of way-finding systems for navigating complex environments.”
The production of printed materials such as books, brochures, packaging, and posters is also part of the program. Sample courses include Design Media 1 for Visual Communication Design, Typographic Design, Materials + Processes for Visual Communication Design, Design Research, Collaborative Design, Professional Practices, Sustainability and the Built Environment, and Design Matters. In their senior year, designers will complete a final project “that demonstrates each student's comprehensive knowledge and ability to work independently.”
The Design Thinking Minor is a 15 credit hour program that introduces students to new and creative ways to solve problems. Courses include Design Practice, Design History, Exploring Design Thinking, Visualization as Thinking, and Presentation as Thinking.
Graphic design students who would like to pursue graduate study at OSU have two options: the MFA in Visual Arts offered through the Department of Art and the MFA in Digital Animation and Interactive Media offered through the Department of Design. The MFA in Visual Arts offers emphases in seven studio areas: Art and Technology, Ceramics, Glass, Painting and Drawing, Photography, Printmaking, and Sculpture. The 66 credit hour, three-year program allows students to work across disciplines and with faculty from all seven studio areas.
The MFA in Digital Animation and Interactive Media allows students to select courses that cover visual design, technical skills for animation and interactive media, programming and algorithms, audio design, writing and scripting, and professional development. Students in all graduate art programs have 24/7 access to private and semi-private studio spaces as well as The Wexner Center for the Arts—a world-renowned contemporary art center located on campus; The Fine Arts and Cartoon Libraries; and the Urban Arts Space—an off-campus, OSU-run gallery in downtown Columbus. The Urban Arts Space is the location of the third-year thesis exhibitions.
3. Kent State University, Kent, Ohio
Founded in 1910 as a teacher-training school, Kent State University (KSU) serves 38,000 students enrolled in more than 340 degree programs offered in more than 40 colleges, departments, and schools. The College of Communication and Information houses the School of Visual Communication Design (VCD), which offers several programs for aspiring graphic designers. Options include BA, BFA, MA, and MFA degrees in Visual Communication Design.
The BA is a 123-credit hour program that focuses on “design and illustration in the context of a broad program of general studies,” says the school. An internship is required for the program and well as completion of a minor. Suggested options include Advertising, Communication Studies, Digital Sciences, Electronic Media, Fine Art Studio, Health Communication, Language, Management or Entrepreneurship for Non-Business Majors, Marketing, Photo-Illustration, Public Relations, and Visual Journalism.
Note that most KSU internships are paid, and students have the opportunity to work at major companies across Cleveland and in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco.
For the BFA program, approximately two-thirds of the coursework focuses on “the creation and study of the visual arts,” with the remainder in general studies. Because of the greater emphasis on upper-level studio courses, the BFA allows majors the opportunity to build greater expertise in a given area of the field. An internship is a required component of the BFA program as well as an exit portfolio presentation for public display.
The MA in VCD consists of 32 credit hours of study that can be completed in three semesters. The program “is recommended for students seeking professional employment after completing their degree and who need to build a portfolio of work to enhance career opportunities.” Potential emerging markets for graduates include branding, digital media, social media, and user experience design.
The MFA is one of only three programs in the state to offer the Master of Arts degree in Visual Communication Design and was the first to offer the terminal degree in the field, the Master of Fine Arts. The MA is a 32 credit hour program that prepares students to work in emerging markets such as social media, branding, digital media and user experience design.
The MFA in VCD is an interdisciplinary program that focuses on theory, research, and design process. Classes “have been developed to create an educational experience in design highlighted by field research methods, design thinking, and social innovation, augmented by practical university teaching experience where MFA candidates work hands-on with students at the freshman and sophomore level.”
“This approach helps graduates gain the necessary tools to succeed in their careers as innovative leaders in visual communication, design management, entrepreneurship and higher education.”
The MFA consists of 60 credit hours of study that takes five semesters to complete. Graduates of the program “typically pursue careers in design education, but also stand out in the industry for their ability to solve problems from a research-based design perspective.”
4. Columbus College of Art and Design, Columbus, Ohio
Founded in 1879 Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD) is one of the oldest private art and design colleges in the United States. Serving nearly 1,100 students, the school offers 12 BFA programs and two graduate programs in a broad range of subjects and practice areas. Options for aspiring graphic designers include a BFA and a Minor in Advertising Design & Graphic Design.
The Minor is 15 credit hours and the BFA is a 120 credit hour program consisting of 60 hours of program requirements, 18 of CORE studio requirements, and 42 of CORE liberal arts requirements. Course highlights include Advanced Branding Concepts, Applied Design, Conceptual Copywriting and AD, Content Marketing Strategy, Motion Graphics, Digital Design Lab, Typographic Communication, UX Strategy & Interaction, and Web Strategy & Design.
Other program highlights include engagement in the professional community via co-ops and internships at top design, advertising, and digital agencies, participation in events such as the American Advertising Federation sponsored event The Pitch, which focuses on social change projects, and the opportunity to become a member of AdGraph Collective Community.
Graduates of the program are prepared to seek positions such as Art Director, Brand Manager, Copywriter, Digital Designer, Graphic Designer, Interactive Media Director, Social Media Manager, Web Designer/Developer, and many others.
Recent employers of CCAD BFA graduates include A&E Networks, American Greetings, Apple, Arc Worldwide/Leo Burnett, BBDO Worldwide, IBM iX, JPMorgan Chase, Ogilvy & Mather, Saatchi & Saatchi, and Young & Rubicam, to name a few.
5. Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio
Bowling Green State University (BGSU) was founded in 1910. With campuses in Bowling Green (main) and Huron, Ohio (BGSU Firelands), the school serves around 20,000 students enrolled in more than 200 undergraduate majors and programs in dozens of colleges, divisions, and schools. Within BGSU’s College of Arts and Sciences is the School of Art, which houses five divisions: Art Education, Art History, Digital Arts, Graphic Design, and Studio.
The Division of Graphic Design (BGSU GD) offers a BFA in Graphic Design. Course highlights include 3D Dimensional Graphic Design, Design for Social Impact, Graphic Design Thinking, Information Design, System-Based Graphic Design, Time-Based Graphic Design, and User Experience and Interface Design (UX/UI). Students will also complete the Collaborative & Community Engagement Practicum, Senior Studio in Graphic Design, Graphic Design Senior Thesis, and the Graphic Design Internship.
Graduates of the program will “exhibit skills in team building, collaboration, storytelling and intervention design as well as developing community partnerships along with a professional work ethic,” they will “demonstrate knowledge of graphic design related tools for application of practices and processes of the industry,” and have the ability to “apply both verbal and visual presentation skills.”
6. Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland, Ohio
Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) is an independent college of art and design that was established in 1882. The school serves approximately 600 students enrolled in 15 majors in Art, Craft, Design, and Digital Media. A unique component of all programs at CIA is students enter their major as a sophomore, allowing them three full years of building skills and mastering techniques instead of one or two.
The CIA Graphic Design Program, which leads to a BFA, covers editorial and publication design, event and exhibition design, interactive and motion graphics, print, marketing, and advertising design, and production. Course highlights include Contemporary Marketing + Art Direction, Design for Communication, Graphic Design for Non-Majors, and Graphic Design: Advanced Studio. Students will also complete the Graphic Design BFA Thesis and Graphic Design: BFA Statement + Exhibition.
Other program highlights include the opportunity to collaborate with Industrial Design and Interior Design students on projects and in the classroom. The integrated curriculum will help students "build valuable communication skills and develop techniques" for presenting their ideas and final projects.
Graduates of the program are prepared to seek positions such as Advertising Designer, Art Director, Associate Partner, Book Designer, Designer + Founder, Film Director + Writer, Magazine Designer, and many others.
7. University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio
Founded in 1850 by the Society of Mary (Marianists), University of Dayton (UD) serves nearly 11,700 students enrolled in more than 80 undergraduate and 50 graduate and doctoral programs. Degrees are offered in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Schools of Business Administration, Education and Health Sciences, Engineering, and Law.
With a 97% employment rate or graduate school enrollment within six months of graduation, the College of Arts and Sciences houses the Department of Art and Design, home to the BFA in Graphic Design.
Approximately 65% of the requirements for this professional degree program are in the study of graphic design. The curriculum covers design methods and design theory, “and provides the visual, conceptual, and technical skills needed to be a successful designer,” says the school. Course highlights include Computer Illustration, Design Processes, Drawing for Graphic Design, Form & Concept, Graphic Design I-III, Graphic Design for Three Dimensions, Motion Design, Typography, and Visual Communication Design.
Students will complete the capstone courses—Senior/Professional Seminar and Portfolio and Paper, along with an optional graphic design internship repeatable up to nine semester hours. Co-op education experiences are also available as well as career workshops, seminars and training “on a variety of career-related topics, such as resume preparation, interviewing, job strategy, career fair preparation, salary negotiation and more.”
8. Ohio University, Athens, Ohio
Ohio University (OU) was established in 1804 as Ohio’s first university. The school serves nearly 35,000 students enrolled in more 250 academic programs in 11 colleges. The College of Fine Arts houses the School of Art and Design, which offers a BFA in Graphic Design.
Students enter the School of Art and Design as BA Majors. To become a studio art BFA Major in Graphic Design, they first complete the Foundations Program, take two 2000-level studio graphic design courses, plus two studios outside of graphic design, and submit a portfolio of studio work for review at the end of the sophomore year.
Topics explored include Ceramics, Interaction Design, Motion, Painting, Photography, Printmaking, Sculpture, Typography, and Visual Systems. A Graphic Design Practicum and Graphic Design BFA Exhibit are also of the program.
Graduates of the BFA in Graphic Design often secure positions “within design firms nationally and internationally,” says the school. The work in Corporate, Brand, and Identity Design, Information and Interactive Design, Package and Collateral Design, Publication and Book Design, Signage and Environmental Design, and Type Design.
Students with an interest in design might also want to explore the design program offered through the School of Visual Communication in the Scripps College of Communication. The BS in Visual Communication offers sequences in Information Graphics: Publication Design and Multimedia. An advisor-approved internship is also part of the program. This opportunity consists of 400 hours of paid and supervised work in the student’s field.
An MA is also available. This interdisciplinary program offers a Specialization in Information Graphics & Interactive Design (IG & ID), and Visual Communication Management. The IG & ID Specialization “brings together the professional practice of designing infographics, user experience and web design to tell stories across multiple platforms.” The Management Program “offers students the opportunity to adapt courses to fit their goals in audio/video storytelling, management, design, interactive, photography, or picture editing.”
Graduates work in a variety of communication outlets as creative directors, designers, interactive designers, multimedia producers, photo editors, photojournalists, and video producers. Graduates have won many awards that include numerous Pulitzer Prizes.
9. Miami University, Oxford, Ohio
Founded in 1809, Miami University (Miami U) is one of the oldest public universities in the country. The school, which welcomed its first students in 1824, quickly became known as the “Yale of the West.” Today, Miami University serves nearly 25,000 students across three regional campuses.
Miami U houses seven colleges and schools offering bachelor's degrees in over 120 areas of study. Graduate students choose from more than 70 master's and doctoral degree programs. Several associate's degrees as well as bachelor's degrees are offered through study at Miami U’s regional locations.
The College of Creative Arts (CCA) houses the Department of Art, which offers a BFA in Communication Design (formerly Graphic Design). The program has eight focus Tracks including Art and Architectural History, Business, Communication, Cultural Studies, Environmental Design, Interactive Design, Perception and Cognition, and Studio Art.
Other program highlights include a small, supportive environment (around 20 students per class), the opportunity to work on real world projects through interdisciplinary studios, special projects, and visiting artist lectures and workshops. Students will also learn letterpress printing and bookbinding, mixing hand media with new digital approaches, and they have the option to co-major, minor or double-major Interactive Media Studies or choose between Miami’s many other minor and double-major options. Paid internships within leading firms are also part of the program as well as Highwire Brand Studio and/or the Interactive Media Studies capstone.
In addition, through Miami University’s Dolibois European Center in Luxembourg, students have the opportunity to study abroad, earn regular Miami credit, and live in the heart of Western Europe. The wide variety of courses offered through the program is designed to “take advantage of the European location,” says the school. Students will have “many opportunities to see the great museums of Europe and to experience the ancient artistic traditions of the continent.”
10. University of Akron, Akron, Ohio
University of Akron (UA) was founded in 1870 as Buchtel College by the Ohio Universalist Convention. The school serves nearly 18,000 students enrolled in more than 400 programs and tracks in eight colleges and schools. The Butchel College of Arts and Science houses the Mary Schiller Myers School of Art, which offers a BFA in Graphic Design.
Program highlights include several well-equipped graphic design studios, 70,000 square feet of learning space, and a range of co-op programs and internship opportunities. In recent years, students have participated in co-op and internship programs at Advertising Agencies, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Design Studios, Disney World, and the New York Stock Exchange.
BFA students have access to Emily Davis Art Gallery, which showcases art and design of regional, national and international significance as well as student, juried student and scholarship exhibitions.
Students in the program will also benefit from the visiting artists and lecture series sponsored by the School of Art as well as participation in student organizations such as the Student Art League and Design x Nine.
The Graphic Design Program consists of 120 credit hours of study, including 54 in Graphic Design requirements. Course highlights include Advanced Graphic Design, Advanced Illustration, Corporate Identity & Graphic Systems, Digital Media, Illustration, Motion Design, Typography I-IV, UI/UX Design, and Wen and Devices. A Graphic Design Presentation is part of the program as well as a Senior Exhibition.
Graduates of the UA BFA in Graphic Design are prepared for careers as Communicators, Creative Directors and more in the Visual Arts including Graphic Design, Illustration, Photo Editing, Photography, and Web Design, to name a few.