|1||Cranbrook Academy of Art||Top 1%|
|2||School of the Art Institute of Chicago||Top 1%|
|3||Minneapolis College of Art and Design||Top 1%|
|4||Washington University in St. Louis||Top 2%|
|5||University of Cincinnati||Top 2%|
|6||Kent State University||Top 2%|
|7||The Ohio State University||Top 3%|
|8||University of Kansas||Top 3%|
|9||Kansas City Art Institute||Top 3%|
|10||College for Creative Studies||Top 4%|
Our 2018 rankings of the top graphic design schools in the Midwest.
We define the Midwest as Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Idaho, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota. For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.
Cranbrook Academy began “informal art education” in the late 1920s. This unique art and design school consists of 10 programs/departments including 2D Design, 3D Design, Architecture, Ceramics, Fiber, Metalsmithing, Painting, Print Media, Photography and Sculpture. Each department has an enrollment of approximately 15 students. Students are selected by full-time Artists- or Designers-in-Residence who are the sole faculty members and the heads of the departments. Programs are “free of the formal course structure typical of most art schools and universities. Instead the studio environment is the core of the curriculum with emphasis on developing an individual body of work.”
The 2D Department is the Graduate Graphic Design Department, which places emphasis on “the experimental.” Work being produced in the department “falls on a continuum from book, poster and letterform design, through installation, social practices and contemporary art,” says the Academy. “Issues systematically pursued in the department include work situated at the intersection of design and art, an exploration of the relationship between writing, criticism and production, the process of critique as a generative tool, an interdisciplinary approach to design, and objects first: theory, language, and writing all in support of the object.”
This program leads to an MFA in 2D Design (Graphic Design).
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) was founded in 1866 as the Chicago Academy of Design. It is one of the oldest accredited independent schools of art and design in the country. Home to 3,650 students enrolled in more than 25 programs, SAIC offers several programs for aspiring graphic designers through its Visual Communication Design Department. Options include a BFA, MFA or Certificate in Graphic Design.
The BFA program has two major areas of focus including Physical Media (print, objects, and environments) and Virtual Media (interactive and time-based media). The MFA program offers the opportunity to explore other related departments at SAIC such as Printmedia, Writing, Photography, Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Objects, and Film, Video, New Media, and Animation (FVNMA). The purpose of this opportunity is to “extend students’ design work into new territories.” The Graphic Design Certificate is designed for “students with an interest in exploring graphic design with an emphasis on print media,” says the Department.
Other Graphic Design Program highlights include an active AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) student chapter, Exploratory Languages (a lecture series featuring leading designers and design educators from across the country), and CIPB (Chicago International Poster Biennial), which is an international competition representing leading designers from throughout the world. Internship opportunities and the option to study abroad are other highlights.
Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) was established in 1886. The school serves 800 students enrolled in Design (50% of the student body), Media Arts (25%) and other areas. More than 20 programs are available across several departments, including a BFA in Graphic Design, Post-Baccalaureate Certificates in Graphic Design and Interactive Design and Marketing, and an MFA in Visual Studies.
Per the school, students in the 120 credit hour BFA program will develop their own voice and produce original work, they will Research, engage with, and create innovative concepts, content, and form, and learn to communicate ideas visually. Students will also refine their technical and conceptual design skills in preparation for a professional career in graphic design.
The 60 credit hour MFA program allow students to pursue creative work in Graphic Design, Illustration, Interactive Media, Paper and Book Arts, Printmaking, and many others. Students in all graphic design programs have the opportunity to gain practical, real-world experience through a required internship. The option to study abroad or elsewhere in the U.S. is also highlighted.
Founded in 1853, Washington University in St. Louis serves 14,385 students from 90 countries and all 50 states + the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The university houses seven schools including Arts & Sciences, the Brown School, Olin Business School, the School of Law, the School of Medicine, the School of Engineering & Applied Science and Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts.
Sam Fox has three units—the College of Art (est. 1879), the College of Architecture (est. 1910) and Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum (est. 1881). The College of Art houses the Communication Design major, which leads to a BFA. The collaborative program explores disciplines across art and design, selecting from introductory courses in graphic design, typography, illustration, fashion design, painting, photography, printmaking, and sculpture. Students will also take drawing, two-dimensional design, three-dimensional design, digital design, and a weekly lecture course (first year).
In their junior year, students choose their own major courses. Sample courses include Art Practice, Design for Social Impact, Content to Cover: The Design of Books, Interaction Design: User-Centered Applications, and Illustration Concepts & Media/Visual Journalism. Seniors pursue a capstone project that “culminates in an illustrated book, zine, screen-based presentation, graphic novel/mini-comic, or digital experience.” The final project is displayed in a public exhibition and reviewed by external design professionals.
The 128 credit hour degree program is accredited by the College Art Association of American (CAA) and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).
Founded in 1819, the University of Cincinnati (UC) is home to nearly 44,800 students enrolled in 370 degree programs across 13 colleges and a graduate school. The College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning (DAAP) houses the School of Design, which offers a BS in Communication Design. The program, which takes five years to complete, offers three Concentration areas including Graphic Design, Motion Design, and Interaction Design.
Students in the BS program will take a broad range of courses such as Foundational Drawing and Design, Kinetic Communication, Typography, Photodesign, and Design Ideation. Courses are supplemented with general education requirements, directed electives, design history, and interdisciplinary courses in design thinking and user-centered design. Per the school, studios “will refine and develop specific or general skills and be enhanced with further study in design history, methodology, research methods, and global studies.”
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 Department here offers a two-year Associate Degree 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 the program.
Kent State University (KSU or Kent State) was founded in 1910 and it is home to 29,000 students enrolled in more than 300 degree programs across dozens of colleges and schools. The College of Communication and Information, School of Visual Communication Design, offers several programs for aspiring graphic designers including BFA, MA, and MFA degrees in Visual Communication Design and a Design Minor.
Per the School, the BFA program consists of approximately two-thirds of the coursework in 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.
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 “serves students with a strong undergraduate and/or professional experience in design who wish to advance into leadership roles.” Graduates “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.”
The Design Minor provides students with “grounding in the fundamental elements of graphic design, including design research and history, graphic software, industry standards and professional ethics.” All School of Visual Communication Design students must complete 300 hours of internship before graduation. Most internships are paid and students have the opportunity to work at major companies across Cleveland and in Chicago, San Francisco and New York.
The Ohio State University (OSU) was established in 1870. It is home to just over 66,000 students enrolled in more than 200 majors, specializations, and minors across 12+ colleges and schools. The College of Arts and Sciences is home to the Department of Design, which offers a Bachelor of Science in Design (BSD) in Visual Communication Design and a Design Thinking Minor.
Per the school, students in the program use digital tools, “including advanced computing technology, to visualize and present translations of complex data and ideas.” 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 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.
The University of Kansas (KU) was founded in 1865. The school welcomed its first class in 1866. The school is home to nearly 28,500 students enrolled in more than 370 programs across 14 schools and one college—including the only schools of pharmacy and medicine in the state. The School of Architecture, Design and Planning is home to The Department of Design, which offers a BFA in Visual Communication Design (Graphic Design) and a Certificate in Book Arts.
The Graphic Design Program highlights courses such as Typographic Systems, Design Understanding, Designer as Author, Book Arts, Designing Information, Designing for Change, Environmental Graphics, Motion Graphics, and Designing for Social Interactions. Graduates of the program are prepared to pursue careers in a wide range of areas such as traditional print media, magazine and book design, corporate marketing communications, branding, packaging design, exhibition and environmental design, motion graphic design, website design, interface design and many others.
Certificate students “learn art and craft production across the “whole book”— papermaking, typography, printing, and binding, informed by the history of the book.” The 12 credit hour program highlights unique courses such as Expanded Media: The Artists’ Book, Relief Printing, Special Problems in Book Arts, and Advanced Design Studies - Typography, Printing and Papermaking in Italy.
Established in 1885, Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI) has a 130+ year history that includes notable name such as Walt Disney, who took classes there as a child, multimedia artist Robert Rauschenberg, who studied fashion design, writer Robert Morris, and performance artist and fabric sculptor Nick Cave, to name a few. Besides a long list of notable alumni and students, KCAI offers 13 academic disciplines in Art, Design and Media to a population of nearly 700 students.
Offerings for aspiring graphic designers include BFA degrees in Graphic Design, Interactive Arts and Printmaking. Per the school, the Graphic Design Program “goes beyond the traditional division between Web and print design to give students a cross-media skill set that adapts to context, audience and participant input.” The programs “rigorous approach to audience research, theory and conceptual problem-solving” helps position students as thought leaders in their chosen fields. KCAI design students “are exposed to professional practices, concepts and skills required to build rewarding careers.”
The Interactive Art BFA uses emerging technology as the “backbone of creation,” so students become “versed in software coding, physical computing and sensors, performance, games and play mechanics, rapid prototyping, user testing and experiential design.”
The Printmaking BFA covers the traditional printmaking processes and concepts including etching, lithography, drawing, collage, silkscreen, letterpress and book arts, as well as post-modern processes, including mass media, collaboration, simulation, appropriation and dissemination.
All programs offer access to KCAI’s internship program, three to five week long faculty-led travel programs, and full semester programs that can take them to one of several participating art and design colleges in the U.S. or overseas.
The College for Creative Studies (CCS) was established in 1906 as The Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts. The school is home to more than 1,400 students enrolled in over a dozen degree programs across 14 academic departments. With an enrollment of 114 students, the Graphic Design Department is one of the top five largest departments at CCS. Degree options for aspiring graphic designers include a BFA in Communication Design (Graphic Design), Interaction Design or Motion Graphics and MFA degrees in Interaction Design and Integrated Design. Degrees that complement Graphic Design include BFAs in Advertising: Copywriting, Advertising: Design and Fine Arts.
All students have the opportunity to study abroad for a semester or a year in places such as Italy, Austria, Germany, Mexico, Paris, Australia, and more. Graduates of the Design programs at CCS are prepared to work in Graphic Design, Editorial Design, Environmental Design, Information Design, Interactive Design, Package Design, Publication Design, Web Design, and many others.