|1||North Carolina State University||Top 1%|
|2||Ringling College of Art and Design||Top 1%|
|3||Savannah College of Art and Design||Top 2%|
|4||University of Georgia||Top 2%|
|5||Full Sail University||Top 3%|
|6||University of Central Florida||Top 4%|
|7||University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill||Top 4%|
|8||Auburn University||Top 5%|
|9||Appalachian State University||Top 5%|
|10||Florida State University||Top 6%|
Our 2018 list of the Top 10 Graphic Design School Programs in the South. For an explanation of our ranking criteria, click here.
We define the South as Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas.
Founded in 1887, North Carolina State University at Raleigh (NC State) is home to nearly 33,800 students enrolled in 300 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Known as “the school of 100+ startups and spinoffs,” NC State houses 12 colleges and 65 departments. The College of Design is home to the Graphic Design program which offers two degree paths—a Bachelor of Graphic Design and a Master of Graphic Design. The College has recently established a PhD in Design/Information Design Concentration as well. The undergraduate and graduate degrees are NASAD (National Association of Schools of Art and Design) accredited and the PhD program is set to receive NASAD approval after graduating its first class.
Per the College of Design, students in the undergraduate program study comparative ideas about, and methods for, creating visual communication. Sequenced core studios, typography courses, and image-making courses “progressively introduce and develop skills, processes, and sensitivities across a range of media.” Graduate students will “closely examine the cultural and technological situatedness of graphic design and its products, and to seek understanding of the people who use and interact with the things that graphic designers make.”
Ringling College of Art and Design (RCAD) was established in 1931 by circus baron, art collector, and real estate developer John Ringling. The school opened with 111 courses and just 75 students. Today, RCAD sits on a 35-acre campus and it is home to 1,300 degree-seeking students with 94% enrolled full-time, and 6% enrolled part-time. Students come from 42 states, DC, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Military Bases, and 56 countries.
RCAD offers a BFA in Graphic Design that prepares students to design “show-stopping solutions for print and interactive media.” Launched in 1980, the program allows students to collaborate with other artists such as copywriters, printers, photographers, illustrators, and developers to “make their ideas a reality.”
Graduates of the RCAD Graphic Design program have been hired by companies such as Google, Facebook, Adult Swim, CBS Interactive, ESPN, Apple iTunes, Leo Burnett, Microsoft, Yahoo!, American Greetings, IGN Entertainment, Wieden + Kennedy, Walt Disney Company, Birchbox, Inc. and many others.
Founded in 1978, Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is home to nearly 13,000 students from nearly 50 states and 115 countries. The school offers more than 40 degree programs, 70 minors and certificate programs, and dozens of online programs. With campuses in Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Lacoste, France, SCAD has plenty of opportunities to study at domestic and international locations and it offers more graphic design programs than just about any other school on our list. Options include BA, BFA, MA, and MFA degrees in Graphic Design and a Design Management MA. A Minor and a Certificate are also available.
All programs highlight Product Packaging, Entrepreneurship, Mobile Technology, Interface Design and User Experience. Students have the opportunity to declare a double major in the areas of Advertising, Branded Entertainment, Illustration, Motion Media Design, Sequential Art and more, and access to Minors such as Mobile and Interactive Design, Advertising Copywriting. Students may complement their degree with Certificates in Digital Publishing or Interactive Design as well.
The BA degree is offered in Atlanta, Savannah and online and the BFA, MA, MFA, and Minor programs are offered in Atlanta, Hong Kong, Savannah, and online. The Certificate program is offered in Atlanta, Savannah and online.
Established in 1785, University of Georgia (UGA) is home to more than 37,500 students enrolled in 170 majors and academic programs across 17 schools and colleges. The Lamar Dodd School of Art offers a BFA in Art with Concentrations in Graphic Design, Printmaking & Book Arts, and ArtX: Expanded Forms. An Interdisciplinary Art & Design A.B. (BA), a Minor in Studio Art, and MFA degrees in ArtX and Printmaking are also on the menu.
Per the school, “all BFA degrees include the Studio Art Core, comprised of a year-long survey of art history, introductory-level studio foundations, secondary-level ideation and methodologies, and upper-level interdisciplinary thematic studio and professional practice courses. Students pursuing the BFA degree enter the School of Art as Intended Art majors. In most studio programs, students are required to present an exhibition or final portfolio that serves as a capstone experience before graduation, demonstrating their achievement in developing a mature and cohesive body of work.”
All art and design students have access to a large study abroad program that offers experiences on all seven continents and UGA campuses in Costa Rica, Central America, Cortona, Italy, and Oxford, England.
Full Sail University was established in 1979 in Dayton, Ohio as an audio recording workshop. The school eventually relocated to Central Florida in 1989 and is now home to approximately 15,000 students enrolled in 78 degree programs in the areas of Entertainment, Media Art, and Technology. Programs lead to an associate's, bachelor's, or master's degree.
Options for aspiring graphic designers include a BS in Graphic Design that takes 29 months to complete online. Per the school, students in the program will “sharpen” their eye for “aesthetics through projects, critiques, and the study of popular culture.” In addition to technical proficiency and creative development, the program will help students “hone real-world skills such as media integration, advertising, and branding.”
Sample courses include Psychology of Play, Technology in the Entertainment and Media Industries, Graphic Principles, Digital Audio and Video, Digital Publishing, Typography and Page Layout, Interactive Media Design and Usability, Logos and Symbols, and Creating Brand Experience. The BS in Graphic Design also contains seven one-credit Career Modules that are woven throughout the curriculum.
Note that a Media Design MFA is also available. Also offered online, this program highlights areas such as Brand Development, Design Strategy, Design Integration, Effective Copywriting, Organizational Structures, and Defining Client Needs. The MFA takes just 12 months to complete.
Established in 1963 and home to more than 64,300 students, the University of Central Florida (UCF) is the largest university by enrollment in Florida. It is also the nation’s second-largest university and one of America’s youngest institutions. The school, which has four campuses across Orlando and in Daytona Beach, offers around 230 degree programs across 13 colleges.
The College of Arts and Humanities at UCF is home to the School of Visual Arts & Design (SVAD), which offers several programs for aspiring graphic designers. Options include BFAs in Art - Emerging Media: Graphic Design and Art – Studio Art. A BA in Art – Studio is also available. Per the school, the Graphic Design Program “allows students to integrate the multiple domains of art, storytelling, and technology.” It is “designed to provide a solid foundation in techniques and theory in one focused area of competence, as well as a broad understanding of related disciplines including arts, humanities, and technology.” The program also provides “extended experience in working in multidisciplinary teams on realistic problems.”
Both Studio options allow students to specialize in a number of areas. BA and BFA specializations for graphic designers include type and design, book arts, and drawing and printmaking combination.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC Chapel Hill) was chartered in 1789 and opened its doors for students in 1795 as the nation’s first public university. The school is home to nearly 30,000 students enrolled in 77 bachelors, 111 master's, 65 doctorate and seven professional degree programs through 14 schools and the College of Arts and Sciences. The UNC School of Media and Journalism offers a unique undergraduate program for aspiring graphic designers: a BA in Media and Journalism with a Specialization in Editing & Graphic Design. A Certificate in Technology and Communication is also on the menu, which may complement the Editing & Graphic Design Specialization. Per the School, “editing and graphic design courses reflect the need for journalists to be proficient in both print and online forms, including social media.”
Students in the program develop skills in caption writing, page design, story editing, headline writing, and alternative story forms. In addition, “students may take advantage of advanced instruction in Information Graphics, 3D Design and Motion Graphics,” as well as study and intern abroad programs.
UNC Chapel Hill offers several graduate options to complement the BA in Media and Journalism Program. Options include an MA in Mass Communication with a Specialization in Visual Communication/Editing/Multimedia, Electronic Communication, or Strategic Communication and a MA in Technology and Communication (MATC). The MATC program focuses on Interactive Media, the Internet, Digital Economics and “other issues reshaping journalism and mass communication in the 21st century.”
Established in 1856 as the East Alabama Male College, Auburn University is now home to a co-ed population of 29,776 students enrolled in more than 140 degree options across 13 colleges and schools. The College of Architecture, Design and Construction is home to in the School of Industrial + Graphic Design. Program offerings for aspiring graphic designers include a BFA in Graphic Design (BFA GDES).
The program emphasizes Fine Arts, Exhibitions, Identity Development, Logos, Visual/Digital Interface, Packaging, and Magazine Design. In addition, the school says, “students have excellent opportunities for internship and cooperative education experiences as a result of well established relationships with regional, national and international companies and firms.” Career opportunities range from “the development of strategies to implement large-scale communications campaigns, to the design of effective communication products such as magazines, logo and identity development, interactive media, web design, packaging, exhibitions, illustration, and environmental graphics.”
Auburn GDES is the only Graphic Design Program in Alabama to receive National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) accreditation.
Appalachian State University was founded in 1899. The school serves nearly 19,000 students enrolled in more than 150 degree programs through the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Fine and Applied Arts, Reich College of Education, Walker College of Business, Hayes School of Music, Beaver College of Health Sciences and Cratis D. Williams School of Graduate Studies. Appalachian also offers a doctorate of education. The College of Fine and Applied Arts is home to the Department of Art, which offers a BFA in Graphic Design.
The program consists of 66 semester hours in Art Studio and related areas and 12 semester hours in Art History/Criticism, and allows students to take a mix of both prescribed and elected courses in art, concentrating on individual strengths and interests. Sample courses for the program include Typography, Digital Imaging, Calligraphy, Interaction Design, Idea Lab, Motion Graphics, Sign, Symbol, Image, Design Methods, and Graphic Design Professional Practice.
Per the school, graduates of the BFA program “will be prepared to successfully contend for the rigorous and highly competitive careers in graphic design as well as for admittance into graduate level programs.”
Founded in 1851, Florida State University (FSU) is the oldest continuous site of higher education in Florida. The school serves nearly 42,000 students from every Florida county and 140 countries, making it one of the largest of the 11 institutions of higher learning in the State University System of Florida. With more than 275 degree programs across 16 colleges, FSU has ample degree options for artists and designers of all kinds—including graphic designers.
The College of Fine Arts, Department of Art offers several programs for aspiring graphic designers including a BFA in Studio with a Focus in Interactive Media or Text + Media, and an MFA in Studio Art. Sample courses for Interactive Media include Typography, Virtual Environments, Web: Art, Design, Code, and Video Art. Text + Media courses include Typography, Art & Language, Printmaking, Intermedia, Digital Fabrication, Video Art, Web: Art, Design Code, and Digital Photographic Imaging.
Students in both focus areas will have the opportunity to request personal studio space in the BFA Warehouse, where they can exhibit their work in a public gallery space. Additionally, graduating BFA seniors exhibit their work at FSU’s Museum of Fine Arts (MOFA) in their last semester.
The MFA program is a 60 credit hour program that accepts just 33 students per class. Students may focus in Design, Printmaking, Drawing, Electronic Media, Installation, Painting, Papermaking, Performance, Photography, Sculpture, Video, or a combination of these options. Other program highlights include study trips to New York, Miami, Atlanta, and New Orleans, Grad Studios, and Exhibitions in the student-run MFA gallery, local spaces, and the FSU Museum of Fine Arts.