Our inaugural list of the Top 10 Graphic Design School Programs on the West Coast. For an explanation of our ranking criteria, click here.

1. California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, California (Top 5% of schools considered)

Established in 1961, California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) is the nation's first postsecondary institution to offer graduate and undergraduate degrees in both the visual and performing arts. The school offers 70 programs at all degree levels, including several for aspiring graphic designers. Offerings include a BFA in Graphic Design, an MFA in Graphic Design, and an MFA in Graphic Design with a Specialization in Motion Graphics. The programs are offered through the through the School of Art. In addition to small class sizes (the school is home to 1,489 students), CalArts offers a variety of internship and study abroad opportunities as well as a variety of summer study programs.

2. Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, California (Top 5% of schools considered)

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Established in 1930, Art Center College of Design is home to more than 1,800 students enrolled in more than a dozen undergraduate and graduate programs from Advertising to Transportation Design. Undergraduate options for aspiring graphic designers include a BFA in Graphic Design. Graduate options include an MFA in Graphic Design.

3. Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, California (Top 5% of schools considered)

Otis College of Art and Design (OTIS) was established in 1918 by founder and publisher of the Los Angeles Times—General Harrison Gray Otis. The school is home to 1,100 students enrolled in more than a dozen art and design programs from Advertising Design to Sculpture. The Communications Art Department offers several programs for aspiring graphic designers including BFA and MFA degrees in Graphic Design.

4. California College of the Arts, San Francisco and Oakland, California (Top 10% of schools considered)

Founded in 1907, California College of the Arts (CCA) is home to nearly 2,000 students enrolled in more than 30 degree programs. One of the schools largest programs is the BFA in Graphic Design. Level four or higher students have the opportunity to participate in CCA’s extensive Graphic Design internship program, which allows students to engage with working designers at design firms, publishing houses, museums, nonprofits, and technology companies.

5. Portland State University, Portland, Oregon (Top 10% of schools considered)

Portland State University was founded in 1946. It is home to more than 28,000 students enrolled in 120-plus programs across eight schools. The College of the Arts, School of Art + Design offers several programs for aspiring graphic designers. Offerings include BA and BS degrees in Graphic Design. The School of A+D also offers a Minor in Graphic Design. 

6. Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon (Top 10% of schools considered)

Oregon State University was founded in 1868. It is home to more than 30,000 students enrolled in more than 200 undergraduate and more than 80 graduate degree programs across 13 colleges and schools. The School of Design & Human Environment (SDHE) is housed within the College of Business. SDHE offers one program for aspiring graphic designers—a BFA in Graphic Design. All graphic design students have the opportunity to work at a local company through the SDHE Internship program. Design students also have the option to study abroad in London or Rome.

7. San Diego State University, San Diego, California (Top 15% of schools considered)

Founded in 1897, San Diego State University (SDSU) is the oldest and largest university in San Diego and the third largest in the State of California. The school is home to around 30,000 students from more than 100 countries and it offers more than 275 academic programs across seven colleges. The College of Professional Studies & Fine Arts is home to the School of Art and Design, which offers a variety of programs for aspiring graphic designers. Options include a BA in Applied Arts & Sciences with a Major in Art. This program features an Emphasis in Graphic Design. MA and MFA degrees in Studio Arts are also on the menu. Both graduate programs also offer an Emphasis in Graphic Design. 

8. California State University - Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California (Top 15% of schools considered)

Established in 1947, California State University - Los Angeles (Cal State LA) is home to 27,000 students enrolled in more than 300 programs across eight colleges and dozens of departments. The College of Arts and Letters, Department of Art offers a BA in Graphic Design/Visual Communication. The program prepares aspiring graphic designers to work in today’s digital media and print industries. Besides internship opportunities, the program offers access to the Luckman Fine Arts Complex, the TV, Film and Media Center, and internship opportunities at the Getty Center. 

9. San Francisco State University, San Francisco, California (Top 15% of schools considered)

Founded in 1899 as San Francisco State Normal School, San Francisco State University (SFSU) is home to 30,500 students enrolled in more than 190 programs through seven colleges. The College of Liberal & Creative Arts is home to the Department of Design and Industry (DAI). The Department offers a BS in Visual Communication Design (Graphic Design and Interactive Digital Media). The BS in Visual Communication Design (BSVCD) program is for students who “intend to focus their studies on design problems along a spectrum anchored by graphic design and digital media and with outcomes including print graphics, information design, web design, interaction design, and motion graphics.”

Aspiring graphic designers might also consider the Master of Arts (MA) in Industrial Arts, which allows students to study Visual Communication Design/Graphic Communications. A Minor in Industrial Arts is also on the menu, which covers graphics and digital media and design, among other related subjects.

10. Cornish College of The Arts, Seattle, Washington (Top 20% of schools considered)

Cornish College of the Arts was established in 1914. Home to nearly 800 students from 35 states and 18 countries, Cornish offers bachelor’s degrees in everything from Art to Theater. Programs for aspiring graphic designers include a BFA in Design with a Specialization in Visual Communication and Motion Design. The program, which covers everything from graphic design to social and digital media, is offered through the Department of Design. 

 

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