|1||California Institute of the Arts||Top 2%|
|2||ArtCenter College of Design||Top 3%|
|3||California College of the Arts||Top 5%|
|4||Otis College of Art and Design||Top 6%|
|5||University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)||Top 8%|
|6||San Diego State University||Top 10%|
|7||Oregon State University||Top 15%|
|8||Portland State University||Top 15%|
|9||University of Washington||Top 15%|
|10||Academy of Art University||Top 20%|
Our 2018 list of the Top 10 Graphic Design School Programs on the West Coast. For an explanation of our ranking criteria, click here.
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. Established in 1961 by Walt and Roy Disney, the school is home to nearly 1,500 students enrolled in more than 70 programs across six schools including the Schools of Art, Critical Studies, Theater, and Film/Video, the Herb Alpert School of Music, and the Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance. The School of Art is home to the Graphic Design program, which leads to a BFA or MFA.
The BFA program is a full-time, four-year program that prepares students for a career in print and publication design, web and interface design, motion graphics for broadcast and film, branding, identity and type design, and design history and education. The MFA program offers two- and three-year options, including a Specialization in Motion Graphics. The Specialization prepares students to enter the commercial field of motion graphics.
Established in 1930, ArtCenter College of Design spans two campuses and four structures in the U.S. and Berlin. Home to approximately 2,100 students from the U.S. and more than 40 other countries, ArtCenter offers 11 undergraduate and seven graduate degrees in the areas of Industrial Design and Visual and Applied Arts. ArtCenter also offers a joint MS/MBA program with Drucker School of Management—the business school of Claremont Graduate University.
Programs for aspiring graphic designers include a BFA in Graphic Design and an MFA Graduate Graphic Design (MGx) degree. Students might also consider interdisciplinary programs such as the Desginmatters Concentration, which leads to a Certificate in Art and Design for Social Impact or the Integrated Studies Program, which covers essential skills and competencies, critical thinking and the creative process, cultural literacy and contextual reference, interdisciplinary experience, and quality of execution and professional practices.
Offered through the Graphic Design Department (GX), all programs offer internships and study abroad opportunities.
Founded in 1907, California College of the Arts (CCA) is home to nearly 2,000 students from 55 countries and 46 states. The school offers 22 undergraduate and 12 graduate degree programs, plus two minors. Undergraduate programs for aspiring graphic designers include BFA degrees in Graphic Design and Interaction Design and a BA in Visual Studies. Graduate options include an MA in Visual and Critical Studies and an MDes in Interaction Design.
Highlights for all programs include the opportunity to immerse in the areas of Brand Identity, Print, Motion Graphics, and Screen-Based and Interactive Design, elective offerings that will “strengthen” students “design toolkit,” and the opportunity to gain real-world experience through CCA’s extensive internship program. Graduates have landed positions at innovative design firms, museums, publishing houses, technology companies, nonprofits, and more.
Otis College of Art and Design (OTIS) was established in 1918 by General Harrison Gray Otis-- founder and publisher of the Los Angeles Times. Home to 1,100 BFA and MFA students, OTIS offers more than a dozen interdisciplinary art and design programs from Animation and Motion Design to Illustration and Graphic Design. Specific programs for aspiring graphic designers are offered through the Communication Arts Department. Options include BFA degrees in Graphic Design and Communication Arts with an Emphasis in Graphic Design or Illustration or a Minor in Advertising Design, an MFA in Graphic Design and a Graphic Design Certificate.
Graduates of the Graphic Design programs at OTIS have landed positions at major companies such as Apple, Anthropologie, LACMA, Guess, Metro, Capitol Records, and others.
The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) was founded in 1919 as the Southern Branch of the University of California. It is home to nearly 45,000 students from all 50 states and more than 100 foreign countries. The UCLA College and 12 professional schools offer more than 5,000 courses in 125 undergraduate degree programs, 98 master’s programs, 109 doctoral and professional programs, and 91 minors.
The School of Arts and Architecture is home to the Department of Design Media Arts (DMA), which offers both BA and MA degrees in Design Media Arts. Per the school, the DMA program “emphasizes innovative creation with digital and mass media within the context of a public research university.” The curriculum highlights “a solid foundation in form, color, space, motion, typography, and interactivity, followed by a broad selection of area studies courses in video, visual communication, network media, game design, and narrative.” The senior project allows students to focus on individual interests within the areas of Visual Communication and Image, interactivity and games, or video and animation.
“This uniquely challenging and diverse program invites students to balance aesthetic sensibility with logical reasoning, formal theories with practical application, and contemporary thought with historical perspective.” With courses that are taught as studios of no more than 22 students, individual growth and a sense of community within the department is encouraged.
Founded in 1897 and home to nearly 34,000 students, San Diego State University (SDSU) is the oldest and largest university in San Diego and the third largest in California. The school offers nearly 160 undergraduate majors and minors, 16 pre-professional programs and nearly 100 graduate degrees and credentials across seven colleges.
The College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts (PSFA) has 10 core departments and schools, including the School of Art + Design. Here, students can earn a BA in Applied Arts and Sciences with an Emphasis in Graphic Design or Multimedia and an MA or MFA with an Emphasis in Graphic Design or Multimedia. Students may also focus on Book Arts or Illustration by choosing from an extensive collection of electives.
The Graphic Design program features participation in a large internship program that “places students in professional settings in graphic design firms, interior design offices, galleries, museums and schools in the Southern California region and, specifically, the San Diego community.” The active study abroad program offers experiences in places such as Turkey, Scotland, Mexico, and Japan. Graphic design students are also involved in professional organizations such as the American Institute of Graphic Art (AIGA), the American Craft Council, and the Society of Photographic Education.
Graduates of the art and design programs at SDSU hold titles such as Graphic Designer, Corporate Image Designer, Layout/Production Artist, Advertising Artist, Print Production Specialist, Graphic Illustrator, Technical Illustrator, and many others.
Oregon State University (OSU) was founded in 1868. With nearly 32,000 students in Corvallis, Bend, Newport and Portland, OSU is Oregon's largest university. Academic offerings include some 200 undergraduate and 80-plus graduate degree programs across 11 academic colleges. The College of Liberal Arts-School of Arts and Communication offers a BFA in Graphic Design featuring “a hybrid curriculum that incorporates courses in new media, digital communications, art and design, as well as an innovative course on collaboration.” Graduates of the program are prepared for positions in a variety of areas such as print media, editorial design, marketing, advertising, branding, package design, web design, app design, interface design, interaction design, information design, motion graphics and more.
Portland State University (PSU) opened its doors in the summer of 1946 to just 220 students. Today, the school spans 50 city blocks, and it houses nine colleges and schools, 226 degree programs, and 28,400 students, including 1,700 international students from 91 countries. The College of Arts is home to the schools of Architecture, Art + Design, Music, and Theater + Film.
With 1,400 students enrolled, the School of Art + Design offers BA, BS, BFA degrees and Minors in areas from Art History to Graphic Design. The Graphic Design Program has two options a BFA and a Minor. Program highlights include mostly studio-based courses, opportunities to engage in professional internships, and summer study abroad experiences such as Printmaking in Mexico and Art History in Rome.
The University of Washington was founded in 1861. The Seattle campus is home to more than 46,000 students (2017) enrolled in more than 165 majors across 16 colleges and schools and in 79 departments. The College of Arts & Sciences is home to the School of Art + Art History + Design (SoA+AH+D), which offers a Bachelor of Design (BDes) in Visual Communication Design and a Master of Design (MDes).
One of the largest undergraduate programs at the University of Washington, Visual Communication Design emphasizes “visual problem solving, organizational skills, and information theory.” Students in the programs engage in all phases of typography, information design, design systems, exhibition design, publication design, new media, and visual methods/processes. Sample courses for the BDes include Typography, Human Centered Design, Color + Composition, Interface Design, Motion Design, Visual Systems, Information Design, and Publication Design.
Sample MDes courses include advanced Design Foundations, Design Methods, Typography, Industrial Design, Interface Design, Case Studies in Corporate Identity, Exhibition and Installation Design, Interaction Design, Information Design, Design Graduate Studio, and Graduate Student Teaching Mentorship.
Students in both programs will have the opportunity to compete for more than 100 seats in the SoA+AH+D study abroad program to explore art, art history, and design in an international context. Past students have studied in Rome, Japan, Spain, and Tuscany.
Established in 1929, Academy of Art University is home to an estimated 13,800 students from more than 112 countries. The Academy offers dozens of Art, Design, Fashion, and Architecture programs through several schools. The School of Graphic Design offers a variety of degree programs for aspiring game designers. Options include AA and BFA degrees Graphic Design and a Certificate.
According to the school, the Graphic Design Programs “guide students through the nuanced skill-development process required to achieve excellence in typography, print, packaging, branding, user experience, and motion graphics.” Sample courses include Design Technology: Digital Publishing Tools, Design Technology: Visual Design Tools, Visual Communication, Color Fundamentals, Interaction Design, Typography: Hierarchy and Form, Web Design, Package Design, Branding Principles, and Written Communication.
Courses are taught by “nationally recognized professionals who challenge their students to reach their personal creative potential.” Graduates of the Academy of Art programs will have the skills needed to “influence marketing strategies, raise awareness of critical issues, and facilitate cultural change.”