|1||ArtCenter College of Design||California||Top 2%|
|2||California Institute of the Arts||California||4%|
|3||California College of the Arts||California||10%|
|4||University of California, Los Angeles||California||10%|
|5||University of Washington||Washington||10%|
|6||Otis College of Art and Design||California||15%|
|7||Portland State University||Oregon||15%|
|8||California State University-Long Beach||California||15%|
|9||San Diego State University||California||20%|
|10||Oregon State University||Oregon||20%|
Our 2019 ranking of the Top 10 Graphic Design School Programs on the West Coast. We considered 58 West Coast colleges with graphic design programs for this year's rankings. For an explanation of our ranking criteria, click here. For our rankings purposes we define the west coast as California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, and Alaska.
1. ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena, California (top 2% of colleges considered)
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 Designmatters 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.
2. California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, California (top 4% of colleges considered)
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 around 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.
3. California College of the Arts, San Francisco and Oakland, California (top 10% of colleges considered)
Founded in 1907, California College of the Arts (CCA) is home to more than 1,900 students from 52 countries and 45 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 MFA in Design that focuses on Graphic Design, Industrial Design, and 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.
4. University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, California (top 10% of colleges considered)
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 45,500 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.
5. University of Washington, Seattle, Washington (top 10% of colleges considered)
The University of Washington was founded in 1861. The Seattle campus is home to more than 44,600 students, enrolled in over 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.
6. Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, California (top 15% of colleges considered)
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.
7. Portland State University, Portland, Oregon (top 15% of colleges considered)
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 more than 25,000 students. 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 including 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.
8. California State University Long Beach, Long Beach, California (top 15% of colleges considered)
California State University Long Beach (CSULB) was founded as a state college in 1949. The school serves more than 36,800 students enrolled in over 100 academic programs through eight colleges. The College of the Arts houses the School of Art which offers a BFA and an MFA in Art with a Graphic Design Track. The BFA, which consists of 132 units, “prepares students for professional careers in design studios, advertising agencies, corporate design departments, motion graphics firms, web design companies and freelance consulting,” says the school. Graduates will also be prepared to seek graphic design positions with industrial and interior design firms.
Sample courses for the program include Graphic Design: Exploration and Experimentation, Media Design: Motion Graphics, Advanced Typography, Global Art Scenes, Advertising: Advanced Topics, Media Design: User Centered Design, and Media Design: 5D; Designing the Future.
The MFA with a Graphic Design Track, which consists of 60 units, “provides an environment for students to make deep explorations into the field, pushing boundaries and questioning the status quo.” Students in this program will take 25 units in ART 500+ to 600+ level courses, and 15 units of additional coursework in the track. Both programs offer the opportunity to complete several workshops, studio courses, and a professional portfolio, as well as internship and study abroad experiences.
9. San Diego State University, San Diego, California (top 20% of colleges considered)
Founded in 1897 and home to nearly 35,000 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.
10. Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon (top 20% of colleges considered)
Oregon State University (OSU) was founded in 1868. With nearly 31,000 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.