|Ranking||College||State||Percent of Schools Considered|
|1||Fashion Institute of Technology||New York||2%|
|2||Massachusetts College of Art and Design||Massachusetts||3%|
|3||Virginia Commonwealth University||Virginia||5%|
|4||California State University - Long Beach||California||6%|
|5||California State University - Northridge||California||8%|
|6||San Jose State University||California||9%|
|7||Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis||Indiana||11%|
|8||Queens College||New York||12%|
|9||University of Colorado - Denver||Colorado||14%|
|10||California State University - Fullerton||California||15%|
Our 2019 list of the Top 10 public college illustration programs in the US. For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.
The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) is a member of the State University of New York (SUNY) system. Founded in 1944, the school serves approximately 8,846 students at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Programs are offered through the Schools of Art & Design, Business & Technology and Liberal Arts in the areas of Art, Business, Communications, and Design. Serving approximately 3,322 students the School of Art & Design houses the Illustration Department, which offers AAS, BFA, and MFA Illustration programs.
Department highlights include a close affiliation with the Society of Illustrators—the industry's top professional organization, 50 award wins by students in highly competitive student art exhibitions, including the prestigious Society of Illustrators Annual Scholarship Competition, and the mentoring by art directors or illustrators who analyze students’ work and offer professional advice and support. Illustration students also have the opportunity to gain an international perspective on the global world of illustration through a study abroad course in Italy.
Sample courses include Applying Color to Illustrate the Written Word, Bok Illustration, Comic Book Illustration, Fantasy and Science Fiction Illustration, Illustrating the Male Figure, Illustrating the Written Word, Illustration Rendering Techniques, Stylistic Illustration, and Watercolor Comps and Illustrations.
The Illustration Portfolio Thesis is a final preparation for students entering the illustration business. The three-credit, six lab hours course highlights guest speakers from industry that provide students with insight into business practices, entrepreneurial strategies, and freelance and staff employment. Students present and defend their visual thesis before faculty and peers.
FIT graduates have gone on to build successful careers at Advertising Agencies such as Ogilvy & Mather, Young & Rubicam, DDB, BBDO, and J. Walter Thompson, at corporations such as American Greetings and Hallmark, Magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, and entertainment companies such as Walt Disney, Warner Brothers, DreamWorks SKG, and LucasArts Entertainment.
Founded in 1873 as a training institution for aspiring drawing teachers, architects, artists, and designers, Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) offers more than 20 undergraduate art programs, nearly a dozen graduate programs, and around seven certificate programs to a population of more than 2,000 students. The Illustration Department at MassArt offers a BFA in Illustration that the school says, “emphasizes the understanding of character development and narrative techniques.”
Students in the program take a variety of illustration and liberal arts courses taught by instructors who are freelance illustrators or illustrators who have their own businesses. Sample liberal arts courses include Introduction to Western Art, Literature/Writing/Film, and Thinking, Making, Writing: Using Words with Clarity and Flair. Sample major courses include Color for Illustration, Digital Illustration, Form Study, Human Figure Illustration, Media Techniques, Studio for Drawing, Technical Illustration, Visual Language, and Word and Image.
During their senior year, students will complete 18 major credit hours consisting of Studio Electives, a Thesis Project, Senior Illustration, and the Illustration Portfolio. Students will present their portfolio to invited professionals from advertising, corporate, editorial, institutional, and publishing markets.
Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) was established in 1838 as the Medical College of Hampden-Sydney. Later it became Medical College of Virginia and after merging with Richmond Professional Institute in 1968, the school became Virginia Commonwealth University. Today, VCU serves more than 31,000 students from across the U.S. and over 100 countries. The school offers over 200 academic programs through more than a dozen colleges and schools. The Illustration Program is offered through the School of the Arts, Department of Communication Arts.
The Illustration Program has two options: the BFA in Communications and the BFA in Communications with a Concentration in Scientific and Preparatory Medical Illustration. The BFA in Communications focuses on three areas including drawing, illustration, and visual studies. Per the school, “new elective courses are designed to reinforce and expand the drawing, design, and illustration components of the curriculum. Students will have the opportunity to develop projects in illustration.”
Sample courses for the program include Digital Drawing, Fundamentals of Typography, Illustration: Drawing and Painting, Sequential Imaging, and Visual Studies.
The BFA with a Concentration in Scientific and Preparatory Medical Illustration requires 32 credits in the biological sciences and chemistry, in addition to communication major and illustration courses. Sample courses for the program include Business of Communication Arts, Concept Drawing, Drawing Studies: The Figure in Context, Scientific Illustration, Time Studio, and Visual Communications.
All communications students have the opportunity to complete an internship and/or study abroad.
Established in 1949, California State University Long Beach (CSULB) is one of the 23 campuses of the California State University System. The school serves 37,500 students enrolled in more than 300 programs across eight colleges. The College of the Arts, School of Art, offers several programs for aspiring illustrators. Options include a BFA with an Illustration Track, an individualized MA or MFA, and a Certificate in Biomedical Art.
Students in the BFA program can take courses from both the Illustration and Animation Tracks and work together in the school’s digital lab, in addition to learning traditional skills. Sample courses for the program include Advanced Illustration, Advanced Life painting, Costumed Figure Drawing, Experimental Animation, Special Studies in Illustration, Storyboarding for Film and Television, and Visual Development. Workshops and presentations are also part of the program as well as courses taught by resident illustration faculty comprised of experienced professional artists currently working in the fields of illustration and animation.
As customized programs, the MA and MFA “are dependent on the student’s preparation, interests and talents,” says the school. “This program centers on each student developing a strong personal and independent creative vision.” Students in the program “will create a focused body of work in the form of an exhibition as the culminating experience of the degree.”
The interdisciplinary Certificate in Biomedical Art is sponsored by the Art and Biological Sciences Departments. The program is available to students who are presently enrolled in a degree program in the Biological Sciences or in Art at CSULB.
Graduates of the Illustration Programs at CSULB are prepared a professional position as an artist or designer, and for teaching studio art within a selected specialization.
California State University Northridge (CSUN) serves more than 40,000 students enrolled in more than 140 programs. Founded in 1958, the school consists of nine colleges, including the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication, which houses the Department of Art. Several illustration programs are available through the Department and include BA, MA and MFA degrees in Visual Arts with a Concentration Illustration.
Per the school, in the Illustration Concentration, students will study illustration “as both an art form and as a profession. Topics cover “portfolio and website development, goal setting, researching employment opportunities, self-promotion and business and trade practices.” Projects focus on a variety of technical skills in digital media and fine art, self-expression, conceptual problem-solving abilities, composition and design, and the development of a personal artistic vision. Other program highlights include interaction with visiting artists, internship and study abroad opportunities, and the opportunity to exhibit illustrations at various showcases.
All Curb College Department of Art students have the opportunity to participate in industry and studio events, organized studio tours, and ongoing collaborative educational partnering with DreamWorks studios and Seoul Institute of the Arts. Students also participate in industry events and internships with Nickelodeon, Disney, Film Roman, Warner Bros., and others.
Founded in 1857, San Jose State University (SJSU) serves more than 32,000 students enrolled in 145 areas of study, with an additional 108 concentrations, across eight colleges. The College of Humanities and the Arts, Department of Design offers a BFA in Animation/Illustration. Graduates of this program have worked on films from A Bug’s Life and Finding Nemo to Monsters, Inc. and Shrek.
Graduates have also been hired at more than 135 animation studios, game design companies, film studios, and academic institutions. Just a few include 20th Century Fox, Animation Mentor, Blue Sky Studios, Blizzard Entertainment, Cartoon Network, Cogswell Institute, Disney Interactive, Electronic Arts, Lucasfilm Animation, NBCUniversal Studios, Nickelodeon, Pixar, Sony/Columbia, The Art Institute of Las Vegas, Disney Animation, and Zynga.
The Department of Design also offers an MFA in Digital Media Art. The program is offered at the CADRE Institute, which “reflects the innovative atmosphere in Silicon Valley.” Academic programs emphasize artistic experimentation within a context of historical, cultural, and theoretical study. The program is intended for students with interest in contemporary research. CADRE's diverse community of faculty and graduate students produce artworks involving visualization, simulation, hypertextuality, information, mapping, telepresence, networks, and interactive systems.
Technical facilities include a wide range of computing resources. Students work across the boundaries of computer visualization, animation, digital video, multimedia, electronic sculpture, sound and virtual reality. CADRE supports its own networking environment and offers excellent opportunities to produce internet-based artworks.
Indiana University-Purdue University (IUPUI) is a result of a merger between Indiana University (est. 1891) and Purdue University (est. 1869). This occurred in 1969. Today, IUPUI serves 28,710 students from 50 states and 142 countries, enrolled in 350 undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs. Seventeen schools grant degrees in Engineering, Health Sciences, Liberal Arts, Life Sciences, and more.
The Herron School of Art + Design at Indiana University-Purdue University offers a BFA Drawing + Illustration. The school also offers MFA programs. BFA program highlights include access to the latest equipment and technology in students’ choice of studio spaces, the opportunity to enhance the degree with a Minor in Book Arts or Design Production, and classes taught by faculty who are working professionals in the field.
The program, which consists of extensive studio experience in both drawing and illustration, requires completion of courses such as Advanced Drawing & Illustration, Building & Making, Digital Rendering, Image & 4D Studio, Narrative Drawing, and Studio Art & Technology. Per the school, the curriculum “provides broad exposure to both traditional and contemporary techniques in all media including digital technology. Students develop skills from both fine and applied arts perspectives.”
Graduates of the program are prepared to pursue positions such as Animator, Children's book illustrator, Comic Artist or Graphic Novelist, Editorial Illustrator, Packaging Designer, Scientific or Technical Illustrator, Set or Exhibition Designer, Storyboard or Concept Artist, or Toy or Product Designer. Some graduates go on to work as freelance artists or designers, while others start their own businesses.
Queens College is part of the City University of New York (CUNY) system. Founded in 1937, the school serves more than 19,000 students from nearly 170 countries, enrolled in hundreds of programs across four academic divisions. The Division of Arts & Humanities is home the Art Department, which offers a BFA in Design with a Concentration in Animation and Illustration and a 21 credit hour Minor in Animation and Illustration.
Sample courses for both programs include Advertising Design, App Design, Book Design and Production, Children’s Book Illustration, Color and Design, Creative Coding, Digital Moviemaking, Graphic Novel, Illustration I, II & III, Introduction to Adobe After Effects, Pixel-Based Imagery, Publication Design, Storyboarding and Storytelling, and Web Design. Per the school, students will also complete an internship that provides “real-world experience as a designer while receiving college credit and building their resume.”
Graduates of the Animation and Illustration program at Queens College are prepared for a variety of designed-based positions such graphic designer, software and web developer, animator, marketing and advertising specialist, or product designer.
University of Colorado Denver (CU Denver) originated in 1912 as an extension of the University of Colorado Boulder. The school gained its independence in 1973 and now serves approximately 19,400 students enrolled in more than 140 degree programs in 13 schools and colleges. The College of Arts & Media houses the Illustration Program which consists of a BFA in Fine Arts with an Illustration Emphasis and a Minor Illustration.
Per the school, students in the BFA program “receive instruction in conceptual illustration, digital illustration, rendering, perspective, painting, exhibition preparation, professional practices and the use of various artistic and illustration techniques.” Sample courses for the program include Anatomy for the Artist, Digital Painting, Graphic Novel Workshop, Illustration I, II, III & IV, Painting, Drawing and the Printed Image, and Typography Studio
"In preparation for a professional illustration career, the coursework allows students to master numerous essential digital and traditional tools and work to successfully bring the two together in ambitious and innovative illustrative work.” In addition to coursework in a range of areas, students will complete studio courses and lectures, as well as an internship and a Capstone course.
Graduates of the program are prepared to pursue a freelance illustration career, as well as positions in advertising, design, entertainment, publishing, and many others.
California State University Fullerton (CSUF) was founded in 1957. The school serves approximately 39,340 students enrolled in 110 degree programs across eight colleges. The College of Arts is home to the Department of Visual Arts, which offers three programs for aspiring illustrators. Options include BFA, MA, and MFA programs in Art with a Concentration in Illustration.
The BFA program is designed for students interested in developing skills in a focused area and preparing for graduate study. The Illustration Concentration requires preparation courses such as 3D Computer Animation, Lettering and Typography, and Life Drawing. Major courses include Cartooning and Caricature, Digital Narrative Illustration, Elements of Sequential Art, Special Studies in Illustration, and Visual Development and Background Painting. All students will have the opportunity to complete an internship.
Per the school the MA program “provides a balance of study and practice for those who wish a career in the visual arts, or who want to prepare for further graduate work in the field.” The program consists of nine units of required studio courses, as well as at least 12 units in Illustration. Students may also take an additional three to six units in Illustration or other electives. All students will complete a project to exhibit in one of the Department of Arts graduate galleries.
The MFA is a “rigorous” studio program that requires 60 units to graduate. Students in the program must take 24 units in the Studio Area of the Illustration Concentration, at least 12 units of electives, and independent study. A studio project is also part of the program.
Graduates of the Illustration programs at CSUF have found employment at major entertainment and publishing companies, such as the Cartoon Network, DreamWorks SKG, Lucas Films Ltd. and Walt Disney Company.