What are the top animation schools in the midwest for 2021?
|School of the Art Institute of Chicago
|The Ohio State University
|Columbia College Chicago
|Minneapolis College of Art and Design
|College for Creative Studies
|Columbus College of Art and Design
|Kansas City Art Institute
|Cleveland Institute of Art
|Ball State University
|Bowling Green State University
|Ferris State University
|University of Illinois at Chicago
|University of Wisconsin – Stout
|American Academy of Art College
|Missouri State University
|Grand Valley State University
Our 2021 rankings -our tenth annual- of the top animation programs in the Midwest. For reference, we define the Midwest as Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Idaho, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota. For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.
1. School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Founded in 1866, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is one of the oldest accredited independent schools of art and design in the country. Recognized as “the most influential art college in the United States,” by Columbia University’s National Arts Journalism survey, SAIC offers more than 50 areas of study in 24 departments.
The Film, Video, New Media, and Animation Department (FVNMA) offers several programs for aspiring animators including BFA and MFA in Studio degrees with a Concentration Animation, and a Certificate in Studio. The Department says it “endorses and encourages experimentation with radical form and content,” and is “open to many approaches to and understandings of experimental media art.” The Department is “dedicated” to helping students develop their “art practice in a variety of forms and contexts including the use of high definition video, new media art, experimental 3D animation, hand-drawn animation, and filmmaking.”
Students in the FVNMA department are taught by “award-winning pioneers,” “revolutionaries,” and working professionals in the fields of experimental film, video, animation, nonfiction, narrative, installation, glitch, interactivity, art games, curating, archiving, and web-based art projects. Students also learn from “internationally renowned artists, critics, historians, and curators who regularly visit through the department and SAIC's Visiting Artists Program.”
Other FVNMA Department highlights include graduate projects and fall and spring critique weeks for MFA students, as well as access to world-class resources such as the Art Institute of Chicago Museum, on-campus galleries, and state-of-the-art facilities. Examples include The Gene Siskel Film Center, The Donna and Howard Stone Gallery for Film, Video, and New Media at the Modern Wing, and The Video Data Bank, which is considered the leading resource in the United States for videos by and about contemporary artists.
Famous SAIC alumni include Cynthia Rowley, David Sedaris, Georgia O’Keeffe, Elizabeth Murray, Jeff Koons, LeRoy Neiman, Michelle Grabner, Nick Cave, and Richard Hunt.
2. DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois
DePaul University was founded in 1898 by the Congregation of the Mission (of Vincentian) religious community, which follows the teachings of 17th-century French priest St. Vincent de Paul. Serving nearly 22,500 students, DePaul is the largest Catholic university in the United States, the 13th-largest private, not-for-profit university in the nation, and the largest private, not-for-profit college in the Midwest.
The school offers more than 300 programs of study across 10 colleges and schools and two campuses in Chicago. The College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM) is home to the School of Cinematic Arts, which houses the Animation Program. With more than a dozen full-time animation professors, the school has one of the largest full-time animation faculties in the U.S.
Program options for aspiring animators include BA, BFA, MA, and MFA degrees in Animation. The BFA program offers concentrations in 3D Animation, Cinema Animation, Game Art, Motion Graphics, and Storyboarding and Character Design. The MA program offers concentrations in 3D Animation, Motion Graphics, Technical Artist, and Traditional Animation.
The BA in Animation “emphasizes the art of animation, creativity, and critical thinking,” says the school. This “extremely” flexible and interdisciplinary degree allows students to experiment with the latest in animation software, technologies, and tools including 3D, green screen studios, hand-drawn, motion capture, motion control, and stop-motion.
The BFA in Animation provides a “thorough foundation in the art of animation and its history, combined with intense practice in traditional animation (hand-drawn, stop-motion, and hybrid), and 3D computer animation and modeling.”
The MA in Animation “provides a combination of artistic and technical training that prepares students for a future in 3D character animation, traditional animation, computer game art, or visual effects.” The MFA in Animation is the “premier degree” of the graduate program and it’s designed for students who are interested in “creating original animated films and artwork as their main vocation, and is the terminal degree in the field.”
Students in all programs have the opportunity to work with game development teams, participate in CDM’s annual Premiere Film Festival, which showcases the best of student work in animation and cinema, and study and intern in Los Angeles for three months through the school’s innovative LA Quarter Program.
Past participants in the LA Quarter program have interned at Warner Brothers, DreamWorks Animation, Sony Studios, Disney, Nickelodeon, The Mill, The Jim Henson Company, Titmouse Animation, Bix Pix Animation, and others. Back at home, students will also benefit from CDMs relationship with Chicago’s largest game development and animation studios.
Animation students also benefit from the visiting artist series, which brings “innovative practitioners and industry leaders to the DePaul campus for film screenings, on-stage conversations, and professional panels.” Past artists have visited from Disney and Pixar. The student organization Animation Lodge and Project Bluelight are other program highlights.
The Lodge is a place where students can network, build their portfolios, work on group projects, and discuss animation trends and techniques. Project Bluelight is a professional, educational, and community outreach program where students receive hands-on experience in motion picture production.
Graduates of the Animation programs at DePaul have been hired in animation roles at Blizzard Entertainment, DreamWorks Animation, Electronic Arts, Google, Laika Studios, Nickelodeon, Phosphor Studios, Synapse Games and Wargaming, to name a few.
3. The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
Established in 1870 as Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College, The Ohio State University (OSU) is a land-grant, sea-grant and space-grant university that houses more than 200 academic centers and institutes, where research, policy-making, knowledge creation and student engagement happen daily across many disciplines.
Serving more than 68,000 students, the school offers over 200 majors, minors and specializations in 18 colleges and schools. The College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering offer multiple paths to focus on animation.
Paths in animation encourage students to explore courses in 3D modeling, 2D/3D animation, video game production, augmented and virtual reality, digital imaging, digital video, interactive visualization, interactive art, game art and design, Art Games, motion capture, procedural content generation for games, real-time rendering, photogrammetry and more at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students in all programs can work on individually defined or team-based projects.
Ohio State introduced an interdisciplinary BA program in Moving Image Production (MIP) in Autumn, 2017. The program is a collaboration with departments across the College of Arts and Sciences and the Wexner Center for the Arts. Students majoring in MIP have the opportunity to take production courses in the Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design (ACCAD), The Department of Art, The Department of Dance, and The Department of Theatre.
The MIP program teaches live-action and animated filmmaking. The major “focuses on developing students’ creative voices as they produce moving-image works across four areas: animation, experimental, documentary, and narrative.” In addition, “through the required Film Studies Minor, students engage with the entire culture of cinema, learning to think historically, theoretically, and critically about film.”
Course highlights include Cinema Today, Computer Animation, Concept Development for Time-Based Media, Group Studies in Digital Animation and Interactive Media, Motion Studies Through Hand-Drawn Animation, and Video Production. A Film Studies Minor consisting of 15 credit hours is required for the MIP Program as well as a Senior Project that allows students to “blend modes into a single creative project” during a pair of advanced studios.
Students in the MIP Program will also have opportunities to complete an internship, study abroad, and take additional production and screenwriting courses.
The Department of Art offers BFA and MFA degrees in Art with an emphasis in Art and Technology. It emphasizes the creation of animation, interactive art and experimental forms in the context of art making.
The Department of Design offers an MFA degree in Design focusing on Digital Animation and Interactive Media. This program emphasizes the production of creative research-based projects in the user-centered context of design.
The Department of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) offers BS, MS and PhD degrees in Computer Science with a specialization in Computer Graphics and Game Design. A BS CSE with an Individualized Option (IND) is also available.
Students utilize state of the art facilities, equipment, and interdisciplinary expertise in the school’s many special labs, including the world-class ACCAD.
4. Columbia College Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Columbia College Chicago (Columbia) was founded in 1890 as the Columbia School of Oratory by Mary A. Blood and Ida Morey Riley. Both women were graduates of the Monroe Conservatory of Oratory (now Emerson College, in Boston, Massachusetts). By 1904, the school had a new name, Columbia College of Expression, and in 1927 it became a sister institution with the Pestalozzi-Froebel Teachers College. Columbia College of Expression dissolved its partnership with the Teachers College In 1944 and became Columbia College. Nearly 50 years later, the school became what it is known as today—Columbia College Chicago.
Serving nearly 7,000 students from all 50 states and 60 countries, Columbia offers 150 majors, minors, and graduate programs in the Schools of Media Arts, Fine and Performing Arts, and Liberal Arts and Sciences. The School of Media Arts is home to the Interactive Arts and Media Department, which offers three degree programs for animators: a BA in Animation and BFAs in Computer Animation or Traditional Animation. A Minor in Animation is also available. Students in all programs begin animating in their first year.
Per the school, “BA students have the option of working with a team their senior year to create an animated film in Animation Production Studio, they can work on their own solo film, or take electives that will help them polish their demo reels and gain professional-level competency in the areas of their choosing.”
The Animation Production Studio is an intensive, two-semester capstone course that introduces students to the animated film process. Studio students will have the opportunity to, “supervise and be supervised in roles ranging from director to editor.” Finished films will be presented at Columbia College’s annual urban arts festival known as “Manifest,” which “celebrates the amazing work” of the school’s graduating students.
BFA students are required to take Animation Production Studio and produce their own animated thesis film as a solo project. This is similar in scope to the team project except students will have three full semesters to complete it. Students in the program will work as the producer, director, editor, and every other role in between.
All students will have the opportunity to take the one-credit course—Animation Studios in LA—where they will spend time learning professional standards and industry preparation as well as touring local animation studios such as Cartoon Network, Disney, DreamWorks, Nickelodeon, and Warner Bros.
Graduates of the Animation programs at Columbia College Chicago have won Oscars and Emmys and they have worked on popular animated films and series such as Brave, Coco, Finding Dory, Frozen, Pocahontas, Robot Chicken, The Lego Batman Movie, The Lion King, and UP. Alumni work at networks and studios such as Cartoon Network, Disney, DreamWorks Studios, Nickelodeon, Pixar, Warner Bros. Animation, Weta Digital, and many others.
5. Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Established in 1886, Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) sits on a three-acre campus that shares a block with the Minneapolis Institute of Art—home to more than 90,000 works of art representing 5,000 years of world history. MCADs more than 800 students have access to creative spaces/classrooms, professional facilities, galleries, student housing complexes, artist studios, and a sculpture garden. Student also have access to 23 art and design degree programs and undergraduate minors. Degree programs lead to the BFA, BS, MA, or MFA.
Among the schools art and design programs is a BFA in Animation and an MFA in Visual Studies. Two tracks are available for the BFA program—2D and 3D Animation. Both tracks require 12 credit hours of study and an internship. MCAD students have interned at the Massachusetts Museum of Art, MTV, Nickelodeon, and Walker Art Center.
An optional study abroad experience is also part of the program. Students have studied in places such as Germany, Italy, Japan, and the UK, to name a few.
Students in the BFA program will explore illustrated, stop-motion, and computer-generated approaches to animation and gain foundational skills in a variety of creative media. They will also experiment with the different roles of animator such as background animation, character development, and storyboarding. The BFA program requires 120 credit hours to graduate.
Housed in an all-MFA studio and gallery space, which includes 50 individual studios, smart classrooms, facilities for creative making, and a large gallery space, the 60 credit hour MFA in Visual Studies allows students to pursue creative work in areas such as Animation, Comic Arts, Drawing/Painting, Filmmaking, Illustration, Installation Art, and Web and Multimedia. Other program highlights include an internship, study abroad opportunities, and the Master’s Trip to NYC.
During the trip, students and alumni will visit art and design venues, artist studios, creative agencies, and more.
6. College for Creative Studies, Detroit, Michigan
The College for Creative Studies (CCS) traces its roots back to 1906 when a group of local civic leaders, inspired by the English Arts and Crafts movement, formed the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts. The Society members began teaching informal classes in basic design, drawing and woodcarving and in 1911, they opened a gallery where student and prominent modern artists could display and sell their work.
In 1926, as the Art School of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts, the Society became one of the first arts and crafts organizations to offer a formal, four-year program in art, with an enrollment of 280 students. Today, CCS is a private, fully accredited college that offers BFA and MFA degrees to more than 1,400 students. Among the schools largest programs is Entertainment Arts.
Here, students can earn a BFA in Entertainment Art with a Concentration in Animation that helps students develop character performance within a variety of 2D and 3D applications. The school says students will “hone skills in traditional and computer-generated (CG) animation and design and gain experience in stop-motion, motion graphics, and experimental media.”
Course highlights for the program include 2D Design, 2D Digital Animation, 3D Computer Graphics, Anatomical Figure Illustration, Animation 1, II & III, Business Practices, Computer Character Animation, Creative Visualization, Digital Techniques, Environments and Characters, Maquette Sculpture, Modeling and Texturing, Playing the Self, and Visual Culture.
All Entertainment Art students will have the opportunity to customize their curriculum by taking coursework in other concentrations including Concept Design, Digital Film and Game Design. Students will also complete a Writing Workshop and a Senior Production Studio. The optional internship is strongly encouraged.
Graduates of the CCS Animation Program work throughout the industry as 3D character artists, 3D production artists, animators, character animators, concept artists, directors, motion graphics artists, riggers, stop-motion artists, storyboard artists, VFX artists, Visualization artists, weapons artists, and many others.
CCS Graduates have been hired at major studios across the U.S. Disney ABC Television Group, DreamWorks Animation, and Sony Pictures Imageworks, to name a few.
7. Columbus College of Art and Design, Columbus, Ohio
Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD) was established in 1879 as Columbus Art School. Famous visitors to the campus during the school’s early years through the 1930s include First Lady Lucy Hayes, wife of President Rutherford B. Hayes, American artist Georgia O’Keefe, and writer Oscar Wilde. One of the oldest private art and design colleges in the United States, CCAD graduated its first class in 1885 and later added programs such as advertising, illustration, and industrial design. By 1970, CCAD had produced its first class of BFA graduates.
Today, CCAD serves more than 1,300 students enrolled in dozens of degree programs, concentrations, and minors. Programs for aspiring animators include an Animation BFA and an MFA in Visual Arts.
The Animation Program was established in 1987. Consisting of 120 credit hours of study, the program has the option to add a 15-credit hour minor such as Animation 2D, Animation 3D, Film & Video, or Illustration. Per the school, students in the program will “dive right into cutting-edge animation techniques and learn 2D, 3D, and experimental styles, as well as game art, motion graphics, digital modeling, virtual reality, and more.” Program highlights include access to industry-standard facilities such as the Cloyd Family Animation Center, support of peers through the Animation Student Collective, and guidance from creative faculty who are experts in the field.
Graduates of the program work in a variety of positions and fields. Just a few include augmented reality designer, character animator for feature films, game artist, motion designer, and television animator. Recent employers include Cartoon Network, DreamWorks Animation, Electronic Arts, Laika, Nickelodeon Animation Studio, Phosphor Games, Pixar, Riot Games, Sony Pictures Animation, and Walt Disney Animation Studios.
In the MFA in Visual Studies program, students have executed individual projects from animation and video to interactive design and illustration. The school says that the program “stresses studio mastery, individual scholarship, and real-world practices such as organization, communication, clarity of thought, leadership, and entrepreneurial skills.” The school has built an environment to fuel collaboration, experimentation, and creation as students’ work on their individual projects.
MFA students work in a personal studio that can be accessed 24/7. The 13,700-square-foot graduate facility also houses faculty offices, a lounge, and an exhibition space. Students also have access to CCAD’s library, plus many labs, shops, the Tad Jeffrey FabLab, computer complexes, darkrooms, studios, and digital printing facilities.
Other MFA program highlights include visiting guest artists, designers, and scholars each semester who teach workshops and seminars, engage in one-on-one mentoring with students, and lecture as part of CCAD’s visiting scholars series, and participation in an off-campus experience. Options include individual mentoring with an artist or professional, foreign study, or an internship with a nonprofit or business. Experiences have taken students to places such as Chicago, Honduras, Ireland, New York, Oregon, and Seattle.
Students in both the BFA and MFA programs may participate in CCAD’s International Exchange Program, which highlights study at China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China; Universidad Mayor, Santiago, Chile; Xi’an Fine Arts Academy, Xi’an, China, and Northumbria, Newcastle, England. Students may also study at CCAD-approved programs at Studio Art Centers, Florence, Italy, and University of Arts London, London.
8. Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana
Purdue Polytechnic Institute is one of the 10 academic colleges at Purdue University (est. 1869). Founded in 1964 as Purdue University’s School of Technology, Purdue Polytechnic Institute enrolls around 12% of Purdue’s students (around 4,910) at the West Lafayette campus.
The Institute houses eight departments and schools offering a variety of high-demand technology disciplines leading to the bachelor's, master’s, and PhD degrees. Seventy academic options are available in six subject areas in seven departments. The Department of Computer Graphics Technology (CGT) houses the Computer Graphics Technology Program, which offers a BS in CGT with a Major in Animation or Visual Effects Compositing.
Graduate options are available through the Department of Computer and Information Technology (CIT) and include an MS in CGT and a PhD in Technology.
The BS in CGT with a Major in Animation focuses on six areas of animation including 3D Modeling, Texturing, Lighting, Rendering, Character Rigging (creating a digital skeleton) and Motion. Graduates of the BS program have found employment at DreamWorks, Walt Disney Company, and Rhythm & Hues and eight of the school’s alumni were part of the creative teams behind 2014 Oscar winner Big Hero 6 and 2014 Golden Globe winner How to Train Your Dragon 2.
The BS in CGT with a Major in Visual Effects Compositing combines Animation, Visual Effects, and Video to create “highly graphical” videos for episodic television and films, says the school. Graduates of the program have been hired at DreamWorks, Walt Disney Company, and Rhythm & Hues.
The MS in CGT offers four primary focus areas: Animation, Games, Information Visualization, and UX Design. Students may specialize in any area through a range of courses such as Animation History, Technology and Technique, Current Topics in 3D Animation, Computer Graphics Programming, Game Development, Interactive Multimedia Development and Research, and Virtual Environments. Additionally, “real-world projects and research opportunities help students put theory into practice, building a foundation for future growth in their chosen discipline.”
Animation students will experience all key areas of the digital animation process, “preparing them for a growing range of technical and creative positions in the global animation industry, or as research scholars in the animation technology area.” Potential job titles include (but are not limited to) Animator, Digital Lighting Specialist, Rigger, Simulation and Visualization Specialist, Technical Director, and Technical Artist.
Note that students may earn a BS CGT/MS Technology with a Specialization in CGT, which may be completed in just five years instead of six years or more, if pursued separately.
The PhD Program allows students to create a CGT Specialization that covers Animation, Data Visualization, Game Studies, Human Centered Design and Development, Virtual Product Integration and Web Programming and Design. Graduates of the program will know how to envision, plan and conduct research and development activities; identify, comprehend, analyze, evaluate and synthesize research; evaluate technologies and technology-related programs; assess individual performance with, and understanding of, technology; communicate effectively and employ constructive professional and interpersonal skills; and function in one or more of the technology disciplines.
Graduates of the program pursue careers in the academic sector, entertainment, government, technology, and many other areas.
9. Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, Missouri
Established in 1885, Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI) started as a Sketch Club formed by a group of “enterprising” Kansas Citians. Today, KCAI is an accredited four-year college of art and design known for training famous artists of all kinds from Dennis Hopper to Walt Disney.
KCAI serves more than 700 students, with a 16,000-square-foot facility dedicated solely to incoming freshmen. Thirteen majors are available in 15 program areas through several departments. The Department of Converging Media houses the school’s animation program, which leads to a BFA. Double Majors in Art History and Animation and Creative Writing and Animation are also available.
The Animation BFA highlights intensive instruction in classical, experimental and computer animation. Students in the program work in technologically integrated classrooms and studios to produce a significant personal work. The Department of Converging Media houses Filmmaking, Interactive Arts, and Photography, so animation students also work in an environment that facilitates creativity and cross-disciplinary approaches to image making.
The BFA curriculum include a suite of classes that emphasizes different aspects of the creative process including animation principles, concept modeling, history, production methods, and theory & technique. Course highlights include Contemporary Animation History, Digital Methods, Explorations in Animation, Ideas in Motion, Principals of Animation, Professional Practice (where students interact with renowned visiting artists, scholars, and professionals), and Visual Communication.
Senior animation students are offered a six-credit studio each semester where they will design, manage, and fully produce an animated work. “This year-long project prepares students to confidently enter the field with experience, professional practice, and a representative portfolio/body of work,” says the school. Experience is also gained through internship opportunities at major studios across the country.
Graduates of the program have gone on to work in studios and production houses such as Bazillion Pictures, Digital Domain, Disney, Hallmark, Nickelodeon, Plympton Studios, ShadowMachine, Stoopid Buddies, Titmouse, Warner Brothers, and many others. Additionally, many graduates have gone on to pursue advanced degrees at top colleges like Cal Arts, SVA, UCLA, and UMKC.
10. Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland, Ohio
Established in 1882, Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) is an independent college of art and design that serves approximately 600 students enrolled in 15 majors in Art, Craft, Design, and Digital Media. A unique component of the programs at CIA is students enter their major as a sophomore, allowing them three full years of building skills and mastering techniques instead of one or two.
For aspiring animators, CIA offers a BFA in Animation that “teaches students how to produce professional content to support their vision, with an emphasis on storytelling,” says the school.
Students will work their way through courses such as 2D and 3D Animation, Acting, Human and Animal Anatomy, Motion Graphics, Storyboarding & Sequential Art, and many others. Students also have the option to focus on an area of expertise and use open electives to study outside of the program and collaborate with other departments based on specific interests.
Coursework for the program is supported by field trips to the zoo and natural history museum for research and inspiration as well as working on independent and collaborative projects. Through CIA’s Engaged Practice, students also have opportunities to learn through experience by working on real-world projects with external partners or clients, or in the public sphere—all before graduation.
An additional benefit of the program is mentoring by instructors who have worked for companies such as American Greetings, DreamWorks, Hasbro, Illumination, Sony Animation, Walt Disney Feature Animation, Warner Bros., and many others. Combined, the department professors have over 20 feature film credits, 200 TV episodes, 100 TV series, 300 digital productions, and expertise in nearly every aspect of animated production.
Graduates of the CIA program are prepared to seek positions such as 3D Character Animator, Animator, Concept Artist, Game Designer, Independent Filmmaker, and Storyboard Artist. Alumni work on feature films, TV series and games, and for the automotive, communications, medical, music, and sports industries.
11. Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana
Ball State University (BSU or Ball State) was established in 1918 as the Indiana State Normal School Eastern Division. The school became Ball State University in 1965 to “acknowledge phenomena; growth.” Today, Ball State offers more than 300 programs in nine colleges to more than 22,000 students from across the U.S. and more than 50 other countries.
The College of Fine Arts at Ball State houses the School of Art, which offers 12 undergraduate programs and two master’s degrees. A BFA in Visual Arts/Animation is available for aspiring animators.
The program explores 2D, 3D, stop-motion, and traditional animation as well as character design, lighting, modeling, storyboarding, texturing visual effects, and a wide range of other topics. Students will learn “up-to-date animation techniques,” says the school, “and how to use industry-standard animation software,” such as Adobe Illustrator, Maya, Photoshop, Toon Boom, and Toon Boom Harmony.
In every animation course, students “will gain valuable experience with leading animation industry software.” Toon Boom, Toon Boom Harmony, Maya, Photoshop, and Adobe Illustrator are just a few. Students will also have opportunities to participate in hands-on, collaborative projects with students and faculty in other courses of study.
During the final years of the program, students will create a demo reel or portfolio, and they will “learn how to market” themselves “in relation to today’s jobs.”
Graduates of the program are prepared for opportunities such as 3D animation for the film industry, 3D animator or modeler for the video game industry, 3D modeler for advertising, engineering or entertainment, animation web design, architectural rendering, medical animation, multimedia art, product visualization, and storyboard artist for the film industry.
12. Ohio University, Athens, Ohio
Ohio University (OU) was established in 1804 as Ohio’s first university. Ranked as one of the safest campuses in America, the school serves nearly 35,000 students enrolled in more 250 academic programs in 11 colleges. The E.W. Scripps College of Communications houses the School of Media Arts & Studies, which offers a BS in Communication with an Emphasis in Games & Animation (G&A) and an MFA in Communication Media Arts.
Offered in partnership with the J. Warren McClure School of Emerging Communication Technologies, the G&A emphasis area “encourages students to explore the production of computer animation and digital games while also emphasizing creative decision making, storytelling and experiential learning,” says the school.
Students may choose the Animation or Games core. Animation students have the opportunity to pursue animation for games, film/television, and VR/AR. In addition, the G&A area allows students to take production courses outside the games or animation cores,” broadening their skills while enhancing the creative process.” Students in the Games Area will have the opportunity to work through the entire game pipeline from level design to asset creation to playable games.
Course highlights for the G&A program include 3D Modeling & Animation, Animation I, II & III, Compositing, Digital Game Design, Game Development, Media Arts Management (FILM), Sound for Moving Images, Narrative Animation, Screenwriting, Special Topics in Games & Animation, Motion Graphics, Video Game Design, Video Production, and Visual Storytelling. Students will also complete a capstone course: Digital Games or Storytelling, Technology and Digital Media in Theme parks (Disney).
The MFA in Communication Media Arts is a partnership in the Schools of Visual Communication, Media Arts and Studies, and the J. Warren McClure School of Emerging Communication Technologies in the Scripps College of Communication. The three-year program has an Animation Area that allows students to explore animation for educational, entertainment, and game development purposes. The curriculum emphasizes 3D computer animation, with classes in 2D and experimental animation. Ancillary courses/experiences also provide an understanding of the management and leadership roles in these industries, visual storytelling, and sound for moving image.
Aspiring animators can also learn to design sound environments for animation, games, film and video in the Audio/Sound Design Area and in the Game Design Area, students learn game design, animation, programming, sound design, and entrepreneurship.
A unique component of the MFA program is the required hands-on, experiential project where students will engage in collaborative projects such as grant-funded faculty initiatives, projects through WOUB Public Media, the Game Research and Immersive Design (GRID) Lab, or practicum projects through the Scripps College of Communication or the College of Fine Arts. International experiences and professional externships are also encouraged in this area.
During the final year of the MFA program, students will complete a thesis and they will have the opportunity to serve as a teaching assistant and instructor.
13. Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio
Founded in 1910, Bowling Green State University (BGSU) serves more than 20,000 students across campuses in Bowling Green (main) and Huron, Ohio (BGSU Firelands). More than 200 undergraduate majors and programs are offered on the main campus, along with 30 at BGSU Firelands. Programs are offered through dozens of colleges, divisions, and schools.
Within BGSU’s College of Arts and Sciences is the School of Art, which houses five divisions: Studio, Digital Arts, Graphic Design, Art Education, and Art History. The Division of Digital Arts offers a BFA and MFA degrees in Digital Arts, a BA in Art with a Digital Arts Specialization, and a Minor in Digital Art.
The undergraduate programs offer three Focus Areas including Computer Animation & Video, Imaging, and Interactive Multimedia. The school says that the Digital Arts program at BGSU is “one of the leading programs in the nation for studying digital arts and animation, focusing on creative expression using digital technology. Students are encouraged to investigate aesthetic and perceptual possibilities as they engage in alternative art discourses. Digital Arts courses investigate the theoretical, aesthetic, and technical aspects of the digital arts while providing hands-on experiences with state-of-the-art equipment.”
Students in the program focus on 3D animation, digital imaging, interactive art, video art, virtual environments and gaming, mobile web app development, digital painting, and hybrid forms of digital art. Other program highlights include diverse study abroad opportunities in more than 40 countries worldwide as well as facilities and faculty that “position students for successful internships and careers with organizations such as Disney Animation, Pixar and the Museum of Modern Art.”
The MFA in Art with a Major in Digital Arts (Computer Animation, Digital Imaging and Interactive Media) is an intensive, 60 credit hour studio degree designed to prepare students to become both professional artists in industry and university-level instructors while developing their own studio practice. Students have the opportunity to explore 3D Modeling and Animation, Interactive Multimedia Development, Digital Video, Digital Imaging, and Hybrid Media forms including 3D printing, Architectural Projection Mapping, Web App Development and Interactive Installation Art. All supported graduate students are provided with studio space and computers.
Though the Digital Arts MFA has three areas of focus, students also have the opportunity to “merge art disciplines and investigate new directions. Students are also encouraged to explore interests in media outside of Digital Arts. For instance, a student may want to explore the integration of drawing, computer programming, sculpture, theater, or film with their Digital Arts work.”
In recent years, BGSU Digital Arts graduates have been hired by companies such as Apple, Blizzard, Blue Sky Studios, DNA Productions, DreamWorks Animation, Epic Games, Friendly Software (Microsoft games), LogicJunction (interactive web), Rhythm & Hues Studios, Volition, and many others.
14. Ferris State University (KCAD), Grand Rapids, Michigan
Founded in 1928, Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD) is a college within Ferris State University. The school serves more than 1,000 students enrolled in around 24 BFA, BS, MA, MFA, and Certificate programs. KCAD offers a BFA in Digital Art and Design that allows students to work in one of two focus areas including Entertainment Art (2D animation, 3D game art, and concept and production art for games and animation) and Multimedia Design (interaction design for the web, apps, virtual reality, the internet of things and video and motion design animation).
Students in the BFA program will be able to develop portfolios in one or more of these professional media markets: 2D Animation, 3D Game Art, Interaction Design, Motion Design, and Visual Development. Course highlights for the Entertainment Art Focus include Animation & Motion Graphics, 3D Character Design, Imaging for Game, Animation & Film, Comic Media Design, Applied Music and Sound, Video, 3D Game Art, Interactive Multimedia Design, Storyboard Art, and 2D Character Animation. Students will also take Professional Studio I & II, and Digital Art and Design Thesis I & II.
Multimedia Design students will take many of the same courses and studios as students in the Entertainment Art Focus, including Digital Art and Design Thesis I & II.
Students in both programs will gain knowledge and hands-on experience via high-end equipment and on-campus facilities such as Cintiq Studios and a wide range of cameras, microphones, and lighting equipment, and via access to The Dow Center FlexLab, and KCAD Library.
Graduates of the programs will have the skills and experience needed to pursue careers such as 2D animation, 3D game art, concept and production art for games and animation, interaction design, motion design, and visual development.
15. University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) was formed in 1982 “by the consolidation of two U. of I. campuses: the Medical Center campus, which dates back to the 19th century and the comprehensive Chicago Circle campus which replaced, in 1965, the two-year undergraduate Navy Pier campus that opened in 1946 to educate returning veterans.” Today, with more than 33,500 students enrolled in more than 260 degree programs and 66 certificate programs in 15 colleges, UIC is the largest university in the Chicago area.
The College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts (CADA) houses the School of Art and Art History, Department of Art, which offers a BFA in Art and MFA in New Media Art. All programs offer the opportunity to choose animation courses. Course highlights include Space I: Modeling, and Space II: Animation, Topics in Motion Graphics I & II, Topics in New Media Arts, and Topics in Video.
Students in these courses and others will be introduced to film/video animation techniques including cycles, direct animation, metamorphosis, special graphic processes and effects, and stop-motion. Courses also cover 3D modeling, computer animation, and lighting, rendering and texturing. Students will have the opportunity to create artwork with new media technologies, interactive installations, software, and of course, computer animation. An internship is also part of the program.
The College of Applied Health Sciences’ Department of Biomedical and Health Information Sciences (BHIS) offers another option for students that may be interested in a career that fuses science, medicine, and animation. The MS in Biomedical Visualization (BVIS) offers animation electives such as Interactive 3D, Modeling, Animation I &II, Illustration Techniques, Medical Legal Visualization, and Graphic Design.
BVIS is the largest and second oldest of four accredited programs of its kind in North America. Graduates of the BVIS program become highly skilled science visualization specialists in medical illustration, animation, interactive media, gaming, haptics, and virtual and augmented reality, working on the frontiers of discovery.
16. University of Wisconsin – Stout, Menomonie, Wisconsin
Established in 1891 as The Stout Manual Training School, University of Wisconsin – Stout (UW-Stout) is a polytechnic university that serves nearly 8,000 students. One of just 125 polytechnic universities in the U.S. and the only one in Wisconsin, UW-Stout offers 49 undergraduate and 22 graduate degrees, many of which are unique to Stout or are not offered elsewhere in the Midwest.
Programs are offered in three colleges and six schools. The School of Art And Design offers a BFA in Entertainment Design with a Concentration in Animation and an MFA in Design.
The 120 credit hour program “encompasses disciplines related to the entertainment and media industry, particularly, animation,” says the school. Students in the program will “acquire hands on experience using industry standard tools, software and creative techniques, as well as, be encouraged to participate in research projects, co-ops or study abroad programs.” The “required mid-program portfolio review offers entertainment design students an assessment of their progress in foundation art and design courses.”
Other program highlights include studios such as Animation Studio, Comics & Sequential Art Studio and Digital Cinema Studio, access to extensive library resources along with the art and design department visual resource center, and the opportunity to present a final portfolio as part of a public exhibition hosted by the School of Art and Design.
UW-Stout graduates from this program hold jobs at a variety of animation studios, graphic design companies, interactive design firms, and in the health care industry.
Course highlights for the BFA program include 3D Game Art and Engines, 3D Modeling and Animation, Animation Studio, Comics and Sequential Art, Digital Cinema Studio, Graphic Design, Typography in Motion, and Video Production. The program prepares students to enter the industry immediately or to enroll in an MFA program.
The School of Art and Design’s MFA in Design is a cross-disciplinary, 60-credit terminal degree program that consists of study in the areas of Animation, Digital Cinema, Game Design, Graphic Design, and Interactive Media. Courses for the program are delivered through a variety of methods including on-site, online, evening, weekend, and intensive summer. Students in the program will benefit from 30 hours of focused curriculum credits and electives, experiential learning, and design-based research through collaborative faculty-student projects.
Graduates of the MFA in Design program will be prepared to pursue roles in the academic community and as design professionals and leaders.
Students in both the BFA and MFA programs will benefit from the two galleries housed in the School of Art and Design: Student Gallery and the John Furlong Gallery. These, along with other spaces on and off campus, provide student, faculty, and outside exhibition opportunities throughout the academic year.
17. American Academy of Art College, Chicago, Illinois
The American Academy of Art College was founded in 1923 as a school for professional artists seeking careers in the commercial and fine arts fields. Today, this small, private institution serves more than 200 students enrolled in seven programs leading to a BFA degree. For aspiring animators, the school offers a 3D Modeling and Animation area that “incorporates traditional skills, such as sculpture and drawing, with 3D digital skills to create 3D models and animations in a digital environment.”
The program begins with developing essential skills in art technique and the humanities and sciences, then progresses to the development of creative and critical thinking skills. The 3D modeling and animation courses focus on lighting effects, camera angles, motion studies, and digital video and sound to create scenes.
Upon completion of the program, students will have the skills needed to compose, develop and direct a scene to convey an idea, create a project concept and plan a production schedule, synthesize traditional art with 3D composite and photo-editing skills, and visually and verbally articulate a familiarity with current and historic industry examples. Graduates will leave the BFA program with a demo reel focused on an industry specialization.
American Academy of Art College alumni hold titles such as 2D and 3D Animator, Art Director, Background Artist, Film/Video Editor, Game Designer, Motion Graphics Designer, Visual Developer, Visual FX Artist, and many others.
18. Webster University, Webster Groves, Missouri
Founded in 1915, Webster University is serves more than 12,000 students across 50 residential, metro, military, and international locations. The school houses five colleges and schools including the College of Arts & Sciences, George Herbert Walker School of Business & Technology, Leigh Gerdine College of Fine Arts, the School of Communications, and the School of Education.
The School of Communications (SOC) houses the Electronic and Photographic Media Department, which offers a BA in Animation and Minors in Animation Production and Interactive Digital Media. Undergraduate Certificates in Animation Production and Digital Media – Design and Production are also available.
The most popular program for aspiring animators is the 128 credit hour Animation BA, which “offers students the opportunity to learn core principles and techniques focusing on storytelling, motion, drawing, performance and expression through traditional and digital forms,” says the school. Students in the program will “undertake an intensive course of study including character animation, experimental concepts, fine art techniques and diverse applications, building a strong, global foundation before embarking upon an eventual area of concentration.” To gain hands-on experience in the field, each student will also complete an internship.
The Electronic and Photographic Media Department also offers an MA in New Media Production, which highlights courses such as Digital Design and Information Graphic Production, Digital Graphics and Motion Graphics Production, Digital Images and Storytelling, New Media Project Production, Video Editing, and Visual Storytelling.
All programs feature small classes, hands-on experience with equipment and resources early in the program, and collaboration across disciplines within the SOC and across the University. Students also have access to internship opportunities, and assistance with portfolio development.
19. Missouri State University, Springfield, Missouri
Missouri State University (MSU) was founded in 1905 as the Fourth District Normal School. This public university system four physical campuses—three in Missouri and one in Dalian, China—that serve 26,000 students, making MSU the state's second largest university campus by enrollment.
The school offers 102 bachelor’s programs with 170+ options, 61 master’s programs with nearly 100 options, and seven doctoral programs. Programs are offered in eight colleges including the Judith Enyeart Reynolds College of Arts and Letters, which houses the Art and Design Department. Here, aspiring animators can earn a BFA in Art with a Computer Animation Track.
One of the nation’s first programs offered within an art and design program, the Animation area teaches students a variety of 2D and 3D animation techniques to create portfolio-developing work. Course highlights for the 120 credit hour program include 2D and 3D Design, Computer Animation I-V, Digital Film and Media Production, and Professional Practices in Computer Animation.
Students in the program will also complete a number of electives as well as a Senior Exhibition. An internship opportunity is also part of the program.
Missouri State University also lists computer animation as part of its Electronic Arts (EA) program. Students in this program will take many of the same courses as students in the BFA in Art program. In addition to these courses, students will complete a Senior Project in Electronic Arts.
Graduates of both programs are prepared to seek positions in 2D and 3D animation, advertising, film, education, gaming, television, and visual effects.
20. Grand Valley State University, Allendale, Michigan
Established in 1960, Grand Valley State University (GVSU) serves more than 23,350 students from across the U.S. and 75 different countries. The school offers 138 degrees in eight colleges, including the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which houses the School of Communications, Department of Visual & Media Arts. Here aspiring animators can earn BA and BS degrees in Film and Video Production.
The BA and BS programs integrate production experience with the insights offered by criticism, media history, and theory. Courses of study for the programs include Animation, Documentary and Nonfiction, Fiction Filmmaking, New Media, and Sound Design.
Students can expect to get hands-on experience by producing projects for real clients in and outside of the classroom, opportunities to present work through regularly scheduled public screenings, and high-impact learning opportunities outside the classroom through internships and local production projects. Student internship opportunities include regional and national productions, post-production houses, and many more.