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What are the top illustration schools in the East for 2021?
|1||School of Visual Arts||New York|
|2||Rhode Island School of Design||Rhode Island|
|3||Pratt Institute||New York|
|4||Maryland Institute College of Art||Maryland|
|5||The New School’s Parsons School of Design||New York|
|6||Fashion Institute of Technology||New York|
|7||Massachusetts College of Art and Design||Massachusetts|
|8||Virginia Commonwealth University||Virginia|
|9||Syracuse University||New York|
|10||The University of the Arts||Pennsylvania|
|11||Rochester Institute of Technology||New York|
|12||University of Connecticut||Connecticut|
|13||Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts||Pennsylvania|
|14||Maine College of Art||Maine|
|15||University of Hartford||Connecticut|
|16||University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth||Massachusetts|
|17||Moore College of Art and Design||Pennsylvania|
|20||Pennsylvania College of Art and Design||Pennsylvania|
Our 2021 list of the Top 20 Illustration Schools in the East. For an explanation of our ranking criteria, click here.
1. School of Visual Arts, New York, New York
Founded in 1947, the School of Visual Arts (SVA) began as the Cartoonists and Illustrators school with just three teachers and 35 students—most of whom were World War II Veterans. Today, SVA serves 7,000 students enrolled in 31 programs. Offerings for aspiring illustrators include a BFA in Illustration and an MFA in Illustration as Visual Essay. A BFA in Cartooning is also available.
SVA has the largest illustration faculty of any school in America. In addition to employing 69 faculty members, the SVA Illustration Department serves 473 students enrolled in more than 75 courses.
The BFA curriculum consists of 120 credit hours of study) 72 in studio, 30 in humanities and sciences, 15 in art history, and three in elective courses. Course highlights for the program include Bookmaking and Linocut Inventions, Digital Coloring for Cartoonists, Digital Workshop: Music to Your Eyes, Experimental Animation, Fur, Feathers and Scales: Animal Anatomy, Introduction to Puppetry, Photocopy Zines, Pictorial Problems, Realistic and Fantastical Digital Painting, Storyboarding for Animation, and The Gouache Experience.
Students will also complete a number of seminars and workshops, Professional Practice: Illustration, and several Illustration Portfolio courses.
SVA students have landed assignments for The New Yorker, The New York Press, Mad Magazine, and The Village Voice—all before graduating from the program. Students are also frequent winners of the highest awards at the Society of Illustrators, American Illustration, and many other industry-based student competitions.
Established in 1984, the MFA in Illustration as Visual Essay is a competitive program that accepts just 20 students per year. Students in the program can expect to complete requirements in Computer Illustration, Creative Writing, Drawing, Painting, Storytelling, and Visual Essay. Students will also complete a number of workshops, an Illustration Business Book Camp, and the course Thesis Project: Visual Essay.
Other highlights for the two-year program include close interaction with faculty, a personal workspace with 24/7 access, and the opportunity to audit classes in animation, film, fine arts and humanities. The program also hosts regularly scheduled guest speakers from the New York professional arts community. Access to working artists, gallery shows, museum exhibitions, and internships are also available.
Graduates of SVA’s Illustration Department have gone on to work on films such as Sleepy Hollow and for designers such as Prada and Van’s.
2. Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island
Founded in 1877, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is one of the first art and design schools in the U.S. Serving approximately 2,500 students from across the U.S. and 57 other countries, the school has 19 studio majors and leading to bachelor’s or master’s degrees in the Fine Arts, Architecture, Design or Art Education. The school’s most popular programs are Illustration, Film/Animation/Video (FAV), Graphic Design, Industrial Design, and Painting.
Offered through the Illustration Department, the BFA in Illustration is RISD’s largest major. Like all RISD students, Illustration students will take first-year studios in Experimental and Foundation Studies, followed by a major course of study in a specific Fine Arts or Design discipline beginning sophomore year. “Rigorous courses in Liberal Arts enrich studio learning,” says the school. “Undergraduate students have the option of building on their degree programs to concentrate in one of six additional areas of study beyond a studio major. Concentrations at RISD are similar to “minors” at other colleges and universities. Totally optional, they offer important context and perspective while enriching the overall educational experience both in and beyond the studio.”
Other program highlights include access to computer resources, printmaking studios, software such as AfterEffects, InDesign and Maya, a full roster of visiting artists and art directors, access to ISB Gallery, which hosts a mix of student or curriculum related exhibitions throughout the academic year, and professionals from across the country who offer feedback through annual portfolio reviews.
Course highlights for the program include Advanced Painting, Animalia, Cinematic Storytelling, Digital 3D for Illustrators, Dragon Concept & Character Development, In 3-d Mixed Media, Fantasy Painting: The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of, Style & Substance, Merging Worlds, The Magic of Books, Virtual Reality for Palliative Care, Visible Cities, and Word, Images and Ideas. Students will take workshops such as Maya Basics, Pigments & Emulsions, and Zbrush Sculpting and Illustration as well.
Graduates of the art and design programs at RISD work as entrepreneurs or creative professionals at studios such as DreamWorks, Harmonix, and Pixar, and for networks like Fox, HBO, and PBS. Notable RISD graduates include Daniel Sousa, Animator and Director of the Oscar-nominated film Feral, Lance Wilder, Animator for The Simpsons, and Seth Macfarlane, Creator of Family Guy.
3. Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York
Pratt Institute (Pratt) prepares its nearly 5,000 students for careers in Architecture, Art, Design, Information Science and Liberal Arts, and Liberal Arts and Sciences. Founded in 1887 and situated in the historic Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn, New York, the school, which offers more than 25 undergraduate degree programs and concentrations along with more than 26 graduate degree programs, has additional campuses in Manhattan and Utica, New York. At the main campus in Brooklyn, students are enrolled in programs in the schools of Architecture, Art, Design, and Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Founded in 2014, the School of Design offers “up to four of Pratt’s oldest and most esteemed disciplines,” says the school. This includes Communications Design, Fashion Design, Industrial Design, and Interior Design. Options for aspiring illustrators include a BFA in Communications Design with an Illustration Emphasis and AOS and AAS degrees in Illustration, and an AAS in Graphic/Illustration offered in the School of Art.
The school says students who select the BFA with an illustration Emphasis “take a series of upper-level studio courses that explore topics particularly relevant to image-based communication such as advanced storytelling, socio-political commentary and authorship. Courses throughout the major encourage experimentation with multiple technologies, platforms and techniques.”
A variety of unique electives “provide opportunities to explore a wide spectrum of contemporary illustration practice including graphic novels, animation and 3D modeling, independent publishing, editorial illustration, children’s books, concept art and illustrated typography.”
The AOS in Illustration is a career-oriented track, which prepares students for careers in the Art and Design professions. The AAS in Illustration is transfer-oriented track, which positions graduates to transfer directly into the junior year of the Pratt BFA Programs in Fine Arts or Communication Design. The AAS in Graphic Design/Illustration follows an art and design curriculum that includes a liberal arts component that prepares students to transfer to Pratt’s BFA in Communications Design or the Fine Arts Department.
Upon completion of the program, BFA graduates are prepared to seek positions in a variety of industries or they may enroll in Pratt Institute’s Graduate School of Arts, which offers an MFA.
Pratt Institute alumni have landed positions at major studios such as Blue Sky, Cartoon Network Studios, Curious Pictures, Digital Domain, DreamWorks Studios, Gameloft, Industrial Light & Magic, Rhythm and Hues, Sony Imageworks, Walt Disney Animation Studios, and more.
4. Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, Maryland
Founded in 1826, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is the nation’s oldest independent, continuously degree-granting college of art and design. The College enrolls nearly 3,500 students from just about every state 50+ countries and it attracts more than 175 visiting art historians, critics, designers, poets, and writers from around the world each year.
MICA offers around 80 programs leading to the BFA, MA, MFA, or MPS degree. Study areas include art education, design, electronic media, fine arts, liberal arts, and professional studies. A number of post-baccalaureate certificate programs are also offered.
Undergraduate programs for aspiring illustrators include a BFA in Illustration with Concentrations in Book Arts, Illustration + Humanistic Studies, Sequential Art, and Studio. Interdisciplinary options for Specialized Study include Studio Concentrations in Animation, Book Arts, Graphic Design, and Printmaking. In addition to first-year and liberal arts requirements, undergraduates will complete 54 credit hours in illustration. Course highlights include Illustration I & II, Life Drawing, Studio Drawing, and Professional Development.
“Seniors are mentored in two semesters of portfolio building work in Senior Illustration I and II to prepare a solid body of work in order to become professional illustrators,” says the School. “Professional Development for Illustrators includes portfolio preparation, business practice, intellectual property, and copyright issues.”
Graduate programs include an MA in Illustration and an MFA in Illustration Practice. The MA is a one-year program for students interested in a career in illustration or in refining their existing illustration practice. The degree culminates in independent work in the form of a capstone portfolio project, exhibition, and review panel. The MFA is a two-year program that attracts “experienced illustrators, advanced students from related disciplines, including writing, design, animation, film, digital media, etc., and students with a cultivated passion for illustration in all its forms.”
Students in the program will develop an independent, second-year thesis project using a medium appropriate to their personal direction and emerging illustration markets, including an exhibition and accompanying case study book.
Graduates of the Illustration Programs at MICA have gone on to land positions as Author and Illustrator of "Nimona," Book Illustrator, Brand Illustrator for Uber, Illustrator and Comic Artist for Random House, and many others. MICA alumni have also continued their education in graduate programs or have successful careers as Freelance Illustrators or with their own studios.
5. The New School’s Parsons School of Design, New York, New York
The New School was founded in 1896 by American Impressionist William Merritt Chase. Back then, the school was known as The Chase School. In 1904, Arts Educator Frank Alvah Parsons joined the school, later becoming its sole director. Between 1904 and 1910, parsons launched Advertising, Costume Design Interior Decorating Programs.
Today, known as The New School/Parsons (or just Parsons), this art and design college serves 5,100 students enrolled in 130 degree and diploma programs across five schools including the Schools of Art and Design History and Theory (ADHT); Art, Media, and Technology (AMT); Constructed Environments; Design Strategies; and the School of Fashion.
The School of AMT offers a BFA in Illustration that prepares students to work in a range of areas including Animation, Editorial and Advertising Illustration, Graphic Novels, Hand Lettering, Picture Books, Surface and Display Design, and Toy Designs. Course highlights include Drawing/Imaging (Studio), Space/Materiality (Studio), and Time (Studio), and others such as Intro to Visual Culture: Recitation, Language and Letterform, and Objects as History.
Program highlights include the opportunity to work with peers in Collaboration Studio courses and other projects, internships with Parson partners such as AIGA, Apple, Eyebeam, and Red Cross, access to events such as Comic Arts Brooklyn, MoCCA Fest, and more, and the opportunity to connect with New York–based professional organizations such as American Illustration and the Society of Illustrators.
6. Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), New York, New York
Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) opened in 1944 with just 100 students on the top two floors of the High School of Needles Trades. Today, as part of the State University of New York (SUNY) System, FIT spans an entire city block and serves more than 10,000 students enrolled in a variety of programs. Just a few include Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing, and Menswear, which are unique to the college, and Fashion Business Management, Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design, and Toy Design, the first of their kind in the country.
Programs are offered in five academic divisions including the Schools of Art and Design, Liberal Arts, and Graduate Studies, Jay and Patty Baker School of Business and Technology, and the Center for Continuing and Professional Studies.
The School of Art and Design offers 17 programs that provide “a practical, hands-on, real world based education,” says the school. Serving approximately 3,322 students, the School of Art and 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.
Students will learn the business of illustration and they are required to take a nine-course selection of computer classes (unique to FIT) that will keep them up-to-date in the skills many employers require. Students will also have the option to specialize in either Fashion or General Illustration. An optional Study Abroad course in Italy is also available.
Other course highlights include 2D Computer Animation, Advanced Visual Story Studio, Applying Color to Illustrate the Written Word, Book Illustration, Comic Book Illustration, Digital Illustration Techniques, Illustration Rendering Techniques, Illustrating the Written Word, Mentor/Specialization Projects, Stylistic Illustration, The Business of Illustration, The Illustrator’s Heritage, and Visual Storytelling for Evolving Media I-II.
The Illustration Portfolio Thesis is a final preparation for students entering the illustration business. This 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 Illustration graduates have gone on to build successful careers at Advertising Agencies such as BBDO, DDB, J. Walter Thompson, Ogilvy & Mather, and Young & Rubicam, and at corporations such as American Greetings and Hallmark, Magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, and entertainment companies such as DreamWorks SKG, LucasArts Entertainment, Walt Disney, and Warner Brothers.
7. Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston, Massachusetts
Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) began as Massachusetts Normal School in 1873. Today, the college is known as “the Commonwealth’s Art and Design School.”
MassArt serves 2,000 undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education students enrolled in dozens of programs in areas such as Animation, Film and Video, Glass, Illustration, Industrial Design, Painting, Printmaking, and Sculpture. Programs lead to the BFA, MFA, MDES, MAT, or MArch.
The Illustration Department at MassArt offers a BFA in Illustration that “emphasizes the understanding of character development and narrative techniques,” says the school. 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.
Liberal Arts course highlights include Introduction to Western Art, Literature/Writing/Film, and Thinking, Making, Writing: Using Words with Clarity and Flair. Major course highlights include Advanced Drawing Projects for Illustrators, Black and White Illustration, Book Arts, Color for Illustrators, Digital Illustration, Digital Painting and Techniques, Experimental Illustration Techniques, Human Figure Illustration, Media Techniques, Narrative Illustration, Painting for Illustrators, Professional Illustration, Studio for Drawing, Technical Illustration, Virtual 3D Illustration, and Word and Image.
A Course Assistantship, Independent Study, Professional Freelance Studio, and an Internship are also part of the program.
During the final year of the program, students will complete Illustration Portfolio, Senior Illustration, Studio Electives, and the Thesis Project. Students will present their Portfolio to invited professionals from advertising, corporate, editorial, institutional, and publishing markets.
8. Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia
Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) was established in 1838 as the medical department of Hampden-Sydney College. This public research university serves around 31,100 students enrolled in more than 200 programs in 13 schools and one college.
The School of Arts (VCUarts) serves more than 3,000 students and it houses 16 departments and programs offering 18 bachelor’s and five master’s degrees. The VCUarts Department of Communication Arts houses the VCUarts Illustration Program. Several options are available: a BFA in Communication Arts OR Communication Arts with a Concentration in Scientific Illustration, and a Minor in Scientific Illustration.
The Minor is 21 credit hours and acceptance to this unique program is based on a portfolio and application review. The BFA in Communication Arts prepares students for careers in illustration for print or digital publishing, comic book art, or a scientific illustration. The program consists of many new and elective courses “designed to reinforce and expand the drawing, design, and illustration components of the curriculum,” says the school. Students will have the opportunity to develop a variety of projects in illustration and complete an internship and/or study abroad experience.
Course highlights for the program include 3D Modeling for Concept Design, Color Theory, Game Design, Theory and Practice, Imagery for Children, Imagery for Science Fiction and Fantasy, and The Figure in Illustration. Program alumni are 3D Modelers and Animators, Editorial Illustrators, Fine Artists, Game Designers, and Interactive Media Designers.
The BFA in Communication Arts with a Concentration in Scientific Illustration requires 32 credits in the biological sciences and chemistry, in addition to communication major and illustration courses. Students in the program will also have the opportunity to complete an internship and/or study abroad experience. Course highlights include 3D Modeling, Basic Human Anatomy, Digital Drawing, Drawing Studies: The Figure Observed, Environmental Science, General Chemistry, Mixed-Media Illustration, and Scientific Illustration. Program alumni are 3D Modelers and Animators, Concept Artists, Scientific Illustrators, and more.
9. Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York
Syracuse University (SU) established some of the nation’s earliest architecture and fine arts programs. Founded in 1870, the school serves approximately 22,322 students enrolled in more than 200 majors and minors, and 200 advanced degree programs across 13 academic units. Programs are offered at SU’s main campus in Syracuse and at locations in New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C.
SU houses the College of Visual and Performing Arts’ (VPA) School of Art, which offers BFA and MFA degrees in Illustration. Students in the 126 credit hour BFA in Illustration will take classes in “traditional, digital, and alternative media to develop competency and techniques,” says the school. Students will study “conceptual thinking, research methods, and how to communicate narrative while developing familiarity with illustration history and the contemporary field.”
Four focus areas help students explore specific industry specialties. They include Editorial, Product, Sequential, and Visual Development. The Editorial Focus covers magazines, newspapers, book jackets, and online publishing. The Product Focus includes patterning, packaging, and products, while the Sequential Focus covers comics, graphic novels, and children’s books. The Visual Development Focus includes visual and character development for animation and gaming.
Other program highlights include engagement with nationally and internationally known visiting artists each year, courses taught by practicing illustrators and artists whose work is published and exhibited nationally and internationally, global study opportunities at the SU campus in Florence, Italy or other countries, workshops and lectures, and visits to New York and Los Angeles.
All BFA students will have the opportunity to develop a portfolio that will be shown to Art Directors and Illustrators for feedback.
Alumni from the SU VPA Illustration Program have gone on to work in Illustration for the Advertising industry, Book and Online Publishing, Children's Books, Comics, Gaming, Graphic Novels, Greeting Cards, Licensing, Newspapers, Television, and Visual Development in Animated Films.
The MFA in Illustration requires a three-year residency and 60 credit hours of study. Classes for the program “encourage experimentation, stimulate growth, and ultimately, lead to a focused body of work.” Course highlights for the program include Drawing on Location, Illustration Graduate Studio I-II, Illustration Grad Workshop, Illustration Practice, Licensing from Studio to Market, and Printmaking for Illustration I-II.
Students may also take advantage of special elective travel courses during the Maymester and summer program to gain credits. Courses include Illustration Graduate Summer Intensive (NYC), and LA Illustration Studio. Two Thesis Courses, MFA Thesis I-II, are required as well. The program ends with an MFA Exhibition.
10. The University of the Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The University of the Arts (UArts) was formed in 1876 by the merging of two century-old institutions: Philadelphia College of Art and Philadelphia College of the Performing Arts. In 1987, the school was granted university status, making it the largest institution of its kind in the nation. Today, the university says UArts “is the only school in America that makes it possible to work and collaborate across traditional boundaries.”
UArts serves approximately 1,800 students enrolled in more than 40 programs at the University's Avenue of the Arts campus. Twenty-three minors are also available and open to all students. This means, aspiring illustrators can take sculpting classes, creative writers can take classes in illustration, dancers can minor in ceramics, and industrial designers can study guitar.
Programs are offered through the Schools of Art, Dance, Design, Film, Music, and Theater. The School of Art offers a BFA in Illustration and a Minor in Figurative Illustration. An MFA in Studio Art is also available. The BFA in Illustration blends creative visual problem solving, digital experiences, drawing, figure modeling, illustration, painting, picture making, digital experiences, and graphic design, as well as self-discovery through mentor-student relationships, and history of pictorial image making.
Course highlights include Business and Preparation for Design Practice, Children’s Book Illustration, Comic Creation, Design Studio, Drawing as Thinking, Figurative Interpretation & Personal Voice, Illustration Markets and Promotion, Illustration with Digital Media, Motion-Based Illustration, New Media Illustration, Object & World Building, and Printmaking. Students will also complete Thesis Studio I-II.
Students may also select one option from the following: School of Design Workshop, Illustration Workshop: Personal Viewpoint or the Design Internship. Interns have the opportunity to work at professional venues ranging from individual artist studios to large branding firms such as Anthropologie (Urban Outfitters), Cartoon Network, and Sterling Publishing (Barnes & Noble).
Other program highlights include shared studio spaces, small class sizes, and training in industry-standard digital software such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and After Effects. Students also receive training in anatomy, integrating typography, experimenting with traditional painting methods, and developing narratives for a well-rounded experience across media.
The focus of the Minor in Figurative Illustration “is on enhancing skills and knowledge related to figurative drawing, painting and general image-making. This is accomplished by working with the figure and the figure in space, and through introduction to various media and picture-making issues.” The program requires 15 credit hours if study including Figure Anatomy, Figure Communication or Figure Painting, Illustration I: Pictorial Foundation, Illustration II: Illustration Methods, and Responsive Drawing.
The MFA in Studio Art is a low-residency, year-round program that consists of an immersive eight-week on-campus summer semester, independent study (fall and spring), and mentoring. This 60 credit hour program “allows candidates to explore in a multitude of artistic disciplines.” Course highlights include Contemporary Topics in Art and Design, Culture Study, Graduate Drawing, Graduate Seminar, Independent Studio, Major Studio, Professional Practices, Studio Topics, Thesis Preparation, and Thesis Writing Project. An MFA Thesis Exhibition is also part of the program.
Graduates of the Illustration Programs at UArts have gone on to create illustrations for ESPN, Fortune, Ralph Lauren, Random House, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and many others.
11. Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester New York
Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) began with the merging of prominent cultural association, the Rochester Athenaeum (est. 1829), and a technical training school known as Mechanics Institute, (est. 1885). The Institute adopted the name Rochester Institute of Technology in 1944 and awarded its first Bachelor of Science degree in 1955. Today, RIT has campuses in Rochester, New York, Dubai, Croatia, Kosovo, and China and it serves nearly 19,000 students majoring in everything from Art and Design to Robotics and Science Exploration.
The College of Art and Design at RIT houses the School of Art, which offers a BFA in Illustration and BFA and MFA degrees in Medical Illustration. Program highlights for all pathways include small class sizes (maximum 16), more than 15 visiting artists each year for in-person or virtual demos and lectures, and the opportunity for students to exhibit their work at least once in one of RIT's gallery spaces.
The Illustration BFA “mixes traditional drawing skills, the latest digital imaging technologies, and sculpted dimensional methods for effective visual communication,” says the school. Course highlights include 3D Applications: The Figure, 3D Design, Anatomical Illustration, Dimensional Illustration, Dimensional Illustration, Drawing II Workshop: Topics, and Illustration I-III.
Students will also complete an Illustration Portfolio and the course—RIT 365: RIT Connections. This course allows students to “participate in experiential learning opportunities designed to launch them into their career at RIT.” With an 81% employment rate, graduates of the program also work for Advertising Firms, Corporate Art Departments, and Publishing Companies, as well as create and design concepts for Animation, Cinema, and Games.
“The highly sought-after Medical Illustration BFA is one of only a few offered in the country.” Students in the program will “take complex scientific and medical information and distill it into stunning visual images.” Course highlights include 2D Composition and Color, 3D Animation of Organic Forms, 3D Modeling of Organic Forms, 4D Design, Anatomical Illustration, Computer Applications in Medical Illustration, Contemporary Media I-II, Illustrating Human Anatomy, Scientific Visualization, and Surgical Illustration.
With an 86% employment rate, graduates of the BFA in Medical Illustration Program are prepared to seek positions such as 2D Medical Animator, Exhibitor, Forensics Illustrator, Information Graphics Illustrator, Medical Book/Texts Illustrator, Medical Editorial Illustrator, Medical Interactive/Interface Designer, Medical Legal Illustrator/Litigation Support Specialist, Medical Web Designer, Ophthalmologic Illustrator, Prosthesis Designer/Anaplastologist, and many others.
The MFA in Medical Illustration is one of only five such programs in North America and the only program in the northeast. The program “combines training in human anatomy (with illustration students observing complete cadaver dissection in RIT’s Cadaver Lab), immunology, histology (the cellular structure of organs), and pathophysiology (the study of disease) with extensive training in 2D and 3D digital graphics, interactive media, and animation.”
Students in the program will learn to “transform complex medical information into visual images that are used in education, research, patient care, public relations, legal cases, and health care marketing.” The MFA in Medical Illustration has a 100% employment rate. Graduates are ready for a range of leadership positions in Medical and Legal Illustration, Animation, Computer Modeling, Information Graphics, and more.
12. University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut
The University of Connecticut (UConn) was established in 1881 as Storrs Agricultural School, opening with just three faculty members and 13 male students. Today, the school employs more than 18,000 faculty and staff members serving a coed population of more than 33,600 students (Fall 2020).
Consisting of one main and four regional campuses, UConn offers eight undergraduate degrees in 119 majors, 17 graduate degrees in 88 research and professional practice fields of study, and six professional degree programs (JD, LLM, MD, DMD, PharmD, SJD) in 14 schools and colleges. The School of Fine Arts houses the Department of Art and Art History, which offers a BFA in Art with an Illustration/Animation Concentration.
Students in the program will gain working knowledge of both traditional approaches and new technologies. Illustration courses “stress the creation of images that expand a text,” says the school. “Text is broadly defined and may include manuscripts, posters, websites, or self-authored works by the illustrator.” Course highlights include Going Pro, Illustration, and Topics in Illustration.
Students will have the opportunity to pursue a wide variety of projects “in both analog and digital environments,” including 2D and Stop Motion Animation, Book, Cartoons, Character and Environment Design, Children’s Illustration, Comics, Design for Products, Editorial, Graphic Novels, Institutional, Self-Promotion, and more. Other program highlights include visiting artists, internship opportunities, and study abroad experiences.
13. Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts + University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Founded in 1740, the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) serves 26,552 students enrolled in more than 400 programs in four undergraduate and 12 graduate schools. Since 1929, the school has partnered with Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA), established in 1805 and the first museum and school of fine arts in the U.S. The partnership “provides students with an unparalleled opportunity to pursue their artistic passions and intellectual pursuits in the Ivy League,” says the school.
PAFA BFA students have access to more than 800 courses in 50+ areas of study. Programs for aspiring illustrators include the PAFA/Penn BFA in Illustration and a Certificate Illustration (PAFA). An MFA program is also available. The PAFA/Penn BFA in Illustration combines studio training with a fine arts focused liberal arts education. The program helps students develop skills in storytelling, visual communication, and entrepreneurship.
Course highlights for the program include Business Practices of Art, Digital Drawing and Painting, Digital Print and Web Design, Graphic Narrative, Illustration I-II, Illustration Projects, Letterpress and Book Arts, Narrative and Sequential Drawing, Narrative Projects, Professional Practices, and Visual Narration. Students will also take courses with Master Illustrators such as David Wiesner and E.B. Lewis, and complete the Illustration Portfolio course and Thesis Seminar I-II courses.
Students in both the BFA and Certificate program have 24-hour access to digital facilities and workspaces including two sky-lit painting studios, a number of large painting classrooms, illustration/drawing studios and painting studios, and a rooftop terrace, often used for cityscapes.
Graduates of the PAFA/Penn Illustration Programs are prepared to pursue positions in Advertising and Marketing, Animation, Book and Magazine Illustration, Film and Television, Graphic Design, Graphic Novels, Medical Illustration, Poster and Storyboard Art, and more.
14. Maine College of Art, Portland, Maine
Maine College of Art (MECA) was established in 1882 as part of the Portland Society of Art. The school awarded its first BFA degrees in 1975, following accreditation in 1973 by the National Association of Colleges of Art and Design (NASAD) and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Today, as one of just 42 private, nonprofit, degree-granting professional art colleges in the country, MECA awards the BFA in eleven studio majors (including Illustration), the MAT, and an MFA. Launched in 1998, the MFA was the first program of its kind in the country.
MECA serves just over 450 students and more than 1,200 adults and youths annually, in the region, through more than 200 credit and non-credit public courses in its year-round Continuing Studies program.
The school’s BFA in Illustration highlights small class sizes, internship opportunities with Illustration/Animation studios in Portland, and classes taught by “distinguished professional illustrators and artists.” Course highlights include Advanced Techniques Masterclass, Editorial Illustration, Illustration in Context, Illustration Majors Studio, Intro to Ink for Illustrators, Methods and Media in Illustration, Motion Graphics and Animation, Narrative/Sequential Illustration, and Portrait Drawing in Illustration: People and Animals.
During the final years of the program, students will complete 3YR Seminar: Motive, Method, Making (GD & IL), Professional Studio, and Senior Synthesis. Around 63% of program graduates work as professional artists, 23% are employed as Art Directors, Graphic Designers, and Illustrators, and 47% are self-employed, independent contractors, or freelance workers. Nearly 100% of graduates create art in their spare time.
15. University of Hartford, Hartford, Connecticut
Chartered in 1957, University of Hartford (UHart) is a four-year private university that serves 6,600 students from 49 states and 47 countries. Spread across seven schools and colleges, the university offers around 200 programs spanning the Arts, Business, Education, Engineering and Technology, Health Professions, and Humanities.
Serving 310 students, Hartford Art School (HAS) at UHart offers eight studio majors leading to the BFA, a BA in Art History, and three MFA programs. BFA majors include Ceramics, Illustration, Integrated Media Arts, Painting/Drawing, Photography, Printmaking, Sculpture, and Visual Communication Design. MFA programs include Illustration, Interdisciplinary Art, and Photography.
The 120 credit hour BFA curriculum is designed to introduce students to the processes and techniques used by illustrators. After the foundation year, the program guides students through a series of independent studios and illustration intensives focused on Advertising, Bookwork, and Editorial using both digital and traditional methods.
The program covers the three primary markets for illustrators: Advertising Illustration, Book Illustration, and Editorial Illustration. Course highlights include Advertising, Book, Digital Illustration, Drawing for Illustration, Editorial, and Illustration I-III (Oil, Acrylic, and Watercolor).
Sophomore and Junior Reviews are part of the program and students will complete Portfolio Prep and the Senior Project course. In the Portfolio course, students learn to prepare their work for professional presentation. “Considerable emphasis is placed on the development of personal style and direction throughout the program,” says the school.
The MFA in Illustration is a low-residency program designed for working adults. The program highlights “intensive, on-campus sessions” in the summer with travel during spring and fall. Fall and spring semesters take place off-campus in places such as Dallas, New York City, Pasadena, San Francisco, and other destinations.
Other program highlights include guest speakers, museum visits, and studio visits to places such as Communication Arts Magazine, Disney Animation Studios, DreamWorks Animation Studios, Electronic Arts Entertainment, Lucasfilm, Nickelodeon Studios, the Society of Illustrators, and many others.
16. University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, Dartmouth, Massachusetts
University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth (UMass Dartmouth) traces its roots to 1895, when the state legislature chartered two textile schools: New Bedford Textile School and the Bradford Durfee Textile School in Fall River. The school serves just over 8,500 students enrolled in more than 300 majors, minors, certificates, graduate degrees, and fields of study. Programs are offered in eight colleges and schools.
The College of Visual & Performing Arts (CVPA) houses the Illustration Program, which offers BFA and MFA degrees in Illustration. A Minor in Illustration that consists of 18 credit hours and Portfolio Development is also available.
The BFA is a professional degree program that “introduces students to specialized areas such as book illustration, character development, concept art, and documentary illustration,” says the school. Students will gain experience in the “fundamental principles of color, composition, drawing, and rendering.”
Course highlights for the program include 3D Form and Space, Advanced Illustration Topics, Digital Essentials, Illustration: A Personal Voice, Illustration: Character Design and Environment, Illustration: Meaning & Metaphor, Illustration: The Portfolio and the Profession, Illustration: Visual Storytelling, Posters, Comics, and the Illustration Marketplace, Structural Drawing, and Visual Arts Seminar. Other program highlights include the opportunity to exhibit student work at the Campus Gallery and internship opportunities at places such as Hasbro, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the National Museum of American Illustration.
The BFA in Illustration prepares students for graduate study or careers in Animation, Illustration, Multimedia Design, Scientific Visualization and many others. In addition to the Illustration MFA program at UMass-Dartmouth—a 60-credit, two or three year program of study—Illustration BFA graduates have been accepted into graduate programs at New York Academy of Art (NYAA), Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA), Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University (SMFA at Tufts). Others have been hired by Blue Rain Media, GimaSport, Hasbro, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Moss Archive, Old Time Sports, and others.
In addition to the careers already listed, Illustration MFA graduates are qualified for professional work and positions in higher education within a variety of disciplines. “There are also numerous allied career paths, such as curatorial work, arts administration, art direction, and publishing, which benefit from the level of accomplishment the Master of Fine Arts degree entails.”
17. Moore College of Art and Design, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Founded in 1848, Moore is the first and only visual arts college for women in the United States. The school serves more than 400 students offers more than 30 majors, minors, graduate, and certificate programs. Degree programs lead to the BFA, MA or MFA. Program options include Graphic Design, Photography & Digital Arts, Illustration, Animation & Game Arts, Fine Arts, Art Education, Art History, Curatorial Studies, Fashion Design, and Interior Design.
Students in all programs “learn from award-winning, professionally active faculty who bring real-world knowledge and expertise into the classroom and encourage excellence, creative exploration and self-expression to prepare students for lifelong learning and leadership in their chosen field,” says the school. Moore also offers an array of minors that complement the students’ course of study, and allows them to advance their interests in support of their artistic and professional goals.
The BFA in Illustration consists of workshops, critiques, studio tours, and mentorship experiences with design professionals, as well as access to computer labs installed with the latest versions of Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, InDesign, Fireworks and Flash. Course highlights for the program include Business for Illustrators, Color Theory, Digital Imagemaking, Digital Painting for Illustrators, Life Drawing for Illustrators I-IV, Junior Studio, Senior Studio, Visual Thinking, and Writing Workshop I&II. Students will also complete an internship.
Graduates of the BFA Programs at Moore College of Art & Design enjoy a 100% job placement rate. BFA alumni work for companies and organizations such as Penguin Group USA, Smithsonian, Specialty Magazine, Tyco Toys, Inc., and many others.
18. Marywood University, Scranton, Pennsylvania
When it was founded in 1915, Marywood University was the first college for women in Northeastern Pennsylvania and the first Catholic college for women in the state. Today, the school serves a co-ed 3,000 students enrolled in degree programs in a variety of areas including the Arts, Fine Arts, Music, Nursing, Sciences, and Social Work. Programs are offered in three degree-granting colleges.
Students in all programs are required to complete a core curriculum in the Liberal Arts in addition to the courses in their major. Opportunities for undergraduates abound through double majors, honors and independent study programs, internships, practicums, internships, and study abroad.
The College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) houses the Department of Art, which offers an Illustration BFA Studio Arts Track and a 60-credit low-residency MFA in Illustration designed for artists who want to teach at the college level or become professional artists.
The Illustration BFA Studio Arts Track explores advertising, animation, books, children’s books, comics, gaming, graphic novels, magazines, marketing, movies, music, packaging, posters, web, and many other areas. Because all of these areas are explored, the students Senior Portfolio will reflect their personal interests.
Other program highlights include access to the latest technology, courses taught by professionals in the field, internship and fieldwork opportunities, and study abroad experiences. Graduates of the BFA Program at Marywood are prepared to pursue careers in Animation or Game Design or titles such as 3D Illustrator, Caricaturist, Comic Book/Strip Artist, Courtroom Sketcher, Children’s Book Illustrator, Fashion Illustrator, Game Designer, Greeting Card Illustrator, Illustrator for Graphic Novels, Editorial Illustrator, Medical Illustrator, Muralist, Political Cartoonist, Publishing: Book Cover Artist, Stamp Illustrator, Story Board Illustrator, Technical Illustrator and many others.
19. Lesley University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Lesley University was founded in 1909. The school serves around 2,700 undergraduate students and nearly 4,000 graduate students enrolled in more than 100 programs through four colleges and schools. The College of Art & Design serves 700 students enrolled in 14 undergraduate majors, 16 minors and six certificates along with 11 master’s degrees, one PhD, One license, and four graduate certificates. Programs for aspiring illustrators include a BFA, Minor and Professional Certificate in Illustration.
The 123 credit hour BFA in Illustration allows students to pursue a second major or one of Lesley’s 45+ Minors in Art and Design or Liberal Arts. Examples include Illustration + Drama = Set Designer or Illustration + Biology = Medical Illustrator. Other program highlights include small studios, hands-on experience, internship opportunities, and exhibitions.
The Minor requires 15 credit hours of study and encourages experimentation across the field. Students may also focus in a specific area such as children’s books, comics, editorial or games through electives. The Certificate consists of 60 credit hours of in-studio study and coursework. The program includes a Senior Studio course and Portfolio for Illustration/Senior Jury (IILLU 4310).
Lesley Illustration graduates work across a wide range of industries, from advertising and publishing to science and medicine, fashion, education, and beyond. Organizations graduates could work for include Artists for Humanity, Charles River Laboratories, Lulu Mena, Muse Paint Bar, Neoscape, Nova Idea Inc., and Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc. Potential job titles include Book Illustrator, Cartoonist, Graphic Artist, Graphic Designer, Junior Production Artist, Production Artist, and Technical Illustrator.
20. Pennsylvania College of Art and Design, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Founded in 1982, Pennsylvania College of Art and Design (PCA&D) is a private, non-profit, professional art college serves around 250 students enrolled in 12 minor programs, seven certificate programs, and five majors leading the BFA degree. Options for aspiring illustrators include a BFA and a Minor in Illustration that consists of 18 credit hours of study. At least six credit hours for the Minor will include courses at the 300 or 400 level.
The BFA in Illustration requires 120 credit hours of study or 129 for the BFA + a Minor. Illustration students have 11 Minor options including Animation and Game Art, Art History and Visual Culture, Business in Creative Industry, Creative Writing, Esports Management, Fine Art, General Humanities, Graphic Design, Literature, Live Experience Design, and Photography and Video.
The BFA begins with the Foundation Year, advancing to illustration coursework in the sophomore year. Course highlights include 3D Head & Figure, Design in Illustration, Digital Painting, Figure Utilization, Illustration Studio I-II, Observational Figure Workshop, Professional Practices I-II, Senior Illustration Studio I-II, Time Based Media, Typography, and Visual Development.
Other program highlights include participation in online community projects, engagement in professional jobs with outside clients, opportunities to enter Illustration competitions, required internships and access to the mentorship program, and the chance to create entrepreneur-based projects.
Student work has been recognized in student competitions such as the 3×3 Magazine, Society of Illustrators, and Spectrum. BFA graduates have gone on to land positions at gaming and animation companies such as LAIKA, and some have started their own businesses.