|1||Rhode Island School of Design||Rhode Island|
|2||Maryland Institute College of Art||Maryland|
|3||Parsons The New School for Design||New York|
|4||Pratt Institute||New York|
|5||Cooper Union||New York|
|6||ArtCenter College of Design||California|
|7||School of Visual Arts||New York|
|8||California Institute of the Arts||California|
|9||California College of the Arts||California|
|10||School of the Art Institute of Chicago||Illinois|
|11||Savannah College of Art and Design||Georgia|
|12||Virginia Commonwealth University||Virginia|
|13||University of Texas at Austin||Texas|
|14||University of North Texas||Texas|
|15||Columbia College Chicago||Illinois|
|16||Rochester Institute of Technology||New York|
|17||Kent State University||Ohio|
|18||The University of the Arts||Pennsylvania|
|19||Ringling College of Art and Design||Florida|
|20||College for Creative Studies||Michigan|
|21||University of Illinois at Urbana||Illinois|
|22||Otis College of Art and Design||California|
|23||Minneapolis College of Art and Design||Minnesota|
|24||Portland State University||Oregon|
|25||Kansas City Art Institute||Missouri|
The 2019 rankings of the top 25 schools and colleges offering a Graphic Design Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree programs. For an explanation of the ranking criteria, click here.
1. 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. This private art and design school serves approximately 2,480 students from across the U.S. and 57 other countries, enrolled in 32 graduate and undergraduate art and design programs leading to a BFA, MFA, five-year Professional Baccalaureate, or a Bachelor of Architecture.
One of the largest departments at RISD, Graphic Design offers “countless opportunities to collaborate within and beyond the discipline,” thanks to access to approximately 165 undergraduate majors. The BFA in Graphic Design highlights courses such as Spatial Dynamics, Design Studio, Typography, Color, and a range of graphic design electives. Per the school, the core curriculum “builds a range of analytical, formal, sensory and technical design experiences. Sophomores begin exploring visual principles of form, image, color and typography.”
The junior year focuses on “conceptual thinking in areas such as communication theory, visual systems and information design forms” and during the senior year, “emphasis is placed on design applications, with a range of electives available to expose students to specific areas of graphic design practice.” Juniors and seniors also have opportunities to pursue professional internships over the summer or during the semester.
An impressive 96% of all RISD graphic design graduates are employed one year after graduation. 70% are employed in positions directly related to their major.
2. Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, Maryland
Founded in 1826, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is the oldest degree-granting college of art in the nation. The school serves nearly 3,500 undergraduate, graduate, and continuing studies students from 49 states and 65 countries in fine arts, design, electronic media, art education, liberal arts, and professional studies degree and non-credit programs. MICA’s more than 80 art and design programs lead to either a BFA, MA, MFA, MPS or Certificate.
Undergraduate programs for aspiring graphic designers include a BFA in Graphic Design with three Concentrations including Graphic Design Studio, Book Arts Studio, and Graphic Design + Humanistic Studies. The 120 credit hour BFA features a three-year sequence of core design courses. Sample courses include Systems & Time, Color & Design, Forms & Space, Drawing: Tradition & Innovation, Typography, Photoimaging, Flexible Design Studio, and Graphic Design I-IV.
Students will also take 18 credit hours of studio electives and internship opportunities are also part of the program. Some companies who have hired MICA designers for jobs or internships include Abercrombie & Fitch, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Google, Kate Spade, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Museum of Modern Art, National Public Radio and Under Armour.
3. Parsons The New School for Design, New York, New York
Founded in 1896, Parsons The New School for Design is home to nearly 5,500 students enrolled in 27 undergraduate, graduate, and associate degree programs. Parsons houses five schools, including the School of Art and Design History and Theory, the School of Art, Media, and Technology (AMT), the School of Constructed Environments, the School of Design Strategies, and the School of Fashion. The School of Art, Media, and Technology offers a BFA in Communication Design.
Students begin the BFA with an intense focus on typography and interaction. Students will go on to complete courses, internships, and sponsored projects in editorial design, interaction design, branding, Web/mobile product design, type design, motion graphics, advertising design, and information design.
Hands-on collaborative courses, “allow students to work directly with peers throughout the university — including students in programs housed at other schools within The New School — and with external partners,” says the school. “Parsons’ resources, including labs, libraries, galleries, and research institutes,” help support students’ ideas and projects.
Graduates of the BFA program go on to pursue careers in interaction design, publication design, branding, advertising, motion graphics, information visualization, exhibition/retail design, environmental graphics, and many others.
4. Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York
Founded in 1887, Pratt institute is home to more than 4,800 students enrolled in more than 20 undergraduate degree programs, 25+ graduate degree programs, and a variety of Certificate and Minor programs across five schools and The Center for Continuing and Professional Studies. Founded in 2014, The School of Design offers “up to four of Pratt’s oldest and most esteemed disciplines,” including Communications Design, Fashion Design, Industrial Design, and Interior Design.
Per the School of Design, the Communications Design program is the “the only program in the country that recognizes and embodies the convergence and integration of Illustration, Advertising, and Graphic Design as the primary forces for the visual expression of ideas.” Students may Concentrate in any of three areas (Illustration, Advertising Art Direction, Graphic Design). Students will also have the opportunity to enroll on one of more than 20 study abroad programs and international exchange programs in over a dozen locations such as Florence, Milan, Copenhagen, London, and Tokyo.
This undergraduate program for aspiring graphic designers leads to a BFA in Communications Design with a Graphic Design Emphasis.
5. Cooper Union, New York, New York
The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art (CU) was founded in 1859 by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper. The school offers programs in the areas of Art, Architecture and Engineering, and courses in the Humanities and Social Sciences. With nearly 1,000 students enrolled (2017-2018), CU’s art students account for 32% of the student body.
The School of Art at Cooper Union offers a flexible BFA in Art with a Specialization in Graphic Design. Students in the program may take elective studio classes and seminars, offered on a rotating basis, they may choose to focus their work in one or more areas of specialization, and they may enroll in advanced studio classes with the same course number multiple times. Students are also “encouraged to follow an integrated approach by selecting from various areas while observing a prerequisite system designed to allow in-depth study in specific disciplines.” Other program highlights include Internship opportunities and study abroad opportunities.
6. ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena, California
Established in 1930, ArtCenter College of Design spans two campuses and four structures in the U.S. and Berlin. Home to approximately 2,100 students from the U.S. and more than 40 other countries, ArtCenter offers 11 undergraduate and seven graduate degrees in the areas of Industrial Design and Visual and Applied Arts. ArtCenter also offers a joint MS/MBA program with Drucker School of Management—the business school of Claremont Graduate University.
Offered through the Graphic Design Department (GX), the BFA in Graphic Design teaches students to develop design solutions by experimenting with a wide range of media—including books and digital magazines, packaging, 3D motion graphics, apps. Students will learn how to create “compelling graphic identities and branded experiences,” says the school.
Course highlights include Communication Design, Narrative Sketching, Art of Research, Motion Design, Structure and Design, Package Design, Visual Interaction Design, Narrative Imaging, Information Design, and Mediatecture,
Students will also complete a variety of unique studios such as Advanced Transmedia, Advanced Print, Transdisciplinary, Advanced VxD Studio 8 and Advanced Motion. Internships and study abroad opportunities are also part of the program.
7. School of Visual Arts, New York, New York
Founded in 1947 as “Cartoonists and Illustrators School,” School of Visual Arts (SVA) serves nearly 4,300 students from across the U.S. and abroad. The school offers 11 undergraduate and 21 graduate degree programs in areas ranging from fine arts and graphic design to filmmaking and photography. The programs at SVA lead to a BFA, MFA, MA, MAT or MPS degree.
Undergraduate offerings for aspiring graphic designers include a BFA in Graphic Design that consists of 72 credits of studio art courses, 30 credits in humanities & sciences, 12 in art history, and six elective credits. An internship is part of the program, as well as the opportunity to focus in Package Design, Editorial Design, Information Graphics, Corporate Identity, Publication Design, CD Packaging, Book Jacket Design, Environmental Design, or Website Design.
8. California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, California
California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) is the nation's first postsecondary institution to offer graduate and undergraduate degrees in both the Visual and Performing Arts. Established in 1961 by Walt and Roy Disney, the school is home to around 1,500 students enrolled in more than 70 programs across six schools including the Schools of Art, Critical Studies, Theater, and Film/Video, the Herb Alpert School of Music, and the Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance. The School of Art is home to the Graphic Design program, which leads to a BFA.
The BFA program is a full-time, four-year program that the school says is “centered around core courses supported by a number of required and elective classes, allowing both structure and flexibility within the curriculum, covering all aspects of graphic design practice. Each year in residence builds on the experience of the previous as a sequence of additional classes explore image-making, typography and design history. Baseline coursework is followed by more specialized classes in areas such as web design, motion graphics and type design.”
In addition to core studio classes, all students are required to pass a Graduation Portfolio Review in order to complete the program and obtain the BFA degree. The program prepares students for careers in print and publication design, web and interface design, motion graphics for broadcast and film, branding, identity and type design, and design history and education.
9. California College of the Arts, San Francisco and Oakland, California
Founded in 1907, California College of the Arts (CCA) is home to more than 1,900 students from 52 countries and 45 states. The school offers 22 undergraduate and 12 graduate degree programs, plus two minors. The BFA programs in Graphic Design and Interaction Design offer the opportunity to immerse in the areas of Brand Identity, Print, Motion Graphics, and Screen-Based and Interactive Design.
Elective offerings will “strengthen” students “design toolkit,” and all students will have the opportunity to gain real-world experience through CCA’s extensive internship program. Graduates of the BFA programs at CCA have landed positions at innovative design firms, museums, publishing houses, technology companies, nonprofits, and more.
10. School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) was founded in 1866 as the Chicago Academy of Design. It is one of the oldest accredited independent schools of art and design in the country. Home to 3,650 students enrolled in more than 25 programs, SAIC offers a BFA program with two major areas of focus including Physical Media (print, objects, and environments) and Virtual Media (interactive and time-based media).
Program highlights include an active AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) student chapter, Exploratory Languages (a lecture series featuring leading designers and design educators from across the country), and CIPB (Chicago International Poster Biennial), which is an international competition representing leading designers from throughout the world. Internship opportunities and the option to study abroad are other highlights.
11. Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia
Founded in 1978, Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is home to more than 14,000 students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries. The school offers more than 40 majors and 75 minors, as well as certificate and online programs. With campuses in Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Lacoste, France, SCAD has plenty of opportunities to study at domestic and international locations and it offers more graphic design programs than just about any other school on our list. Undergraduate options include BA and BFA degrees in Graphic Design.
All programs highlight Product Packaging, Entrepreneurship, Mobile Technology, Interface Design and User Experience. Students have the opportunity to declare a double major in the areas of Advertising, Branded Entertainment, Illustration, Motion Media Design, Sequential Art and more, and access to Minors such as Mobile and Interactive Design and Advertising Copywriting. Students may complement their degree with Certificates in Digital Publishing or Interactive Design as well.
The BFA is offered in Atlanta, Hong Kong, Savannah, and online.
12. Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia
Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) was established in 1838. It is home to more than 31,000 students enrolled in more than 200 programs through 15 colleges and schools. The School of the Arts, which serves more than 3,000 students, offers 25 degree programs. An additional four programs are offered at VCU’s Qatar campus. The School of the Arts (VCUArts), Department of Graphic Design offers BFAs in Graphic Design and Communication Arts.
BFA students will take courses in the areas of Publication and Print Design, Sequential and Motion Design, and Interaction Design, “along with a series of related Studio and Seminar courses.” Both BFA options prepare students to create effective visual communications.
13. University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas
The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) was founded in 1881. The school opened its doors in 1883 with one building, eight professors, one proctor, and 221 students. Today, UT Austin is home to nearly 52,000 students enrolled in over 500 degree programs and fields of study across 18 colleges and schools. The College of Fine Arts, Department of Art and Art History offers a BFA in Design, and a BFA in Visual Studies.
Students in both programs have the opportunity to complete an internship, which may include working at major companies with offices in the Austin area. Just a few include Google, Dell, IBM, Apple, Samsung, Frog, Pentagram, and EA Games.
14. University of North Texas, Denton, Texas
University of North Texas (UNT) was founded in 1890 as Texas Normal College and Teachers’ Training Institute. With 38,000 students enrolled, UNT is the fourth-largest university in Texas. The school offers 105 bachelor's, 88 master's and 37 doctoral degree programs across 11 colleges and schools. The College of Visual Arts & Design is home to the Design Department, which houses the Communication Design Program. Here, students can earn a BFA in Communication Design.
The program covers the basic principles of design, image making, color theory and typography. It is also designed to “help students learn to be effective conceptual thinkers and, most importantly, creative problem solvers in the disciplines of Advertising and of Graphic Design.” Students will have the opportunity to complete an internship, study abroad, and access “valuable resources” consisting of over 1,000 reference books, magazines and paper/print samples of photography, illustration, typography, graphic design and advertising.
15. Columbia College Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Columbia College Chicago was founded in 1890 as the Columbia School of Oratory. The school offers a distinctive curriculum that blends creative and media arts, liberal arts, and business to nearly 7,000 students in more than 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. The school offers a BFA in Graphic Design that requires advanced courses in graphic design. Students in this degree track do not choose a concentration and take courses across disciplines including Web Design, Publication Design, and Visual Identity.
Students in the program will have the opportunity to intern at firms such as Leo Burnett, one of the largest advertising agencies in the world, with clients like Procter & Gamble, Foote, Cone & Belding, a global advertising agency with clients around the world, Pivot Design, an award-winning branding, marketing, and advertising agency, Pressley Johnson Design, one of the premiere design communications firms in the Midwest, and 50000feet Creative Agency, a firm that has worked with some of the top brands in the U.S.
16. Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York
Founded in 1829, Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) serves more than 19,000 across nine colleges emphasizing career education and experiential learning. The school, which has global locations in China, Croatia, Dubai, and Kosovo, offers a BFA in Graphic Design.
Offered through the College of Art and Design, School of Design, the BFA integrates major courses, studio and free electives, and liberal arts, as well as aspects of business, professional practices, computer-based skills, collaborative projects, and workflow. Students can expect to take courses such as 2D and 3D Design, Time-Based Design, Interactive Media Design, Web and User Interface Design, Branding and Identity Design, Design Systems and Methodology, and Experiential Graphic Design. All students in the BFA program will complete a portfolio and Senior Capstone Project.
17. Kent State University, Kent, Ohio
Kent State University (KSU or Kent State) was founded in 1910 and it is home to more than 38,000 students (in an 8-campus system) enrolled in more than 300 degree programs across dozens of colleges and schools. The College of Communication and Information, School of Visual Communication Design, offers a BFA in Visual Communication Design.
Per the School, the BFA program consists of approximately two-thirds of the coursework in the "creation and study of the visual arts," with the remainder in general studies. Because of the greater emphasis on upper-level studio courses, the BFA allows majors the opportunity to build greater expertise in a given area of the field.
All School of Visual Communication Design students must complete 300 hours of internship before graduation. Most internships are paid, and students have the opportunity to work at major companies across Cleveland and in Chicago, San Francisco and New York.
18. The University of the Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The University of the Arts (UArts) is the nation’s only comprehensive arts university. The school, which traces its roots back to 1868, is home to around 1,800 students enrolled in 47 undergraduate and graduate programs through the College of Art, Media and Design, the College of Performing Arts, and the Division of Liberal Arts. The College of Art, Media and Design houses the School of Design, which offers BFA degrees in Graphic Design and Design, Art + Technology, an MFA in Printmaking + Book Arts, and Minors in Book Arts, Typography, and Multimedia.
Students in the Graphic Design Program have the opportunity to choose courses from the Schools of Art, Film and Illustration or any cross-college program. All students have access to international opportunities such as study abroad, festivals, and workshops in countries such as Canada, France, and South Korea.
19. Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota, Florida
Ringling College of Art and Design (RCAD) was established in 1931 by circus baron, art collector, and real estate developer John Ringling. The school opened with 111 courses and just 75 students. Today, RCAD sits on a 35-acre campus and it is home to approximately 1,561 degree-seeking students from 43 states, DC, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Military Bases, and 58 countries.
RCAD offers a BFA in Graphic Design that prepares students to design “show-stopping solutions for print and interactive media.” Launched in 1980, the program allows students to collaborate with other artists such as copywriters, printers, photographers, illustrators, and developers to “make their ideas a reality.”
Graduates of the RCAD Graphic Design program have been hired by companies such as Google, Facebook, Adult Swim, CBS Interactive, ESPN, Apple iTunes, Leo Burnett, Microsoft, Yahoo!, American Greetings, IGN Entertainment, Wieden + Kennedy, Walt Disney Company, Birchbox, Inc. and many others.
20. College for Creative Studies, Detroit, Michigan
The College for Creative Studies (CCS) was established in 1906 as The Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts. The school serves 1,425 students enrolled in over a dozen degree programs across 14 academic departments. With an enrollment of more than 100 students, the Graphic Design Department is the fifth largest department at CCS. Degree options for aspiring graphic designers include a BFA in Graphic/Communication Design, Interaction Design or Motion Graphics and MFA degrees in Interaction Design and Integrated Design. Degrees that complement Graphic Design include BFAs in Advertising: Copywriting, Advertising: Design and Fine Arts.
All students have the opportunity to study abroad for a semester or a year in places such as Italy, Austria, Germany, Mexico, Paris, Australia, and more. Graduates of the Design programs at CCS are prepared to work in Graphic Design, Editorial Design, Environmental Design, Information Design, Interactive Design, Package Design, Publication Design, Web Design, and many others.
21. University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign, Champaign, Urbana
Established in 1867 as Illinois Industrial University, University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign is one of the original 37 public land-grant institutions created after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act. The school serves nearly 48,000 students through 15 colleges and instructional units. The College of Fine and Applied Arts, School of Art and Design offers a 122 credit hour Graphic Design program that leads to a BFA.
Per the school, students in the program “engage with complex problems and are asked to identify opportunities where design can intervene.” Studio work for the program “addresses graphic design fundamentals (typography and image making), design history and contemporary practices, research methods, user experience, and social responsibility.”
Students also have the opportunity to refine their degree by choosing from an interdisciplinary selection of elective courses including advanced interaction design, photography, traditional printmaking, sustainability, and video, and the design of Ninth Letter, a nationally-distributed and award-winning literary arts journal.
22. Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, California
Otis College of Art and Design (OTIS) was established in 1918 by General Harrison Gray Otis-- founder and publisher of the Los Angeles Times. Home to 1,100 BFA and MFA students, OTIS offers more than a dozen interdisciplinary art and design programs from Animation and Motion Design to Illustration and Graphic Design. Specific programs for aspiring graphic designers are offered through the Communication Arts Department. Options include BFA degrees in Graphic Design and Communication Arts with an Emphasis in Graphic Design or Illustration.
Per the school, the programs challenge students to “research, develop, and refine projects that combine meaning with image-making and typographic form. Typical formats include branding and logo development, posters, books, package design, apps, websites, and interactive design.”
Students in the programs “learn to articulate a critical and theoretical perspective and develop graphic design skills, such as type design and traditional letterpress. Strong craft and presentation skills are emphasized throughout.”
Graduates of the Graphic Design programs at OTIS have landed positions at major companies such as Apple, Anthropologie, LACMA, Guess, Metro, Capitol Records, and others.
23. Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) was established in 1886. The school serves 800 students enrolled in Design (50% of the student body), Media Arts (38%), 10% in Fine Arts, and the remaining 2% in MCAD’s new Arts Entrepreneurship Department. More than 20 programs are available across several departments, including a BFA in Graphic Design.
Per the school, students in the 120 credit hour BFA program will develop their own voice and produce original work, they will Research, engage with, and create innovative concepts, content, and form, and learn to communicate ideas visually. Students will also refine their technical and conceptual design skills in preparation for a professional career in graphic design.
Other program highlights include the opportunity to gain practical, real-world experience through a required internship and the option to study abroad or elsewhere in the U.S.
24. Portland State University, Portland, Oregon
Portland State University (PSU) opened its doors in the summer of 1946 to just 220 students. Today, the school spans 50 city blocks, and it houses nine colleges and schools, 226 degree programs, and more than 25,000 students. The College of Arts is home to the schools of Architecture, Art + Design, Music, and Theater + Film.
With 1,400 students enrolled, the School of Art + Design offers BA, BS, BFA degrees and Minors in areas from Art History to Graphic Design. The Graphic Design Program has two options including a BFA and a Minor. Program highlights include mostly studio-based courses, opportunities to engage in professional internships, and summer study abroad experiences such as Printmaking in Mexico and Art History in Rome.
25. Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, Missouri
Established in 1885, Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI) has a 130+ year history that includes notable name such as Walt Disney, who took classes there as a child, multimedia artist Robert Rauschenberg, who studied fashion design, writer Robert Morris, and performance artist and fabric sculptor Nick Cave, to name a few. Besides a long list of notable alumni and students, KCAI offers 14 academic disciplines in Art, Design and Media to a population of nearly 700 students.
Offerings for aspiring graphic designers include BFA degrees in Graphic Design, Interactive Arts and Printmaking. Per the school, the Graphic Design Program “goes beyond the traditional division between Web and print design to give students a cross-media skill set that adapts to context, audience and participant input.” The programs “rigorous approach to audience research, theory and conceptual problem-solving” helps position students as thought leaders in their chosen fields. KCAI design students “are exposed to professional practices, concepts and skills required to build rewarding careers.”
The Interactive Art BFA uses emerging technology as the “backbone of creation,” so students become “versed in software coding, physical computing and sensors, performance, games and play mechanics, rapid prototyping, user testing and experiential design.”
The Printmaking BFA covers the traditional printmaking processes and concepts including etching, lithography, drawing, collage, silkscreen, letterpress and book arts, as well as post-modern processes, including mass media, collaboration, simulation, appropriation and dissemination.
All programs offer access to KCAI’s internship program, three to five week long faculty-led travel programs, and full semester programs that can take them to one of several participating art and design colleges in the U.S. or overseas.