Did You Know.....Full Sail’s Graphic Design degree program, offered both on campus and online, teaches students skills that are highly sought-after in the creative industry. Students will learn how to meet deadlines and work within specific creative demands while producing high-end design work in a variety of format. Learn more about Full Sail University's graphic design program.
What are the top East Coast graphic design schools for 2021?
|1||Rhode Island School of Design||Rhode Island||1%|
|2||School of Visual Arts||New York||2%|
|3||The New School’s Parsons School of Design||New York||2%|
|4||Pratt Institute||New York||3%|
|6||Maryland Institute College of Art||Maryland||4%|
|7||Carnegie Mellon University||Pennsylvania||4%|
|8||Virginia Commonwealth University||Virginia||5%|
|9||Cooper Union||New York||5%|
|11||Fashion Institute of Technology||New York||6%|
|12||Massachusetts College of Art and Design||Massachusetts||7%|
|13||Rochester Institute of Technology||New York||8%|
|14||Pennsylvania State University||Pennsylvania||8%|
|15||Syracuse University||New York||9%|
|16||The University of the Arts||Pennsylvania||9%|
|19||Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University||Virginia||15%|
|20||Vermont College of Fine Arts||Vermont||15%|
|21||State University of New York at New Paltz||New York||15%|
|23||University of Maryland||Maryland||15%|
|24||Rutgers University||New Jersey||15%|
Our 2021 rankings of the Top 25 Graphic Design School Programs in the East. We considered over 190 East colleges with graphic design programs for this year's rankings. For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.
For rankings purposes we define the East as Virginia, Rhode Island, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.
Founded in 1877, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is one the nation’s first art and design schools. The school serves just over 2,200 students from around the world enrolled in undergraduate and graduate degrees in more than 20 majors, a certificate program, and one concentration. RISD also offers a large collection of continuing education courses that attract around 5,800 students each year.
Degree programs are offered in Architecture, Art Education, Design or Fine Arts. RISD’s most popular programs are Graphic Design, Film/Animation/Video (FAV), Illustration, Industrial Design, and Painting. Aspiring graphic designers have two options: the four-year undergraduate BFA and the graduate MFA with two tracks.
One of the largest departments at RISD, Graphic Design serves approximately 165 students and features dedicated studios in the Design Center where they “learn the fundamental value of typography, imagery, grids, systems and more in the course of creating everything from traditional books, posters, logos and websites to apps, interactive texts and other digital media,” says the school. Programs are offered at the undergraduate and graduate levels, including a four-year BFA in Graphic Design and two- and three-year Tracks leading to the MFA in Graphic Design.
The core BFA curriculum “builds a range of analytical, formal, sensory and technical design experiences. Sophomores begin exploring visual principles of form, image, color and typography.” During their junior year, students will focus on “conceptual thinking in areas such as communication theory, visual systems and information design.” The final year of the program focuses on “design applications, with a range of electives available to expose students to specific areas of graphic design practice.” Upper level students also have opportunities to pursue professional internships.
The MFA Tracks provide the same opportunities as the BFA does, but the program allows students to tailor individual courses of study through cross-disciplinary electives. MFA students will also complete the Graduate Studio and Graduate Seminar Sequences. Course highlights include Graduate Form, Graduate Type Design, and Graduate Type Typography. Both MFA Tracks require a Thesis.
Graduates of all programs enjoy a high employment rate. Around 96% of all RISD graphic design graduates are employed one year after graduation, and 70% are employed in positions directly related to their major.
The School of Visual Arts (SVA) opened in 1947 with just three teachers and 35 students (mostly World War II veterans). Known as the Cartoonists and Illustrators school, the school employed New York City-based professionals working in the arts as faculty—a practice that continues today.
SVA currently serves 7,000 students enrolled in 31 programs. Offerings for aspiring graphic designers include a BFA in Design and a Design/Designer as Entrepreneur MFA. The BFA Program “is a multidisciplinary educational system in itself, offering separate majors that include Graphic Design, Motion Graphics, Interaction Design and 3D Design,” says the school.
The program can be further divided into package design, editorial design, information graphics, corporate identity, publication design, CD packaging, book jacket design, environmental design and website design. Other program highlights include intensive one-week workshops, exhibitions that are routinely covered by NBC, CBS. ABC, and CNN, competitions, enrollment in the AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Artists) and the Art Directors Club—two of the most prestigious design organizations in the country, industry review, and internships.
The Design/Designer as Entrepreneur MFA “inspires” students to conceive, produce, brand and market their own innovative content. Interaction, motion graphics, branding, and user experience are covered as well as typography as a visual language, video and new media directing, and art book and digital publishing. Students will also take classes in business, marketing, ethnography, strategy, research, advertising, promotion, intellectual property and networking.
The MFA program includes “advanced instruction in a variety of authoring skills, such as writing, editing, criticism, typography as a visual language, Film and new media directing, visual journalism and book and magazine publishing,” during the first year. Students will also take courses in marketing, research, advertising, promotion, publicity, intellectual property and networking. In the second year of the program, students will design and write a proposal for a product that will be presented to a panel of "guest faculty" who will decide whether it has enough merit to progress to the developmental stage. In this stage, “students will produce a prototype for backers, publishers, producers or distributors. Working individually, this final proposal, dummy or prototype will be professionally produced for presentation purposes.”
Graduate students will have access to the SVA MFA studios, open 24 hours a day and “designed to simulate an operational design/media firm with spacious workstations that allow for individual and collaborative work.”
Graduates of the SVA Graphic Design Programs have gone on to work for commercial and not-for-profit corporations, institutions and businesses. Many founded their own start-ups, design firms and studios. Some have become partners in businesses and individual projects. Graduates have started over 50 design studios around the globe.
The New School was founded in 1896 as The Chase School by American Impressionist William Merritt Chase. In 1904, Arts Educator Frank Alvah Parsons joined the school, later becoming its sole director. Between 1904 and 1910, parsons launched an Advertising Program, Costume Design and Interior Decoration.
Today, known as The New School/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; Art, Media, and Technology (AMT); Constructed Environments; Design Strategies, and the School of Fashion.
The School of Art, Media, and Technology offers several degree programs for aspiring graphic designers including AAS, BFA and MPS degrees in Communication Design. The School of Continuing & Professional Education offers a Graphic and Digital Design Certificate. The program, which consists of eight courses, can be completed online or through a combination of online and on-campus courses.
The curriculum for the 60 credit hour AAS in Communication Design program (formerly Graphic Design) “is grounded in typography and interaction design for print and digital media, integrating socially responsible technology-driven design approaches,” says the school. Course highlights include Design History & Practice, Interaction, and Typography. The program consists of a Professional Practices & Portfolio course and a Capstone is required. Students in the program have the option to take an elective or complete an internship.
The Communication Design BFA is the oldest undergraduate program of its kind in the U.S. The program begins with “an intensive study of typography and interaction.” Students will expand their “expertise in brand and editorial design, digital products, type design, motion graphics, and spatial graphics.” Course highlights for the program include Drawing/Imaging, Interaction Studio, Sustainable Systems, and Visual Culture (Advanced Research Seminar).
The one-year, 30 credit hour MPS program offers a concentration in Digital Product Design. This graduate program “combines instruction in advanced interaction design with coursework that develops your user-experience, design-thinking, and collaboration abilities.” Students will graduate with “industry-ready conceptual and front-end development skills and a network of design professionals to help” them “advance in or enter a rapidly growing field.”
Career opportunities for Communication Design graduates include Digital Product Design, Graphic Design, Interaction Design (IxD), Product Development or Management, and User Experience (UX) Design, to name a few.
Founded in 1887, Pratt Institute is situated in the historic Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn, New York. The school, which prepares its nearly 5,000 students for careers in architecture, art, design, information science and liberal arts, and liberal arts and sciences, offers more than 25 undergraduate degree programs and concentrations along with more than 26 graduate degree programs. In addition to the Brooklyn campus, programs are offered at 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, including Communications Design (BFA, MFA), Fashion Design, Industrial Design, and Interior Design. The School of Art offers an Associate of Occupational Studies (AOS) in Graphic Design and an AAS in Graphic Design/Illustration. All programs offer the opportunity to complete an internship.
The AOS is an intensive 69 credit hour program integrates “the best of new media and technologies with a strong commitment to a traditional art and design curriculum.” This career track option takes just two years to complete. The AAS program is also 69 credit hours. Students in the program” follow an exciting art and design curriculum that includes a liberal arts component.” This positions students to transfer to Pratt’s Fine Arts Department or the BFA in Communications Design.
In the Communication Design Program, “students learn to engage audiences, explore technologies, develop visual languages, challenge preconceptions, redefine problems, and identify opportunities through the lens of communication design.” Students in the BFA program have the opportunity to choose a focus area. Options include Graphic Design, Illustration, and Advertising Art Direction.
Graphic Design students will “explore topics and modes of practice, such as typographic and identity systems, visual rhetoric, interactivity, experience design, sustainability, and inclusivity.” Projects in the program “encourage critical inquiry, collaborative processes, and experimentation with multiple technologies and platforms.” Through electives students can explore a “wide spectrum of specializations in graphic design, including user experience, motion graphics, type design, independent publishing, data visualization, and post-artifact books.”
The 60 credit hour MFA in Communications Design emphasizes studio practice in graphic design—communications, identities, objects, environments, and systems. Graduates are prepared to enter careers in print and digital media, typography, identity systems and branding, design strategy, social media and interaction design, motion design, environmental design, data visualization, information design, and user experience design.
For aspiring graphic designers seeking an advanced degree with a specific focus, the School of Design-Communications Design Program offers a MS in Package Design. First offered in 1966, this 48 credit hour program is an initial master’s degree that offers students structured courses on the decision-making process for new product and package development, featuring direction in package design, typography, brand development, marketing, structural packaging, packaging technology, fragrance packaging, and the business aspects of the package industry. This is a full-time program, which culminates in a capstone thesis project.
For students who are not yet ready to commit to a degree program, the School of Continuing and Professional Studies (SCPS) offers Certificate Programs in Digital Design including Graphic Design, Digital Product Design, Human-Centered Design, Motion Graphics, and many others. These programs may be taken individually or “stacked,” producing an “accelerated path to completion.” Like the undergraduate and graduate Communication Design/Graphic Design programs, Certificate programs offer the opportunity to complete an internship.
Students in all programs will have the opportunity to enroll in 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.
Graduates of the Graphic Design and Communication Design Programs at Pratt are “equipped to pursue a spectrum of exciting career paths as creative professionals.” Pratt alumni “continue to distinguish themselves in design studios, cultural institutions, branding agencies, and independent enterprises making significant contributions to the fields of art and design, publishing, education, film, gaming, advertising, and many more.”
Founded in 1701, Yale University serves nearly 13,600 students enrolled in dozens of programs in the areas of art, architecture, divinity, drama, forestry and environmental studies, law, management, music, public health, and more. The school, which houses more than 145 departments and schools, is home to one of the most prestigious fine arts schools in the U.S.
Established in 1869, Yale School Art was the nation’s first art school connected with an institution of higher learning. With an enrollment of more than 100 students, the school offers a BA in Art and MFA degrees in Graphic Design, Painting and Printmaking, Photography, and Sculpture. An interdisciplinary Film & Video program is also available.
The BA in Art offers the opportunity for intensive study leading to greater specialization in one or more areas such as Graphic Design, Painting/Printmaking, Photography, and Sculpture. Course highlights for the program include Advanced Graphic Design, Communicating with Time, Motion, and Sound, Graphic Design Methodologies, Interactive Design and the Internet, Intermediality: Typography, Motion, and Meaning, Introduction to Graphic Design, Letterform, Mobile Computing, Moving Image Methods, Print to Screen, Programming as Writing, Visual Thinking, and Writing as Metadata. Students in the program will complete a Sequence: Exhibition Design, which will allow them to showcase their designs.
The Yale Graphic Design MFA (Yale GDMFA) is a 60 credit hour program that accepts just 12 students each year and up to six students into the preliminary-year program. MFA applicants for this competitive program are expected to have “substantial and distinguished experience in visual studies and related professional experience,” says the school. Students can expect support for their graphic design collections in several ways including, “studio work led by faculty meeting weekly, small five- or six-person thesis groups meeting biweekly, and individual sessions with writing and editing tutors.”
Lectures, presentations, and workshops are also part of the program as well as access to “extraordinary” resources including Yale University courses, conferences, films, lectures, museums, and the “extensive” research and rare book collections of Sterling and Beinecke libraries. Students also have a designated workspace in the design studio loft and access to equipment including bookbinding materials, wide format printers, a RISO duplicator, Vandercook press, and workspaces in the School of Art buildings. More resources supporting interdisciplinary projects including motion capture and VR are available at the nearby Center for Collaborative Arts and Media.
The Yale Graphic Design MFA takes two years to complete, full-time.
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 and each year, it attracts more than 175 visiting artists, critics, designers, poets, writers, and art historians from across the U.S. and around.
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 available.
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, an MA in Graphic Design (GDMA) and an MFA in Graphic Design (GD MFA).
The undergraduate graphic design curriculum at MICA features a three-year sequence of core design courses. Highlights include Body/World Machine, Cartographies, Color/Design/Process, Haptics and Optics, PhotoImaging, and Typography. Graduates of the program will have the skills and experience needed to create designs for books, magazines, apps, websites, posters, advertisements, games, logos, film titles, and many other media.
The 60 credit hour MFA program features two years of full-time study that that the school says combines “critical seminars, guided studio courses, and independent work.” Students in the MFA program may “take advantage of electives in many MICA departments, including video, printmaking, and digital media,” to create a focus.
The MA program prepares students for advancing their careers and/or for applying to the competitive MFA. Program highlights include an “intensive introduction to design,” provided by the GDMA Studio, “taught with a strong emphasis on design fundamentals, process, visual research, and working across media,” a Design Theory and Practice Seminar, and the GDMA Workshop. Through the workshop, GDMA students will have the opportunity to create and exhibit a self-directed design project and a professional portfolio.
Carnegie Mellon University (CMU or Carnegie Mellon) is a global university with more than a dozen degree-granting locations, and more than 20 research partnerships. Just a few locations include Silicon Valley, Africa, Qatar, and Australia. Founded in 1900 by industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, the school has produced 10 Academy Award winners, 50 Tony Award Winners, and 20 Nobel Laureates. CMU is also the former home of one of the world’s most famous artists—Andy Warhol.
serving around 14,800 students, Carnegie Mellon offers 80 majors and over 90 minors within its six undergraduate schools, colleges, and inter-college degree programs. The College of Fine Arts (CFA), which houses the School of Design, was the first comprehensive training institution in the country.
Here, aspiring graphic designers can earn a Bachelor of Design (BDes), formerly BFA, with a Communications, Products or Environments Track. Students may focus in one or all three areas or pursue a more interdisciplinary focus that combines two of the three.
Other undergraduate options include the Minor in Design Application and the Undergraduate Interdisciplinary Degree known as “BXA,” which provides students with the ability to evenly balance their study of humanities or sciences with design. While BXA majors may take 26 design courses and 15 outside courses, most BXA students take 12 design courses, with the balance of their courses taken outside of the School of Design. The Minor is for students admitted to other programs on campus who are interested in gaining “fundamental design skills and/or exposure to design.”
“CMU also offers a unique program called Integrative Design, Arts, and Technology (IDeATe), which allows student to concentrate their studies on cross-campus industry themes like game design, animation and special effects, innovation and entrepreneurship, intelligent environments, and learning media design.”
Graduate options include a one-year Master of Arts (MA) in Design program, a one-year Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Design for Interactions, a two-year Master of Design (MDes) in Design for Interactions program (includes a one-year thesis project), a PhD in Design, and a Professional Doctor of Design (DDes) (distance learning with intensive residential components). The graduate programs are interdisciplinary and offer studio and seminar courses as well as hands-on exposure to design processes, skills, and thinking.
Students in the graduate programs can expect to take courses such as Design Principles and Practices, Prototyping for Interaction Design, Seminar: Design Thinking, and Studio: Visual Communication Fundamentals. Students may complement their skills and knowledge with elective courses outside of design. Courses in interaction or communication design, policy, business, service or social innovation, or professional writing are recommended.
Established in 1838 as the medical department of Hampden-Sydney College, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) is a public research university that serves around 31,100 students enrolled in more than 200 programs in 13 schools and one college. The School of Arts (VCUarts) houses 16 departments and programs offering 18 bachelor’s and five master’s degrees. The Department of Graphic Design at VCUarts offers several programs for aspiring graphic designers. Options include a BFA in Graphic Design, and an MFA in Design with a Concentration in Visual Communications.
Students in the BFA program will learn about publication and print design, sequential and motion design, and interaction design. After completing the Art Foundation Program, students will advance to hands-on Studio and Seminar courses in sequential order that will move them through the 122 credit hour curriculum. Course highlights for the program include Book Arts, Design Methods and Processes, Design Technology, Imaging, Interaction, Letterpress, Studio Management, and Visual Narrative.
Students in the MFA program “concentrate on the philosophical, communicative, and aesthetic relationships of visual problem solving and the interacting skills leading to the effective articulation of concepts,” says the school. Graduates will have the skills and knowledge needed to pursue a career in Design Education and/or further their professional practices in conducting visual or theoretical research, and in investigating the intersections of function and expression in design problem solving.
Another option for aspiring Graphic Designers is the Communication Arts BFA (CA BFA). Offered in the Communication Arts Department, the CA BFA is a flexible program that allows students to study 3D Modeling, Advanced Figure Drawing, Concept Design and Entertainment Design (such as video games and visual effects), Scientific Illustration, and Sequential Imaging (such as comic books and storyboards). “The program is centered on a rigorous investigation of studio methods and practices which explore conceptual and theoretical concerns for understanding and creating image, media, content and context.”
The focus during the junior and senior years is typography along with advanced coursework in everything from illustration to digital drawing. The senior year of the program culminates with the capstone portfolio course and a variety of electives are offered each semester to provide students the opportunity for specialized study.
Both BFA options prepare students to create effective visual communications for the advertising industry, business, entertainment, marketing, public relations, publishing, retail, and more.
The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art (Cooper Union or CU) was founded in 1859 by industrialist, inventor, and philanthropist Peter Cooper. Considered one of the most prestigious private institutions in the world, CU awards all admitted undergraduate students a half-tuition scholarship currently valued at $22,275 per school year.
Serving nearly 900 students, Cooper Union offers programs in the areas of Art, Architecture and Engineering, with 55% of undergraduates enrolled in engineering, 28% in art, 17% in architecture, and 81 graduates in the Maurice Kanbar Graduate Institute working toward the Master of Engineering (MEng) degree and Master of Architecture (MArch). The school also offers courses in the humanities and social sciences.
Cooper Union School of Art 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, and they have the option to focus their work in one or more areas of specialization. Besides Graphic Design, options include Drawing, Film and Video, Painting, Photography, Printmaking, and Sculpture. Students may also enroll in advanced studio classes with the same course number multiple times.
The school says 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 and study abroad opportunities.
Boston University (BU) was established in 1839. The school houses nearly 35,600 students served by a faculty and staff of 10,000—making BU Boston’s largest employer.
With more than 300 programs of study offered in 17 colleges and schools, offers BFA, MFA, and Certificate Programs in Graphic Design. One of the programs in the College of Fine Arts’ School of Visual Arts is the Graphic Design BFA. The program “provides a sequenced studio approach to design, preparing students to thrive in a dynamic, creative professional environment,” says the school.
Students will begin the program with Foundations, which introduces “visual concepts in two and three dimensions, with an emphasis on drawing from observation.” In the second year of the program, students specialize in graphic design coursework, with yearlong graphic design and typography studios that emphasize form and communication. Third year students participate in graphic design and typography studios that “address authorship, audience, and medium.” Projects are completed in communal workspaces equipped with flat files, printers, and paper trimmers. “With training, students are also granted access to the School’s Printmaking facilities, which include etching, lithography, silkscreen, bookmaking, letterpress, and digital print studios.”
Students in the BFA program have the opportunity to complete coursework outside of the School of Visual Arts and explore a variety of programs across the BU community. Many undergraduate Graphic Design students are dual-degree majors.
The BFA in Graphic Design culminates in the thesis project and end of year exhibition, where students “articulate a personally driven design methodology through an installation of their work in the Boston University Art Galleries.”
Upon completion of the BFA program, students have the option to enroll in BU’s Graphic Design Graduate Certificate Program. This one-year full-time rigorous and intensive study in graphic design is an ideal step towards an MFA in Graphic Design. The curriculum includes core studio and typography requirements and allows students to choose elective courses based on their speciﬁc interests and career goals. Students in the program will complete 30 credit hours of study.
The MFA in Graphic Design “provides a sequenced studio approach to advanced design thinking and problem solving for visual communication, preparing students to thrive in a dynamic professional environment.” Graphic Design Studios form the programs core and electives complement the studios, providing the opportunity to specialize in areas of interest. Elective courses currently include Information Design, Design for the Web, Interactive Design, Experience Design, Motion Graphics, Design Theory, History of Graphic Design, Editorial Design and Exhibition Design.
MFA students also benefit from lectures by nationally and internationally distinguished designers and direct contact with the industry. The program culminates in a master’s thesis, which is presented in an exhibition format at the Boston University Art Galleries.
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. Programs for aspiring graphic designers include an AAS in Communication Design Foundation and a BFA in Graphic Design.
The Communication Design AAS “focuses on computer technology, typography, color theory, layout design, and conceptual problem solving. Students develop their own styles while studying design principles, theory, and communication skills.” Other program highlights include field trips to top design firms in New York City, guest lectures, and internship opportunities. Graduates of the program will be prepared for entry-level design positions or for further study in a related BFA program at FIT. Options include Advertising and Digital Design, Graphic Design, Packaging Design, and Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design.
The curriculum for the Graphic Design BFA includes “the study and design of products such as magazines, posters, websites, annual reports, books, and signage.” The program covers advanced typography, corporate identity systems, art history, and more. Besides versatile design skills “that can be applied to magazine and newspaper publishing, catalog production, and promotional publication design,” students will develop “critical thinking, research, analysis, and presentation skills.”
Other program highlights the opportunity to study with practicing professionals and to gain first-hand experience through internships at major institutions and design firms such as MoMA, Pentagram, the Art Directors Club, and many others. Students also have the opportunity to study abroad in England at Chelsea College of Art & Design, the London College of Communication, or Nottingham Trent University.
The Graphic Design BFA Program concludes with a senior thesis project and a juried design exhibition. Students will graduate with “a strong portfolio to present to potential employers.”
Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) began as Massachusetts Normal School in 1873. The development of the school was in response to the Massachusetts Drawing Act, which required all cities in the Commonwealth of over 10,000 residents to include drawing in their public school curricula. Today, MassArt is known as “the Commonwealth’s art and design school,” and it serves 2,000 undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education students.
The school offers 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. Options for aspiring graphic designers include a BFA in Communication Design and a Graphic Design Certificate (GDC).
Students in the GDC program “explore the formal elements of design including composition, color, texture, shape, typography, and imagery to master the art of communication design,” says the school. This 38 credit hour program is designed for working adults who are interested in advancing into a career in graphic design. Graduates will leave the certificate program with a portfolio of professional quality work.
The Communication Design BFA Program challenges students to “develop design solutions in the areas of package design, publication design, web and app design, interactive communication, and advertising, as well as the creation of graphic identities and brand systems.” Course highlights for the program include Advanced Web Projects, Community Partnership Design, and Disobedient Design: From Activist Posters to Augmented Reality, Experimental Book Arts, Identity Systems, Information Architecture, Language of Motion, Letterpress Printing, Poster Design, Programming for Designers, and Type Design.
Students in the program will have the opportunity to complete immersive options such as the Course Assistantship, Design Research, Independent Study, and an Internship.
Graduates of the Communications Design BFA and GDC work for ad agencies, design studios, in-house corporate design departments, and as freelance designers. Some graduates have gone on to launch their own independent start-ups and studios.
Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) began with the merging of the Rochester Athenaeum (est. 1829), and a technical training school known as Mechanics Institute (est. 1885). With campuses in Rochester, New York, Dubai, Croatia, Kosovo, and China, RIT serves nearly 19,000 students majoring in everything from Art and Design to Robotics and Science Exploration. Programs for aspiring graphic designers include a BFA in Graphic Design and an MFA in Visual Communication Design (VCD).
Offered through the College of Art and Design’s School of Design, the BFA integrates major courses, studio and free electives, and liberal arts, and aspects of business and professional practices, collaborative projects, computer-based skills, and workflow. Students are “exposed to a full range of topics throughout the curriculum, including information design, web and interaction design, branding and identity design, design systems, exhibit and wayfinding design, user experience design, and professional practices,” says the school.
Other program highlights include access to RIT's Vignelli Center for Design Studies, the Cary Graphic Design Archive, and the Cary Library along with alumni and guest speaker events, internship opportunities, co-ops, and freelance experiences. In addition, “interdisciplinary and collaborative projects within RIT and with outside organizations result in innovative and meaningful hands-on projects that encourage students to explore the social, ethical, and environmental impact of design.”
Graduates of the BFA in Graphic Design will leave the program with a completed portfolio and the skills needed to pursue positions within advertising agencies, corporations, design firms, and technology companies around the world. Potential job titles include Digital Designer, Graphic Designer, Freelance Designer, Interactive Designer, and many others.
The MFA in VCD is a cross-disciplinary 60 credit hour program that “focuses on all areas of design, including graphic design, user experience/interaction design, design studies, motion graphics, and 3D digital design.” Students have the option to enhance the degree by choosing an option in Communication Design, Interaction Design, or Motion and 3D Digital Design.
The MFA in VCD, which enrolls around 100 students, also allows all eligible students to participate in an optional co-op program the summer between their first and second years. Some students may have the opportunity to participate during the fall and spring terms.
Graduates of the MFA program are prepared to seek positions in industries such as Advertising, PR, and Marketing, Design, Electronic and Computer Hardware, and Internet and Software, to name a few. Potential job titles include Consulting Art Director and Visual Designer, Designer/Animator, Graphic Designer, Type Designer, UI/UX Designer or Designer and Developer, UX and Visual Designer, and many others.
Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) is Pennsylvania’s only land-grant university. Chartered in 1855 as one of the nation’s first college of agricultural science, today, Penn State serves nearly 90,000 students enrolled in degree options ranging from degree options ranging from more than 275 undergraduate majors to more than 300 graduate and professional programs, including medical and legal studies. Programs are offered across 24 campuses that house sixteen academic colleges and several additional schools that range from the arts to the sciences with many subjects in between.
The College of Arts an Architecture is home to the Stuckeman School’s Department of Graphic Design, which offers a BDes degree and a Minor in Graphic Design as well as a supporting MFA in Art with a Concentration in Graphic Design in conjunction with the Penn State School of Visual Arts. Program highlights include design studies blended with a range of business, communications, and liberal arts courses, small class sizes, and courses taught by faculty with extensive experience in art direction, branding, storytelling, typography, UX/UI design, and visualizing information.
Course highlights for the BFA program include Applied Experience Design, Book Design, Design Photography, Design Thinking and Creativity, Experience Design Process + Methods, Graphic Design Studio, Package Design, Practical Communications, Programming for the Web, Time and Sequence, Typography, and Visualizing Information. Students will also have the opportunity to complete a studio apprenticeship or internship.
The 60 credit hour MFA consists of 30 credits in the major area of concentration (Graphic Design), 12 credits in art history and critical studies, 10 credits in related areas, and eight credits in graduate seminar. Course highlights for the program include Graduate Seminar, Graphic Design I-II, Individual Studies, New Media Art, Photography I—II, Printmaking I-II, Supervised Experience and College Teaching, and Thesis Research.
Students in the MFA program must pass a candidacy review, which is usually held at the end of the second semester of study, submit an artist’s statement, pass the MFA comprehensive oral examination and produce an MFA exhibition and public presentation. Graduates will be “equipped with the design skills, research experience, and expertise to further their careers as both practitioners and educators at the highest level,” says the school.
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 Design and the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Both offer programs for aspiring graphic designers. Options include a BFA in Communications Design in the VPA School of Design and a Bachelor’s in Graphic Design offered in the Newhouse School.
Coursework for the BFA in Communications Design explores “the creative process, communications theory, design history, and project management,” says the school “in addition to illustration, photography, typography, and production processes.” Students in the program will have the opportunity to work on group or solo projects that incorporate advertising, marketing, packaging, publication, web and social media, and best business practices. Study abroad experiences in London, England, are also part of the program.
The Communications Design BFA culminates in VPA’s annual two-day senior portfolio show in New York City, open to design professionals in the tristate area. Graduates of the program work as designers and creative directors at many of the top firms in the country.
The Newhouse School’s Graphic Design program covers print, digital, web and video. Students in the program will learn “how to express ideas visually in every medium, using the latest technology, all while getting a well-rounded liberal arts education that prepares them for creative careers in a variety of digital, print, motion, immersive and emerging fields.
Program highlights include courses such as Introduction to Graphic Design, Typographic Design, and User Interface and User Experience (UI/UX) Design and the Fall Workshop, which “brings creative professionals in from around the world to serve as mentors for student projects.”
Newhouse Graphic Design graduates have landed positions at places such as Amazon, Google, and The Washington Post, and some have even started their own creative agencies.
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, 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 graphic designers 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 College of Art, Media & Design houses the School of Design, which offers a BFA in Graphic Design and a BFA in Illustration with specialized graphic design courses.
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 Anatomy & the Human Figure, Figurative Interpretation & Personal Voice, Illustration Markets and Promotion, Illustration with Digital Media, Motion-Based Illustration, New Media Illustration, Object & World Building, Printmaking, and the Illustration Thesis.
Students may also select one option from the following: School of Design Workshop, Illustration Workshop: Personal Viewpoint or the Design Internship.
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.
Graduates of the BFA Illustration Program at UArts have gone on to create illustrations for ESPN, Fortune, Ralph Lauren, Random House, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker and New York Times, and many others.
The BFA in Graphic Design is a cross-disciplinary program that includes courses such as Design for Interaction, Design for Persuasive Visual Communication, Digital Design Lab, Drawing as Seeing and Meaning, Drawing as Thinking, Editorial Systems, and Image and Narrative. Students will also complete Portfolio and Brand Development, Real World Design, School of Design Workshop, and Senior Thesis I-II.
A Design Internship is also part of the program and some positions are paid.
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).
Graduates of the UArts Graphic Design Program are prepared for employment in fields ranging from branding and motion graphics to publication design. Students and alumni have worked for 20th Century Fox, Blizzard Entertainment, Disney, DreamWorks, ESPN, Facebook Hallmark, Harper-Collins, Hasbro, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Knopf, Marvel Comics, MTV, NASA, National Geographic, Newsweek, Nickelodeon, NPR, Oprah, PBS, Penguin Group Publishing, Random House, Simon & Schuster, The Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, and Warner Brothers.
Temple University (Temple) was founded in 1884 as a night school. Today, the school serves around 40,000 students, making it the largest university in Philadelphia. Besides being the city’s largest university, Temple offers more than 500 academic programs in 17 schools and colleges, including Tyler School of Art and Architecture—home of the Graphic & Interactive Design 9GAID) Program.
The School’s BFA in GAID “focuses on research, the development of original concepts and the nurturing of each student’s unique aesthetic,” says the school. Students in the program will master a variety of new and traditional media, and they will learn about prototyping, iteration, image making, typography, craft and technology. Course highlights include Advanced Graphic Design, Computers for Design, Computer Graphics, and Typography.
Students are strongly encouraged to select electives such as Advanced Typography, Advertising Design, Digital Narratives, Illustration, Interactive Design, The Business of Design, and Collaborative Design Workshop in Rome. During the Senior year of the program, courses such as Brand Identity, Design for the Public Good, Hybrid Design, and Packaging, Projects in Authorship, Publishing, and Senor Design Workshop are available.
A portfolio event for seniors and graduates—attended by the top design firms in the region and beyond—helps prepare them to enter professional practice. Students may also advance to the MFA in GAID.
The MFA is “is an intensive, research-driven immersion into the field.” Students in the program will be exposed to experimentation methods, entrepreneurship, and tackling contemporary issues through social design. “Students also have the opportunity to enroll in a design theory course to help expand their understanding of design. In addition to traditional media, students have the opportunity to discover new approaches to design discourse through exposure to new technologies.”
Course highlights for the 60 credit hour MFA in GAID include Graphic Design Graduate Projects (3 terms), Graduate Professional Practices (3 credit hours), Visual Design Graduate Seminar (4 terms), and Visual Design Thesis (4 terms). The remainder of the program consists of 12 hours in Art History and 12 Studio Elective hours.
An approved thesis exhibition, written statement, and slide portfolio are required at the final program review in order to meet MFA requirements.
Founded in 1898 as an Evening Institute of the Boston Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), Northeastern University serves nearly 38,000 students enrolled in 150 undergraduate majors and concentrations and over 125 graduate programs in nine colleges and schools.
With nearly 6,000 students and 15 combined undergraduate degrees, the College of Arts, Media and Design (CAMD) offers a BFA in Communication Studies and Graphic & Information Design, and Minors in Graphic & Information Design and Communication Studies. CAMD also offers combined degrees for students interested in combining graphic design/communication studies with another major.
Options include BA's in Architecture and Graphic & Information Design, Communication Studies and Media Arts, Communication Studies and Graphic & Information Design, Design and Communication Studies, Media Arts and Communication Studies, and a BS in Communication Studies and Business Administration.
All degree options offer the opportunity to participate in the Northeastern Cooperative Education (Co-op) Program. This experiential learning program provides the opportunity to “explore potential career paths while alternating semesters of academic study with 6-month periods of full-time, paid employment.” The school partners with more than 2,000 co-op employers across the U.S. and in more than 65 countries around the world.
Undergraduates gain up to 18 months of hands-on, professional experience related to their major or career interests. During this time, students are exempt from paying tuition.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) opened on October 1, 1872 under the name Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College. Today the school sits on a 2,600-acre main campus that houses more than 36,000 students enrolled in 280 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral majors in nine colleges and the graduate school. The College of Architecture and Urban Studies houses the School of Visual Arts (SOVA), which offers a BFA in Graphic Design.
Students in the program “take a tiered series of courses in Typography and Design,” says the school. They will also take a variety of electives in Art and Design such as Art Direction, Hand-Lettering, Human-Centered Design, Mobile Design, Motion Graphics, Packaging, and Web Design—as well as various courses within Creative Technologies and Studio Art. Examples include Creative Code, Drawing, Painting,
Photography, Projection-Mapping, and Sculpture. Students are required to complete an internship and a portfolio.
Graduates Virginia Tech’s Graphic Design Program have gone on to work for Amazon, Axios, the Brooklyn Art Museum, ESPN, Google, NASA, U.S.A. Today, Warby Parker, Willow Tree Apps, and many others.
Vermont College of Fine Arts (VCFA) was founded in 1834 as Newbury Seminary. The school serves around 350 students enrolled in eight MFA programs. Established in 2011, the Graphic Design MFA is low-residency program designed for individuals with an academic background in communications, design, media arts, visual art and culture and/or professional experience in graphic design. The school highly encourages “aspiring and practicing design educators,” to apply and “familiarity with design history and contemporary visual culture studies is beneficial.”
Graduates of the program “emerge” with critical expertise, new research methods, and “a body of design work that is personal and relevant to the next stage in their careers and creative lives.” Skills developed include content, craft, and form, as well as fluency in contemporary design discourse.
Established in 1828 as New Paltz Classical School, State University of New York at New Paltz (SUNY New Paltz) is one of the founding schools of the SUNY system. The school serves nearly 8,000 students enrolled in close to 100 undergraduate and more than 50 graduate degree programs in six academic schools.
The School of Fine & Performing Art (F&PA) houses the Department of Art—home of the BFA in Graphic Design Program. Courses for the program are offered in hybrid studio/seminar format,” in which demonstrations, lectures, discussions, and critiques alternate with work periods,” says the school. Projects for the program “are often undertaken in collaboration with other campus programs.”
One of the highlights of the Graphic Design BFA is the study abroad program. Students have studied in a number of countries including Australia, England, France, Italy, and Scotland. In addition, the Department of Art hosts field trips to design studios and museums, along with lectures in New York City and Albany.
Graduates of the program go on to become Art Directors, Commercial and Industrial Designers, Graphic Designers, Marketing Specialists, Public Relations Specialists, Software Applications Developers, Web Developers, and many others. Graphic Design alumni who have graduated in the past 1-5 years have obtained employment with companies such as MasterCard, NBC Universal Media, LLC, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Random House. Some have completed graduate programs at the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University, NYIT, NYU, Yale, and more.
Established in 1891 as Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry, Drexel University houses a cooperative education program that remains oldest, largest, and best-known program in the nation. Because it is a degree requirement for most majors, undergraduate students at Drexel have the unique opportunity to balance classroom theory with practical, hands-on experience prior to graduation. Students have had experiences in Ghana, Greece, Hong Kong, London, Spain, and many other places.
Serving 24,205 students, Drexel University offers more than 200 degree programs in 15 colleges and schools. The Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, houses the Graphic Design Program, which leads to a BS degree. A 24 credit hour Minor is also available.
The curriculum for the 183 credit hour Graphic Design BS is collaborative and project-based. It enables students to “develop a sophisticated approach to creative problem-solving and analysis,” says the school, and “to effectively communicate through excellence in typography and image-making.” Students will focus “in all aspects of visual communication and experience” including brand identity, data visualization, dynamic and time-based media environments, and experiential and spatial design.
Course highlights for the program include Book Design, Computer Imaging I: Introduction to Adobe Illustrator, Computer Imaging II: Intro to Adobe Photoshop, Corporate Identity, Information Graphics: Mapping, Wayfinding, Data Visualization, Motion Graphics: Storyboarding and Development for Time-based Media, Physics: Light and Sound, Production: Introducing the Tools and Methods of Production Management for Print and Screen Media, and Publication Design.
Students in the program have the opportunity to pursue electives according to their interests, and can choose to pursue a minor. Examples include Interactive Digital Media, Marketing, Nonprofit Communication, Photography, Product Design, Project Management, Sports Media Production, Technology, Virtual Reality & Immersive Media, and Writing. Graphic Design students will also complete a Senior Capstone and Professional Portfolio course.
Students and program alumni have secured co-op positions or full-time employment at such companies as Apple, Bloomberg, ESPN, Facebook, Marvel Entertainment, Penguin Random House, Saatchi & Saatchi, QVC, Time, Inc., Under Armour, Urban Outfitters, and many others.
Founded in 1856, University of Maryland (UMD) is the flagship institution of the State of Maryland. The school is home to more than 41,000 students, 14,000 faculty and staff, and 250 academic programs offered in 13 Colleges and schools. The College of Arts and Humanities houses the Department of Art, which offers Studio Art BA and MFA Programs with a Concentration in Graphic Design.
The BA provides a pre-professional orientation emphasizing graphic design theory, interactive design, and interdisciplinary research. Students will complete a specific sequence of courses at both the 300 and 400 levels. Requirements include 21 credits in foundation and studio art electives and 12 credits in supporting courses in art history and/or theory, for a total of 60 credits.
Program highlights internship opportunities, the chance to organize and curate exhibitions featuring the work of other students in the department, and the Visiting Artist Lecture series. Recent visiting artists have included Laurie Anderson, Sanford Biggers, Chakaia Booker, Oliver Herring, and Ellen Lupton. Graduates will leave the BA with work experience and a polished portfolio.
The MFA “allows artists the opportunity to dedicate three years to intensive studio practice and to the development of a strong conceptual and historical foundation to that practice,” says the school. Other program highlights include private spacious work studios, access to state-of-the-art facilities in sculpture, digital-media, and printmaking, the lecture series, and a graduate colloquium “that brings in regional and national scholars and critics on an annual basis to work with MFA candidates.”
Students will also have the opportunity to work one-on-one with the schools full-time faculty, who are also practicing artists that can provide guidance and expertise in a variety of media. Departmental graduate assistantships are part of the program and include tuition remission and a stipend.
Founded in 1766 as Queen's College, Rutgers University, The State University of New Jersey, is the eighth oldest university in the nation. With campuses in Camden, Newark, and New Brunswick serving more than 71,000 students, Rutgers is also the largest university in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area. The Camden campus (Rutgers-Camden) offers 38 undergraduate majors and 29 graduate programs in five colleges and schools, including Camden College of Arts and Sciences, which offers BA and Minor options in Graphic Design.
The Minor consists of 18 credit hours of study and the intensive BA program “focuses on interdisciplinary thinking and research through personalized interaction with faculty that are active researchers and practitioners,” says the school. Students can create their own interdisciplinary majors to prepare for careers in advertising, graphic design, and other fields. And as part of the Teacher Preparation Program, students can complete the required coursework to obtain teacher certification in art.
The core curriculum for the program requires courses such as Computer Animation, Digital Photography. and Graphic Design. The 21 credit hour concentration includes Advanced Studio, Graphic Design Studio II-IV, Special Topics in Graphic Design, Typography, and the Senior Capstone in Graphic Design. Recommended electives include Computer Multimedia, Film and Video and the Electronic Arts Internship, to name a few.
Graduates of the program have established careers in advertising, interactive and web design, product design and print design, working in traditional graphic design studios to design think tanks. Student projects “have been awarded and recognized by national and international organizations including AIGA, Graphis, GDUSA, UCDA, CMYK, National DSVC Student Show, and Applied Art Magazines.”
American University (AU) was founded in 1893. The school serves more than 14,000 undergraduate, graduate, and law students enrolled in nearly 200 program at all degree levels. Programs are offered in eight colleges and schools, including the College of Arts & Sciences, which houses the Art Department—home to Graphic Design Program. Pathways include a BA and a Minor in Graphic Design. Students may also earn both undergraduate and graduate degrees through AU’s combined bachelor's/master's programs.
The Graphic Design Program “teaches the theory and practice of graphic communications design,” says the school. Courses cover corporate identity, experience and interactive design, illustration, multimedia, packaging, poster design, publication and editorial design, and more.
Course highlights for the BA program include Advanced Design: Publication Design for Print & Digital Media or Visual Branding & Design Systems, Data Visualization & Information Design, Digital & Emerging Media Design, Experience Design: Interactive Media & Mobile Devices, Kinetic & Sequential Graphics, Packaging Design, The Artist's Perspective: Digital Photography, Visual Communication Design, and Visual Concepts & Image Making for Design.
During the final year of the program, students will have the opportunity to complete an independent study project, Interactive Experience Design: Senior Projects, and/or an internship.