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What are the top graphic design schools in the South for 2021?
|1||Savannah College of Art and Design||Georgia||1%|
|2||North Carolina State University at Raleigh||North Carolina||2%|
|3||Ringling College of Art and Design||Florida||2%|
|5||University of Tennessee||Tennessee||4%|
|6||University of Florida||Florida||4%|
|7||University of Georgia||Georgia||5%|
|8||Appalachian State University||North Carolina||6%|
|10||Full Sail University||Florida||7%|
|11||University of Arkansas – Fayetteville||Arkansas||8%|
|12||Louisiana State University||Louisiana||8%|
|13||Clemson University||South Carolina||9%|
|14||University of Central Florida||Florida||9%|
|15||University of Miami||Florida||10%|
|16||Florida State University||Florida||15%|
|17||Florida Atlantic University||Florida||15%|
|18||University of Tennessee – Chattanooga||Tennessee||15%|
|19||East Carolina University||North Carolina||15%|
|20||University of Memphis||Tennessee||15%|
|21||University of North Carolina, Charlotte||North Carolina||15%|
|22||Mississippi State University||Mississippi||15%|
|23||Loyola University of New Orleans||Louisiana||15%|
|24||Murray State University||Kentucky||20%|
|25||West Virginia University||West Virginia||20%|
Our 2021 ranking of the Top 25 Graphic Design School Programs in the South. We considered over 150 southern colleges with graphic design programs for this year's rankings. For an explanation of our ranking criteria, click here.
We define the South as Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas.
1. Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia (Top 1% of schools considered)
Founded in 1978 in a renovated armory, Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) has grown into a multi-campus art college with locations in Savannah and Atlanta, Georgia, Hong Kong, and Lacoste, France. The school, which serves more than 15,000 students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries, offers more than 40 majors and over 75 minors. This is more degree programs and specializations than any other art and design college.
SCAD also offers more graphic design programs than just about any other school in our rankings. Options include BA, BFA, MA, and MFA degrees in Graphic Design and Design Management MA and MFA programs. A Minor in Graphic Design is also available.
All programs highlight Entrepreneurship, User Experience and Interface Design (UX/UI), Mobile Technology, and Product Packaging. 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 Advertising and Branding, Advertising Copywriting, Mobile and Interactive Design, and Motion Media Design. Students may complement their degree with a Certificate in Digital Publishing as well.
All graphic design students will “learn how to weave entrepreneurship and modern technology with product and user-centered design,” says the school. They will “learn from titans of the industry at Airbnb, Google, Hasbro, and more” Students will also “gain an all-access pass to leading-edge resources and star-studded signature events like SCADstyle, attended by luminaries from global art, fashion, and modern design.”
The Graphic Design programs and Minors are offered in Atlanta, Savannah, and online via eLearning. The Design Management MA is offered at Savannah and online, and the MFA is offered in Savannah.
SCAD graduates are prepared to join elite agencies, multinational companies, or start their own businesses as they lead branding, visual marketing, interactive media, and immersive campaigns. Graduates work at top companies around the globe including Apple, IBM, Ralph Lauren, Under Armour, Verizon, and many others.
2. North Carolina State University at Raleigh, Raleigh, North Carolina (Top 2% of schools considered)
North Carolina State University (NC State) began as a land-grant institution in 1887, with a focus on agriculture and research. Today, NC State is one of the nation’s largest schools, serving more than 36,000 students, enrolled in 300 degree programs in a wide range of disciplines. Programs are offered in 12 colleges and more than 60 academic departments.
The College of Design, Department of Art + Design, houses the Graphic Design program, which offers two degree paths—a Bachelor of Graphic Design (BGD) and a Master of Graphic Design (MGD). Both programs are NASAD (National Association of Schools of Art and Design) accredited and the MGD is one of the few graphic design graduate programs with STEM Classification (CIP).
Students in the undergraduate program “study comparative ideas about, and methods for, creating visual communication,” says the school. “Through project-based assignments, students acquire strong formal and conceptualization skills. They learn and practice graphic design strategies, such as mapping and diagramming, to understand design problems, audiences, contexts, and visualization techniques, including ideation and iteration, to explore and refine design possibilities and determine appropriateness.”
All undergraduate students have the opportunity to take an advanced studio in another College of Design discipline (a swing studio), study abroad for a semester or summer at the NC State Prague Institute, and gain professional experience through paid internships within leading firms, and/or participate in sponsored studios as part of the graphic design curriculum.
Graduate students have two options: two-year and three-year programs. In both, students will “closely examine the cultural and technological situatedness of graphic design and its products, and seek understanding of the people who use and interact with the things that graphic designers make.”
Students in all programs will explore and become proficient in a wide range of media — print, web, mobile, virtual reality, augmented reality, and embedded technology. Students will also practice visualization strategies such as mapping, diagramming, and storyboarding and develop strong formal and conceptualization skills through project-based assignments. They will also immerse in advanced studios that cover special topics such as accessible design, branding, and data visualization.
3. Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota, Florida (Top 2% of colleges considered)
Founded in 1931, Ringling College of Art and Design (RCAD) is a collaboration between Dr. Ludd M. Spivey, president of Southern College (now Florida Southern College), and circus baron, John Ringling. On opening day, the school had just 75 students and 111 course offerings. Today, RCAD serves more than 1,600 students enrolled in BFA degrees in eleven disciplines and BA degrees in two. A number of Minors are also available.
Students in all programs benefit from RCAD’s “rigorous curriculum” that the school says “employs the studio model of teaching and immediately engages students through a comprehensive program that is both specific to the major of study and focused on the liberal arts.” Other highlights include visiting artists from major studios such as Blue Sky Studios and DreamWorks, focused internship opportunities, and the chance to work with local businesses (and at the school’s in-house design firm known as The Design Center) on real-world projects.
For aspiring graphic designers, RCAD offers a BFA and a 15 credit hour Minor in Graphic Design. Launched in 1980, the Graphic Design program allows students to collaborate with other artists such as copywriters, developers, illustrators, photographers, and printers “to make their ideas a reality,” says the school. Course highlights include Contemporary Design Culture, Design & Typography, Drawing & 2D Design, Drawing & 3D Design, Interactive Design, New Media Design, and Visual Persuasion. For Course GDES 491, students have three options: Design Center, an Internship, or Graphic Design Elective.
RCAD internships have led to many full-time employment opportunities. Graduates have been hired by companies such as Arc Worldwide, Facebook, Google, Instagram, Leo Burnett, Microsoft, Nickelodeon, Saatchi & Saatchi X, Studio BCC, Walt Disney Imagineering, Wieden + Kennedy, and many others.
4. Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama (Top 3% of colleges considered)
Auburn University was established in 1856 as the East Alabama Male College. Today, the school serves a co-ed population of nearly 31,000 students enrolled in more than 140 degree options in 12 colleges and schools, plus the graduate school. The College of Architecture, Design, and Construction houses the School of Industrial and Graphic Design, which offers a BFA in Graphic Design (BFA GDES). This is Alabama’s only GDES Program to receive accreditation by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) accreditation.
Students in the program “follow a curriculum that provides variety and depth in all aspects of the field, supported by Fine Arts electives,” says the school. This includes branding, illustration, motion, packaging, publication, typography, UI/UX, and packaging, app, and wayfinding design.
In addition, “students have excellent opportunities for internship and cooperative education experiences as a result of well established relationships with regional, national and international companies and firms.” As a result of their overall experience and education, students will build a strong portfolio of work.
Graduates of the program are prepared to design positions with magazines and in logo and identity development, interactive media, exhibitions, illustration, environmental graphics, packaging, and web design.
5. University of Tennessee – Knoxville, Knoxville, Tennessee (Top 4% of colleges considered)
University of Tennessee – Knoxville (UT Knoxville or UTK) was founded in 1794 as Blount College. Part of the UT System, UTK is Tennessee’s flagship university and premier public research institution. The school, which serves 30,559 Students, includes the UT Space Institute, more than 900 programs offered in 11 colleges, and over 300 study abroad programs to enhance the college experience.
The College of Architecture and Design houses the School of Design, which offers a BFA Graphic Design and a 15 credit hour Graphic Studies Minor. Recently moved from the School of Art, the four-year program “provides an undergraduate education stressing creative and intellectual thinking, diverse problem-solving, innovative investigations, and creative research in all forms of communication,” says the school. Program highlights include small class sizes, collaborative Design Studios, 24/7 access to equipment, and participation in the Annual Senior Show.
Over the past five years, graduates of the UTK Graphic Design Program have enjoyed an impressive 90% employment rate. Alumni work at leading companies such as Apple, Facebook, GAP, Google, HGTV, Instagram, and Zillow. Some have started their own companies including Matchstic Media, Morris Creative, Nathanna Design, Old City Mailroom, Robin Easter Design, and many others.
6. University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida (Top 4% of colleges considered)
Founded as Gainesville Academy in 1858, the University of Florida (UF) opened with just a few students. Today, the school sits on a 2,000-acre campus with more than 900 buildings, including the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum-certified building in the state of Florida.
UF serves 56,570 students, making it one of the largest schools in the U.S. Programs include 30 certificates, 100 undergraduate majors, and 200 graduate programs in 14 colleges and schools, including the College of Arts.
Established in 1925, UF College of the Arts offers fully accredited schools of Art and Art History, Music, Theatre and Dance along with the Center for Arts in Medicine and the Digital Worlds Institute. The School of Art and Art History offers a BFA in Graphic Design, an MFA in Design and Visual Communications (MxD), and a 15 credit hour Graphic Design Certificate.
The BFA is a limited-access program “built around a core of design thinking, design process, and creative investigation,” says the school. “Students learn how to be creative, conceptual, and process-oriented in addition to aesthetically and technologically sophisticated.” Graduates are prepared to seek positions in branding, experience, UX/UI, and other areas of design.
The MFA in Design and Visual Communications is “activated through the MxD Lab, engaging Florida” as the programs “laboratory.” The MFA MxD has two- and three-year options that consist of 60 credits total (terminal degree). Courses include electives, practica, seminars, and studios. Elective course highlights include Area Methods: Rotating Topics, Creativity and Health: Foundations of the Arts in Medicine, Creativity in Entrepreneurship, Global Entrepreneurship, Seminar in Museum Studies, and Social Entrepreneurship.
A 15 credit hour MFA Creative Project is also part of the program as well as the option to complete a Practicum course. The self-directed and designed Creative Project allows students to focus in any area of Design and Visual Communications. The Practicum provides the opportunity to conduct research and practice in partnership with an approved organization. Students will work on projects for cultural, economic and social development in partnership with the community, organization, and/or other disciplinary experts.
Graduates of the Graphic Design and Visual Communications Programs at UF work in all areas of design in the US and abroad. Some have launched their own design studios. Some companies where UF alumni work include Apple, Facebook, Fossil, IBM, JetBlue, Kate Spade, Miami Heat, Microsoft, R/GA, Twitter, Verizon, Viacom, Walt Disney Imagineering, and West Elm.
MFA alumni are also qualified to pursue both professional practice and academic careers. Recent MFA alumni are working at Google and L’Oréal, and teaching at Auburn University, Ball State University, Illinois State University, Northern Alabama University, The University at Buffalo, University of Alabama at Birmingham, University of Colorado–Boulder, and the University of Florida.
7. University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia (Top 5% of colleges considered)
Established in 1785, University of Georgia (UGA) is the state’s flagship institution. The university’s 17 colleges and schools enroll more than 38,000 students and offer 370 fields and areas leading to the bachelor’s, master’s, specialist education, professional, or PhD degree.
The Lamar Dodd School of Art house the Art Program, which offers a BFA in Art with Concentrations in Graphic Design, Printmaking & Book Arts, and ArtX: Expanded Forms. An Interdisciplinary Art & Design A.B. (BA), a Minor in Studio Art, and MFA degrees in ArtX and Printmaking & Book Arts are also available.
ArtX MFA students gain experience in computer and web-based art, computer-operated fabrication, digital photography, digital video, durational installation, performance, robotics, and sound. The Printmaking & Book Arts MFA allows students to “develop technical competence in the diverse skills associated with most major fine-art printmaking processes,” says the school. “Such processes include intaglio, relief, screen printing, digital printing, letterpress, book arts, papermaking, and lithography.”
All BFA degrees include the Studio Art Core, comprised of a yearlong survey of art history, introductory-level studio foundations, secondary-level ideation and methodologies, and upper-level interdisciplinary thematic studio and professional practice courses. The Graphic Design pathway stresses “a strong grounding in design and communication fundamentals like typography, information hierarchy, concept development, and visual exploration.”
Course highlights include Advanced Typography, Design Professional Practices, Environmental Graphic Design, Graphic Systems, Intro Photo & Image Culture, Thematic Inquiry in Contemporary Art, Type & Image, and Visual Narrative Systems. Elective options provide the opportunity to study Character Design, Trend Spotting, and UX Design Research, as well as Advanced Illustration, Data Visualization, and Topics in Digital Platforms & Dynamic Media.
Students interested in adding a Track have options such as Art, Design & Architectural History, Communications & Media, Cultural Studies, Interaction & Computing, Marketing & Strategy, and Studio Art & Design. Students also have access to a large study abroad program that offers experiences on all seven continents along with UGA campuses in Costa Rica, Central America, Cortona, Italy, and Oxford, England.
Graduates of the BFA and MFA programs at UGA have landed positions with companies such as Aveda, Bustle.com, CNN & Turner Broadcasting, IBM Design, Facebook, Free People, Gensler New York, Inc. Magazine, and Metropolitan Museum of Art.
8. Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina (Top 6% of colleges considered)
Appalachian State University was founded in 1899 as Watauga Academy. The school serves just over 20,000 students enrolled in 150 undergraduate and graduate degree programs through its College of Arts and Sciences, College of Fine and Applied Arts, Reich College of Education, Walker College of Business, Hayes School of Music, Beaver College of Health Sciences and Cratis D. Williams School of Graduate Studies. Appalachian also offers doctorate degrees in education and psychology.
The College of Fine and Applied Arts houses the Department of Art, which offers several programs for aspiring graphic designers. Options include a BFA in Graphic Design and BS degrees in Graphic Communications Management – Cross Media Production (GCM – CMP) or Print/Packaging Production (GCM – PPP). The BS degrees are part of the Thomas W. Reese Graphic Communications Management Program.
Students in the Graphic Design BFA Program will learn to design environmental graphics, identity programs, interactive, screen-based experiences, packaging, print publications, signage/information systems, and type design. Graduates are prepared to enter the graphic design field or graduate school.
The Graphic Communications Management Program prepares students “for entry-level supervisory and staff positions in graphic communications,” says the school. The BS in GCM – CMP focuses on “applying graphic messaging across different channels/platforms such as web, email, print, cover wraps, etc. to communicate to various markets.”
The BS in GCM - PPP “covers a wide variety of processes and methods of production – including offset lithography, flexography, digital printing systems, variable data printing and wide format printing in addition to the design and production of packages that protect and promote products in channels of distribution.”
The BS programs require a General Business Minor and an industry internship that helps prepare students to enter the workforce in a range of roles.
9. Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana (Top 6% of colleges considered)
Tulane University (Tulane) was founded in 1834. The school is ranked by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching as a university with “very high research activity," placing it in the top 2% of universities nationwide in terms of research. Tulane is also the first major research institution to require public service for graduation.
Serving more than 12,000 students, the school offers more than 300 programs in nine schools. The School of Professional Advancement (SoPA) has several program options for aspiring graphic designers including BA, Minor, and Graduate Certificate in Digital Design. These programs have the option to choose the Graphic Design Track. A Graphic Design Minor is also available.
Certificate programs are 30 credit hours and comprised of all of the coursework required for the undergraduate major, without required courses in other subjects. Minors are 18 credit hours and consist of an introduction to graphic design topics such as typography and branding, as well as foundational courses in digital design.
The BA in Digital Design with a Graphic Design Track is a hands-on program that requires 120 credit hours of study to graduate. Course highlights include Branding/Corporate Identity, Business of Design, Designer as Author, Design for Good, Digital Page Layout, Environmental Design, Foundations in Interactive Design, Introduction to UX Design, Letterpress Studio, M.A.D. Studio, Motion, Narrative, Poster Design, and Social Media Studio. Students will also complete Portfolio & Professional Practices.
Other program highlights include the option to take courses in other tracks, 16 flexible elective credits, and access to professional conferences, symposiums, social events, and internship opportunities.
Graduates of the Tulane Digital Design Program work in book design, branding, front-end web and interactive design, packaging design, poster design, print design, publication design, typographic design, and more.
10. Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida (Top 7% of colleges considered)
Established in 1979, Full Sail University offers AS, BS, BFA, MS and MFA degrees in the Arts, Entertainment, and Media. Graduate certificates are also available. The school serves approximately 15,000 students at a campus located just 35 minutes from downtown Orlando and Universal Studios. Program options for aspiring graphic designers include a BS in Graphic Design that can be completed online in 29 months or on campus in 20.
Graphic Design students will “sharpen” their eye for “aesthetics through projects, critiques, and the study of popular culture,” says the school. In addition to technical proficiency and creative development, the program will help students “hone real-world skills such as media integration, advertising, and branding.” Course highlights include Concepts in Advertising, Creative Branding Experience, Digital Audio and Video, Digital Publishing, Graphic Web Design, Interactive Media Design and Usability, Logos and Symbols, Media Integration, and Technology in the Entertainment and Media Industries.
Students will also take a four credit hour career readiness course, two professional development seminars, and seven project and portfolio courses. Graduates are prepared to enter the field or enroll in Full Sail’s Media Design MFA Program.
Offered online, the program highlights areas such as Brand Development, Defining Client Needs, Design Integration, Design Strategy, Effective Copywriting, and Organizational Structures. The Media Design MFA takes just 12 months to complete.
11. University of Arkansas – Fayetteville, Fayetteville, Arkansas (Top 8% of schools considered)
University of Arkansas – Fayetteville (U of A) was established in 1871 as the first public university in Arkansas. The school is famous for helping launch the careers of Bill and Hillary Clinton, who taught law here. Before she was a U.S. senator, the nation's secretary of state, or a presidential candidate, Hillary also founded U of A’s legal clinic.
Arkansas’s largest university, U of A serves 27,500 students enrolled in more than 200 academic programs in 10 colleges and schools. The Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences houses the School of Art, which introduced the BFA in Graphic Design in Fall 2016. The program offers an “enhanced focus on human-centered and interaction design, typography, branding and design research,” says the school. Students will take coursework in motion design, web design, and print, with a focus on the traditional design process and the latest software techniques.
Students can expect to take courses such as Design for Complexity, Design Tools and Concepts, Human-Centered Design, Identity Systems, Interactive Language, Technology in Context, Typographic Systems, and User Experience. A Professional Development Seminar and BFA Project are also part of the program.
Other program highlights include the opportunity to collaborate in the recently redesigned Graphic Design Studio, AIGA membership, and internship opportunities.
12. Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana (Top 8% of schools considered)
Louisiana State University (LSU) opened on January 2, 1860. Today, the school is in the elite 1% of U.S. universities having land-, sea-, and space-grant designations. Serving 34,290 students, LSU offers more than 235 academic fields of study in 15 colleges and schools.
The College of Art and Design houses the School of Art, which offers two programs for aspiring graphic designers: a BFA in Studio Art with a Concentration in Graphic Design and an MFA in Graphic Design.
Both programs provide experiences in the development of work in typography, illustration/digital imaging, print and editorial design, information design, motion graphics, packaging, environmental design, identity design, and branding.
Course highlights for the 120 credit hour BFA include Applied Typography, Color Design, Digital Art, Digital Imaging Techniques, Graphic Abstraction, Graphic Design I-III, Interactive Multimedia Design, Letter Forms, and Prepress Production Techniques. Students will also complete the Senior Graphic Design course.
The 60 credit hour, three-year MFA program includes “research and discourse of both modernist and postmodernist methods, strategies, and analysis of the practice of design and their implementation to contemporary graphic design.” Students in the program will take 27 graduate studio hours, 12 art history hours, 12 studio art/general elective hours, and a three-hour teaching seminar.
Courses are supplemented by workshops and lectures supported by national and international visiting artists, scholars, and design professionals.
The final year of study is “dedicated principally to the master’s thesis—submitted as a thesis report and exhibition, for which it is anticipated that students will make original and comprehensive student-directed research investigations in graphic communications.” The thesis is worth six credit hours.
All Graphic Design students have the opportunity to compete in design competitions and to work on with local and regional graphic design firms during the summer, spring, and fall semesters.
13. Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina (Top 9% of colleges considered)
Clemson University opened in 1893 as Clemson Agricultural College with just 446 male students. Today, the school serves a co-ed population of nearly 26,000 students enrolled in more than 300 majors, minors, and graduate degree programs in more than a dozen colleges and schools.
The Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business houses the Department of Graphic Communications, which offers BS and MS degrees in Graphic Communications (GC). Clemson’s College of Art, Architecture and Humanities, houses the Department of Art, which offers Art BA and BFA degrees.
The Graphics Communications BS is “dedicated to hands-on learning experiences,” says the school. Students in the program are “placed in positions in a variety of printing, packaging, publishing, imaging and related industries in management, marketing, sales, customer service, creative, technical and scientific positions.” Placement rates are “consistently high” with “competitive salaries.”
In addition to engaging in hands-on learning experiences, Graphic Communications students will take courses such as Commercial Printing, Current Developments and Trends in Graphic Communications, Digital Imaging and eMedia, Ink and Substrates, Marketing, Package and Specialty Printing, Packaging Science, and Technical Writing. Graduates of the program are prepared to enter the schools MS in Graphic Communications Program or seek positions in commercial and technical sales, printing management, production planning and supervision, and many others.
The MS in Graphic Communications includes 33 credit hours of graduate courses for the non-thesis option or 30 hours with a thesis. Within the total requirements, at least 17 hours will be in GC technical/managerial courses; seven will be research related; six credits will be from outside the Graphic Communications Department; and at least one-half will be at or above the 8000 level.
Graduates of the program are placed in positions in a variety of imaging, packaging, printing, and publishing related industries in creative, management, marketing, scientific, sales, and technical positions.
The Professional Art BFA program allows students to choose an emphasis area such as drawing, painting, photography, printmaking, or new media, with complementary coursework in Graphic Design New Media, and Animation. In the Liberal Arts BA program, students may select a concentration in Digital Art and Design Media, Studio Art, or Art History. They also have the option to customize their studies with a minor or double major, which allows them to tailor their career interests.
Other Art BA/BFA program highlights include an ongoing visiting artist series, access to exhibits in diverse media at the Lee Gallery, and the Fine Arts Student Association, which organizes trips and at least one annual trip to a major urban art center such as New York City. Students also have the opportunity to exhibit their work in independent galleries in the Greenville and Pendleton arts districts, as well as other regional and national venues.
BFA seniors exhibit their art in the Lee Gallery, and BA students undertake a professional preparation course to complete their degrees.
14. University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida (Top 9% of schools considered)
In 1968, University of Central Florida (UCF) opened in as Florida Technological University with less than 2,000 students. The first graduating class consisted of 423 students, and the school granted its first doctoral degree in 1977. Today, UCF leads all universities in Florida in conferring more than 17,000 degrees a year. Serving nearly 72,000 students, the school is also the largest university by enrollment in Florida and one of the largest universities in the nation.
UCF offers 103 bachelors and 91 master’s degrees, 31 research doctorates, three professional doctorates, and three specialist degree programs in 13 colleges. The College of Arts and Humanities at UCF houses the School of Visual Arts & Design (SVAD), which offers an Emerging Media BFA with a Graphic Design Track. The College of Sciences, UCF’s largest college, houses the Nicholson School of Communication and Mass Media, which offers an Emerging Media MFA with a Studio Art and Design Track.
SVAD offers an additional program (Studio Art) that allows students to specialize in related areas such as Book Arts, Drawing, Drawing and Illustration, Drawing and Printmaking, Photography, and Type and Design. The specialization is 18 credit hours and majors may pursue a BA or BFA degree.
Students in the two-year cohort Graphic Design Track will “integrate the multiple domains of art, storytelling, and technology,” says the school. The program is designed to “provide a solid foundation in techniques and theory in one focused area of competence, as well as a broad understanding of related disciplines including arts, humanities, and technology. The program also offers extended experience in working in multidisciplinary teams on realistic problems.”
Students will master the skills needed to produce typographic and publication designs, identity systems, packaging, film and broadcast graphics, posters, as well as interactive and web design. “Throughout the program, students work on developing their professional portfolio, which culminates in the two senior year advanced Graphic Design courses.”
The MFA is a three-year, 60 credit hour program that focuses on “the development of a concept driven body of related works vis sustained studio practice.” Students will study contemporary studio practices, such as performance art, installation, experimental time-based media, and fine arts. Graduates of the program will be “prepared to pursue active careers in the professional and academic arts. They will have developed a refined studio practice that provides them with the skills to find recognition and acclaim through presentations, exhibitions, conferences and performances in the contemporary art world.”
15. University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida (Top 10% of colleges considered)
Founded in 1925, University of Miami is a private research university that serves more than 17,000 students from around the world. More than 100 majors and programs are offered in 11 colleges and schools, including the College of Arts and Sciences—home to the Department of Art and Art History. Here, students can earn a BFA with a Concentration in Graphic Design/Multimedia.
Students in this interdisciplinary program may choose a secondary Concentration such as Photography/Digital Imaging or Printmaking and all students automatically minor in art history. Course highlights for the program include 3D Design, Drawing, Electronic Media, History of Graphic Design, and Modern Art.
Other program highlights include a curriculum “enhanced by Power Macintosh computer labs and spacious work areas,” says the school, along with internship opportunities in Miami and across the U.S.
Graduates of the Graphic Design BFA program work as creative directors and designers in the advertising and film and video industries, for PR firms and publishers, at web design studios, and more.
16. Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida (Top 15% of colleges considered)
Florida State University (FSU) was founded in 1851. The school serves more than 40,000 students making it one of the largest and oldest of the 11 institutions of higher learning in the State University System of Florida. FSU offers baccalaureate degrees in 106 programs, master's degrees in 113 programs, advanced master's/specialist degrees in 14 programs, doctorates in 70 programs, and three professional degrees. The school also offers fully accredited professional programs in law (J.D.), medicine (M.D.), and nursing, and many FSU programs are available entirely online.
Programs are offered in 16 colleges and schools in Tallahassee and at branch campuses in Panama City, Florida, and the Republic of Panama. Off-campus instructional sites in Sarasota and New York are also part of the university as well as the St. Petersburg College University Partnership Center in Seminole. The College of Medicine has regional campuses in Daytona Beach, Ft. Pierce, Orlando, Pensacola, Sarasota, and Tallahassee.
The College of Fine Arts at FSU houses the Department of Art, which offers BA, BFA, and MFA degrees in Studio Art. Students in the programs may concentrate in Digital Media, which also has four focus areas.
Options include Digital Fabrication, Interactive, Text+Media, and Time-Based. The Text+Media focus is the most popular option for aspiring graphic designers.
Text+Media “offers a hybrid art-making focus combining printmaking, photography, typography, and various forms of print and printed-object techniques,” says the school. “Special facilities for print design at FSU include wide-format archival printers, high-volume tabloid color laser printers, large paper cutters, laser-cutting/engraving, CNC vinyl cutter, and related equipment.”
Graduates of the programs are prepared to pursue positions in advertising, entertainment, publishing, education, and more. BA and BFA graduates are also prepared for entry into the MFA program at FSU.
17. Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida (Top 15% of colleges considered)
Founded in 1961, Florida Atlantic University (FAU) serves 30,000 students at locations in Boca Raton, Palm Beach, and Broward and St. Lucie counties. Serving nearly 80% of FAU students, the Boca Raton campus is the school’s first and largest campus.
FAU offers more than 170 degree programs in 10 colleges. The Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters houses the Department of Visual Arts and Art History, which offers BFA and MFA degrees in Visual Arts with a Specialization in Graphic Design and a Minor in Studio Art with a Concentration in Graphic Design. Up to six credit hours in the Minor can be applied to the BFA program.
BFA students begin their studies in the BA in Studio or BA in Art History program. Upon completion of 5-6 core art courses, Studio Art students must submit to the Graphic Design or Studio Art portfolio review. Students who pass the portfolio review may choose to matriculate to the BFA in Graphic Design or BFA in Studio Art. Once in the program, students will immerse in projects including books, brochures, corporate identity systems, magazines, posters, trademarks, and advertisements of all kinds.
Assignments for the programs are similar to programs in professional settings. “Through each course in the program,” says the school, “students are encouraged to develop an appreciation of the various philosophical and ideological positions that could affect their design perspectives.” Course highlights include Digital Art, Interactive Design Lab, Poster Design, Special Topics in Graphic Design, Technology Intensive, Typographic Design Lab, and Visual Communications. Students may also select several electives. Elective highlights include Alternative Media, Applied Digital Photography, Handmade Books, Narrative Drawing, and Printmaking.
The MFA in Visual Art is “designed to further the conceptual development, aesthetic presentation, technical skill, and career goals” of MFA candidates. The 60 credit hour program consists of a combination of art history courses, directed independent study projects, graduate design studios and seminars, culminating in a graduate thesis project, exhibition and document. Students may complete the program on a full- or part-time schedule.
18. University of Tennessee – Chattanooga, Chattanooga, Tennessee (Top 15% of colleges considered)
University of Tennessee Chattanooga (UTC) was founded in 1886. The school serves more than 10,000 students enrolled in dozens of degree programs through six colleges and schools. The College of Arts and Sciences houses the Department of Arts, which a BFA in Studio with a Concentration in Graphic Design.
This four-year program “engages contemporary theory and practice” in students’ chosen media, says the school. By their senior year, “students concentrate almost exclusively on studio coursework within the area of concentration, with an emphasis on individual expression, open exploration, and experimentation.”
Course highlights include Critical Theory for the Visual Artist, Design History, Expanded Drawing, Interactive Media, Media Art, Observational Drawing, Processes and Materials for Graphic Design, Space and Sequence, Studio Processes, Typography, and Visual Literacy for Graphic Design. Students will complete two Graphic Design Workshops as well as Portfolio Review, Professional Preparation for the Visual Artist and Visual Arts Internship.
graduates of the program are prepared to pursue positions at advertising agencies, marketing firms, PR companies, production studios, publishers, technology companies, and more.
19. East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina (Top 15% of colleges considered)
Founded in 1907 as a teacher training school, East Carolina University (ECU) serves around 28,800 students, making it the third largest university in North Carolina. The school, which offers more than 200 undergraduate, graduate and minor programs, consists of 12 colleges and schools. The College of Fine Arts & Communication houses the School of Art and Design (SoAD), which has several programs for aspiring graphic designers. Options include BFAs in Art and Art Education, and an MFA in Art. All pathways offer a Concentration in Graphic Design.
In the 30-hour Graphic Design Concentration “words meet images, clear and purposeful communication meets aesthetic impact, and a range of human needs and desires are addressed,” says the school. Most classes for the programs “center around the examination and discussion of student work so a consistent output of graphic design is essential. This limits the graphic design students to those who want to work. The work includes thinking, reading, and talking as well as the production of designed objects.”
In addition to the concentration, coursework in Book Arts, Community Arts, Glass, Letterpress, Wood Design, and interdisciplinary studios are available. Students in the program will also have opportunities to produce projects for actual clients, and internships and study abroad opportunities are part of the BFA programs.
At the end of the programs, students will be required to complete a senior exhibition, portfolio, reel, or film, depending on the focus area. This culminating experience is an important capstone experience that prepares students to pursue their professional goals beyond ECU.
The MFA in Art with a Concentration in Graphic Design is a 60 credit hour program that includes coursework in Art History, Graphic Design, Supporting Art Areas (art electives) and coursework outside of the SoAD. All MFA candidates have access to teaching and research assistantship opportunities awarded once students have successfully completed 18 hours (six classes) of Studio Art coursework. Full-time Assistantships are 20 hours per week and pay $12,000 per academic year.
Graduates of the MFA program are prepared to seek employment in “academia as a professor of graphic design, undertake high-level graphic design practice, or a variety of other options.”
20. University of Memphis, Memphis, Tennessee (Top 15% of colleges considered)
University of Memphis (UofM) was founded in 1912 as West Tennessee State Normal School. The school serves around 22,200 students enrolled in 17 bachelor’s degree programs in more than 250 areas of study, 80 master’s and doctoral degrees, two Education Specialist degrees, the JD, and graduate certificates in 44 areas of study.
Programs at UofM are offered in 13 colleges and schools. The College of Communication and Fine Arts (CCFA) houses the Department of Art, which offers a BFA, MFA, and Certificate Programs in Graphic Design. The BFA curriculum “covers key aspects of design and visual communication for both the print and digital environment,” says the school. Course highlights for the 120 credit hour program include Computer Assisted Graphic Design, Graphic Design Method, Interactive Media Design, and Strategic Design for Exhibition Space. Students will also complete the Graphic Design Portfolio course and a Graphic Design Internship.
The 60 credit hour MFA in Graphic Design “emphasizes leadership in design education and professional practice.” Program highlights include teaching and service assistantship opportunities, individual study opportunities, and Graphic Design facilities that feature state-of-the-art technology and dedicated server space. The facility is also designed to promote “student interaction, with classrooms/computer labs, faculty offices, work areas, graduate studio/office, and a gallery space located on a single floor occupying 6,000 square feet.”
Critical, studio, and theoretical research “culminates in a visual and written thesis focusing on a specific visual communication problem.” Graduates of the MFA program are prepared for a teaching career or return to professional practice in a variety of industries. Potential job titles include Art Director, Assistant Professor, Creative Director, Publication Specialist, Senior Graphic Designer, Systems Designer, UX Designer, and many others.
21. University of North Carolina, Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina (Top 15% of colleges considered)
Founded in 1946, University of North Carolina Charlotte (UNC Charlotte) serves more than 30,000 students enrolled in over 200 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs in nine colleges. The College of Arts + Architecture (COA+A) offers a BFA in Art, Studio Art, with a Concentration in Graphic Design. This professional degree program allows students to choose more than one Studio Concentration. Options that complement the Graphic Design Concentration include Digital Media, Illustration, Photography, and Print Media.
The Graphic Design program consists of 120 credit hours of study, including 80 credit hours in Art. Students can expect to take courses such as 2D and 3D Design, 4D (Digital Production), Communications Design, Digital Foundations, Graphic Design I & II, Interactive Art and Design, Print Production, Typography, and UX/UI Design Strategies.
Students will complete several graphic design projects and Senior Seminar. They will also participate in a BFA Senior Exhibit. An optional, but strongly recommended internship is part of the program as well as participation in the UNC’s Study Abroad Program. A major highlight of the program is the recurring summer experience in Rome.
22. Mississippi State University, Starkville, University (Top 15% of colleges considered)
Founded in 1878, Mississippi State University (MSU) is a land-grant college that serves nearly 23,000 students. The school offers more than160 degree programs and 14 graduate certification programs in eight colleges. The College of Architecture, Art and Design houses the Department of Art, which is the state’s largest undergraduate studio art program. The Department offers a BFA in Studio Art with a Concentration in Graphic Design.
The BFA is an intensive, four-year program “that that provides the student with a series of in-depth studio experiences leading to a thesis/senior presentation balanced by studies in humanities, communication, mathematics, and sciences,” says the school. The program consists of 123, including Foundation, Survey, Art History and Theory, the Concentration Core, and Concentration Electives.
Course highlights for the program include Introduction to Advanced Studio – Computer Art and Design, Advertising Design, Computing for Art, Digital Drawing, Graphic Art Design, Graphic Design for the Internet, History of Graphic Design, Illustration, Intermediate Computing for Designers, Introduction of Multimedia I Design and Authoring, Printmaking Survey, The Art of Typography and Layout, and Video Art.
Students will complete 1-6 hours in Directed individual Study in Art and 1-13 hours in Thesis Research/Thesis in Art. Total hours and credits TBA. A portfolio and exhibition are also required to graduate from the program.
Graduates of the MSU Graphic Design Program hold a variety of titles including Art Director, Beverage Label Artist, Book Illustrator, Communications Specialist, Creative Director, Designer for TV, Electronic Publisher, Exhibit Designer, Illustrator, Interactive Designer, Internet Advertising Artist, Marketing Specialist, Motion Designer, Packaging Designer, Print Designer, Product Designer, Public Relations Coordinator, Visual Information Specialist, and Visual Merchandiser.
23. Loyola University of New Orleans, New Orleans, Louisiana (Top 15% of colleges considered)
Established in 1904, Loyola University New Orleans (Loyno) is one of 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States. The school serves around 4,550 students enrolled in 110 undergraduate programs and 36 graduate and professional programs in five colleges.
The College of Music and Media houses the Design Department, which offers a BDes, Bachelor of Interactive Design, and a Minor in Design. All programs prepare students for a career in Graphic Design. Each begins with begins with “intense coursework covering basic design principles, typography, imagemaking, and history/theory,” says the school, “followed by more specialized classes dealing with subjects such as type design, interactive design, motion graphics, and publication design as each year builds upon the prior year’s study.”
The Interactive Design program covers new media, user experience design (UX), and user interface design (UI). Course highlights for the programs include Business of Design, Design History, Illustration Design, Interactive Design, Motion Design, Print Design + Narrative, Professional Design Practice, Social/Political Design, and Typography. Students will also take Design Capstone (three credits) and complete the Design Internship three (three credits).
Students have interned at places such as the Louisiana State Theater Festival, Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, New Orleans Opera Association, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, New Orleans Museum of Art, and Peter Mayer Advertising.
Graduates of the Design Programs at Loyno are prepared to pursue positions such as Graphic Designer, Exhibition Designer, Motion Graphics Designer, and Web Designer, to name a few.
24. Murray State University, Murray, Kentucky (Top 20% of colleges considered)
Founded in 1922, Murray State University serves nearly 9,500 students enrolled in more than 120 programs in six academic colleges and schools across five regional campuses and an Online Learning Division. The College of Humanities and Fine Arts houses the Department of Art & Design, which offers a BA, BFA, and BS degrees in Studio Art. All options offer a Concentration in Graphic Design.
Instruction for the program covers the design of packaging, branding, signage, architectural graphics and exhibit design. Students will also learn about digital technologies such as web design, app design, film, television, video, and computer-related imagery. Course highlights include Graphic Design I-VII and Web Design, as well as elective options covering topics such as Advanced Web Design, Illustration, Motion Graphics and Animation, Package Design, Poster Design, and Typography.
During the course of the program, students will work on the building a final portfolio that will help them gain entry into industries such as advertising, entertainment, public relations, publishing, web design, and more.
25. West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia (Top 20% of colleges considered)
Founded in 1867, West Virginia University (WVU) is a public, land-grant institution that holds the R1: Doctoral Universities status, which is the “highest research activity” as described by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. Nearly 30,000 students are enrolled across WVU’s three-campus system. Serving nearly 27,000 of the schools nearly 30,000 students, the Morgantown campus is the largest in the WVU System.
Around 360 majors are offered at Morgantown in 14 colleges and schools. The College of Creative Arts houses the School of Art and Design, which offers a BFA in Graphic Design and an interdisciplinary MFA. Students in the BFA program begin their studies with foundations in color, symbolic drawings, typography, design for small and large formats, and design thinking. “Tactical elements of design are explored hands-on through paper engineering, book arts courses, and access to a letterpress studio,” says the school.
Other program highlights include the opportunity to work as project directors with clients in the school’s model design studio—Studio 2453, internship experiences, a portfolio class that helps prepare seniors for a design career, and the opportunity to present work in Cleveland or Pittsburgh at AIGA Portfolio Days. Students receive valuable feedback from industry professionals at the event.
The interdisciplinary MFA program offers all of the benefits of the BFA program as well as the opportunity to present a paper at a major conference.
Graduates of the WVU Graphic Design and MFA programs work locally at newspapers, television stations, local agencies, their own businesses, and even at the University. Graduates also have “careers at the headquarters of Coca Cola, at the helm of NBC’s entertainment division in Burbank, CA, in major packaging firms, designing the web interests of the New York Times, creating multimedia for large corporations in DC, and designing for social concerns in the national offices of Big Brothers/Big Sisters and for numerous environmental groups.”