|1||School of Visual Arts||New York|
|2||Ringling College of Art and Design||Florida|
|3||Rhode Island School of Design||Rhode Island|
|4||ArtCenter College of Design||California|
|5||Pratt Institute||New York|
|6||Savannah College of Art and Design||Georgia|
|7||Columbus College of Art and Design||Ohio|
|8||Maryland Institute College of Art||Maryland|
|9||Otis College of Art and Design||California|
|10||Fashion Institute of Technology||New York|
|11||The New School/Parsons||New York|
|12||Massachusetts College of Art and Design||Massachusetts|
|13||California College of the Arts||California|
|14||Syracuse University||New York|
|15||Kansas City Art Institute||Missouri|
|16||Virginia Commonwealth University||Virginia|
|17||Minneapolis College of Art & Design||Minnesota|
|18||The University of the Arts||Pennsylvania|
|19||Washington University in St. Louis||Missouri|
|20||College for Creative Studies||Michigan|
|21||University of Hartford||Connecticut|
|22||Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design||Wisconsin|
|23||Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts + University of Pennsylvania||Pennsylvania|
|24||Cleveland Institute of Art||Ohio|
|25||California State University - Long Beach||California|
The 2019 top 25 schools and colleges offering Illustration Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree programs. For an explanation of the ranking criteria, click here.
Founded in 1947 as Cartoonists and Illustrators School, the School of Visual Arts (SVA) serves more than 6,000 students enrolled in over 30 programs. SVA has the largest illustration faculty of any school in America. In addition to employing 69 faculty members, the SVA Illustration Department serves 473 students enrolled in more than 75 courses. The department offers a BFA in Illustration. A BFA in Cartooning is also available.
The BFA curriculum consists of 72 credits in studio, 30 credits in humanities and sciences, 15 credits in art history, and three credits in elective courses. Sample courses for the program include Collage Illustration, Designing Tattoos and Other Emblems, Etching and Monoprint as Illustration, Laboratory for Moving Pictures: Adventures in Limited Animation, Novelty Books for Young Children, and Pop-Up: 3D Paper Engineering.
While still students at School of Visual Arts, students have landed assignments for The New Yorker, The New York Press, Mad Magazine, and The Village Voice. Students are also frequent winners of the highest awards at the Society of Illustrators, American Illustration, and many other industry-based student competitions.
Graduates of SVA’s Illustration Department have gone on to work on films such as Sleepy Hollow and for designers such as Prada and Van’s.
Ringling College of Art and Design (RCAD) was established in 1931 and serves 1,400 students enrolled in BFA degrees in eleven disciplines and BA degrees in two. Just a few majors include Computer Animation, Film, Game Art, Motion Design, Visual Studies, and Illustration.
Offered through the Illustration Department, the Illustration BFA covers the fundamentals of color theory, composition, anatomy, and digital and traditional media. The school says that “working in 2D and 3D, Illustration students are introduced to and familiarized with professional industry techniques through exercises, demonstrations, guest speakers, critiques, collaborative projects, internships, recruiter workshops, and interactions with real clients in the area.” Sample courses for the program include Computer Illustration, Design and Topography, Figure Drawing, Film and Narrative, Illustration Media, and 3D Design for CA & IL.
Other program highlights include the opportunity to enter a semester-long exchange program or a four-five week summer program at Studio Arts Center International (SACI), located in Florence, Italy, internship opportunities at major companies such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Blue Sky Studios, Disney, Hasbro, and Pixar, and participation in The Annual Illustration show, Illest of the Ill—a department juried exhibition curated and coordinated entirely by students.
Students in the program also have access to two Cintiq labs solely for Illustration, access to three 24-hour Cintiq labs, painting and drawing studios, and a laptop for every student, fully equipped with the latest Adobe Creative Suite software.
Ringling College students have won more wards in the 40-year history of the Society of Illustrators than any other college, and comprise the highest number of accepted entries into the Society’s annual Student Scholarship Competition. Graduates leave the program with a “comprehensive, cohesive portfolio” that showcases their work and they will be prepared for illustration positions in a range of industries.
Graduates have been hired by American Greetings, Apple, Blue Sky Studios, Cartoon Network, Disney, EA Games, GM, Google, Hallmark, Marvel Comics/Lucasfilm, Riot Games, United Airlines, Walt Disney, Zynga, and many others.
Founded in 1877, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is home to 2,480 students from across the U.S. and 57 other countries. This private school of art offers 16 undergraduate and 16 graduate (MA, MFA, MAT) art and design programs. The school’s most popular programs include Film/Animation/Video, Graphic Design, Industrial Design, Painting, and Illustration.
Offered through the Illustration Department, the BFA in Illustration is Rhode Island School of Design’s largest major. The program has approximately 300 undergraduate students “with a diverse range of skills and interests,” says the school. Program highlights include a full roster of visiting artists and art directors, professionals from across the country who offer feedback through annual portfolio reviews, and access to computer resources, printmaking studios, software such as AfterEffects, InDesign and Maya, and the ISB Gallery, which hosts a mix of student or curriculum related exhibitions throughout the academic year.
Sample courses for the program include Advanced Painting, Animalia, Cinematic Storytelling, Digital 3D for Illustrators, Dragon Concept & Character Development, In 3-d Mixed Media, Fantasy Painting: The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of, Style & Substance, Merging Worlds, The Magic of Books, Virtual Reality for Palliative Care, Visible Cities, and Word, Images and Ideas. Students will take workshops such as Maya Basics, Pigments & Emulsions, and Zbrush Sculpting and Illustration as well.
Famous Rhode Island School of Design alumni include Seth Macfarlane, creator of Family Guy, Daniel Sousa, animator and director of the Oscar-nominated film Feral, and Lance Wilder, animator for The Simpsons. Other alumni work as entrepreneurs or creative professionals through studios such as Pixar, DreamWorks, and Harmonix, or for networks like Fox, HBO, and PBS.
Founded in 1930, ArtCenter College of Design is home to approximately 2,100 students enrolled in 11 undergraduate and seven graduate degree programs in Industrial Design, Visual, and Applied Arts Disciplines. Programs for aspiring illustrators include a BFA in Illustration.
Students in the program choose from five main areas of specialization including Illustration Design, Illustration/Fine Art, Entertainment Arts, Motion Design and Surface Design. A Designmatters Minor is also available. The curriculum moves from foundations skills such as figure drawing, painting and perspective and to the students chosen specialization or minor. Per the school, “the curriculum encompasses a wide range of core studies and collaborations with other disciplines that equips students with strong practical skills, as well as substantial business knowledge.”
Sample courses for the program include Advanced Portraiture, Designing Social Enterprise, Digital Illustration, Experimental Collection Strategies for Surface Design, Illustrative Storytelling, Op Ed Illustration, 3D Motion Graphics, Sequential Design and Visual Development. Graduates of the program have been hired at ArtCenter industry partners such as Apple, Blizzard, DreamWorks, Google, Mattel, Walt Disney and many others.
Notable Illustration alumni include Rockstar Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park; Mark “Crash” McCreery Creature Designer/Concept Designer for Batman Returns, Jurassic Park, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl; Drew Struzan, Movie Poster Illustrator for Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, the Muppets, Star Wars and others; and Phil Hettema, Experiential Designer for The Amazing Adventures of Spider Man, Jurassic Park: The Ride, and Hello Kitty Park.
Founded in 1887, Pratt institute is home to 4,600 students enrolled in 22 undergraduate degree programs, 26 graduate degree programs, and a variety of Certificate and Minor programs across five schools and The Center for Continuing and Professional Studies. Programs for aspiring illustrators are offered through the School of Art and the School of Design. BFA options include a BFA in Communications Design.
Established in 2014, the School of Design is housed in the Juliana Curran Terian Design Center. Per the school, students who select the BFA in Communications Design with an illustration Emphasis “take a series of upper-level studio courses that explore topics particularly relevant to image-based communication such as advanced storytelling, socio-political commentary and authorship. Courses throughout the major encourage experimentation with multiple technologies, platforms and techniques.”
A variety of unique electives “provide opportunities to explore a wide spectrum of contemporary illustration practice including graphic novels, animation and 3D modeling, independent publishing, editorial illustration, children’s books, concept art and illustrated typography.” Upon completion of the program, BFA graduates are prepared to seek positions in a variety of industries or they may enroll in Pratt Institute’s Graduate School of Arts, which offers an MFA.
Pratt Institute alumni have landed positions at major studios such as Blue Sky, Digital Domain, Cartoon Network Studios, DreamWorks Studios, Industrial Light & Magic, Rhythm and Hues, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Curious Pictures, Gameloft, Sony Imageworks, and many others.
Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) was founded in 1978. With campuses in Savannah, Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Lacoste, France, SCAD is home to nearly 13,000 students from nearly 50 states and 115 countries. The school offers more than 40 majors and over 70 minors and certificate programs, including Illustration.
Offered through the School of Communication Arts, the BFA in Illustration is offered at the Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Savannah) campuses. Related degrees include a BFA in Sequential Art (Atlanta, Hong Kong, Savannah). The BFA in Illustration has four concentrations including Animated Illustration and Publication Design, Concept Design for Animation and Games, Illustration for Entertainment, and Illustration for Surface Design. Each concentration requires four courses, and students have the opportunity to choose from 10 elective hours to further refine their focus.
Per the school, students in SCAD’s Illustration degree programs SCAD’s will learn to create “fine-art drawings, bringing ideas, characters and personalities to life using both traditional and digital techniques.” Students will work in a “professional environment through a program structured like a working studio,” and they will “develop a personal style and technique, learning to express their own unique vision while forming a well-rounded perspective on design.”
Students in the degree programs have the opportunity to study outside of their main discipline by taking courses in Advertising, Graphic Design, Motion Media, Printmaking, and Sequential Art. Sample major curriculum courses for the programs include Directed Projects in Illustration, Contextual Character Design, lllustrating Beyond the Page: The Narrative Experience, Illustration Business Strategies and Entrepreneurship, Illustration Markets, Illustration for Publications, and Materials and Techniques.
Established in 1879, Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD) is one of the oldest private art and design colleges in the United States. The school is home to more than 1,300 students enrolled in 12 bachelor’s degree and two master’s degree programs covering a broad range of subjects. Programs for aspiring illustrators include a BFA in Illustration with Concentrations in Illustration/Entertainment Design/Drawing; Illustration/Entertainment Design/Modeling; and Illustration/Illustrative Design.
Columbus College of Art and Design has also launched a BFA in Comics and Narrative Practice. The curriculum for this program includes nearly a dozen illustration courses.
Students in all BFA programs may participate in CCAD’s International Exchange Program, which highlights study at China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China; Universidad Mayor, Santiago, Chile; Xi’an Fine Arts Academy, Xi’an, China, and Northumbria, Newcastle, England. Students may also study at CCAD-approved programs at Studio Art Centers, Florence, Italy, and University of Arts London, London.
CCAD BFA graduates have landed positions at American Greetings, Cartoon Network, CBS News, DC Comics, Disney Consumer Products, DreamWorks, Hallmark, Hasbro, Marvel Comics, Ogilvy & Mather, Pixar, Sony Pictures, The Wall Street Journal, and many others.
Founded in 1826, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is the oldest continuously degree-granting college of art and design in the nation. The school, which is home to nearly 3,500 students from 49 states and 65 countries, offers more than 80 programs leading to the BFA, MA, MFA, and MPS degrees. Post-baccalaureate certificate programs are also available and programs are offered in the areas of fine arts, design, electronic media, art education, liberal arts, and professional studies.
Undergraduate programs for aspiring illustrators include a BFA in Illustration with Concentrations in Studio, Illustration + Humanistic Studies, Book Arts, and Sequential Art. Interdisciplinary options for specialized study include Studio Concentrations in Book Arts, Animation, Graphic Design, and Printmaking. In addition to first-year and liberal arts requirements, undergraduates will complete 54 credit hours in illustration. Sample courses include Illustration I & II, Life Drawing, Studio Drawing, and Professional Development.
Per the school, “seniors are mentored in two semesters of portfolio building work in Senior Illustration I and II to prepare a solid body of work in order to become professional illustrators. Professional Development for Illustrators includes portfolio preparation, business practice, intellectual property, and copyright issues.”
Graduate programs include an MA in Illustration and an MFA in Illustration Practice. The MA is a one-year program for students interested in a career in illustration or in refining their existing illustration practice. The degree culminates in independent work in the form of a capstone portfolio project, exhibition, and review panel. The MFA is a two-year program that attracts “experienced illustrators, advanced students from related disciplines, including writing, design, animation, film, digital media, etc., and students with a cultivated passion for illustration in all its forms.”
Students in the program will develop an independent, second-year thesis project using a medium appropriate to their personal direction and emerging illustration markets, including an exhibition and accompanying case study book.
Graduates of MICA illustration programs have gone on to land positions as Brand Illustrator for Uber, Author and Illustrator of "Nimona," Book Illustrator, Illustrator and Comic Artist for Random House, and many others. Graduates have also continued their education in graduate programs or have successful careers as freelance illustrators.
Otis College of Art and Design (OTIS) was established in 1918 by founder and publisher of the Los Angeles Times, General Harrison Gray Otis. Home to approximately 1,100 full-time students, OTIS offers 11 BFA degree programs ranging from Digital Media (Animation, Game and Entertainment Design, and Motion Design) to Toy Design. Among these programs is a BFA in Illustration.
Program highlights include visiting artists, conventions, field trips, and student exhibitions. Students can expect to take foundation courses such as Connections Through Color and Design, Drawing and Building Form, Introduction to Visual Culture, and Ways of Knowing. Sample Illustration courses include Alternative Materials and Procedures for Illustrators, Entrepreneur 101, Illustration Communication Studio, Printmaking, and Typography for Illustrators.
Otis College of Art and Design lists the following selected employers Conde Nast Publications, Disney Consumer Products, Hallmark, Interscope Records, Los Angeles Magazine, Mattel, Ogilvy Worldwide, Sony Music, Twentieth Century Fox, WB Network, and Young & Rubicam.
Founded in 1944, Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) is a member of the State University of New York (SUNY) system. The school serves approximately 8,846 students at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Programs are offered through the Schools of Art & Design, Business & Technology and Liberal Arts in the areas of Art, Business, Communications, and Design. Serving approximately 3,322 students the School of Art & Design houses the Illustration Department, which offers a BFA in Illustration.
Department highlights include a close affiliation with the Society of Illustrators—the industry's top professional organization, 50 award wins by students in highly competitive student art exhibitions, including the prestigious Society of Illustrators Annual Scholarship Competition, and the mentoring by art directors or illustrators who analyze students’ work and offer professional advice and support. Illustration students also have the opportunity to gain an international perspective on the global world of illustration through a study abroad course in Italy.
Sample courses include Applying Color to Illustrate the Written Word, Bok Illustration, Comic Book Illustration, Fantasy and Science Fiction Illustration, Illustrating the Male Figure, Illustrating the Written Word, Illustration Rendering Techniques, Stylistic Illustration, and Watercolor Comps and Illustrations.
The Illustration Portfolio Thesis is a final preparation for students entering the illustration business. The three-credit, six lab hours course highlights guest speakers from industry that provide students with insight into business practices, entrepreneurial strategies, and freelance and staff employment. Students present and defend their visual thesis before faculty and peers.
FIT graduates have gone on to build successful careers at Advertising Agencies such as Ogilvy & Mather, Young & Rubicam, DDB, BBDO, and J. Walter Thompson, at corporations such as American Greetings and Hallmark, Magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, and entertainment companies such as Walt Disney, Warner Brothers, DreamWorks SKG, and LucasArts Entertainment.
The New School was founded in 1896 by American Impressionist William Merritt Chase. Established as The Chase School, the school later changed its name to New York School of Fine and Applied Art. Today, known as The New School/Parsons, this art and design college is home to nearly 5,500 students enrolled in 130 degree and diploma programs. Options for aspiring illustrators include a BFA in Illustration.
The BFA in Illustration program is part of Parsons' School of Art, Media, and Design (AMT). The program prepares students to work in a range of areas including animation, editorial and advertising illustrations, graphic novels, hand lettering, picture books, surface and display design, and toy designs. Sample courses for the program include studio courses such as Drawing/Imaging, Space/Materiality, and Time, and others such as Intro to Visual Culture: Recitation, Language and Letterform, and Objects as History.
Program highlights include projects and internships with Parsons partners including Nickelodeon, Toon Books, The New York Times, Moleskine, Barnes & Noble, and Brooklyn Industries, access to events such as Comic Arts Brooklyn, MoCCA Fest, and other professional gatherings, and the opportunity to connect with New York–based professional organizations such as American Illustration and the Society of Illustrators.
Per the school, these organizations “bring acclaimed art directors, illustrators, and publishing professionals to New York City and the Parsons campus.”
Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) was founded in 1873 as a training institution for aspiring drawing teachers, architects, artists, and designers. Today, the school offers more than 20 undergraduate art programs, nearly a dozen graduate programs, and around seven certificate programs to a population of more than 2,000 students. The Illustration Department at MassArt offers a BFA in Illustration that the school says, “emphasizes the understanding of character development and narrative techniques.”
Students in the program take a variety of illustration and liberal arts courses taught by instructors who are freelance illustrators or illustrators who have their own businesses. Sample liberal arts courses include Introduction to Western Art, Literature/Writing/Film, and Thinking, Making, Writing: Using Words with Clarity and Flair. Sample major courses include Color for Illustration, Digital Illustration, Form Study, Human Figure Illustration, Media Techniques, Studio for Drawing, Technical Illustration, Visual Language, and Word and Image.
During their senior year, students will complete 18 major credit hours consisting of Studio Electives, a Thesis Project, Senior Illustration, and the Illustration Portfolio. Students will present their portfolio to invited professionals from advertising, corporate, editorial, institutional, and publishing markets.
Founded in 1907, California College of the Arts (CCA) is home to more than 1,500 undergraduates and 450+ graduate students enrolled 22 undergraduate and 12 graduate degree programs, plus four minors. The school offers a BFA in Illustration. A BFA in an Individualized major is also available.
Per the school, the BFA in Illustration is taught by “Award-Winning Illustrators” and “digital innovators using the latest technology.” The curriculum is interdisciplinary, which allows students to explore courses outside the program such as Animation, Creative Writing, Fine-Art Painting, Graphic Design, and Printmaking. The program also provides the opportunity for students to develop as entrepreneurs through courses such as Professional Practice, Thesis, and Portfolio.
Other sample courses include Illustration Studios 1-3, Illustration Tools: Digital Illustration, Illustration Tools: Painting for Illustrators, Literary & Performing Arts Studies, Media History: History of Illustration, 2D, 3D & 4D, and Visual Studies.
Graduates of the Illustration program at California College of the Arts are prepared to seek positions at magazines, for the entertainment industry, and for websites, books, comics, products, packaging, posters, and more.
Syracuse University (SU) was founded in 1870. The school, which serves more than 22,500 students from across the U.S. and 118 countries, offers more 200 majors, 100 minors, and 200 advanced degree programs across 12 colleges and schools and a graduate school. The School of Art offers a BFA in Illustration.
The BFA in Illustration combines storytelling, drawing, painting, design, and research. Four focuses help students explore specific professional areas. Focuses include Visual Development, Editorial, Sequential, and Licensing. Other program highlights include engagement with nationally and internationally known visiting artists each year, courses taught by practicing illustrators and artists whose work is published and exhibited nationally and internationally, global study opportunities at the SU campus in Florence, Italy or other countries, workshops and lectures, and visits to New York and Los Angeles.
All BFA students will have the opportunity to develop a portfolio that will be shown to art directors and illustrators for feedback.
Alumni from the illustration program have gone on to work in areas such as illustration for children's books, comics, graphic novels, newspaper, greeting cards, licensing, advertising, magazine, book and online publishing, as well as visual development in animated films, television, and the gaming industry.
Established in 1885, Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI) has trained students such as Walt Disney (who took Saturday Classes as a child), and multimedia artist Robert Rauschenberg. Today, the school serves more than 700 students, enrolled in 13 art and design programs across several departments. The Department of Illustration houses the school’s BFA in Illustration program.
Per the school, “illustration students work with traditional and digital media to develop the conceptual, technical and aesthetic skills necessary for success in the diverse range of practices in this evolving field. Courses such as Drawing and Design Systems, Exploring the Narrative and Visual/Sequential Storytelling are geared toward enabling students to simultaneously express themselves as artists while learning how to communicate substantive visual messages.” Courses are taught by department faculty who are practicing professionals in the areas of publishing, editorial, advertising and institutional.
Other program highlights include collaborative assignments, a required internship in a professional work setting, access to studio and classroom technology that prepares students for diverse areas of professional practice, and the opportunity to work in digital and analog environments “designed to facilitate creativity and interdisciplinary approaches to image making.”
Recent graduates are employed at MTV, Nickelodeon, Hallmark, American Greetings, Nike and many others. Their work has been featured in many publications such as The New York Times, Women’s Day, Wired, and numerous children’s books. Some have won awards in publications such as Print, Communication Arts, American Illustration and the Society of Illustrators.
Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) began as Medical College of Hampden-Sydney in 1838. It later became the Medical College of Virginia and after merging with Richmond Professional Institute in 1968, the school became Virginia Commonwealth University. Today, VCU serves more than 31,000 students from across the U.S. and over 100 countries. The school offers over 200 academic programs through more than a dozen colleges and schools. The Illustration Program is offered through the School of the Arts, Department of Communication Arts.
The Illustration Program has two options: the BFA in Communications and the BFA in Communications with a Concentration in Scientific and Preparatory Medical Illustration. The BFA in Communications focuses on three areas including drawing, illustration, and visual studies. Per the school, “new elective courses are designed to reinforce and expand the drawing, design, and illustration components of the curriculum. Students will have the opportunity to develop projects in illustration.”
Sample courses for the program include Digital Drawing, Fundamentals of Typography, Illustration: Drawing and Painting, Sequential Imaging, and Visual Studies.
The BFA with a Concentration in Scientific and Preparatory Medical Illustration requires 32 credits in the biological sciences and chemistry, in addition to communication major and illustration courses. Sample courses for the program include Business of Communication Arts, Concept Drawing, Drawing Studies: The Figure in Context, Scientific Illustration, Time Studio, and Visual Communications.
All communications students have the opportunity to complete an internship and/or study abroad.
Minneapolis College of Art and Design was founded in 1886. The school, which serves around 800 students from 45 states and 15 countries, offers more than a dozen undergraduate majors and minors, and three graduate programs. Program options for aspiring illustrators include a BFA in Illustration. A BFA in Comic Art is also available.
The BFA program begins with foundation classes to help develop technical skills and work ethic and progresses to courses that build both conceptual and technical illustration skills. Sample courses for the program include Children’s Book, Digital Illustration, Editorial Illustration, Foundation 2D and 3D, and Illustration and Products.
In years three and four of the program, students will gain real-world experience through a required internship and they will have the opportunity to study abroad or elsewhere in the U.S., and participate in the Emerging Talent Showcase and share their work with potential employers. Per the school, students will also “develop and complete a semester-long project to culminate in the Commencement Exhibition.” The exhibition showcases the work of MCAD graduates.
The University of the Arts (UArts) was founded in 1876 and it is the nation’s only comprehensive arts university. The school is home to 1,900 students enrolled in 46 undergraduate and graduate programs, and more than 30 minors, through the College of Art, Media & Design, the College of Performing Arts, the Division of Liberal Art, and the Division of Continuing Studies (Grad Programs).
The College of Art, Media & Design houses the School of Design, which offers a BFA in Illustration. The program allows students to declare a concentration. Options include Animation Movement, Animation Visual Development, Game Art, Graphic Design Communication, Graphic Design Typography, Photography, Painting and Printmaking.
The program blends creative visual problem solving, digital experiences, drawing, figure modeling, illustration, painting, picture making, digital experiences, as well as specialized graphic design courses, self-discovery through mentor-student relationship, and history of pictorial image making. Sample courses include Communication Design, Figure Anatomy, Illustration I-IV, Image/Time, Materials, Responsive Drawing, and Words, Images & Idea.
Graduates of the Illustration Program at UArts have gone on to create illustrations for The New Yorker, New York Times, Rolling Stone, ESPN, Random House, Ralph Lauren, Fortune and others.
Founded in 1853, Washington University in St. Louis serves nearly 16,000 students enrolled in more than 90 fields of study across 10 colleges and schools. Part of the Art & Architecture Division, Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts houses the Communication Design Program. Here, aspiring illustrators can earn a BFA in Communication Design with an Emphasis in Illustration.
The collaborative BFA combines graphic design, illustration, and interaction design. This means, students in the program can choose to focus on illustrating stories, creating comics, and designing printed posters and books, as well as study the history of printed images, comics, and advertising, make pictures for games and motion graphics, and more. During the last year of the program, “students will pursue a capstone project that culminates in an illustrated book, zine, screen-based presentation, graphic novel/mini-comic, or digital experience,” says the school.
The final project is displayed in a public exhibition and reviewed by external design professionals.
Founded in 1906, the College for Creative Studies (CCS) is home to more than 1,300 students enrolled in over a dozen degree programs across 14 academic departments. Programs for aspiring illustrators are offered through the Illustration Department. Degree options include a BFA in Illustration.
The school says that the BFA curriculum “emphasizes the fundamentals of image making, visual language and visual storytelling and teaches how to translate various traditional media into digital illustration.” Sample courses for the program include Anatomical Figure Illustration, Digital Fundamentals, Figure Illustration, Illustration Techniques, 3D Techniques, 2D techniques, and Visual Narration. Students in the minor will choose five courses (15 credits) from the BFA curriculum.
Other BFA program highlights include access to a large network of key industry players via alumni, sponsored projects and a faculty of freelance illustrators, creative directors, art directors and concept and storyboard artists. Students also have the opportunity to complete an internship. Previous internships include Anthropologie, Cartoon Network, Diane von Furstenberg, Disney Consumer, Fisher Price, Insomniac Games, Mattel, Spark, WJBK Fox 2 News, and others.
Students will graduate from the BFA program with experience in traditional methods of illustration, newer digital trends, and with “the understanding of how traditional media translates into the digital illustration workflow process” known as “tradigital.”
University of Hartford traces its roots back to 1877, when one of the three founding schools, the Hartford Art School, opened. It was initially called the Hartford School for Decorative Arts. Today, University of Hartford (chartered in 1957) offers 100 degree programs in the arts, humanities, business, engineering and technology, education, and health professions. The school serves approximately 5,000 undergraduate and nearly 1,500 graduate students from 48 states and 48 countries.
University of Hartford has one undergraduate option for aspiring illustrators leading to a BFA in Illustration. Offered through Hartford Art School (HAS), which serves around 310 students, the BFA curriculum is designed to introduce students to the techniques and processes used by illustrators. It covers the three primary markets for illustrators: advertising illustration, book illustration, and editorial illustration. Sample courses for the program include Digital Illustration, Drawing for Illustration, Foundation 2D, 3D and 4D Studio, and Intermediate Illustration.
Students in the program will complete a portfolio and a senior project. In the portfolio preparation course, students learn to prepare their work for professional presentation. Per the school, “considerable emphasis is placed on the development of personal style and direction throughout the program.”
Founded in 1974, Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD) is Wisconsin’s only four-year, private college of visual art and design. The school, which serves 630 students, 600 pre-college students, and 250 outreach/special programs students, offers five degree programs and more than a dozen minors. Among the degree programs is a BFA In Illustration that prepares students to work in areas from publishing to web design and as freelancers or entrepreneurs.
Per the school, program highlights include the internship and semester-long study abroad opportunities, the opportunity to build a professional portfolio, and networking opportunities through MIAD’s Illustration Seminar, “where a series of workshops are presented by practicing professionals, including MIAD Illustration alumni, representing a cross-section of the field.” Sample courses for the program include Computer Studio, Digital 2D, Figure Drawing for Illustration, Illustration Media, Professional Practice for Illustrators, Systems of Drawing, Typography, and Visual Language.
Students in the BFA in Illustration program may complement the degree with studio minor such as Arts Management, Book Arts or Digital Media Production, or a liberal studies minor such as Advertising, Copywriting, or Writing. Communication Design, Industrial Design, and Interior Architecture and Design are other options.
Founded in 1740, the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) is home to 25,367 students enrolled in more than 400 programs across 16 schools. For nearly 100 years, the school has partnered with Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA), established in 1805 and the first museum and school of fine arts in the nation. Per the school, the partnership “provides students with an unparalleled opportunity to pursue their artistic passions and intellectual pursuits in the Ivy League.”
BFA students have access to more than 800 courses in 50+ areas of study. Undergraduate degree programs for aspiring illustrators include the PAFA/Penn BFA in Illustration. The program combines studio training with a fine arts focused liberal arts education. The program helps students develop skills in storytelling, visual communication, and entrepreneurship.
Courses in the program include Business Practices of Art, Digital Imaging, History of Illustration, Illustration Methods, Letterpress and Book Arts, Narrative and Sequential Drawing, Visual Narration, and courses with master illustrators such as David Wiesner and E.B. Lewis.
Students in the BFA program have access 24-hour access to workspaces and digital facilities including two sky lit painting studios, a number of large painting classrooms, illustration/drawing studios and painting studios, and a rooftop terrace often used for cityscapes.
Per the school, graduates of the PAFA/Penn Illustration Programs “will be equipped with the tools to launch careers in fields including animation, book and magazine illustration, graphic novels, poster and storyboard art, medical illustration, and many other art- and design-related professions.”
Established in 1882, Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) is an independent college of art and design that serves 615 students from around the globe. The school offers 15 majors in Crafts, Design, Digital Arts, and Fine Arts. Programs for aspiring illustrators include BFA degrees in Illustration and Biomedical Art (Medical Illustration).
The BFA in Illustration provides the opportunity to experiment with a variety of traditional materials and techniques, including acrylics, collage, inks, pencils, and oils, "while mastering contemporary digital processes using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator." Students in the program will learn to create polished illustrations for all current and emerging markets including advertising, entertainment, gaming, licensing, publishing, and social expression.
Other program highlights include field trips to professional art studios and advertising agencies, interaction with visiting artists, and the opportunity to share the final portfolio with employers, illustrators, and designers, who are invited each year to CIA. Per the school, graduates of the program “will be prepared to enter the industry as a staff artists, freelance illustrators or creative entrepreneurs.”
The Biomedical Art (Medical Illustration) program is one of only a few BFA degrees of its kind in the United States. The program “combines applied art, science, and technology to create visual education materials on scientific and medical topics.” The curriculum “incorporates leading-edge digital media techniques, interactivity, and animation.” Students in the program learn how to “blend artistic talent with knowledge of natural science, a biomedical intellect, and strong visual communication skills.”
Sample courses for the program include Computer Imaging and Animation, Editorial Illustration and Instructional Design and Multimedia. Students and graduates of the program benefit from CIA’s professional partnerships with Case Western Reserve University, University Hospitals Case Medical Center, the Cleveland Clinic, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the Cleveland Botanical Garden. Graduates have gone on to land positions such as Art Director, Biomedical Illustrator, Illustrator, 3D Animation Artist/Designer, and many others.
California State University Long Beach (CSULB) was established in 1949. One of the 23 campuses of the California State University System, CSULB is home to 37,500 students enrolled in more than 300 programs across eight colleges. The College of the Arts, School of Art, offers a BFA with an Illustration Track.
Students in the BFA program can take courses from both the Illustration and Animation Tracks and work together in the school’s digital lab, in addition to learning traditional skills. Sample courses for the program include Advanced Illustration, Advanced Life painting, Costumed Figure Drawing, Experimental Animation, Special Studies in Illustration, Storyboarding for Film and Television, and Visual Development.
Workshops and presentations are also part of the program as well as courses taught by resident illustration faculty comprised of experienced professional artists currently working in the fields of illustration and animation.
Graduates of the Illustration Programs at CSULB are prepared a professional position as an artist or designer, and for teaching studio art within a selected specialization.