35+ Years of Shaping Entertainment and Pop Culture - From Oscar and GRAMMY-winners, to animators, to creative directors and entrepreneurs, our graduates make significant contributions to their industries. Learn More.
What are the top illustration BFA programs in the U.S. for 2020?
|1||Rhode Island School of Design||Rhode Island|
|2||Ringling College of Art and Design||Florida|
|3||Fashion Institute of Technology||New York|
|4||School of Visual Arts||New York|
|5||ArtCenter College of Design||California|
|6||Pratt Institute||New York|
|7||Maryland Institute College of Art||Maryland|
|8||California College of the Arts||California|
|9||Savannah College of Art and Design||Georgia|
|10||The New School’s Parsons School of Design||New York|
|11||Massachusetts College of Art and Design||Massachusetts|
|12||Minneapolis College of Art & Design||Minnesota|
|13||Otis College of Art and Design||California|
|14||Washington University in St. Louis||Missouri|
|15||Columbus College of Art and Design||Ohio|
|16||Laguna College of Art and Design||California|
|17||California State University-Fullerton||California|
|18||Virginia Commonwealth University||Virginia|
|19||Syracuse University||New York|
|20||San Jose State University||California|
|21||The University of the Arts||Pennsylvania|
|22||Pacific Northwest College of Art||Oregon|
|23||Kansas City Art Institute||Missouri|
|24||Cleveland Institute of Art||Ohio|
|25||Brigham Young University||Utah|
The 2020 top 25 schools and colleges offering Illustration Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree programs. For an explanation of the ranking criteria, click here.
1. Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island
Founded in 1877, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is one of the first art and design schools in the U.S. Serving approximately 2,500 students from across the U.S. and 57 other countries, the school has 19 studio majors and leading to bachelor’s or master’s degrees in the Fine Arts, Architecture, Design or Art Education. The school’s most popular programs are Illustration, Painting, Graphic Design, Film/Animation/Video (FAV), Illustration, and Industrial Design.
Offered through the Illustration Department, the BFA in Illustration is RISD’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.
Another option for aspiring illustrators interested in combining science and art is offered through the Continuing Education (CE) Division. The Certificate in Natural Science Illustration allows students to “explore various media and techniques including pencil, acrylic, watercolor, gouache and oil to discover their individual style; and composition and color strategies enable students to fully interpret, capture and portray subjects including birds, animals, botanicals, etc. in natural environments.”
The Certificate Program “utilizes RISD’s unique facilities including the Edna Lawrence Nature Lab as well as site/field visits to the Roger Williams Park Museum of Natural History, Zoo and Greenhouse.” Students in the program will “progress towards creating portfolio-ready pieces of natural science subjects for the purpose of professional presentation and potential publication.” Course highlights include Applied Color, Digital Design Techniques, Adobe Photoshop, Drawing from Nature, The Artful Bird: Ornithological Illustration, and The Artful Insect: Entomological Illustration. Students will complete several “weekend technique intensives,” as well as Final Studio: Natural Science Illustration.
Graduates of the art and design programs at RISD work as entrepreneurs or creative professionals at studios such as Pixar, DreamWorks, and Harmonix, or for networks like Fox, HBO, and PBS. Famous RISD graduates 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.
2. Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota, Florida
Ringling College of Art and Design (RCAD) was established in 1931 by circus baron, art collector, and real estate developer John Ringling. A member of the only global association to serve art and design education research (Cumulus), RCAD opened with just 75 students and 111 course offerings. Today, the school serves more than 1,600 students enrolled in 13 BA and BFA degree programs and nine minors. Illustration, Computer Animation, Film, Game Art, Graphic Design, and Virtual Reality Development are just a few options.
RCAD programs offer a rigorous curriculum, which combines studio and liberal arts, with client projects, substantive internships, and national competitions. 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.
3. Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), New York, New York
Founded in 1944, Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) is a member of the State University of New York (SUNY) system. The school serves around 8,850 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 the 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.
4. School of Visual Arts, New York, New York
Founded in 1947 as “Cartoonists and Illustrators School,” School of Visual Arts (SVA) serves more than 3,700 students enrolled in over 30 programs in areas ranging from fine arts and graphic design to filmmaking and illustration. The programs at SVA lead to the BFA, MFA, MA, MAT or MPS degree. Options for aspiring illustrators include BFAs in Illustration and Cartooning.
SVA has the largest illustration faculty of any school in America. In addition to employing 69 faculty members, the SVA Illustration Department serves 473 students enrolled in more than 75 courses. The BFA curriculum consists of 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.
5. ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena, California
Founded in 1930, ArtCenter College of Design serves approximately 2,250 students representing more than 40 countries. The school offers 11 undergraduate and seven graduate degree programs in a variety of Industrial Design, Visual, and Applied Arts Disciplines. A joint MS/MBA program with the Drucker-Ito School of Management is also available. The school, which has a campus in Berlin, two campuses in Pasadena, and satellite studios in Los Angeles at the Peterson Automotive Museum, offers 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. “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,” says the school.
Course highlights 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.
6. Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York
Founded in 1887, Pratt Institute serves more than 4,800 students enrolled in over 25 undergraduate degree programs and concentrations and more than 26 graduate degree programs in the Schools of Art, Design, Architecture, Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Information. Programs for aspiring illustrators are offered through the School of Art and the School of Design. Founded in 2014, the School of Design offers “up to four of Pratt’s oldest and most esteemed disciplines,” says the school. This includes Communications Design, Fashion Design, Industrial Design, and Interior Design.
A BFA in Communications Design with an Illustration Emphasis is offered in the School of Design. The school says students who select this program will “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.
7. Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, Maryland
Founded in 1826, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is the oldest independent, continuously degree-granting college of art and design in the U.S. The College enrolls nearly 3,500 undergraduate, graduate and open studies students from 49 states and 52 countries. Around 80 programs leading to the BFA, MA, MFA, and MPS degrees are available in the areas of fine arts, design, electronic media, art education, liberal arts, and professional studies. Post-baccalaureate certificate programs are also offered.
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.
“Seniors are mentored in two semesters of portfolio building work in Senior Illustration I and II to prepare a solid body of work in order to become professional illustrators,” says the School. “Professional Development for Illustrators includes portfolio preparation, business practice, intellectual property, and copyright issues.” Graduates of the illustration programs at MICA have gone on to land positions such 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.
8. California College of the Arts, San Francisco and Oakland, California
Founded in 1907, California College of the Arts (CCA) serves around 1,900 students enrolled more than 30 degree programs. The school offers a BFA in Illustration and MFA programs in Fine Arts, Comics, and more. A BFA in an Individualized major is also available.
The BFA in Illustration is taught by “Award-Winning Illustrators” and “digital innovators using the latest technology,” says the school. 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.
9. Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia
Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) was founded in 1978. With campuses in Savannah, Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Lacoste, France, the school serves more than 14,000 students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries. Offering more art degree programs and specializations than any other art and design university, SCAD has plenty of opportunities to study at domestic and international locations.
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 also offered at the Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Savannah campuses.
The BFA in Illustration has four concentration options including Animated Illustration and Publication Design, Concept Design for Animation and Games, Illustration for Games, and Illustration for Surface Design. Each concentration requires four courses, and students have the opportunity to choose from 10 elective hours to enhance their focus.
Students in the BFA in Illustration program will learn to create “fine-art drawings, bringing ideas, characters and personalities to life using both traditional and digital techniques,” says the school. 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 also 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 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.
10. The New School’s Parsons School of Design, New York, New York
The New School was founded in 1896 by American Impressionist William Merritt Chase. Back then, the school was known as The Chase School, and later as New York School of Fine and Applied Art. Today, known as The New School's Parsons School of Design, this art and design college serves nearly 6,000 students enrolled in 130 degree and diploma programs across five schools. The School of Design offers a BFA in Illustration with Minors such as Immersive Storytelling and Comics and Graphic Nature.
The BFA in Illustration 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.
These organizations “bring acclaimed art directors, illustrators, and publishing professionals to New York City and the Parsons campus,” says the school.
11. Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston, Massachusetts
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 nearly 2,100 students. The Illustration Department at MassArt offers a BFA in Illustration that “emphasizes the understanding of character development and narrative techniques, says the school.
Students in the program take a variety of illustration and liberal arts courses taught by instructors who are freelance illustrators or illustrators who have their own businesses. 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.
12. Minneapolis College of Art & Design, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) was established in 1886. The school, which shares a block with the Minneapolis Institute of Art, serves more than 800 students from 45 states and 15 countries. Of these, 50% are enrolled in Design, 38% in Media Arts, 10% in Fine Arts, and the remaining 2% in MCAD's new Arts Entrepreneurship Department. More than 20 programs are available across several departments. Program options for aspiring illustrators include a BFA in Illustration or Comic Art.
The BFA in Illustration 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. Students will also “develop and complete a semester-long project to culminate in the Commencement Exhibition,” says the school. The exhibition showcases the work of MCAD graduates.
Comic Art students will experiment with conventional and experimental aspects of comic storytelling, gain foundational skills in a variety of creative media, explore traditional and digital comic formats, and acquire the skills and knowledge for a professional career in comics. Students in this program will also benefit from internship and study abroad opportunities.
13. Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, California
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. The school also offers MFA degrees in Fine Arts, Graphic Design, Public Practice, and Writing, and a variety of minors and certificate programs.
Specific programs for aspiring illustrators are offered through the Communication Arts Department. Offerings include a BFA and a Minor 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.
14. Washington University in St. Louis (Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts), St. Louis, Missouri
Founded in 1853, Washington University in St. Louis serves more than 14,500 students enrolled in more than 300 academic programs in a number of colleges and schools. The College of Art houses the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts, which offers a BFA in Communication Design with an Emphasis in Illustration.
This collaborative program 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.
15. Columbus College of Art and Design, Columbus, Ohio
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.
An Illustration Minor is available as well as an MFA program. Project proposals for the MFA can be based in Illustration, Painting, Drawing, Animation, Interactive Design and many other areas. 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.
All students 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.
16. Laguna College of Art and Design, Laguna Beach, California
Established in 1961 as the Laguna Beach School of Art, Laguna College of Art and Design (LCAD) serves 670 students enrolled in seven graduate and undergraduate degree programs. Options for aspiring illustrators include a BFA in Graphic Design + Digital Media with an Illustration Emphasis and a BFA in Illustration in Entertainment Design.
The BFA in Graphic Design + Digital Media with an Illustration Emphasis (GD+DM) prepares students for careers in illustration, motion graphics, 3D, package design, user experience and interfaces, advertising, social media, photography and video, and virtual reality. Classes are project-based and include titles such as Communication Design, Design Drawing, Digital Videography, Fundamentals of Illustration, Rendering, and User Interface Design. Students in the program will have the opportunity to complete a professional portfolio and complete real-world projects with industry partners such as Obsidian Entertainment, OC Art Studios, and Xist Publishing.
Students in the Illustration in Entertainment Design BFA program will learn how to combine art and technology to create live shows, museum exhibitions, themed events, themed restaurants and parks, TV and film productions, and more. The curriculum provides “real-life, hands-on instruction with concept design, model and prop-making, and 3-D digital tools,” says the school. Course highlights for the program include Artistic Environment Design for Entertainment, Art of Costume, Fundamentals of Maya, Pictorial Design for Illustration, and Visual Storytelling for Entertainment.
Graduates of the Illustration programs at LCAD work at a variety of major companies and studios including Blizzard Entertainment, Google, DreamWorks Animation, Marvel Entertainment, Fox Television, Microsoft Studios, Obsidian Entertainment, Warner Bros., and many others.
17. California State University Fullerton, Fullerton, California
Founded in 1957, California State University Fullerton (CSUF) serves nearly 40,000 students enrolled in 110 degree programs across eight colleges. The College of Arts is home to the Department of Visual Arts, which offers a BFA in Art with a Concentration in Illustration.
The BFA program is designed for students interested in developing skills in a focused area and to prepare for graduate study. The Illustration Concentration requires preparation courses such as 3D Computer Animation, Lettering and Typography, and Life Drawing. Major courses include Cartooning and Caricature, Digital Narrative Illustration, Elements of Sequential Art, Special Studies in Illustration, and Visual Development and Background Painting. All students will have the opportunity to complete an internship.
Graduates of the Illustration program at CSUF have found employment at major entertainment and publishing companies such as the Cartoon Network, DreamWorks SKG, Lucas Films Ltd. and Walt Disney Company.
18. Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia
Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) was established in 1838. The school serves more than 31,000 students enrolled in 225 academic programs across 13 schools and one college. An additional four programs are offered at VCU’s Qatar campus. The School of the Arts (VCUarts), which serves more than 3,000 students, offers 25 degree programs, including Illustration.
Administered by the Communication Arts Department, the VCUarts 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. The school says, “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.”
Course highlights 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.
19. Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York
Syracuse University (SU) was founded in 1870. The school, which serves 22,850 students from across the U.S. and 126 countries, offers more than 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.
20. San Jose State University, San Jose, California
Founded in 1857, San Jose State University (SJSU) is “Silicon Valley’s Public University.” The school serves approximately 36,000 students enrolled in bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 250 areas of study, with an additional 108 concentrations, across eight colleges. The College of Humanities and the Arts, Department of Design, offers a BFA in Animation/Illustration that combines traditional and innovative educational strategies, including color design, conventional and digital painting, theory, and perspective.
Students in the program will study the principles of traditional and 3D animation, character design, modeling, physics of motion, storyboarding, and visual development. Upper-division classes offers students an opportunity to specialize in their area of choice.
Graduates of the SJSU illustration program have worked on films from A Bug’s Life and Finding Nemo to Monsters, Inc. and Shrek. Graduates have also been hired at more than 135 animation studios, game design companies, film studios, and academic institutions. Just a few include 20th Century Fox, Animation Mentor, Blue Sky Studios, Blizzard Entertainment, Cartoon Network, Cogswell Institute, Disney Interactive, Electronic Arts, Lucasfilm Animation, NBCUniversal Studios, Nickelodeon, Pixar, Sony/Columbia, The Art Institute of Las Vegas, Disney Animation, and Zynga.
21. The University of the Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Founded in 1876, The University of the Arts (UArts) is the nation’s only comprehensive arts university. The school serves 1,900 students enrolled in 46 undergraduate and graduate programs, and more than 30 minors, through the College of Art, Media & Design, College of Performing Arts, Division of Liberal Art, and the Division of Continuing Studies (Graduate Programs).
The College of Art, Media & Design houses the School of Design, which offers a BFA in Illustration that 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 BFA 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 UArts illustration program have gone on to create illustrations for The New Yorker, New York Times, Rolling Stone, ESPN, Random House, Ralph Lauren, Fortune and others.
22. Pacific Northwest College of Art, Portland, Oregon
Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) was founded in 1909. This fine arts and design college offers eleven BFA degrees, seven graduate degrees including MFA and MA degrees, a Minor, a Post-Baccalaureate, and a variety of Community Education programs for adults and youth. Nearly 650 students from 42 states and 10 countries are enrolled in 29 majors, minors, and graduate degree programs. Animated Arts, Graphic Design, Intermedia, and Illustration are just a few options.
The Illustration Program is one of the top undergraduate options at PNCA. A BFA is available as well as a Community Education Certificate. The school says the BFA in Illustration “combines development of technical skill in traditional studio media and new and emerging technologies with conceptual inquiry to empower (students) to create visual messages capable of engaging clients and changing culture.” Course highlights include Visual Elements 2-D, Time Arts, Exploring Visual Culture, 3D Design, Visual Elements: Digital Tools, Word & Image, Drawing for Illustration, Visual Techniques, Painting for Illustration, Cultural Marketplace, Advanced Illustration Studio, and Design Arts Thesis Development.
Other program highlights include mentorship programs, professional practices instruction, portfolio preparation, and internship opportunities. Internships for seniors and recent graduates have taken place at companies such as Dark Horse Comics, Microsoft, Nike, Nintendo, and Wieden+Kennedy.
PNCA students also have the opportunity to show their work at an annual end-of-year showcase hosted by the Illustration Department at a downtown gallery.
23. Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, Missouri
Established in 1885, Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI) has a 130+ year history that includes notable name such as Walt Disney, who took classes there as a child, multimedia artist Robert Rauschenberg, who studied fashion design, writer Robert Morris, and performance artist and fabric sculptor Nick Cave, to name a few. Besides a long list of notable alumni and students, KCAI offers 13 studio majors in Art, Design, and Media to a population of nearly 700 students.
The Department of Illustration houses the school’s BFA in Illustration program. Students in the program “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,” says the school. “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.
24. Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland, Ohio
Founded in 1882, Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) serves 645 students from 32 states and nine countries around the world. The school, which offers 15 majors in the fine arts, design, craft, and interactive media, offers BFA degrees in Illustration and Life Sciences 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," says the school. 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 interaction with visiting artists, the opportunity to share the final portfolio with employers, illustrators, and designers who are invited each year to CIA, and a rigorous mandatory Business + Professional Practices curriculum that all CIA students complete. This means, in addition to core courses and small-group seminars, students take a professional writing course and travel out into the field to see artists and designers at work in art studios, advertising agencies, and more.
Graduates of the program “will be prepared to enter the industry as a staff artists, freelance illustrators or creative entrepreneurs.”
The Life Sciences 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.”
Course highlights 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. Students have opportunities to learn through experience by working on real-world projects with these partners—all before graduation.
Graduates have gone on to land positions such as Art Director, Biomedical Illustrator, Illustrator, 3D Animation Artist/Designer, and many others.
25. Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
Brigham Young University (BYU) was founded in 1875 by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). Serving approximately 33,511 students from all 50 states and 105 countries, BYU offers 187 undergraduate majors, 110 undergraduate minors, 88 master's programs and 32 doctoral programs in more than a dozen colleges and schools.
The College of Fine Arts and Communications serves nearly 5,700 students enrolled in programs in the Department of Art, the School of Communications, the Department of Dance, the Department of Design, the School of Music, and the Department of Theater and Media Arts. Students in the College “undertake research projects, pursue internships, and participate in study abroad programs across the globe,” says the school.
The Illustration BFA in the Department of Design is a limited enrollment program of 40 students. Students in the program “will learn skills that prepare them to excel in the competitive and evolving illustration market,” says the school. “Courses prepare students in how to manage personal business and marketing work as an illustrator.” Highlights include Environment Design, Painting-Mixed Media, Gesture Drawing for Animation, Advanced Storyboarding, Character Design for Illustration, Sketchbook, Narrative Illustration, Introduction to Entrepreneurship, Professional Practices for Illustrators, Marketing Management, Introduction to Photography and Digital Workflow, Typography, and Bookbinding.
Students will complete several Senior Illustration Studios, the BFA Capstone Project, and an internship. Study abroad experiences are also part of the program as well as job placement services. “Nationally and internationally acclaimed artists” are also invited to campus each month to present to students.
Graduates of the program “work in diverse genres and publishing markets,” including ebooks, graphic novels, editorial, advertising design, young adult fiction, genre fiction, and corporate and institutional publications. Graduates work as concept designers creating characters, environments, vehicles, and other digital artwork for entertainment productions. Other opportunities involve licensed products, toys and collectibles, online exhibitions, and private commissions. Positions may be in-house with production companies, in design studios, or on a freelance or project basis.