What are the top illustration BFA programs in the U.S. for 2021?
|1||School of Visual Arts||New York|
|2||ArtCenter College of Design||California|
|3||Rhode Island School of Design||Rhode Island|
|4||Ringling College of Art and Design||Florida|
|5||Savannah College of Art and Design||Georgia|
|6||Pratt Institute||New York|
|7||Maryland Institute College of Art||Maryland|
|8||California College of the Arts||California|
|9||The New School’s Parsons School of Design||New York|
|10||Otis College of Art and Design||California|
|11||Fashion Institute of Technology||New York|
|12||Minneapolis College of Art & Design||Minnesota|
|13||Massachusetts College of Art and Design||Massachusetts|
|14||Columbus College of Art and Design||Ohio|
|15||College for Creative Studies||Michigan|
|16||Kansas City Art Institute||Missouri|
|17||Virginia Commonwealth University||Virginia|
|18||Syracuse University||New York|
|19||San Jose State University||California|
|20||Cleveland Institute of Art||Ohio|
|21||Laguna College of Art and Design||California|
|22||California State University Fullerton||California|
|23||Washington University in St. Louis||Missouri|
|24||Academy of Art University||California|
|25||Brigham Young University||Utah|
The 2021 top 25 schools and colleges offering Illustration Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree programs. For an explanation of the ranking criteria, click here.
The School of Visual Arts (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. Undergraduate program offerings for aspiring illustrators include BFAs in Illustration and Cartooning.
The BFA curriculum consists of 120 credit hours of study) 72 in studio, 30 in humanities and sciences, 15 in art history, and three in elective courses. Course highlights for the program include Bookmaking and Linocut Inventions, Digital Coloring for Cartoonists, Digital Workshop: Music to Your Eyes, Experimental Animation, Fur, Feathers and Scales: Animal Anatomy, Introduction to Puppetry, Photocopy Zines, Pictorial Problems, Realistic and Fantastical Digital Painting, Storyboarding for Animation, and The Gouache Experience.
Students will also complete a number of seminars and workshops, Professional Practice: Illustration, and several Illustration Portfolio courses.
SVA students have landed assignments for The New Yorker, The New York Press, Mad Magazine, and The Village Voice—all before graduating from the program. 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.
ArtCenter College of Design offers a BFA in Illustration. 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. “After mastering foundations skills such as figure drawing, painting and perspective, students choose from five main areas of specialization: Illustration Design, Illustration/Fine Art, Entertainment Arts, Motion Design and Surface Design.”
Course highlights include Children’s Book Illustration, Composition and Drawing, Digital Illustration, Drawing Projects, Head and Hands Materials of Art and Design, Illustration Design Lab, Illustration Storytelling, and Sketching for Illustration. Students will also take Business and Professional Practices, Notorious or Application Studio, and several Portfolio Design Lab courses.
Graduates of the program have been hired by ArtCenter industry partners such as Apple, Blizzard, DreamWorks, Google, Mattel, Walt Disney, and more.
Notable Illustration alumni include Drew Struzan, Movie Poster Illustrator for Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, the Muppets, Star Wars and others; Mark “Crash” McCreery Creature Designer/Concept Designer for Batman Returns, Jurassic Park, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl; Phil Hettema, Experiential Designer for The Amazing Adventures of Spider Man, Jurassic Park: The Ride, and Hello Kitty Park; and Rockstar Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park.
Rhode Island School of Design’s (RISD) Illustration Department offers a BFA in Illustration. This is the schools largest major. Like all RISD students, Illustration students will take first-year studios in Experimental and Foundation Studies, followed by a major course of study in a specific Fine Arts or Design discipline beginning sophomore year. “Rigorous courses in Liberal Arts enrich studio learning,” says the school.
“Undergraduate students have the option of building on their degree programs to concentrate in one of six additional areas of study beyond a studio major. Concentrations at RISD are similar to “minors” at other colleges and universities. Totally optional, they offer important context and perspective while enriching the overall educational experience both in and beyond the studio.”
Other program highlights include access to computer resources, printmaking studios, software such as AfterEffects, InDesign and Maya, a full roster of visiting artists and art directors, access to ISB Gallery, which hosts a mix of student or curriculum related exhibitions throughout the academic year, and professionals from across the country who offer feedback through annual portfolio reviews.
Course highlights 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.
Graduates of the Art and Design programs at RISD work as entrepreneurs or creative professionals at studios such as DreamWorks, Harmonix, and Pixar, and for networks like Fox, HBO, and PBS. Notable RISD graduates include Daniel Sousa, Animator and Director of the Oscar-nominated film Feral, Lance Wilder, Animator for The Simpsons, and Seth Macfarlane, Creator of Family Guy.
Ringling College of Art and Design (RCAD) offers a BFA in Illustration with a General Illustration or Visual Development Emphasis. The General Illustration Emphasis covers the fundamentals of color theory, composition, anatomy, and digital and traditional media. Offered in the Illustration Department, the program introduces and familiarizes students with professional industry techniques through exercises, demonstrations, guest speakers, critiques, collaborative projects, internships, recruiter workshops, and interactions with real clients in the area.
The Visual Development Emphasis “focuses on concept art, used by illustrators to convey ideas across the entertainment spectrum in industries including gaming, comics, and graphic novels, film, television (live-action and animated), video, toy design, themed entertainment, publishing, and advertising,” says the school. “Students will learn to visualize and create the art for characters and environments that is later used by modelers, animators, designers, visual effects artists, and other creatives to bring the ideas to life through production.”
Course highlights for the General Illustration Emphasis include 3D Design for IL, Advanced Illustration, Design & Typography, Digital Illustration, Figure Anatomy, Illustration Media, Professional Practices, and Visual Development I-IV. Course highlights for the Visual Development Emphasis include 2D Design, Development of Art and Ideas, Film & Narrative, Professional Practices, Visual Development I-IV, and Writing Studio.
Other highlights for the programs 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 programs 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 programs with a “comprehensive, cohesive portfolio” that showcases their work.
Employment opportunities include Advertising Illustration, Animation, Children’s Books, Editorial (book cover art, magazine, and newspaper), Interactive Web Illustration, Medical Manuals, Surface Design for Fashion, Medical Manuals, Technical Art, and Visual Effects.
Graduates of the programs 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.
Savannah College of Art and Design’s (SCAD) School of Communication Arts offers a BFA in Illustration at the Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Savannah campuses. A BFA in Sequential Art is also available at the same campuses.
Students in SCAD’s Illustration degree programs 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 in all programs have the opportunity to study outside of their main discipline by taking courses in Advertising, Graphic Design, Motion Media, Printmaking, and Sequential Art. Course highlights include Contextual Character Design, Directed Projects in Illustration, lllustrating Beyond the Page: The Narrative Experience, Illustration Business Strategies and Entrepreneurship, Illustration Markets, Illustration for Publications, and Materials and Techniques.
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.
Graduates of the Illustration Programs at SCAD are prepared to take on careers such as Advertising Illustrator, Animation Character Designer, Art Director, Book Illustrator, Editorial Illustrator, Illustrator for Entertainment Design, Illustrator for Game Design, Storyboard Artist, and Surface Design Illustrator. Graduates have been recruited by A&E, Bento Box Entertainment, Comedy Central, Converse, Game Informer, ImagineFX, Revolver Studios, The New York Times, and Walt Disney Imagineering.
The School of Design at Pratt Institute (Pratt) offers a BFA in Communications Design with an Illustration Emphasis. Students who select the BFA with an illustration Emphasis 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,” says the school. “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, Cartoon Network Studios, Curious Pictures, Digital Domain, DreamWorks Studios, Gameloft, Industrial Light & Magic, Rhythm and Hues, Sony Imageworks, Walt Disney Animation Studios, and more.
Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) offers a BFA in Illustration with Concentrations in Book Arts, Illustration + Humanistic Studies, Sequential Art, and Studio. Interdisciplinary options for Specialized Study include Studio Concentrations in Animation, Book Arts, Graphic Design, and Printmaking. In addition to first-year and liberal arts requirements, undergraduates will complete 54 credit hours in illustration. Course highlights 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 as Author and Illustrator of "Nimona," Book Illustrator, Brand Illustrator for Uber, Illustrator and Comic Artist for Random House, and many others. MICA alumni have also continued their education in graduate programs or have successful careers as Freelance Illustrators or with their own studios.
California College of the Arts (CCA) offers BFAs in Illustration and an Individualized Major. 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 Portfolio, Professional Practice, and Thesis.
Other course highlights include 2D, 3D & 4D, Illustration Studios 1-3, Illustration Tools: Digital Illustration, Illustration Tools: Painting for Illustrators, Literary & Performing Arts Studies, Media History: History of Illustration, and Visual Studies.
Thanks to the Illustration Program’s “position within a top art and design college” students have “access to cutting-edge software and digital tools, print and painting studios, shops, labs, and a community of thinkers and makers eager to collaborate.”
Graduates of the CCA’s Illustration Program are prepared to pursue positions at magazines, for the entertainment industry, and for books, comics, packaging, posters, products, websites, and more.
The New School/Parsons (or just Parsons) houses the School of Art, Media, and Technology (AMT), which offers a BFA in Illustration. The program prepares students to work in a range of areas including Animation, Editorial and Advertising Illustration, Graphic Novels, Hand Lettering, Picture Books, Surface and Display Design, and Toy Designs. Course highlights include Drawing/Imaging (Studio), Space/Materiality (Studio), and Time (Studio), and others such as Intro to Visual Culture: Recitation, Language and Letterform, and Objects as History.
Program highlights include the opportunity to work with peers in Collaboration Studio courses and other projects, internships with Parson partners such as AIGA, Apple, Eyebeam, and Red Cross, access to events such as Comic Arts Brooklyn, MoCCA Fest, and more, and the opportunity to connect with New York–based professional organizations such as American Illustration and the Society of Illustrators.
Otis College of Art and Design (OTIS) offers a BFA in Illustration. Program highlights include conventions, field trips, student exhibitions, and visiting artists. Students can expect to take foundation courses such as Connections Through Color and Design, Drawing Studio, Form and Space, Introduction to Visual Culture, and Writing in the Digital Age.
Illustration course highlights include Advanced Illustrative Applications, Alternative Materials and Procedures for Illustrators, Entrepreneur 101, Illustration Communication Studio I-IV, and Typography for Illustrators. Students will also take Entrepreneur 101, Practicum I-III, Senior Project/Seminar, and Senior Thesis/Research Paper. A Capstone course is the signature course and culminating expression of the Liberal Arts Program.
Graduates of the Illustration Program at OTIS have been hired at Conde Nast Publications, Disney Consumer Products, Hallmark, Interscope Records, Los Angeles Magazine, Mattel, Ogilvy Worldwide, Sony Music, Twentieth Century Fox, WB Network, Young & Rubicam, and more.
Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) houses the School of Art and Design. Serving approximately 3,322 students, the School of Art and Design is home to 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.
Students will learn the business of illustration and they are required to take a nine-course selection of computer classes (unique to FIT) that will keep them up-to-date in the skills many employers require. Students will also have the option to specialize in either Fashion or General Illustration. An optional Study Abroad course in Italy is also available.
Other course highlights include 2D Computer Animation, Advanced Visual Story Studio, Applying Color to Illustrate the Written Word, Book Illustration, Comic Book Illustration, Digital Illustration Techniques, Illustration Rendering Techniques, Illustrating the Written Word, Mentor/Specialization Projects, Stylistic Illustration, The Business of Illustration, The Illustrator’s Heritage, and Visual Storytelling for Evolving Media I-II.
The Illustration Portfolio Thesis is a final preparation for students entering the illustration business. This 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 Illustration graduates have gone on to build successful careers at Advertising Agencies such as BBDO, DDB, J. Walter Thompson, Ogilvy & Mather, and Young & Rubicam, and at corporations such as American Greetings and Hallmark, Magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, and entertainment companies such as DreamWorks SKG, LucasArts Entertainment, Walt Disney, and Warner Brothers.
Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) offers BFAs in Illustration and Comic Art, The Illustration 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. Course highlights include Children’s Book, Digital Illustration, Editorial Illustration, Foundation 2D and 3D, and Illustration and Products.
In the junior and senior years of the program, students will gain real-world experience through a required internship. They will also have the opportunity to study abroad or elsewhere in the U.S., participate in the Emerging Talent Showcase, and share their work with potential employers. Students will “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 MCADs required internship and study abroad opportunities.
Over 93% of MCAD alumni are working and more than half (57.1%) are working in their field. Potential careers include Advertising Illustrator, Book Illustrator (one MCAD alum is an illustrator for all of the American Harry Potter books), Children’s Book Illustrator, Comic Illustrator, Concept Artist, Courtroom Illustrator, Editorial Illustrator, Fashion Illustrator, Fine Artist, Freelance Illustrator, Illustration Agent or Representative, Medical or Technical Illustrator, Surface Designer, and many others.
Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) houses the Illustration Department, which 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.
Liberal Arts course highlights include Introduction to Western Art, Literature/Writing/Film, and Thinking, Making, Writing: Using Words with Clarity and Flair. Major course highlights include Advanced Drawing Projects for Illustrators, Black and White Illustration, Book Arts, Color for Illustrators, Digital Illustration, Digital Painting and Techniques, Experimental Illustration Techniques, Human Figure Illustration, Media Techniques, Narrative Illustration, Painting for Illustrators, Professional Illustration, Studio for Drawing, Technical Illustration, Virtual 3D Illustration, and Word and Image.
A Course Assistantship, Independent Study, Professional Freelance Studio, and an Internship are also part of the program.
During the final year of the program, students will complete Illustration Portfolio, Senior Illustration, Studio Electives, and the Thesis Project. Students will present their Portfolio to invited professionals from advertising, corporate, editorial, institutional, and publishing markets.
Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD) offers a BFA in Illustration. Students can add any 15 credit Minor to the program and/or any Concentration. Just a few Minor options include Advertising & Graphic Design, Animation 2D or 3D, Comics & Narrative Practice, Copywriting, Film & Video, Photography, and Social Practice.
Concentrations include Animation/Experimental, Animation/Game, Fine Arts/Ceramics, Fine Arts/Drawing, Fine Arts/Glass, Fine Arts/Jewelry, Fine Arts/Painting, Fine Arts/Printmaking, Fine Arts/Sculpture, Illustration/Entertainment Design/Drawing, Illustration/Entertainment Design/Modeling, and Illustration/Illustrative Design.
Illustration students will “master the latest technology, study under industry leaders, and go on to create beautiful works that tell stories through printed books, motion graphics, or fabric patterns,” says the school. Students will also “grow as creatives in a school and city that embrace comics, through class projects such as Spitball, which pairs artists with professional writers, and Cartoon Crossroads Columbus, which brings together cartoon storytellers, comic makers, and animators for professional panels, lectures, and more.”
Course highlights for the 120 credit hour BFA program include Character and Environmental Design, Digital Design Lab, Digital Media Illustration, Digital Sculpting, Illustration Markets, Illustration Self Promotion, Illustrative Figure Drawing, Motion Illustration, and Traditional Media Illustration. During the final year of the program, BFA students will complete the Illustration Portfolio Project and Illustration Capstone.
CCAD BFA graduates have gone on to a variety of position and fields including Advertising Graphics Designer, Apparel Graphics Designer, Book Illustrator, Character and Asset Designer, Designer for Web and Mobile, Editorial Illustrator, Film Effects Creator, Fine Artist, Freelance Illustrator, Greeting Card Designer, Newspaper Graphic Artist, Poster Artist, Product and Toy Designer, and Video Game Designer.
Companies that have hired CCAD graduates include 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.
The College for Creative Studies (CCS) houses the Illustration Department, which offers a BFA Illustration. The curriculum for the program “emphasizes the fundamentals of image making, visual language and visual storytelling and teaches how to translate various traditional media into digital illustration,” says the school. Course highlights include 2D Design, 2D and 3D Techniques, Anatomical Figure Illustration, Beyond the Portfolio, Concepts & Methods/Visual Culture, Creative Perspective, Digital Fundamentals, Figure Illustration, Future Illustration Media, Illustration Intensive, Illustration Techniques, Junior Illustration Studio, and Visual Narration.
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.” Career options include Advertising, Illustration, Children’s Book Illustrator, Comic Book Artist, Creative Director, Digital Compositor, Editorial Illustrator, Graphic Novel Illustrator, Illustrator for Video Games/Film, Motion Illustrator/Designer, Multimedia Designer, Storyboard Artist, Visual Artist, Visual Development Illustrator, Web Designer, and many others.
Graduates of the BFA program may also enroll in any of CCA’s MFA Programs in Color and Materials Design, Interaction Design, Systems Design Thinking (formerly Integrated Design), and Transportation Design.
Kansas City Art Institute’s (KCAI) Department of Illustration houses the school’s BFA in Illustration Program. Program highlights include mandatory collaborative assignments, studio and classroom technology that prepares “students for diverse areas of professional practice,” says the school, and the opportunity to “work in digital and analog environments designed to facilitate creativity and interdisciplinary approaches to image making.” To enhance the degree, students may also double major in Creative Writing and Illustration. A mandatory internship is also part of the program.
KCAI Illustration students have interned at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the American Jazz Museum, The Kansas City Star, Porter Teleo design firm, Boulevard Brewing Company, and other noted businesses in the area.
Courses for the BFA in Illustration Program are taught by Department faculty members who are all “practicing professionals working in the four corners of the illustration field,” including Advertising, Editorial, Institutional and Publishing. Course highlights include Analytical Drawing Systems, Covers and Pages Graphic Form for Illustrators, Illustration Professional Practice, Mechanical Perception, Paper and Ink, Sketchbook: The Cultural Safari, and US: Collaboration, Teamwork and Flexibility.
Students will also complete a several studio courses each year during the sophomore thru senior years. Studios include Sophomore Studio: Organic Perceptions, Sophomore Studio: Image and Form, Junior Studio: Conceptual Problem Solving, Junior Studio: Exploring Narrative Image, Senior Studio: Image and Thesis, and Senior Studio: Image Thesis II.
Potential job opportunities for Graduates of the KCAI Illustration BFA Program include Advertising, Children’s Books, Comic Books, Computer Gaming, Digital Animation, Editorial Illustration, Greeting Cards, Fashion Illustration, Graphic Novels, Magazine and Book Illustration, Movie and Music Posters, Product Design/Branding, Web Design, and more.
Recent graduates can be found working at American Greetings, Hallmark, MTV, Nickelodeon, Nike, and many others. Their work has been featured in many publications such as The New York Times, Wired, and Women’s Day, and numerous children’s books. Some graduates have won awards in publications such as American Illustration, Communication Arts, Print, and the Society of Illustrators.
Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) houses the School of Arts (VCUarts), which serves more than 3,000 students. The School has 16 departments and programs offering 18 bachelor’s and five master’s degrees. The VCUarts Department of Communication Arts houses the VCUarts Illustration Program. Degree options include a BFA in Communication Arts OR Communication Arts with a Concentration in Scientific Illustration.
The BFA in Communication Arts prepares students for careers in illustration for print or digital publishing, comic book art, or a scientific illustration. The program consists of many new and elective courses “designed to reinforce and expand the drawing, design, and illustration components of the curriculum,” says the school. Students will have the opportunity to develop a variety of projects in illustration and complete an internship and/or study abroad experience.
Course highlights for the program include 3D Modeling for Concept Design, Color Theory, Game Design, Theory and Practice, Imagery for Children, Imagery for Science Fiction and Fantasy, and The Figure in Illustration. Program alumni are 3D Modelers and Animators, Editorial Illustrators, Fine Artists, Game Designers, and Interactive Media Designers.
The BFA in Communication Arts with a Concentration in Scientific Illustration requires 32 credits in the biological sciences and chemistry, in addition to communication major and illustration courses. Students in the program will also have the opportunity to complete an internship and/or study abroad experience. Course highlights include 3D Modeling, Basic Human Anatomy, Digital Drawing, Drawing Studies: The Figure Observed, Environmental Science, General Chemistry, Mixed-Media Illustration, and Scientific Illustration. Program alumni are 3D Modelers and Animators, Concept Artists, Scientific Illustrators, and more.
Syracuse University (SU) houses the College of Visual and Performing Arts’ (VPA) School of Art, which offers a BFA in Illustration. Students in the 126 credit hour BFA in Illustration will take classes in “traditional, digital, and alternative media to develop competency and techniques,” says the school. Students will study “conceptual thinking, research methods, and how to communicate narrative while developing familiarity with illustration history and the contemporary field.”
Four focus areas help students explore specific industry specialties. They include Editorial, Product, Sequential, and Visual Development. The Editorial Focus covers magazines, newspapers, book jackets, and online publishing. The Product Focus includes patterning, packaging, and products, while the Sequential Focus covers comics, graphic novels, and children’s books. The Visual Development Focus includes visual and character development for animation and gaming.
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 SU VPA Illustration Program have gone on to work in Illustration for the Advertising industry, Book and Online Publishing, Children's Books, Comics, Gaming, Graphic Novels, Greeting Cards, Licensing, Newspapers, Television, and Visual Development in Animated Films.
San Jose State University (SJSU) houses the College of Humanities and the Arts—home to the Department of Design, which offers a BFA in Animation/Illustration (Professional Degree).
The curriculum for the BFA in Animation/Illustration combines traditional and innovative educational strategies, including color design, conventional and digital painting, theory, and perspective. Students will also study the principles of traditional and 3D animation, character design, modeling, physics of motion, storyboarding, and visual development. Upper-division classes offer the opportunity for students to specialize in an area of their choice. Students also have additional learning and networking opportunities through the Department’s speaker engagements.
The BFA program has developed tight bonds with industry partners over the last 25 years, giving students the chance to hear from speakers from big name corporations like Bento Box, Blizzard, Blue Sky Studios, Cartoon Network, Disney, DreamWorks, Hallmark, Industrial Light & Magic, Nickelodeon, Pixar, SONY Pictures Animation, Warner Bros., and many others.
Graduates of the Illustration Program at SJSU have worked on films such as A Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo 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.
Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) offers BFAs in Illustration and Life Sciences. The Illustration BFA 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.
Course highlights include Character Design and Development, Community Projects, Graphic Novels and Sequential Art, Illustration: Advanced Illustration Studio Projects, and Illustration for Publication. Students will also complete a BFA Preparation course, Final Project: Illustration Portfolio, and the Illustration Internship.
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 science and art to create visual solutions for the public and researchers, as they prepare students for graduate education beyond.” Students will work on topics in Biological, Botanical, Zoological, and health sciences while becoming proficient in Animation, Illustration, and Information Design. Students will learn how to blend their “artistic talent with a researcher's intellect, displaying strong visual communication skills.”
Course highlights include 3D Bioforms: Intro to Modeling, Anatomy for the Artists, Cellular + Molecular Illustration, Digital Color: Style + Representation in Science, Educational Media Installation, Life Sciences Illustration: Advanced problems, Concepts, and Media, Information Visualization, Life Sciences Illustration: Forensic Imaging/Modeling, Natural Science and Zoological Illustration, Serious Game Design: Theory + Applications Surgical Illustration, and Veterinary Illustration. Students will complete a Portfolio, BFA Thesis and Exhibition, and an Internship.
Other program highlights include CIA’s Engaged Practice, which provides opportunities to learn through experience by working on real-world projects with external partners or clients, or in the public sphere—all before graduation. CIA has professional partnerships with Case Western Reserve University, the Cleveland Botanical Garden, Cleveland Clinic, and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
Life Sciences Illustration graduates have gone on to land positions such as 3D Animation Artist/Designer, Art Director, Biomedical Illustrator, Illustrator, and many others.
Laguna Beach College of Art and Design (LCAD) offers BFAs in Drawing + Painting with an Illustration Emphasis, Graphic Design + Digital Media with an Illustration Emphasis, and Illustration in Entertainment Design.
The Drawing + Painting BFA helps students develop branding, exhibition, and entrepreneurial skills. Students will also “develop as mural artists and learn how to present their work and contributions to city planners, urban developers, and private owners who bring artistic works to large, public audiences on shared visual spaces.”
Course highlights include Applied Art Reproduction, Artistic Anatomy, Digital Photography for Fine Artists, Experimental Drawing, Figure in Environments, Illustration, Illustrative Painting, Mural Painting, Pictorial Design for Illustration, and Rendering.
The Drawing + Painting BFA Program prepares students to work in traditional and mixed-media art, “while honing imaginative, narrative, and design-based aesthetics for commercial and non-commercial pursuits,” says the school.
Classes for the BFA in Graphic Design + Digital Media with an Illustration Emphasis (GD+DM) 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.
Graduates are prepared for careers in 3D, Advertising, Illustration, Motion Graphics, Package Design, Photography and Video, Social Media, User Experience and Interfaces, and Virtual Reality.
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 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 LCAS work at a variety of major companies and studios including Blizzard Entertainment, DreamWorks Animation, Fox Television, Google, Marvel Entertainment, Microsoft Studios, Obsidian Entertainment, Warner Bros., and many others.
California State University Fullerton (Cal State Fullerton or CSU Fullerton) houses the College of the Arts, home to the Visual Arts Department, 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 or to prepare them for graduate study. Course highlights for the Illustration Concentration include 3D Computer Animation, Cartooning and Caricature, Digital Narrative Illustration, Elements of Sequential Art, Lettering and Typography, Life Drawing, Special Studies in Illustration, and Visual Development and Background Painting. All students will have the opportunity to complete an internship.
Graduates of the CSUF Illustration Program have found employment at major entertainment and publishing companies, such as the Cartoon Network, DreamWorks SKG, Lucas Films Ltd. and Walt Disney Company.
Washington University in St. Louis houses The Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts, home to the College of Art, which offers a BFA in Communication Design with an Emphasis in Illustration.
The BFA is a collaborative program that 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, advertising, and creating pictures for games and motion graphics.
During their senior year, “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.
Academy of Art University houses the School of Illustration, which offers a BFA in Illustration that may be completed entirely online. The program consists of eight semesters of coursework covering areas such as composition and color, drawing, presentation skills, professional development, tools and techniques, and visual problem solving.
Course highlights include Advanced Perspective for Illustration, Analysis of Form, Blogging: Content Creation & Promotion, Editorial Illustration for Apps and Publication, Film & Games, Digital Media 2: Illustrative Imaging, Elements of Digital Painting, Illustration for Consumer Products & Licensing, Interactive and Vector Art, Interactive Illustration, Portfolio Preparation and Self Promotion, Social Media Strategies, and Web Design. Students in the program will also complete a number of collaborative projects, an internship, and a study abroad experience.
Students also benefit from guest speakers, workshops, and events that the school says help students “create an insider network” that connects them with industry professionals. They have the opportunity to work with WRiTE BRAiN BOOKS, which has been a partner to Academy of Art University for more than half a decade, and to collaborate with “artists, designers, and innovators outside of the classroom.” Internship opportunities are also available.
Graduates of the Illustration BFA Program at Academy of Art University are prepared to pursue a career as a Children’s Book Illustrator, Comic Book Artist, Concept Artist, Advertising or Editorial Illustrator, Graphic Novelist, Interactive Illustrator, Storyboard Artist, and many others. Graduates have been hired by Chronicle Books, Marvel, Random House, The Atlantic, The New York Times, Wired, and more.
Brigham Young University (BYU) houses the College of Fine Arts and Communications, which 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. All College of Fine Arts and Communications students “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. Courses prepare students in how to manage personal business and marketing work as an illustrator.” Course highlights include Advanced Storyboarding, Bookbinding, Character Design for Illustration, Environment Design, Gesture Drawing for Animation, Introduction to Entrepreneurship, Introduction to Photography and Digital Workflow, Marketing Management, Narrative Illustration, Painting-Mixed Media, Professional Practices for Illustrators, Sketchbook, and Typography.
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 Advertising Design, Books, Corporate and Institutional Publications, Editorial, Genre Fiction, Graphic Novels, and Young Adult Fiction. 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.