What are the top illustration BFA programs in the U.S. for 2023?
|1||School of Visual Arts||New York|
|2||ArtCenter College of Design||California|
|3||Savannah College of Art and Design||Georgia|
|4||Ringling College of Art and Design||Florida|
|5||Rhode Island School of Design||Rhode Island|
|6||Pratt Institute||New York|
|7||California College of the Arts||California|
|8||The New School’s Parsons School of Design||New York|
|9||Maryland Institute College of Art||Maryland|
|10||College for Creative Studies||Michigan|
|11||Fashion Institute of Technology||New York|
|12||Otis College of Art and Design||California|
|13||Columbus College of Art and Design||Ohio|
|14||Minneapolis College of Art & Design||Minnesota|
|15||Brigham Young University||Utah|
|16||Massachusetts College of Art and Design||Massachusetts|
|17||Cleveland Institute of Art||Ohio|
|18||Syracuse University||New York|
|19||San Jose State University||California|
|20||Academy of Art University||California|
|21||Kansas City Art Institute||Missouri|
|22||Washington University in St. Louis||Missouri|
|24||Laguna College of Art and Design||California|
|25||Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design||Colorado|
The 2023 top 25 schools and colleges offering Illustration Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree programs. For an explanation of the ranking criteria, click here.
1. School of Visual Arts, New York, New York
The School of Visual Arts (SVA) houses the Illustration Department, home to the Illustration BFA Program. Students in this program will complete 120 credit hours, including 72 credits in studio art courses. Coursework explores drawing and illustration, painting, storytelling, writing, comics, books and zines, digital coloring, and visual computing. Elective studio courses allow students to explore areas such as motion graphics, web design, and stop-motion animation. Course examples for the program include Creating Unforgettable Characters, Pictorial Projects I-II: Illustration, Cool Books, Digital Collage Illustration: Telling Stories in Layers, Still and Moving: Low-Tech Animation, and Motion Graphics Techniques I-II.
Other Illustration Program features include access to faculty and mentors who are professionals in the industry; opportunities to gain hands-on experience through internships and other experiential learning programs; and a senior portfolio curriculum that allow students to develop professional works in an area of focus.
Before graduating from SVA, students have plenty of opportunities to compete in competitions and work for places such as The New Yorker and The Village Voice. SVA Illustration graduates go on to establish successful careers in fields such as Advertising, Textile Design, VFX Art, Animation, Fashion Design, Book Publishing, Fine Art, Graphic Design, Printmaking, Film, Packaging, and Greeting Card Design.
Note that for students seeking a degree in a specialized area of Illustration, SVA has a Comic BFA Program. The curriculum for this program is similar to the Illustration BFA Program curriculum. Students will also take other courses such as Principles of Cartooning I-II, Lettering Comics, Graphic Design Solutions for Illustrators and Cartoonists, Comic Book Superheroes and American Society, and Pictorial Projects I-II: Cartooning.
Students in all SVA programs have access to the school’s study abroad program as well as SVA offices in Seoul, South Korea, and Shanghai, China, where students can collaborate, network, participate in workshops, and attend lectures.
School of Visual Arts alumni have worked for brands such as Prada and Van’s, and on major productions such as Sleepy Hollow.
2. ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena, California
ArtCenter College of Design (ArtCenter) has an Illustration BFA Program that allows students to choose from six Tracks including Illustration, Entertainment Arts, Motion Design, Surface Design, Fine Art Painting, and Entertainment Arts Consumer Products. The Illustration Track prepares students for a wide range careers from Storyboard Artist to Children’s Book Illustrator. In the Entertainment Arts Track, students develop animation skills and product development for the entertainment industry.
The Motion Design Track prepares students for success in the fields of Advertising, Film, VFX, Music Videos, and Public Service Announcements (PSAs). In the Surface Design Tracks, students develop the skills needed to pursue careers in Textile Design and Graphic Illustrated Imagery. And finally, the Fine Art Painting Track focuses on craft and technique as a precursor to the conceptual process. Students in the Entertainment Arts Consumer Products Track will develop product development, animation, graphic design, and children’s book illustration skills, among others.
The Illustration BFA, including the Track, consists of 120 credit hours. Across Tracks, course examples include Digital Illustration, Consumer Products, 3D Motion Graphics, Sketching for Entertainment, Image and Idea, Studio Practice, Illustration for License, and Gouache Techniques.
Graduates of the Illustration BFA Program at ArtCenter College of Design have interned with or been hired at Amazon, Nike, DreamWorks, Google, Walt Disney Imagineering, Apple, Blizzard Entertainment, Riot Games, Ford, Microsoft, WB, Facebook, Mattel, BMW, and Netflix.
3. Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia
Savannah College of Art and Design has a 180 credit-hour Illustration BFA Program with four Concentration options including Illustration for Entertainment, Animated Illustration and Publication Design, and Concept Design for Entertainment. This professional degree program includes 10 hours of free electives and advanced courses such as Illustration Business Strategies and Entrepreneurship, Career Strategies for Illustration, and Professional Portfolio for Illustrators.
In addition to Concentration options, Illustration BFA students may add a Minor or Digital Publishing Certificate and/or take courses in other disciplines such as Visual Effects, Interactive Design, Architecture, Animation, Graphic Design, and Game Development. Minor examples include Animated Illustration and Publication Design, Storyboarding, Illustration for Surface Design, Advertising and Branding, Scientific Illustration, and Illustration for Entertainment.
The undergraduate Digital Publishing Certificate consists of 30 credit hours. The Program explores Graphic Design, Interactive Design and Web Design, Print Production and Digital Environments, and Media Management. Students in this program may focus in Pre-Press or Web Publishing. For further specialization, Digital Publishing students have the opportunity to complete both the Web Design and Production Design courses.
All Illustration BFA students will complete the SCAD Core before entering the Major. Consisting of general education coursework and foundation studies, the SCAD Core includes courses such as Digital Communication, Color: Theory and Application, Drawing I/II (Form and Space/ Composition and Media), Design I/II/III (Elements and Organization/3-D Form in Space/Time), Speaking of Ideas, Applied Physics, Visual Culture in Context: Making Modernites, Creative Thinking Theories and Processes, Psychology of Group Processes, and The Geometry of Physical Space.
Major course examples for the Program include Illustrating Beyond the Page: The Narrative Experience, Digital Illustration, Speaking of Ideas, Creative Concepting for World Building, Book Illustration, Illustrating Beyond the Page: The Narrative Experience, Materials and Techniques, Animated Illustration, Illustration Business Strategies and Entrepreneurship, Advertising Illustration, Contextual Character Design, and Editorial Illustration.
Illustration BFA students have the opportunity to complete an internship and/or study abroad. The SCAD BFA Program is offered at the Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Savannah, which provide additional opportunities to study off-campus in Atlanta and overseas. In addition, all SCAD students may spend a quarter abroad at SCAD Lacoste.
Other SCAD features include access to studio classrooms, state-of-the-art labs, production studios, drawing rooms, cutting tables, and Adobe Creative Cloud; creative collaborations between departments and with global brands; master classes; participation competitions and exhibits; visiting artists and speakers; panel discussions; and the annual Sidewalk Arts Festival.
Graduates of the Illustration Programs at Savannah College of Art and Design have been recruited by a variety of brands, studios, publications, and companies. Examples include A&E, The New York Times, Converse, Walt Disney Imagineering, Comedy Central, ImagineFX, Bento Box Entertainment, Game Informer, and Revolver Studios.
4. Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota, Florida
Ringling College of Art and Design (RCAD) houses the Illustration Department, which has an Illustration BFA with a General Illustration or Visual Development Emphasis. Program features include a rigorous studio-based curriculum with a liberal arts foundation; participation in real-world projects with local businesses; networking opportunities with visiting artists from major studios such as DreamWorks; and internships at Pixar, Disney, and Hasbro, among others.
The RCAD Illustration BFA also provides access to painting and drawing studios, two Cintiq labs exclusively for illustration, and three additional Cintiq labs with 24-hour access. Every RCAD Illustration student receives a laptop fully equipped with the latest Adobe Creative Suite software.
The General Illustration Emphasis explores illustration as it relates to traditional and digital media, 2D and 3D, and techniques used in the industry. The program also explores the fundamentals of anatomy, composition, and color theory. Course examples include History of Illustration, 2D Design, Illustration Media, Development of Art & Ideas, Advanced Illustration, Figure Drawing, and Professional Practices.
The Visual Development Emphasis explores illustration as it relates to comics, games, and animated and live-action productions for film, TV, themed entertainment, advertising, publishing, graphic novels, and toy design. Course examples include 3D Design for Illustration, Film & Narrative, Visual Development I-IV, Figure Anatomy, Painting I-II, and Writing Studio.
To enhance either emphasis area, RCAD offers 10 Minor options consisting of 15 credit hours taken outside the BFA degree program. Examples include Graphic Design, Realistic Painting, Business of Art + Design, Visual Development, Creative Writing, and Film Studies.
In addition to the internship program, Illustration BFA students have the opportunity to participate in RCAD’s semester-long exchange program or a four to five week summer program in Florence, Italy at Studio Arts Center International (SACI). Students may also participate in RCAD’s Annual Illustration show Illest of the Ill.
Graduates of the Illustration BFA Program at Ringling College of Art and Design have been hired at major studios and companies such as Marvel Comics, United Airlines, Google, Hallmark, EA Games, Cartoon Network, Apple, Walt Disney, Lucasfilm, GM, Zynga, American Greetings, and Riot Games.
5. Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island
Serving approximately 300 students, Illustration is the largest major at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Consisting of programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels, Illustration at RISD features access to RISD Museum, Gelman Student Gallery, Woods-Gerry Gallery, and ISB Gallery; access to printmaking studios and labs such as the Co-Works Research Lab, Nature lab, and Color Lab; and Fleet access to the Library at RISD.
Collectively, these academic resources provide access to state-of-the art equipment and software such as Maya, After Effects, and InDesign; more than 90,000 works of art and 150,000+ circulating books; concerts, lectures, screenings, visiting artists, and art directors; industry leaders from across the U.S. who offer feedback through annual portfolio reviews; and a mix of student and curriculum related exhibitions throughout the academic year.
The undergraduate program, which leads to a BFA, requires completion of the Foundation Year. Courses include First-year Literature Seminar; Drawing I-II; Topics in History, Philosophy and the Social Sciences; Spatial Dynamics I-II; Theory and History of Art and Design I: Global Modernisms; and Theory and History of Art and Design II: Premodern Worlds. During the Foundation year, students will also select one non-major studio elective.
Graduates of the Illustration Programs at Rhode Island School of Design have been hired at major studios and networks such as Fox, DreamWorks, HBO, Pixar, Harmonix, and PBS. Some RISD alumni have gone on to launch their own studios and freelance businesses.
6. Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York
The School of Design at Pratt Institute (Pratt) was established in 2014. Within the school is a four-year, 126 credit-hour Communications Design BFA Program with an Illustration Emphasis. Program features include project-based coursework in a collaborative studio environment; a focus on experimentation and elective coursework; and experiential learning opportunities such as internships and study abroad experiences.
The Emphasis explores advanced level storytelling, authoring, image-based communication, and socio-political commentary. Available topics include Graphic Novels, Editorial Illustration, Children’s Books, 3D Modeling, Illustrated Typography, Independent Publishing, and Concept Art, and Animation. Course examples for the program include Visualization/Representation, Digital Prototyping, Typography and Information Design, Dynamic Imagery, Branding and Messaging, Space, Form & Process, Time and Movement, Integrated VisCom, Illustration Intensive 1-3, and Professional Practice.
The Communications Design BFA Program at Pratt Institute culminates with the Illustration Senior Thesis. Graduates have been hired at places such as Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Digital Domain, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Cartoon Network, DreamWorks, Gameloft, and Sony Pictures Imageworks.
7. California College of the Arts, San Francisco and Oakland, California
The Illustration Program at California College of the Arts (CCA) has an Illustration BFA pathway that emphasizes Drawing and Painting. This 120 credit-hour program also explores emerging animation, AR/VR, and imaging technologies as well as storytelling, 3D modeling, screenprinting, and hand-lettering. Courses are taught by courses taught by professional Illustrators, Designers, and Fine Artists, and include Digital Media, Illustration Tools, Media History: History of Illustration; Illustration Studios 1-3; and Drawing 2D, 3D, 4D.
Other BFA Program features include access to industry-standard software and digital tools; a Professional Practice course that teaches students how to start and run a freelance or small business; studio projects; access to state-of-the-art computer labs, printing studios, workshops, and painting studios; lectures; and classroom critiques (individual and group).
During the Senior year of the CCA Illustration BFA Program, students will complete a semester-long thesis project and participate in the Senior Show, which attracts local and national design professionals.
Graduates of the Illustration BFA Program at California College of the Arts are prepared to seek careers in areas such as traditional publishing (book illustration, editorial illustration), exhibition design, comics, advertising, motion design, storyboard art, surface design, game design, animation, printmaking, retail design, and education. Potential job titles include Concept Artist, Exhbition Designer, Graphic Novelist, Textile Designer, Printmaker, Freelance Illustrator, Muralist, Surface Designer, Fine Artist, and Educator.
8. The New School’s Parsons School of Design, New York, New York
The New School’s Parsons School of Design (The New School Parsons or Parsons School of Design) houses the School of Art, Media, & Technology (AMT), which provides the opportunity to create an interdisciplinary path of study around any degree program. For students in the Illustration BFA Program, examples include adding a Minor in Comics and Graphic Narrative, Journalism and Design, or Data Visualization. A BA/BFA Dual Degree is also an option.
Other program features include internships with Parsons partners such as Nickelodeon, AIGA, Moleskine, Toon Books, The New York Times, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Red Cross, Brooklyn Industries, and Eyebeam; access to The New School libraries, studios, computer labs, archives, and the state-of-the-art Making Center; Collaboration Studio courses and other collaborative projects with peers; participation in events such as Comic Arts Brooklyn, MoCCA Fest, and Pictoplasma; and study abroad opportunities in London, Paris, and Florence.
The Illustration Program at Parsons School of Design also provides access to New York–based professional organizations such as American Illustration and the Society of Illustrators, which helps students connect with professional illustrators, publishers, and artists.
Consisting of 120 credit hours, the Illustration BFA Program begins with Parsons’ first year curriculum, which explores art and design concepts, 2D and 3D processes, digital design, drawing, and critical practices. Course examples include Language & Letterform, Objects as History, Time, Drawing/Imaging, Sustainable Systems, Advanced Research Seminar, and Professional Practices.
Students will also complete a number of Illustration Studios and Seminars, as well as a Thesis, completed over two courses during the final year of the program.
Graduates of the Illustration BFA Program at Parsons School of Design are prepared to pursue careers in illustration, publishing, installation design, comics, surface design, motion graphics, toy design, advertising, animation, graphic novels, product design, and fine art. Program alumni have been hired at companies and organizations such as Urban Outfitters, Viking Books, Rockstar Games, The New York Times, LAIKA, The Society of Illustrators, Amplify, Brooklyn Print House, Tiffany & Company, Vice Media, Manhattan Youth, and Curriculum Concepts.
9. Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, Maryland
Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) has an Illustration BFA with Sequential Art and Preproduction Tracks. Students in this Program will complete the First Year Experience (FYE), which consists of 18 credit hours. FYE course examples include Systems & Time, Drawing: Tradition and Innovation, and Form & Face. In addition to other required courses such as Sophomore Illustration I-II, Junior Illustration I-II, and Senior Illustration I-II, BFA students may add a Studio Concentration in an areas such as Animation, Printmaking, Book Arts, and Graphic Design.
All BFA students benefit from MICA’s relationships with organizations such as the Toronto Comics Art Festival, the Small Press Expo, Museum of Comics and Cartoon Arts, and Baltimore Comic-Con. During the Senior year of the program, students will develop a professional portfolio, while exploring topics such as business practices, copyright issues, and intellectual property.
Graduates of the MICA Illustration BFA Program have been hired for internships, full-time positions, and freelance assignments at Apple, National Geographic, Anthropologie, DC Comics, DreamWorks Animation, Google, Whole Foods Market, Johns Hopkins Institute of Nanobiology, Pixar, The New York Times, and LucasArts Entertainment. Some Illustration graduates go on to enroll in one of the graduate Illustration Programs at Maryland Institute College of Art.
10. College for Creative Studies, Detroit, Michigan
The College for Creative Studies (CCS) houses the Illustration Department, home to the Illustration BFA Program, which requires 126-127 credit hours including 78 in studio areas, 42-43 in general studies courses, and six in general elective courses. In addition to major coursework, BFA students will take courses in the Foundation Department during the first year of the program, where they will study Drawing, 2D and 3D Design, and Digital Tools. Students in all CCS majors must also take courses in the Liberal Arts Department. Full-time students will complete at least six academic hours and 24 studio hours each week.
A major component of the CCS Illustration BFA Program is the opportunity to select a Pathway. Each Pathway allows students to create a focused portfolio for studio-based or freelance careers in Illustration. An additional option is the Entrepreneurial Studies Concentration, which is ideal for students who would like to launch their own studios. Pathway options include Comics and Sequential; Publishing; Visual Development; Fashion, Lifestyle, and Licensing; and Gallery Artist.
Another major component of the Illustration BFA Program at College for Creative Studies is the Internship Experience. Upper division students have the opportunity to work some of the top local and global brands, studios, corporations, and museums. Examples include Mattel Inc., Cartoon Network, Converse, Disney Consumer Products, Hasbro, HoMedics, Insomniac Games, Museum of American Illustration, Anthropologie, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Diane von Furstenberg, Fisher Price, Moosejaw, Reader’s Digest, Museum of Fine Art, Grand Rapids Symphony, WJBK Fox 2 News, Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners, the Museum of American Illustration, Spark Communications, and Ball Aerospace.
Graduates of the Illustration BFA Program at CCS go on to establish successful careers companies, studios, and brands such as Adidas, Nike, Converse, Disney, Washington Post, Cartoon Network, Ford, The New York Times, ESPN, and Blizzard Entertainment.
11. Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), New York, New York
Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) has nearly 50 programs leading to a degree, more than 700 online courses, and two online degrees. Within FIT is the School of Art and Design, which provides 17 undergraduate majors in Art, Fashion, and Design. The Illustration Major has a BFA with two options including the Traditional Daytime BFA and the Evening/Weekend BFA.
Both options feature real-world classes; participation in student art exhibitions; mentoring workshops led by art directors and professional illustrators; and access to the Society of Illustrators—the industry's top professional organization. Students in the BFA Program also have the opportunity to participate in the FIT Internship Program, take a study abroad course in Italy, and/or study abroad in Florence.
Course examples include Illustrating for Moving Image I: Storyboard, Advanced Visual Story Studio, Sculpture Studio: Visual Expression of Form and Space, Illustrating for the Moving Image II: Concept Art and Character Design, Illustration Workshop, The Essence of Comic Art, Illustration Rendering Techniques, Illustration Process I-II, Visual Interpretation, Computer Typesetting and Design, Watercolor Comps and Illustrations, Comic Book Illustration, and Illustrating the Male Figure.
The FIT Illustration BFA culminates with the Illustration Portfolio Thesis, that will be presented before faculty and peers. Graduates of the AAS are eligible to apply for admission to the BFA Programs in Animation, Interactive Media & Game Design, Textile/Surface Design, Toy Design, and of course, Illustration.
Graduates of the Illustration BFA Program at Fashion Institute of Technology are prepared for immediate entry into the field or a graduate program, such as the 60 credit hour FIT Illustration MFA.
FIT Illustration alumni have found freelance work or full-time employment with a wide variety of companies, agencies, studios, and publications. Examples include Revlon, Young & Rubicam, Vogue, DreamWorks, American Greetings, Harper’s Bazaar, Disney, BBDO Worldwide, Warner Bros., DDB, Hallmark, Ogilvy, and LucasArts Entertainment.
12. Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, California
Otis College of Art and Design (OTIS) houses the Communication Arts Department, home to the Illustration BFA Program. Students in this Program have the opportunity to focus in a specific area (or two) by choosing from more than a dozen Minors. Examples include Book Arts, Entrepreneurship, Advertising Design, Digital Media, Printmaking, Community Arts Engagement, Product Design, and Contemporary Clay. Other BFA Program features include experiential learning opportunities such as internships, participation in conventions and field trips, student exhibitions, and interactions with visiting artists.
The Illustration BFA at OTIS consists of 120 credit hours. During the first year of the program, students will take Foundation Studio, Creative Action, and Liberal Arts and Science courses. Course examples include Connections through Color and Design, Drawing and Building Form, Writing in the Digital Age, Drawing Studio – Expanded Practices, and Ways of Knowing.
Upon completion of the first year, students will move on to courses such as Illustration Communication Studio I-IV, Advanced Illustration Applications, Typography for Illustrators, Creative Action Lecture, Drawing + Painting I-III, Alternative Materials and Procedures for Illustrators, Practicum I-III, and Professional Practice.
In the final year of the OTIS Illustration BFA Program, students will complete five upper division studio electives, Senior Entrepreneur 101, Senior Thesis/Research Paper, Senior Project/Seminar, and the Capstone course.
Graduates of the Illustration BFA Program at OTIS have been hired by a variety of major companies, brands, publications, agencies, studios, and museums. Examples include Nike, Conde Nast Publications, Hallmark, Interscope Records, GUESS?, Mattel, Target, Ogilvy Worldwide, Disney, Apple, LA Weekly, Hurley International, Chronicle Books, Disney Consumer Products, Sony Music, Twentieth Century Fox, WB Network, Quicksilver, Sony Music, Young & Rubicam, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Von Dutch.
13. Columbus College of Art and Design, Columbus, Ohio
The Illustration BFA Program at Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD) has a unique component that provides the opportunity for students to work on class projects such as Spitball, which matches professional writers with student artists. Students in the program also have the opportunity to and interact with professional writers, storytellers, animators, and comic artists through Cartoon Crossroads Columbus, which features lectures, workshops, professional panels, and more.
Consisting of 120 credit hours, the CCAD Illustration BFA allows students to specialize in a creative area through a Concentration or Minor. Minors are 15 credit hours and Concentrations are nine credit hours. Minor examples include Advertising & Graphic Design, Narrative Practice, Business, Comics & Narrative Practice, Animation 2D or 3D, Copywriting, Design Research, Photography, Film & Video, and Industrial Design. An Illustration Minor is also available for students in other Majors.
Concentration examples include Illustration/Entertainment, Fine Arts/Drawing, Fine Arts/Printmaking, Illustration/Illustrative Design, Animation/Experimental, Design/Modeling, Fine Arts/Glass, Fine Arts/Sculpture, Design/Drawing, Fine Arts/Painting, and Animation/Game. Across Minors, Concentrations, and Major requirements, students will take courses such as Traditional Media Illustration, Digital Design Lab, Character and Environment Design, Historical Art & Design, Motion Illustration, Illustration Markets, and Illustration Self-Promotion.
The Illustration BFA Program at Columbus College of Art and Design culminates with an Illustration Portfolio Project and Illustration Capstone. Graduates have been hired in a wide variety of roles at major advertising agencies, companies, and studios. Examples of recent employers include Disney Consumer Products (DCP), Sony Pictures, DreamWorks Animation, Boeing, Hasbro, Cartoon Network, Bath & Body Works, DC Comics, Ogilvy & Mather, Hallmark, Marvel Comics, Pixar, and Forever 21, American Greetings, The Wall Street Journal, Williams Sonoma, and CBS News.
14. Minneapolis College of Art & Design, Minneapolis, Minnesota
The Illustration Program at Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) provides the opportunity to collaborate in teams with students in other MCAD programs. Leading to a BFA, the Illustration Program consists of Humanities and Sciences electives, required core courses, foundation studies, studio and electives, which provide hands-on time and the opportunity to focus in an area of interest within Illustration.
Course examples for the program include Illustrated Notebook, Editorial Illustration, Tools of the Trade, Concepts and Metaphors, Children’s Book, Digital Illustration, Illustration and Products, Illustration Topics, and Advanced Illustration Seminar. A Professional Practice course that allows students to work on projects such as promotional materials and art for ad campaigns, posters for nonprofit clients, and textbook illustrations, is also required.
The MCAD Illustration BFA Program gives students the option to select a Minor. Examples include Graphic Design, Advertising, Entrepreneurship, Print Paper Book, Animation, and Creative Writing. Students may also complete an Illustration Foundations Certificate before applying to any BFA or Minor program.
All MCAD Illustration students may complete an internship and participate in the MCAD Study Abroad Program. In partnership with the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD) Exchange Program, the MCAD Study Abroad Program provides experiences at AICAD schools in the China, Singapore, Canada, Israel, and the UK.
Illustration BFA Program at Minneapolis College of Art and Design culminates with the Senior Project course (Capstone). Worth six credit hours, the Capstone allows students to complete a series of illustrations for their portfolio, undertake a research project, or address an in-depth illustration problem. Capstone Projects may also focus on the advancement of a particular strength or style.
Graduates of the Art and Design Programs at Minneapolis College of Art and Design enjoy a 93% employment rate, with nearly 60% of all graduates landing positions in their respective fields. MCAD alumni are Book Illustrators, Editorial Illustrators, Comic Illustrators, Concept Artists, Fashion Illustrators, Courtroom Illustrators, Medical and Technical Illustrators, Surface Designers, Children’s Book Illustrators, Advertising Illustrators, and Fine Artists.
15. Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
The College of Fine Arts and Communications (CFAC) at Brigham Young University (BYU) provides a number of opportunities and experiences for all CFAC majors. Serving nearly 5,700 students, the CFAC hosts hundreds of student presentations, performances, and faculty presentations each year. CFAC students also have opportunities to pursue internships; exhibit at or access collections in the Brigham Young University Museum of Art (MOA); engage in research projects; and participate in experiential learning activities in the U.S. and abroad.
BYU’s College of Fine Arts and Communications houses the Department of Design. Within the Department is an Illustration BFA Program that requires 120 credit hours, with 72 credits in the Major.
A Limited Enrollment Program (LEP) that accepts just 40 students per academic year, the Illustration BFA at BYU features courses led by industry professionals with years of experience in their respective areas of specialization.
Course examples for the Program include Narrative Illustration, Environment Design, Painting the Human Head, Sketchbook, Three-Dimensional Illustration, Character Design for Illustrators, Design Theory and Visual Culture, Advanced Life Drawing, Interdisciplinary Motion, Printmaking Fundamentals, and Design Lecture Series.
In the final year of the BYU Illustration BFA Program, students will complete Senior Illustration Studio 1 and 2, Professional Practices for Illustrators, BFA Illustration Capstone Project: Research, and BFA Illustration Capstone Project: Implementation.
Graduates of the Illustration BFA Program at Brigham Young University work in a wide range of fields such as Advertising, Medical and Scientific Illustration, Mural Production, Architecture, Exhibition Design, Book, Magazine, and News Publishing, Entertainment, and Fashion Design. Some Program alumni go on to launch their own studios and freelance businesses.
16. Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston, Massachusetts
The Illustration Department at Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) houses the Illustration BFA Program, which has several optional, but noteworthy components including the Course Assistantship, Independent Study, and the Internship. The Course Assistantship allows qualified Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors to assist a faculty member with the set-up and management of demonstrations and critiques during class.
Independent Study is available to Juniors and Seniors who have a specific studio project that cannot be accomplished through coursework. This gives students an opportunity to work with a faculty member on an independent basis. The Internship Program is open to all upper level students. Three studio elective credits may be earned for participating in a supervised professional experience at a local or national company or studio.
The Illustration BFA requires 120 credit hours of study. This includes 18 credits in Studio Foundations, 42 in Illustration, and 18 in Studio Electives. Course examples include Book Arts, Narrative Illustration, Technical Illustration, Word and Image, Virtual 3D Illustration, Black and White Illustration, Technical Illustration, Media Techniques, Advanced Drawing for Illustrators, and Experimental Illustration Techniques.
In the final year of the Illustration BFA Program at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, students will complete Thesis Project I: Research, Thesis Project II: Imagery, Senior Illustration, and Illustration Portfolio. Final student portfolios will be presented to professionals from the Editorial, Publishing, Corporate, Advertising, and Institutional markets.
Graduates of the Art and Design Programs at Massachusetts College of Art and Design have been hired brands, studios, companies, and organizations such as the Discovery Channel, New Balance, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Time Inc., PUMA, Hasbro, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Boston Children's Museum, Attleboro Art Museum, Sony Pictures Imageworks, and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.
17. Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland, Ohio
Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) has two paths to study Illustration: the Illustration BFA and the BFA in Life Sciences Illustration. The Illustration BFA Program focuses on learning by doing. Students in this program have the opportunity to work on a variety of real-world projects with CIA partners and clients—all before graduation. Students both programs will explore traditional materials and techniques such as acrylics, oils, and inks; collage; and pencils, as well as industry software such as Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop.
Across programs, other features include private, individual studio spaces; access to Integrated Media Environment Facilities, lighting and shooting spaces, a sound recording studio, and fabrication studios; visiting artists; professional writing courses; travel to professional art studios and advertising agencies; networking opportunities with employers, Illustrators, and Designers who are invited to CIA each year; and small-group seminars.
The Illustration BFA Program requires 120 credit hours of study. Course examples include Graphic Novels + Sequential Art, Illustration I-II, Layout Rendering Techniques, Illustration for Publication, Character Design + Development, Community Projects, Picture Book Illustration, Visual Concepts in Illustration, and Illustration: Advanced Illustration Studio Projects. Students will also complete an internship.
The Illustration BFA Program at Cleveland Institute of Art culminates with the BFA Thesis and Exhibition. Graduates of the program are prepared for carers in areas such as Advertising, Book and Magazine Publishing, Entertainment, Animation, Comic Book Publishing, and Gaming.
The Life Sciences Illustration BFA Program at Cleveland Institute of Art is one of the few BFA degrees of its kind in the U.S. Designed for artists who have an interest in both Art and Science, the Program explores topics such as Botanical Sciences, Animation, Zoological Sciences, Illustration, Biological Sciences, and Information Design. The program also covers areas such as Interactive Design, Research Methods, Serious Game Design, Sound Design, and Professional Development.
Course examples for the Program include Gross Anatomy, Principles of Biology I-II, Digital Biomedical Illustration (EP), Cellular + Molecular Illustration, Surgical Illustration & Media, Life Sciences Illustration: Forensic Imaging/Modeling, Life Sciences Illustration: Advanced Problems, Concepts, + Media, Serious Game Design: Theory + Applications, Educational Media Installation, Veterinary Illustration, 3D Animation, Digital Color: Style + Representation in Science, Line: Information Visualization, Anatomy for the Artist, Natural Science + Zoological Illustration (EP), and Sound Design Fundamentals.
A major component of the Life Sciences Illustration BFA Program is the internship and the Applied Portfolio and Professional Strategies course. The internship provides the opportunity to gain valuable real-world experience in this unique field. In the Portfolio and Professional Strategies course, students will gain insight into art practice and leadership in the business environment, as well as the intricacies of copyrights, budgeting, contracts, marketing, and presentations.
In this course, students will also develop applied portfolios in online and offline media, demo reels, and professional packages consisting of business cards, resumes, cover letters, etc.
The Life Sciences Illustration BFA Program at Cleveland Institute of Art culminates with the BFA Thesis and Exhibition. Graduates have been hired for positions such as Illustrator, Biomedical Illustrator, 3D Animation Artist/Designer, Forensics Illustrator, and Art Director.
18. Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York
The College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) at Syracuse University (SU) houses the School of Art, home to the Illustration Program. Accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), the Program has a BFA pathway that provides the opportunity to explore one or more focus areas. Options include Visual Development, Product, Editorial and Sequential.
The Visual Development Focus is designed for students with an interest in character development for animation and gaming. In the Product Focus, students will explore illustrating as it relates to packaging, patterning, and products. The Editorial Focus is for students who would like to specialize in illustrating for magazines, book covers, newspapers, and online publishing. Students in the Sequential Focus will learn to illustrate for comics, graphic novels, and children’s books.
In addition to the opportunity to focus in one or more in-demand areas of Illustration, BFA students have opportunities to participate in on-campus workshops and lectures, as well as off-campus trips to New York City to visit the Society of Illustrators and participate in MoCCAFest. Other program features include travel to LA for a two-week industry immersion in animation and film; access to state-of-the-art studios and production facilities; participation in the Syracuse University Internship Program; and the chance to study overseas through the College of VPA Study Abroad Program (Italy) or Syracuse University Study Abroad (SU Study Abroad), which provides more than 100 programs in 60 countries.
The SU Illustration BFA Program culminates with a final portfolio that students will present to Art Directors and professional Illustrators.
Graduates of the Illustration BFA Program at Syracuse University work in fields such as Advertising, Editorial Illustration, Graphic Novels and Comics, Greeting Card Design, Children’s Book Publishing, Licensing, and Visual Development for Games, Animated Films, and Television Productions.
19. San Jose State University, San Jose, California
San Jose State University (SJSU) houses the College of Humanities and the Arts, home to the Department of Design. Students benefit from the Department’s close relationships with major companies, networks, and studios such as Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), DreamWorks, Hallmark, Bento Box Entertainment, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Pixar, and Warner Bros. Animation. In addition, the Department provides workshops, seminars, and internship opportunities at these and other studios throughout California and across the U.S.
Within the Department is an Animation & Illustration (A/I) BFA that explores both traditional and 3D animation, visual development, storyboarding, physics of motion, character design, and modeling. Upper division courses allow students to specialize in an area of interest. Participation in the Professional Internship Program is highly recommended, but not required. The A/I BFA culminates with the Capstone Seminar and Project.
Graduates of the Animation & Illustration Program at San Jose State University are prepared for careers in areas such as feature film animation, television, game design, and other industries that require Animation and Illustration skills. Program alumni have been hired at more than 135 animation, film and game design studios.
SJSU graduates have worked on films such as Monsters, Inc. Shrek, Finding Nemo, and A Bug’s Life. Program alumni have taught at major colleges and universities, and they work in a variety of positions at NBCUniversal Studios, Lucasfilm Animation, Zynga, Sony/Columbia, Pixar Nickelodeon, Disney Interactive, Electronic Arts (EA), Blizzard Entertainment, Cartoon Network, 20th Century Fox, and Disney Animation.
20. Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California
The School of Illustration at Academy of Art University (Academy of Art) has programs leading to a Certificate, AA, BFA, MA or MFA. The Illustration Certificate must be completed on campus however all other Degree programs can be completed entirely online. All courses in the BFA 120 credit-hour program and MFA 63 credit- hour programs are taught by professional illustrators.
There are three areas of focus in illustration. Stylistic and Realistic freelance, as well as Comic or Graphic Novel.
Graduates of the Illustration Programs at Academy of Art University go on to establish successful careers and become gold medal winners as Freelance Illustrators, working as Book Cover Artists, Interactive motion graphic artist, Children’s Book Illustrators, surface art designers, editorial illustrator‘s, package design artist, advertising illustrator’s and Comics / graphic novel artist’s. Examples of companies that work with Academy of Art Illustration alumni include National Geographic, Marvel Comics, The New York Times, Penguin Publishing Group, Wired, The Atlantic, and Chronicle Books.
Students work with industry-standard software and digital tools in state-of-the-art computer labs; take a Professional Practice course that teaches students how to start and run a freelance business; Every student has access to free workshops and receive lectures and classroom critiques in portfolio classes and in live model drawing and painting studios; All students can summer study abroad in Florence, Italy, and enter portfolio work in the annual Spring show where industry come to seek potential talent.
Across programs, students will take courses such as; Vector Illustration & Motion, Perspective for Characters & Environment, Children’s Book Illustration, Digital Manipulation and painting, Sketching the Clothed Figure, Writing for Picture Books, Editorial illustration, Fantasy Illustration, Book illustration, The Rendered Figure, Writing for Comic Books & Graphic Novels and history of Illustration and Comic. All portfolio classes are market driven where students acquire their own voice or style.
All School of Illustration students can work with WRiTE BRAiN BOOKS, which produces illustrated, textless books designed to help kid’s self-author their own books.
Academy of Art University is a family-owned private university located in San Francisco—one of the world’s top cities for animation careers. Established in 1929 and serving more than 7,000 students, Academy of Art is of the nation’s largest private art and design schools. Divided into 22 schools, Academy of Art University offers more than 129 degree programs in 40+ areas of study. Programs lead to the AA, BA, BFA, BS, B. Arch, MAT, MA, MFA and M. Arch degrees.
The Academy is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
21. Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI) houses 21,500 square feet of studios—including the new Tony Jones Studios—that provide the opportunity for students to learn and work in a professional environment. Through KCAI’s on-campus agency MICRO, students also have opportunities to gain hands-on experience off campus with partner brands such as the Kansas City Royals and Children’s Mercy Hospital.
All programs at Kansas City Art Institute begin with the KCAI Foundation Program. This immersive experience lasts a full year and includes dedicated industrial studios and independent work and storage spaces; workshops; collaborative programs, projects, and problem-solving; training in the Print Center (digital design and output), Beals Studios (digital fabrication), and Central Shop (woodworking); faculty mentors; and 16 contact hours of studio per week.
During the first-year program, students will also participate in the Foundation Seminar, which provides the opportunity to interact with activists, artists, and KCAI alumni.
The Illustration BFA Program at Kansas City Art Institute is housed in the Department of Illustration—one of the school’s largest and fastest growing departments. Students in the program will complete a required internship with potential employer’s such as The Kansas City Star, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Boulevard Brewing Company, Porter Teleo Design Firm, and The American Jazz Museum. In addition to an internship, BFA students may double major in Illustration and Creative Writing or Illustration and Art History.
During the course of the KCAI Illustration BFA Program, students will explore 2D and 3D, traditional and digital media, and storytelling, while creating comic books, editorial magazines, children’s books, and video games. Course examples for the program include Graphic Form for Illustrators, Covers and Pages, Storytellers-Myth Makers, Sketchbook: The Cultural Safari, Analytical Drawing Systems, Paper and Ink, US (Collaboration, Teamwork and Flexibility), Illustration in Action: Networking & Exhibition, and Professional Practice: The Business of Illustration.
The KCAI Illustration BFA Program culminates with a Thesis that students will complete over two courses including Senior Studio: Image and Thesis I and Senior Studio: Image Thesis II.
Graduates of the Illustration BFA Program at Kansas City Art Institute have won awards presented by publications such as The Society of Illustrators, Communication Arts, American Illustration, and Print. Program alumni are employed by industry leaders such as Nike, Hallmark, Nickelodeon, American Greetings, and MTV, and their work has been featured in children’s books and in publications such as The New York Times, Wired, Women’s Day, and Step-Inside-Design.
22. Washington University in St. Louis (Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts), St. Louis, Missouri
Washington University in St. Louis (WashU or WUSTL) is home to Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts. Established in 2006, the Sam Fox School houses the College of Art, Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, and the College of Architecture. Within the College of Art is a Studio Art & Design BFA with a Major in Communication Design. Students in this program may select an Emphasis in Illustration.
Course examples include Applied Illustration, Illustration as Practice, The Illustrator’s Sketchbook, Image and Meaning, and Illustration as Entrepreneur. The Communication Design BFA at WashU culminates with a Capstone Project. For this final project, students have created illustrated books, graphic novels, screen-based art, comics, digital experiences, and zines. Capstone Projects are displayed in a public exhibition and reviewed by Design professionals.
23. Willamette University, Portland, Oregon
Willamette University is home to Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA), which houses an Illustration Program that leads to a BFA. One of the top undergraduate options at PNCA, the Illustration BFA explores traditional studio media, the creation of visual messages, and emerging technologies. Program features include internships with companies such as Microsoft, Wieden+Kennedy, Nike, Dark Horse Comics, and Nintendo; mentorship programs; professional practices instruction; and portfolio preparation.
All students in the PNCA Illustration BFA have access to state-of-the-art labs and studios such as the WACOM Lab, the Professional Digital Fine Art Printing Lab, Animation Lab, Printmaking Studio, and Photography Lab. PNCA is also home to Albert Solheim Library, which houses more than 30,000 books and computer workstations. Make+Think+Code—a technology lab that hosts workshops and classes—provides access to additional facilities, digital tools, and technology.
Course examples for the PNCA Illustration BFA Program include Exploring Visual Culture, Drawing for Illustration, Advanced Illustration Studio, 3D Design, Cultural Marketplace, Design & Image, Digital Media Strategies, Visual Techniques, Time Arts, Social Science Seminar, Visual Elements: Digital Tools, Painting for Illustration, and Word & Image. In the Senior year of the program students will complete a Thesis competed across two courses: Design Arts Thesis Development and Design Arts Thesis.
Upon completion of the Illustration BFA Program at Willamette University-PNCA, graduates will have the opportunity to present their work at the school’s Annual End-of-Year Showcase. Hosted by the Illustration Department, the Showcase takes place at a Downtown Portland gallery.
24. Laguna College of Art and Design, Laguna Beach, California
Laguna College of Art and Design (LCAD) has an Illustration BFA Program led by professional artists who are active in the Illustration, Publishing, and Retail Industries. Credits include Gap, Toyota, McDonald’s, Warner Bros., Mattel Toys, Oxford University Press, Hilton Hotels, Sega Games, IBM, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), Dannon, PepsiCo, Mitsubishi, The Kraft Heinz Company, and Pfizer, among others.
In addition to educators who are active industry professionals, the LCAD Illustration BFA Program features small class sizes, mentorship programs, internship opportunities, guest speakers, and hands-on design projects with LCAD partners such as Nike, Sony, and UCI. Course examples for the Program include History of Illustration, Materials + Techniques 1: Illustration, Advanced Perspective for Illustration, Graphic Illustration, Children’s Book Illustration, Digital Painting for Illustration, Illustrated Book, Comic Book/Graphic Novel Illustration, and Editorial Illustration.
In the final year of the Illustration BFA Program at LCAD, students will participate in a portfolio critique with leading industry professionals. In 2022, participants included Michael Humphries (clients include Disney Feature Animation and Sony Pictures), Greg Spalenka (clients ranging from Rolling Stone Magazine to Forbes), and James Martin (DreamWorks Animation).
Graduates of the Illustration BFA Program at Laguna College of Art and Design will have opportunities to work in Advertising, Boutique Print Design, Children’s Book Publishing, Gallery Art, Product Design, Comics, Industrial Design, Entertainment, Fashion Design, Editorials, Medicine, Music, and Science. Program alumni have been hired at places such as Blizzard Entertainment, Google, Obsidian Entertainment, DC Shoes, Microsoft, Applied Medical, Hurley, Warner Bros., KCET, Quicksilver, Disney Interactive, Marvel Entertainment, 686 Clothing, Last Rites Galleries, and High Moon Studios.
For Illustrators seeking an interdisciplinary degree, Laguna College of Art and Design has two additional options including BFAs in Drawing + Painting (D + P) and Graphic Design + Digital Media (GD+DM). Both Programs allow students to add an Illustration Emphasis.
The Illustration emphasis allows students to choose electives that match their goals. Examples include Images & Ideas, Pictorial Design for Illustration, Rendering, 3D Design (ZBRUSH), Animal Drawing, Color Illustration, Words, Figure Drawing, and Painting. Examples of required courses and studios include Motion Graphics + Visual Effects, Typography, Computer Imaging, Digital Photography, Graphic Design, Fundamentals of 3D, User Interface Design, 3D-1: Animation for Motion Graphics, Brand Strategy, Communication Design, Digital Videography, and Exhibition Design.
The Illustration Emphasis at LCAD also explores traditional and mixed media art. Students will have opportunities to work on projects that focus on branding, exhibition design, murals, print, and more. In the Professional Practices course, students will learn about gallery operations, publications, and artist branding. In the senior year of the program, students will have access to their own private studio space where they will benefit from individual mentoring, as well as interactions with peers and guest artists.
The Drawing + Painting BFA at LCAD provides the unique opportunity to participate in a Spring Professional Mentorship where students have a chance to work with a professional mentor in the areas of museum administration, art conservation, or gallery exhibition. Students also have the option to work one-on-one with an independent artist advisor. Through the LCAD Career Services Office and Internship Coordinator, students will also have the opportunity to apply for an internship in their junior year.
Course examples for the D + P BFA Program include Illustration 1, Fundamentals of Illustration, Pictorial Design for Illustration, History of Illustration, Artistic Anatomy, Fundamentals of Digital Painting, Pop-Surrealism, Experimental Drawing, Mural Painting, and Exhibition Design. The LCAD Drawing + Painting BFA Program culminates with the Senior Portfolio + Senior Capstone and Thesis Defense.
Graduates have been represented at galleries or worked with partners such as Art Miami, LA Art Show, European Museum of Modern Art (MEAM), Salmagundi Club, Art Renewal Center, Laguna Art Museum, Poets + Artists, Portrait Society of America, Sue Greenwood Fine Art, Gallery 1261, Arcadia Contemporary, Laguna Plein Air Painters Association (LPAPA), and Koplin Del Rio Art Gallery.
The LCAD Graphic Design + Digital Media (GD+DM) BFA is a multidisciplinary, 122 credit-hour program that explores traditional and emerging areas such as 3D, iPad development, package design, advertising, print, video, photography, motion, user experience and interfaces, action sport design, mobile apps, the web, virtual reality applications, social media, and motion.
Students in the LCAD GD+DM BFA Program have the opportunity to complete an internship and develop a professional portfolio before graduating. The program culminates with a Senior Capstone and Thesis Defense.
Nearly 100% of recent Graphic Design + Digital Media graduates from Laguna College of Art and Design work in their chosen field, with most securing employment through LCAD prior to graduation. Program alumni have been hired at some of the world’s top companies and studios. Examples include Disney Interactive, IKEA, Nike, Adobe, Coca-Cola, Red Bull, Lexus, Fox Entertainment, Warner Bros., Maserati, Vans, Razorfish, Pixar, Sony Pictures, Capitol Records, Hurley, Saatchi & Saatchi, Amazon, Sony Music, Meta, AT&T Entertainment Services, Live Nation, R/GA, and Taco Bell.
25. Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, Denver, Colorado
Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design (RMCAD) houses an Illustration Program with two Bachelor’s degree options—the Illustration BFA and the Illustrative Design BFA. The Illustration BFA Program has Concentrations in Children’s Books and Sequential Art. An Emphasis in Concept Art is also available. BFA Program features include small class sizes; access to state-of-the-art facilities and software; self-promotion coursework; collaboration with professional Illustrators; focused one-on-one instruction; and portfolio development.
Course examples for the program include History of American Illustration, 2D Design: Elements + Principles, Illustration I-III, Typography for Illustration, Children’s Book Illustration, Character Design, Digital Landscape Painting, 3D Design: Space + Materiality, Illustration Media, Observational Drawing, Digital Illustration I-II, and Illustration Marketing. In the Junior or Senior year, students may complete an internship, and the final year of the program students will complete Illustration Graduation Portfolio I-II.
Graduates of the Illustration BFA Program at Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design are prepared for careers in Children’s Book Illustration, Editorial Illustration, Comic Books, Technical Illustration, Concept Art for Games and Animations, Product Design, Graphic Novels, Licensing, and Medical Illustration.
The Illustrative Design BFA is a hybrid degree that combines Graphic Design and Illustration. The program explores storytelling, communication design problems, sustainable practice, design, typography, digital media, and portfolio development. Other program features include year-round classes, hands-on training, a combination of both online and on-campus coursework, personalized instruction, small class sizes, and portfolio development. Classroom tools include Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, and After Effects.
Graduates of the Illustrative Design BFA Program at Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design are prepared to pursue positions such as Illustrator, Graphic Designer, Motion Designer, Typographer, Package Designer, and Creative Director.