Did you know? As a Savannah College of Art and Design illustration student, you’ll learn to use everything from advanced digital technology to pen and ink to create dazzling illustrations. SCAD illustration students graduate to become art directors, book illustrators, or illustrators for game design. Learn more.
What are the top private illustration schools in the US for 2022?
|Ranking||School||State||% of Schools Considered|
|1||School of Visual Arts||New York||2%|
|2||ArtCenter College of Design||California||3%|
|3||Ringling College of Art and Design||Florida||4%|
|4||Savannah College of Art and Design||Georgia||6%|
|5||Rhode Island School of Design||Rhode Island||7%|
|6||Pratt Institute||New York||8%|
|7||Maryland Institute College of Art||Maryland||10%|
|8||California College of the Arts||California||15%|
|9||The New School’s Parsons School of Design||New York||15%|
|10||Otis College of Art and Design||California||15%|
|11||Columbus College of Art and Design||Ohio||15%|
|12||Brigham Young University||Utah||20%|
|13||Minneapolis College of Art & Design||Minnesota||20%|
|14||College for Creative Studies||Michigan||20%|
|15||Syracuse University||New York||20%|
|16||Cleveland Institute of Art||Ohio||25%|
|17||Laguna College of Art and Design||California||25%|
|18||Kansas City Art Institute||Missouri||25%|
|19||Washington University in St. Louis||Missouri||25%|
|20||Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design||Wisconsin||30%|
|21||Pacific Northwest College of Art at Willamette University||Oregon||30%|
|22||University of Pennsylvania - Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts||Pennsylvania||30%|
|23||Academy of Art University||California||30%|
|24||Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design||Colorado||35%|
|25||University of the Arts||Pennsylvania||35%|
Our 2022 list of the Top 25 Private Illustration Schools in the US. For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.
1. School of Visual Arts, New York, New York (Top 2% of schools considered)
School of Visual Arts (SVA) has options for students looking to develop specific illustration skills through a single course or workshop, or artists seeking an illustration degree. Examples of single courses and workshops include Building Fictional Worlds, Children’s Book Illustration, Digital Coloring for Illustrators and Comic Artists, Illustration and Visual Storytelling: Art and Industry, and RISO Printing: Zines and Small Publishing. Courses and workshops can last anywhere from a few days to several months, and some options be completed entirely online.
The SVA Illustration Department has a BFA Program that features opportunities to gain hands-on experience through internships and other experiential learning programs, access to faculty and mentors who are professionals in the industry, and a junior thesis and senior portfolio curriculum that allow students to develop a body of work that best reflects who they are as Illustrators.
Consisting of 120 credit hours, the Illustration BFA Program consists of coursework in drawing and illustration, writing, painting, visual computing, storytelling, comics, books and zines, digital coloring, animation, and motion. Elective studio courses allow students to study stop-motion animation, motion graphics, and website design, among others. SVA students have had the opportunity to work for The New Yorker and The Village Voice, and compete in competitions—all before graduating from the program. Graduates of the program go on to successful careers in industries that utilize illustration
For Illustrators seeking a career in Cartooning, a BFA is available through the Cartooning Department. Often called “the Harvard of Cartooning,” this 120 credit hour program consists of 72 credit hours of studio art courses and elective options that allow students to study everything from animation to web design. Cartooning BFA students will explore traditional and emerging styles such as classic adventure comics, Amerimanga (East-West hybrid), and experimental graphic novels.
Courses for the SVA Cartooning Program are taught by instructors who have worked on projects such as The Dark Knight Returns, Pee Wee’s Playhouse, and Daredevil. Course examples for the program include Principles of Cartooning I-II, Digital Collage Illustration: Telling Stories in Layers, Drawing with Ink for Illustrators, Storytelling I-II, History of Cartooning, and Illustration in Motion. Upon completion of the SVA Cartooning BFA Program, students will graduate with a Cartooning Portfolio of their best work.
Offered in the MFA Illustration as Visual Essay Department (est. 1984), the graduate program accepts just 20 students per year. Program features include a classroom-based curriculum, guest lecturers, speakers, and mentors, internship opportunities, personal workspaces with 24/7 access, and participation in gallery shows and exhibits. Students in all SVA programs have access to the school’s active study abroad program as well as SVA offices in Seoul, South Korea, and Shanghai, China, where students can network, collaborate, and attend workshops and lectures.
In addition to coursework and projects in computer illustration, creative writing, storytelling, and visual essay, SVA MFA students will have the opportunity to audit classes in film, animation, and fine arts. MFA students will complete a number of seminars and workshops, an Illustration Business Book Camp, and the Thesis Project: Visual Essay course. Graduates of have worked on major productions such as Sleepy Hollow and for brands such as Prada and Van’s.
The School of Visual Arts (SVA) is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). This private institution launched in 1947 as the Cartoonists and Illustrators School (C&I School). When it opened, C&I had just three teachers and 35 students. Today, SVA employs more than 1,000 faculty serving 7,000 students enrolled in 31 programs leading to a BFA, MA, MFA, MA/MAT or MPS.
2. ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena, California (Top 3% of schools considered)
The Illustration BFA Program at ArtCenter College of Design (ArtCenter) is a unique pathway that allows students to choose from six distinct Tracks. Options include Illustration Design, Illustration/Fine Art, Motion Design, Entertainment Arts, Entertainment Arts Consumer Products, and Surface Design. A Designmatters Minor is also available, and includes many of the same courses as the Illustration Design Track.
Across Tracks, students may take courses such as Illustration Now!, Digital Illustration, Drawing for Illustration, Sketching for Illustration, Illustration Design, Illustration Strategies, Illustration Publishing, Children’s Book Illustration, Data Visualization for Illustrators, Professional Practices, and Portfolio Design Lab. All Tracks and the Designmatters Minor (when added to the Illustration BFA) are 120 credit hours.
Graduates of the Illustration BFA Program at ArtCenter College of Design may continue their studies by enrolling in the school’s Interdisciplinary MFA Program, which features a customized curriculum based on the student’s goals, individual studio spaces, and access to state-of-the art facilities, software, galleries, and project studios. ArtCenter BFA and MFA graduates have been hired at DreamWorks, Google, Disney, Apple, Mattel, and Blizzard, among others.
ArtCenter College of Design is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). Established in 1930, the school sits on a 165 acre, hilltop campus within a modernist steel-and-glass structure. With additional campuses in Los Angeles, and downtown Pasadena, California, and satellite studios in Petersen Automotive Museum (Miracle Mile, Los Angeles) and Berlin, Germany, ArtCenter serves just over 2,000 students enrolled in 11 undergraduate and seven graduate degree programs.
3. Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota, Florida (Top 4% of schools considered)
Ringling College of Art and Design (RCAD) has an Illustration Program that features a rigorous studio-based curriculum with a liberal arts foundation, networking opportunities with visiting artists from major studios such as DreamWorks, internships at Disney, Hasbro, Pixar, and others, and participation in real-world projects with local businesses.
Leading to a BFA in Illustration with a General Illustration or Visual Development Emphasis, the program 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.
Students in the General Illustration Emphasis will study illustration as it relates to digital and traditional media, 2D and 3D, techniques used in the industry, and the fundamentals of anatomy, color theory, and composition. The Visual Development Emphasis explores illustration as it relates to games, comics, live-action and animated productions for TV, advertising, graphic novels, film, publishing, toy design, and themed entertainment.
Course examples across emphasis areas include Development of Art and Ideas, Illustration I-II, Illustration Media, Advanced Illustration, Digital Illustration, 2D Design, Figure I-IV, 3D Design for Illustration, Visual Development I-IV, Film & Narrative, and Professional Practices.
To enhance either emphasis area, RCAD offers 10 Minor options consisting of 15 credit hours taken outside the BFA degree program. Examples include Business of Art + Design, Creative Writing, Film Studies, Graphic Design, Realistic Painting, and Visual Development.
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), and the student-run annual illustration show known as 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 Cartoon Network, Walt Disney, Apple, Google, Zynga, American Greetings, Marvel Comics, Hallmark, Riot Games, Lucasfilm, United Airlines, EA Games, and GM, among others.
Ringling College of Art and Design is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Co-founded in 1931 by entrepreneur, circus showman and promoter John Ringling, and Dr. Ludd M. Spivey, president of Southern College (now Florida Southern College), the school had just 75 students and 111 course offerings when it opened. Today, RCAD serves more than 1,600 students enrolled in BFA degrees in eleven disciplines and BA degrees in two.
4. Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia (Top 6% of schools considered)
Savannah College of Art and Design has an Illustration Program that allows students to declare a Minor and/or take courses in other disciplines such as Animation, Graphic Design, Visual Effects, Architecture, and Interactive Design and Game Development. In addition to these disciplines (all can be taken as a Minor), examples of Minors that complement the Illustration Program include Animated Illustration and Publication Design, Scientific Illustration, Illustration for Entertainment, Storyboarding, and Illustration for Surface Design. The SCAD Digital Publishing Certificate is another option for Illustrators who would like to study publishing and design fundamentals. Consisting of 30 credit hours, the Certificate Program explores Graphic Design, Interactive Design and Web Design, Print Production and Digital Environments, and Media Management.
Specific Illustration degree options include a BA in Visual Communication with an Illustration Concentration available at the Atlanta and Savannah campuses, a BFA in Illustration (Atlanta, Hong Kong, Savannah), the MA in Illustration (Atlanta, Savannah, eLearning), and the Illustration MFA Program (Atlanta, Savannah, eLearning).
At undergraduate level, all 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 Applied Physics, Visual Culture in Context: Making Modernites, Drawing I/II (Form and Space/ Composition and Media), Design I/II/III (Elements and Organization/3-D Form in Space/Time), Creative Thinking Theories and Processes, Digital Communication, Color: Theory and Application, Psychology of Group Processes, Speaking of Ideas, and The Geometry of Physical Space.
Across the BA and BFA programs, students will take courses such as Digital Illustration, Book Illustration, Materials and Techniques, Creative Concepting for World Building, Illustrating Beyond the Page: The Narrative Experience, Animated Illustration, Editorial Illustration, Contextual Character Design, Illustrating Beyond the Page: The Narrative Experience, and Color with Intent. Both programs require 180 credit hours to graduate, including 20 credit hours of free electives for the BA Program. Students in both pathways may participate in the SCAD internship program.
The Illustration BFA has four Concentration options: Illustration for Entertainment, Animated Illustration and Publication Design, and Concept Design for Entertainment. This professional degree program includes 10 hours in free electives and advanced courses such as Illustration Business Strategies and Entrepreneurship, Career Strategies for Illustration, and Professional Portfolio for Illustrators.
The 45 credit hour Illustration MA features a Graduate Internship, Directed Projects in Illustration, and the Illustration Final MA Project. The Illustration MFA consists of 90 credit hours and features two Graduate Internships, Advanced Studio Techniques, Illustration for Publications, Professional Practices in Illustration, Directed projects in Illustration, and Illustration Markets. Students in this terminal degree program may choose four electives at the 500 to 700 level.
All SCAD students may spend a quarter abroad at SCAD Lacoste or other study abroad locations. Other SCAD features include access to studio classrooms, state-of-the-art labs, drawing rooms, production studios, cutting tables, and Adobe Creative Cloud; visiting artists and speakers, creative collaborations between departments and with global brands; master classes, panel discussions, and the annual Sidewalk Arts Festival; and participation competitions and exhibits.
Graduates of the Illustration Programs at Savannah College of Art and Design have been recruited by Walt Disney Imagineering, ImagineFX, Bento Box Entertainment, A&E, Comedy Central, The New York Times, Game Informer, Revolver Studios, and Converse, among others.
Savannah College of Art and Design is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Founded in 1978, the school has campuses in Savannah, Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Lacoste, France. Serving more than 15,000 students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries, SCAD offers more than 100 degree programs and 75+ minors and certificate programs.
5. Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island (Top 7% of schools considered)
The Illustration Department at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) has an Illustration Program with BFA and MFA options. The Illustration BFA enrolls 300 students, making it the largest major at RISD. The program requires first-year studios in Experimental and Foundation Studies and a major course of study in a specific Design or Fine Arts discipline beginning in the sophomore year. Program features include access to RISD Museum; printmaking studios and labs such as the Co-Works Research Lab, Nature lab, and Color Lab; Gelman Student Gallery; Woods-Gerry Gallery; ISB Gallery; and Fleet Library at RISD.
Collectively, these academic resources provide access to lectures, concerts, screenings and visiting artists and art directors; 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; a mix of student and curriculum related exhibitions throughout the academic year; and industry leaders from across the U.S. who offer feedback through annual portfolio reviews.
Illustration BFA students will participate in a number of workshops such as ZBrush Sculpting and Illustration, Pigments & Emulsions, and Maya Basics. The BFA program culminates with a portfolio and public exhibition.
The lllustration MFA at Rhode Island School of Design is a new, 60-credit advanced studio program that consists of seminars, art and design courses, and elective coursework from any department. Studio examples include Perception and the Art of Communication, Social Engagement and Agency, and Narrative Structures. Seminars include Contemporary Visual Narrative and Isms and Illustration—Critical Theory and Illustration History, among others. Environmental Aesthetics, Visible Cities, and Exhibiting Research are just a few elective options. The RISD Illustration MFA Program culminates with the Graduate Thesis.
Graduates of the Illustration Programs at Rhode Island School of Design have launched their own studios, they run their own freelance businesses, and they work for major studios and networks such as DreamWorks, HBO, Harmonix, Fox, Pixar and PBS.
Rhode Island School of Design is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE). Founded in 1877, RISD is one of the first art and design schools in the U.S. This private, nonprofit college serves more than 2,000 undergraduates and nearly 550 graduate students enrolled in more than 45 degree programs, concentrations, and certificate programs.
6. Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York (Top 8% of schools considered)
Established in 2014, the School of Design at Pratt Institute (Pratt) has a Communications Design Program with an Illustration Emphasis. Leading to a BFA, the program features project-based coursework in a collaborative studio environment. The Illustration Emphasis explores storytelling, image-based communication, authoring, and socio-political commentary at the advanced level. The program encourages experimentation and elective coursework that allows students to develop skills in focused areas.
Available topics include Children’s Books, 3D Modeling, Illustrated Typography, Graphic Novels, Editorial Illustration, Animation, Independent Publishing, and Concept Art. Course examples for the program include Illustration Intensive 1-3, Typography and Information Design, Branding and Messaging,
Space, Form, Process, Dynamic Imagery, Time and Movement, Integrated VisCom, and Professional Practice. Consisting of 126 credit hours, the Communications Design Program with an Illustration Emphasis culminates with the Illustration Senior Thesis.
The School of Art at Pratt Institute has two additional options for artists seeking a two-year degree program in Illustration. The Associates of Occupational Studies (AOS) in Illustration is a 69 credit hour program that emphasizes hands-on learning and experience through the internship program, courses taught by industry professionals, and intensive portfolio development courses.
Also consisting of 69 credit hours is the Graphic/Illustration Program that leads to an AAS. This option features a liberal arts component that allows students to transfer into the Pratt’s BFA Program in Fine Arts or Communication Design. Both programs explore illustration for print and web, traditional and digital methods, advertising and editorial, professional practices, industry-standard software, drawing, and visualization.
Graduates of the Illustration Programs at Pratt Institute have been hired at Cartoon Network , Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), DreamWorks, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Gameloft, Walt Disney Animation Studios, and Digital Domain, among others.
Pratt Institute is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). Founded in 1887, the school serves 4,875 students across campuses in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Utica, New York. More than 50 undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs are offered in the Schools of Art, Information, Design, Liberal Arts and Sciences, Architecture, and Continuing and Professional Studies.
7. Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, Maryland (Top 10% of schools considered)
Maryland Institute College of Art has an Illustration Program with BFA, MA, and MFA options. The Illustration BFA has Studio Minors in Book Arts, Sequential Art, and Illustration Studio. The Books Arts Studio Minor is an interdisciplinary focus area that requires 15 credit hours of study. Required courses include Paper-Making and Book Structure, and Letterpress: Chapbooks and Broadsides or Artist’s Book.
Book Arts students may choose any courses from the available list to reach 15 credit hours. Examples include Typography I-II, Book Illustration, Mixed Media Book, Illustrative Print, Advanced Book Illustration, and Visual Journalism. An optional internship is available as well.
Open to all majors, the 15 credit hour Sequential Art Studio Minor prepares students for careers in digital or printed comics. Course examples for the program include Sequential Art, Studio Remix: Storyboards, Advanced Sequential Art, Storytelling and Mythmaking, Motion Graphics, and Advanced Digital Illustration. A major benefit of the program is MICA’s relationships with the Museum of Comics and Cartoon Arts, Toronto Comics Art Festival, Baltimore Comic-Con, and Small Press Expo.
In the Illustration Studio Minor at MICA, students will explore illustration for books, and magazines, newspapers; advertisements, posters and flyers; comics and graphic novels; institutional publications, the web, and graphics for music. The program also explores preproduction, including concept art and character design for animation, film, television, and video games.
Graduates of the MICA Illustration Program have been hired for internships, full-time positions, and freelance assignments at DC Comics, Pixar, The New York Times, Google, LucasArts Entertainment, Apple, DreamWorks Animation, Whole Foods Market, Anthropologie, Johns Hopkins Institute of Nanobiology, and National Geographic, among others. Some Illustration graduates go on to enroll in MICA’s graduate Illustration Programs.
Specific graduate options include the MA in Illustration and MFA in Illustration Practice. The MA is a one-year program for practicing Illustrators seeking career advancement or individuals interested in launching a career in illustration. Consisting of workshops, studios, lectures, and open electives, the 30 credit hour MA Program features an open-plan, state-of-the-art studio environment, courses taught by leaders in the field, and collaborative projects with the Center for Design Thinking and graduate students from other departments at MICA.
The Illustration MA Program at MICA culminates with a capstone portfolio project, exhibition, and review panel.
The Illustration Practice MFA is a two-year, 60 credit hour program that features opportunities to collaborate with Dolphin Press & Print at MICA, the Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies, the Modern Graphics History Library at Washington University, and the Center for Design Thinking at MICA. Students in this program will also collaborate with industry professionals and fellow students, and they will have opportunities to communicate with artists-in-residence and visiting critics. The MICA Illustration Practice MFA culminates with the MFA Thesis.
Graduates of the Illustration MA and MFA Programs at MICA are Freelance Illustrators, Exhibiting Artists, Entrepreneurs, Curators and Gallery Managers, Designers, Educators, Art Directors, and more.
Maryland Institute College of Art is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Founded in 1826, MICA is nation’s oldest independent, continuously degree-granting college of art and design. The school serves 2,090 students from 45 states and 53 foreign countries. Forty percent are fine arts majors and 60% are design & media arts majors. Programs at Maryland Institute College of Art lead to a BFA, MA, MFA, or MPS degree.
8. California College of the Arts, San Francisco and Oakland, California (Top 15% of schools considered)
California College of the Arts (CCA) has an Illustration BFA Program that features a semester-long thesis project, a Professional Practice course that teaches students how to start and run a freelance or small business, participation in the Senior Show, which attracts local and national design professionals, and courses taught by professional illustrators, fine artists, and designers. In addition, students will participate in classroom critiques (individual and group), studio projects, and lectures.
Consisting of 120 credit hours. The CCA Illustration BFA Program explores emerging animation, AR/VR, and imaging technologies, storytelling, 3D modeling, screenprinting, hand-lettering, drawing and painting. Course examples for the program include Drawing 2D, 3D, and 4D, Painting Workshop, Illustration Studios 1-3, Digital Media, and Writing 1 and 2.
Students in the Illustration BFA Program at California College of the Arts have access to industry-standard software and digital tools, as well as state-of-the-art computer labs, printing studios, workshops, and painting studios.
Graduates of the CCA Illustration BFA Program are prepared to seek careers in traditional publishing (book illustration, editorial illustration), comics, advertising, surface design, game design, technology, animation, motion design, education, exhibition design, printmaking, retail design, and many other industries.
California College of the Arts is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC), the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), and the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). Established in 1907 as the School of the California Guild of Arts and Crafts, CCA had just three teachers and 43 students when it opened. Today, California College of the Arts employs 420 faculty members that serve just over 1,600 students enrolled in more than 40 undergraduate, graduate, minors, and dual degree options.
9. The New School’s Parsons School of Design, New York, New York (Top 15% of schools considered)
The School of Art, Media, & Technology (AMT) at The New School’s Parsons School of Design (The New School Parsons or Parsons School of Design) provides the opportunity to create an interdisciplinary path of study around any major. 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 option is also an option.
Other program features include study abroad opportunities in London, Paris, and Florence; Collaboration Studio courses and other collaborative projects with peers; 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; and participation in events such as MoCCA Fest, Comic Arts Brooklyn, and Pictoplasma.
The AMT Illustration Program also provides access to New York–based professional organizations such as the Society of Illustrators and American Illustration, which helps students connect with professional illustrators, artists, and publishers.
Consisting of 120 credit hours, the Parsons School of Design Illustration BFA Program begins with Parsons’ first year curriculum, which explores 2D and 3D processes, digital design, drawing, and more.
Course examples include Integrative Studio 1-2, Drawing/Imaging, Time, Objects as History, Sustainable Systems, and Space/Materiality. The second year consists of illustration studios and seminars, followed by two years of upper division coursework, studios, and seminars, advanced research, and professional practices. The program, which culminates with a Thesis, takes four years to complete, full-time.
The New School Parsons is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). Founded in 1896 as The Chase School, Parsons serves more than 10,000 students enrolled 100+ degree and diploma programs.
10. Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, California (Top 15% of schools considered)
The Communication Arts Department at Otis College of Art and Design (OTIS) has an Illustration Program with BFA and Minor pathways. BFA students who would like to enhance the program with a specialization may choose from 17 minors. Examples include Advertising Design, Book Arts, Digital Media, Printmaking, and Product Design. Other BFA Program features include participation in conventions, field trips, and student exhibitions, interactions with visiting artists, and experiential learning opportunities such as internships.
Consisting of 120 credit hours, the OTIS Illustration BFA includes 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 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 Nike, Disney, Apple, LA Weekly, Davis Elen Advertising, College of the Canyons, Hurley International, Chronicle Books, Disney Consumer Products, Conde Nast Publications, Hallmark, Interscope Records, Mattel, Target, Ogilvy Worldwide, Sony Music, Twentieth Century Fox, WB Network, Von Dutch, Quicksilver, Sony Music, Young & Rubicam, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and GUESS?, among others.
Otis College of Art and Design is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). The school is also a member of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD). Founded in 1918, Otis College of Art and Design is Los Angeles’ oldest professional school of the arts. Serving more than 1,200 students, the school offers 11 BFA degree programs and MFA degrees in Fine Arts, Graphic Design, Public Practice, and Writing. A variety of minors and certificate programs are also available. Programs and courses at OTIS are led by more than 430 professors—all active professionals in their respective fields.
11. Columbus College of Art and Design, Columbus, Ohio (Top 15% of schools considered)
Columbus College of Art and Design has an Illustration Program with BFA and Minor options. Students in the BFA Program have the opportunity to specialize in an area of illustration or other creative area through a Concentration or Minor. Minors consists of 15 credit hours and concentrations are nine credit hours. Minor examples include Business, Comics & Narrative Practice, Animation 2D or 3D, Film & Video, Advertising & Graphic Design, Copywriting, Design Research, Photography, Narrative Practice, and Industrial Design.
Concentration options include Animation/Experimental, Fine Arts/Painting, Animation/Game, Fine Arts/Printmaking, Illustration/Entertainment, Fine Arts/Drawing, Design/Modeling, Fine Arts/Glass, Illustration/Illustrative Design, Fine Arts/Sculpture, Design/Drawing, Fine Arts/Ceramics, Fine Arts/Jewelry, and Fine Arts/Sculpture.
Students in both the BFA and Illustration Minor have access to state-of-the-art labs and equipment such as 2D and 3D illustration labs, a computer lab with Cintiq monitors, ZBrush, and Adobe software, a printmaking lab, and the CCA FabLab, which includes 3D printers and laser cutters, spray booths, and CNC machines. Other program features include visiting artists and scholars, courses taught by industry professionals, projects such as Spitball, which allows students to collaborate with professional writers, and participation in Cartoon Crossroads Columbus, which hosts professional panels and lectures led by animators, cartoon storytellers, and comic artists.
The CCAD Illustration BFA Program culminates with an Illustration Portfolio Project and Illustration Capstone.
Graduates of the Columbis College of Art and Design Illustration BFA Program have been hired for a wide variety of roles at major advertising agencies, companies, and studios such as Hasbro, Cartoon Network, DC Comics, Ogilvy & Mather, Hallmark, Marvel Comics, Disney Consumer Products (DCP), Sony Pictures, Boeing, Pixar, American Greetings, Wall Street Journal, DreamWorks Animation, Williams Sonoma, CBS News, Bath & Body Works, and Forever 21.
Columbus College of Art & Design is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) and the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). CCAD is also affiliated with the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD). Established in 1879, Columbus College of Art & Design was is one of the nation’s oldest private, nonprofit art and design schools. Serving more than 1,000 students, CCAD offers 11 BFA programs, one MFA degree, and one MPS.
12. Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah (Top 20% of colleges considered)
The Department of Design at Brigham Young University (BYU) is part of the College of Fine Arts and Communications (CFAC), which provides a number of unique opportunities for all majors CFAC majors. Serving close to 5,700 students, the College of Fine Arts and Communications hosts hundreds of performances and student and faculty presentations each year. CFAC students have opportunities to engage in research projects, participate in experiential learning activities in the U.S. and abroad, pursue internships, and exhibit at or access collections in the Brigham Young University Museum of Art (MOA).
The BYU Illustration BFA is a Limited Enrollment Program (LEP) that accepts just 40 students per academic year. Courses for the program are led by industry professionals and include titles such as Design Theory and Visual Culture, Painting the Human Head, Sketchbook, Interdisciplinary Motion, Three-Dimensional Design Illustration, Character Design for illustrators, Basic Storyboarding, Narrative Illustration, Advanced Life Drawing, Design Lecture Series, Typography, and Special Topics.
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 Brigham Young University Illustration BFA Program work in Advertising, Publishing (books and magazines), Entertainment (animation, games, television and film), Corporate Publications, News Media, Fashion Design, Toy Design and Production, Museums, Murals, and Exhibitions, Architecture, and Medical and Scientific Illustration. Some graduates have launched their own design studios or successful freelance careers.
Brigham Young University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). The school was founded by Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints President Brigham Young in 1875. The school opened as Brigham Young Academy (BYA). Today, Brigham Young University serves nearly 35,000 students, making it the largest church-sponsored university in the United States. BYU provides 400 degree program options and minors across 15 divisions, colleges, and schools.
13. Minneapolis College of Art & Design, Minneapolis, Minnesota (Top 20% of schools considered)
The Illustration Program at Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) takes place in a collaborative environment where students work with peers from all majors. Leading to a BFA, the Illustration Program consists of core required courses, foundation studies, studio electives, and humanities and sciences electives. Studio electives provide hands-on time as well as the opportunity to focus in an area of interest within illustration.
Course examples include Tools of the trade, Concepts and Metaphors, Digital Illustration, Illustration and Products, Illustrated Notebook, Editorial Illustration, Professional Practice, Children’s Book, Illustration Topics, and Advanced Illustration Seminar. In the Professional Practice course, students will have opportunities to work on projects such as promotional materials and art for an advertising campaign, illustrations for a textbook, or a poster for a nonprofit client.
Minor options provide additional opportunities to specialize in an area of interest. Minor options include Advertising, Print Paper Book, Animation, Creative writing, Graphic Design, and Entrepreneurship, among others. Students may also complete the Illustration Foundations Certificate before applying to any BFA or Minor program.
All MCAD Illustration students may complete an internship, which provides an opportunity for students to gain valuable on-the-job skills and practical experience in a particular career area. The MCAD Study Abroad Program provides additional opportunities fort experiential learning. 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 United Kingdom, Israel, Canada, China, and Singapore.
The culminating experience for the Illustration BFA Program is the Senior Project course (Capstone). Worth six credit hours, the project allows students to complete a series of illustrations for their portfolio, or 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. Nearly 60% of all graduates find positions in their respective fields. MCAD alumni are Illustrators for the American Harry Potter Books and others, for Advertising Agencies, Comic Books, the Court System, Newspapers and Magazines, Fashion Designers, and in the Medical and Technical fields.
Minneapolis College of Art and Design is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) and the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). MCAD is also affiliated with the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD). Established in 1886, Minneapolis College of Art and Design serves more than 800 students enrolled in 14 undergraduate majors leading to a BFA or BS, three programs leading to an MA, including the new MA in Creative Leadership, one MFA program, and five professional development certificate programs.
14. College for Creative Studies, Detroit, Michigan (Top 20% of colleges considered)
The Illustration Department at the College for Creative Studies (CCS) has an Illustration Program with BFA and Minor options. The 15 credit hour Minor requires includes nine credits of illustration electives. All courses will be selected from the Illustration BFA Program.
The College for Creative Studies Illustration BFA requires completion of 126-127 credit hours including 78 in studio areas, 42-43 in general studies courses, and six in general elective courses. BFA students may add the Art Education Certification curriculum, which requires an additional 27 credit hours. In addition to major coursework, BFA students will take courses in the Foundation Department in the first year of the program where they will study 2D and 3D design, digital tools, and drawing. Students in all CCS majors must also take courses in the Liberal Arts Department. Full-time students can expect to complete six academic hours and 24 studio hours each week.
One of two major components of the 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. With the Entrepreneurial Studies Concentration, students who choose a pathway will also be prepared to launch their own studios. Pathway options include Comics and Sequential, Gallery Artist, Fashion, Lifestyle, and Licensing, Publishing, and Visual Development.
The second major component of the Illustration BFA Program is the Internship Experience. Upper division students have the opportunity to work some of the top local and global brands, corporations, studios, and museums. Examples include Cartoon Network, Converse, Disney Consumer Products, Hasbro, HoMedics, Insomniac Games, Anthropologie, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Diane von Furstenberg, Fisher Price, Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners, Moosejaw, Reader’s Digest, Museum of Fine Art, Grand Rapids Symphony, WJBK Fox 2 News, the Museum of American Illustration, and Spark Communications.
Graduates of the CCS Illustration BFA Program go on to establish successful careers with industry leaders such as Disney, Nike, The Washington Post, Cartoon Network, Ford, Adidas, ESPN, Blizzard Entertainment, Converse, and The New York Times.
The College for Creative Studies is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Founded in 1906 as the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts, CCS serves more than 1,400 students enrolled in more than 20 art and design programs leading to a BFA, MA, or MFA.
15. Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York (Top 20% of schools considered)
Syracuse University (SU) houses the College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA), home to the School of Art, which has an Illustration Program that is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). BFA and MFA options are available. Students in the BFA Program may explore one or more focus areas such as Editorial, Product, Sequential or Visual Development. Editorial students will focus on illustrating for newspapers, magazines, book jackets and online publishing.
In the Product Focus, students will explore illustrating as it relates to patterning, packaging, and products. Sequential students will learn to illustrate for children’s books, comics, and graphic novels. The Visual Development Focus is for students who would like to work in character development for animation and gaming.
In addition to choosing one or more focus in one or more areas, Illustration BFA students may participate in the College of VPA study abroad program, study abroad at SU in Florence, Italy or Syracuse University Study Abroad (SU Study Abroad), which offers 100 programs in 60 countries. Students will also participate in on-campus workshops and lectures, off-campus trips to New York City to visit the Society of Illustrators and participate in MoCCAFest, and travel to Los Angeles for a two-week industry immersion in animation and film.
The SU Illustration BFA Program culminates with a final portfolio that will be presented to Art Directors and professional Illustrators.
Graduates of the Illustration Program at Syracuse University Alumni from the illustration program have launched successful careers in advertising, editorial illustration, graphic novels and comics, greeting cards, children’s books, and licensing. They also work in visual development for animated films, television, and games.
Illustration MFA at Syracuse University is a 60 credit hour program that consists of 27 major studio credits, 12 elective credits, nine art history or related credits, and 12 credit hours dedicated to the Thesis. This is the culminating experience for the program.
The cross-disciplinary, research-focused, and experimental Illustration MFA provides opportunities to interact with professionals at New York studios and within the arts and publishing industries. Students in the SU Illustration MFA Program also benefit from elective travel courses during the MAYmester and summer program to gain credits. During the two-week long MAYmester, students take an intensive three-credit course for four hours Monday through Friday.
Graduates of the Illustration MFA Program at Syracuse University are prepared for advancement opportunities in their current careers, teaching positions, research positions, and jobs in advertising, animation, games, architecture, book publishing, newspapers, magazines, and comics, among others.
Syracuse University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). Founded in 1870, Syracuse University serves around 21,330 students from all 50 states and 120 countries. More than 400 majors, minors, and advanced degree programs are offered across SU’s 13 colleges and schools. In addition to campuses in Syracuse and Manhattan, New York, Washington DC, and Los Angeles, Syracuse University operates overseas centers in Chile, London, France, Poland, Spain, and Italy.
16. Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland, Ohio (Top 25% of schools considered)
Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) has an Illustration BFA Program that is one of only a few BFA degrees of its kind in the United States. Designed for artists who have an interest in art and science, the CIA BFA in Life Sciences Illustration explores topics such as botanical, biological, and zoological sciences, and animation, illustration, and information design. The program also covers areas such as research methods, serious game design, animation, sound design, interactive design, and professional development.
Course examples for the program include Cellular + Molecular Illustration, 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, Surgical Illustration & Media, Gross Anatomy, Principles of Biology I-II, Digital Biomedical Illustration (EP), Life Sciences Illustration: Forensic Imaging/Modeling, Anatomy for the Artist, Applied Portfolio and Professional Strategies, Sound Design Fundamentals, and Natural Science + Zoological Illustration (EP). An internship is also part of the program.
In the Applied Portfolio and Professional Strategies course, students will gain insight into art practice and leadership in the business environment. They will develop applied portfolios in online and offline media, demo reels, and print-related materials relating to professional packages (business cards, resumes, cover letters, etc.). Life Sciences Illustration students will also learn about copyrights, budgeting, contracts, marketing, and presentations as they relate to commercial-based work and freelance careers.
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 Biomedical Illustrator, 3D Animation Artist/Designer, Illustrator, Forensics Illustrator, and Art Director, among others.
For students interested in a traditional illustration program, CIA has an Illustration BFA Program that focuses on learning by doing. Students will work on a variety of real-world projects with CIA partners and clients—all before graduation. Students in the CIA Illustration BFA will learn how to work with traditional materials and techniques, such as acrylics, oils, and inks, collage, and pencils as well as industry software such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. The skills learned in the program will prepare student for positions in advertising, animation, publishing, entertainment, gaming, and comics, among others.
Course examples for the program include Picture Book Illustration, Layout Rendering Techniques, Illustration for Publication, Character Design + Development, Professional Standards in Illustration, Graphic Novels + Sequential Art, Illustration: Advanced Illustration Studio Projects, Illustration I-II, Community Projects, and Visual Concepts in Illustration. Students will also complete an internship.
The Illustration BFA Program at Cleveland Institute of Art culminates with the BFA Thesis and Exhibition.
Students in all CIA Illustration Programs will have their own studio space, along with access to Integrated Media Environment Facilities, lighting and shooting spaces, a sound recording studio, and the fabrication studios. Other program benefits include visiting artists, networking opportunities with employers, illustrators, and designers who are invited to CIA each year, small-group seminars, professional writing courses, and travel to professional art studios, advertising agencies, and others.
Cleveland Institute of Art is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) and the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Chartered in 1882 as the Western Reserve School of Design for Women, this independent, not-for-profit college serves around 600 students enrolled in 13 majors in entertainment arts, design, fine arts, and crafts.
17. Laguna College of Art and Design, Laguna Beach, California (Top 25% of schools considered)
Laguna Beach College of Art and Design (LCAD) has several pathways that combine illustration with graphic design, digital media, drawing, and painting. Options include the BFA in Graphic Design + Digital Media (GD+DM) and the BFA in Drawing + Painting. An Illustration Minor consisting of 18 credit hours of study is also available.
All programs feature small class sizes, courses taught by industry professionals, mentorship programs, internship opportunities, guest speakers, and hands-on design projects with LCAD partners such as Sony, Nike, and UCI.
The LCAD BFA in Graphic Design + Digital Media (GD+DM) is a multidisciplinary 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.
This 122 credit hour program has an Illustration emphasis that allows students to choose electives that match their goals. Examples include Pictorial Design for Illustration, Rendering, 3D Design (ZBRUSH), Animal Drawing, Color Illustration, Words, Images & Ideas, Figure Drawing, and Painting. Examples of required courses and studios include User Interface Design, 3D-1: Animation for Motion Graphics, Brand Strategy, Motion Graphics + Visual Effects, Typography, Computer Imaging, Digital Photography, Graphic Design, Fundamentals of 3D, Communication Design, Digital Videography, and Exhibition Design.
Students in the GD+DM BFA Program will have the opportunity to complete an internship and a professional portfolio before graduating. The program culminates with the Senior Capstone and Thesis Defense.
Nearly 100% of recent graduates of the Graphic Design + Digital Media Program work in their chosen field, with most securing employment through LCAD prior to graduation. Program alumni work at some of the world’s top companies and studios. Examples include Adobe, Coca-Cola, Sony Pictures, Saatchi & Saatchi, Red Bull, Lexus, Fox Entertainment, Warner Bros., Vans, Disney Interactive, IKEA, Nike, Razorfish, Pixar, Amazon, Capitol Records, Hurley, Sony Music, Meta, Live Nation, R/GA, Taco Bell, AT&T Entertainment Services, and Maserati.
The Laguna College of Art and Design Drawing + Painting BFA 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 Students apply for an internship in their junior year.
The Drawing + Painting BFA has an Illustration Emphasis that explores traditional and mixed media art. Students will 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, and interactions with peers and guest artists.
Course examples for the 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, MEAM Museum, Salmagundi Club, Art Renewal Center, Laguna Art Museum, Poets + Artists, Portrait Society of America, Sue Greenwood Fone Art, Gallery 1261, Arcadia Contemporary, LPAPA, and Koplin Del Rio Gallery, among others.
Laguna College of Art and Design is regionally and nationally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Founded in 1961 as Laguna Beach School of Art (LBSA), LCAD has a main campus in Laguna Beach, California, with educational affiliates such as the Florence Academy of Arts in Florence, Italy, the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art, and NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences (NHTV), Netherlands. Laguna College of Art and Design serves nearly 750 students enrolled in dozens of bachelor’s, master’s, and minor programs.
18. Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, Missouri (Top 25% of schools considered)
Programs at Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI) take place in a professional studio environment where students learn by doing. All programs begin with the KCAI Foundation Program. This immersive experience lasts a full year and includes dedicated industrial studios, collaborative programs, 16 contact hours of studio per week, workshops, collaborative projects and problem-solving, independent work and storage spaces, faculty mentors, and training in the Print Center (digital design and output), Beals Studios (digital fabrication), and Central Shop (woodworking).
During this first-year program, students will also participate in the Foundation Seminar, which provides the opportunity to interact with artists, activists, and alumni.
The Illustration BFA Program at Kansas City Art Institute is housed in the Department of Illustration. Students in the program will complete a mandatory internship and a number of collaborative assignments. KCAI Illustration BFA students have interned at The Kansas City Star, Boulevard Brewing Company, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the American Jazz Museum, and Porter Teleo Design Firm, among others. In addition to an internship, BFA students will have the opportunity to double major in Creative Writing and Illustration.
Graduates of the Illustration BFA Program at Kansas City Art Institute have won awards presented by the Society of Illustrators, American Illustration, Print, and Communication Arts. They have been recruited by Nike, Nickelodeon, American Greetings, MTV and Hallmark, and their work has been featured in numerous children’s books and in publications such as Wired, The New York Times, and Women’s Day.
Kansas City Art Institute is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Established in 1885 as a Sketch Club, serves more than 700 students enrolled in 13 studio majors in 15 program areas. In addition to Illustration, examples include Animation, Creative Writing, Filmmaking, Graphic Design, Product Design, Photography, and Sculpture.
19. Washington University in St. Louis (Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts), St. Louis, Missouri (Top 25% of schools considered)
Washington University in St. Louis houses the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts. Within the Sam Fox School (est. 2006) are the Colleges of Art and Architecture, and the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum. The Sam Fox College of Art has two pathways for Illustrators: a BFA in Communication Design with an Emphasis in Illustration, and an MFA in Illustration + Visual Culture (MFA-IVC). A Design Minor is also available and allows students to mix and match courses in areas such as Illustration, the Illustrated Book Studio, Communication, and Design.
The Communication Design BFA with an Emphasis in Illustration is a collaborative program that explores Illustration, Interaction Design, and Graphic Design. Students in the program can focus on illustrating stories, the history of printed images, creating comics, illustrating for advertising, creating pictures for games and motion graphics, or designing printed posters and books.
The Sam Fox Communication Design BFA culminates with a Capstone Project. For this final project, students have created zines, comics, illustrated books, graphic novels, screen-based art, and digital experiences. Capstone Projects are displayed in a public exhibition and reviewed by design professionals.
The Illustration + Visual Culture MFA is a two-year, fully residential program that consists of 50% illustration studio work, 20% visual culture, history and theory, 15-20% hands-on archive work, and 10-15% electives. Electives allow students to focus in specific areas of art, design and entertainment. Elective examples include Branding and Identity, Game Design, Image & Story, Typography, Printmaking, Book Arts, Illustration Concepts and Media, Narrative Comics, Animated Worlds, Type and Image: Experiments on Press, Visual Culture, The Illustrator’s Sketchbook, Applied Illustration, Art History, and Painting.
Consisting of 60 credit hours, the MFA-IVC requires courses such as The Illustrated Periodical, Comics & Cartooning: A Critical Survey, Readings in Visual & Material Culture, Special Collections: Exhibitions & Engagement, Graduate Drawing Studio, and Special Collections: Research Methods. The MFA-IVC Program at the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts requires an internship and two final Thesis courses including Thesis Studio 1: Drawing & Voice, and Thesis Studio 2 for a total of 18 credit hours.
Graduates of the Sam Fox MFA-IVC Program are prepared for positions such as Curatorial Staff in Museums, Libraries, and Auction Houses, Critical Writers on Popular Culture, Professors of Illustration, and Author-Artists of Graphic Novels and Picture Books, among others.
Washington University in St. Louis has been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) since 1913. Founded in 1853, the school serves nearly 16,250 students enrolled in more than 300 academic programs in seven schools. The Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts was founded in 2006 after the merging of the academic units of Architecture and Art, and the Washington University in St. Louis Museum.
20. Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD), Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Top 30% of colleges considered)
Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD) has an Illustration Program that leads to a BFA. A major component of the program is MIAD’s Illustration Seminar where students can network through workshops led by industry professionals and alumni. Internships, semester-long study abroad opportunities, and portfolio development courses are part of the program as well as access to MIAD’s new Illustration studios and classrooms and the Emerging Technology Center.
The Illustration BFA Program explores traditional and digital illustration, visual communication, design, and art direction. Course examples Illustration I-IV, Research, Process and Connection, Fabrication, Illustration Seminar I-II, Visual Language, Critical and Creative Forms, Illustration Media, Digital 4D, Computer Studio, Typography, Patterns in Nature, Senior Writing Seminar, and Professional Practice for Illustrators. Students may add a Minor to enhance the degree. Popular Minor options include Book Arts, Advertising, Digital Media Production, Copywriting, Arts Management, Business, and Writing.
The Illustration Program at Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design culminates with the Illustration Thesis Project, Portfolio, and MIAD Exhibition. Students are required to be actively involved in the overall preparation of the general MIAD Thesis Exhibition including signage, gallery monitoring, lighting crew, painting crew, etc.
Graduates of the MIAD Illustration BFA Program are prepared to launch their own studios and freelance businesses, or pursue positions in advertising, publishing, animation, fashion, editorial, exhibit design, graphic design, game design, new media, comics, architecture, storyboard art, medical illustration, forensic illustration, children’s book illustration, textile design, and technical illustration.
Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD) is an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), and the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The school is also a member of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD)—a consortium of 42 top non-profit, independent colleges of art and design in the United States and Canada. Founded in 1974, MIAD is Wisconsin’s only four-year, private college of visual art and design. The school serves 900 degree-seeking students, 600 pre-college students, and 250 outreach/special programs students. MIAD offers seven majors and tracks leading to BFA and 13 programs leading to a Minor.
21. Pacific Northwest College of Art at Willamette University, Portland, Oregon (Top 21% of schools considered)
Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) at Willamette University has an Illustration Program that leads to a BFA. One of the top undergraduate options at PNCA, the Illustration BFA explores traditional studio media, emerging technologies, and the creation of visual messages. Students in the program benefit from mentorship programs, professional practices instruction, portfolio preparation, and internships with companies such as Microsoft, Wieden+Kennedy, Nike, Dark Horse Comics, and Nintendo.
The PNCA Illustration BFA provides 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, Photography Lab, and Albert Solheim Library, which houses over 30,000 books and computer workstations. PNCA also houses Make+Think+Code—a technology lab that hosts workshops and classes, while providing access to additional digital tools, technology, and facilities.
Students in the Pacific Northwest College of Art Illustration BFA Program can expect to take courses such as Advanced illustration Studio, Design & Image, Cultural Marketplace, Drawing for Illustration, Visual Techniques, Social Science Seminar, Digital Media Strategies I-II, Painting for Illustration, Word & Image, Time Arts, Visual elements: Digital Tools, 3D Design, and Exploring Visual Culture. In the senior year of the program students will complete a Thesis across two courses: Design Arts Thesis Development and Design Arts Thesis.
Upon completion of the Illustration BFA Program at 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.
Willamette University and Pacific Northwest College of Art are accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). PNCA is also a member of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art & Design (AICAD) and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU).
Willamette University was established in 1842, making it the oldest university in the West. This liberal arts college serves close to 1,900 students enrolled in dozens of programs across the Colleges of Arts & Sciences and Law, Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA), and the Atkinson Graduate School of Management. Willamette University and PNCA merged in 2021.
PNCA, which remains an independent college within Willamette, was established in 1909 and serves around 650 students. The school offers 11 BFA degrees, eight minors, and eight graduate MA and MFA degrees within the Hallie Ford School of Graduate Studies.
22. University of Pennsylvania - Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Top 30% of colleges considered)
University of Pennsylvania (Penn) and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) offer a Coordinated BFA Program that combines fine arts training at PAFA and with Penn’s liberal arts curriculum. Students in the PAFA/Penn BFA will take 90 credits of studio art courses across five concentrations at PAFA during their freshman, sophomore, and junior years. During this time, students will have opportunities to study Illustration through required coursework, studios, and electives.
In the third year of the PAFA/Penn BFA, students are assigned their own private studio. In the final year of the PAFA/Penn BFA, students will enroll full-time to complete the liberal arts curriculum at Penn, where they gain access to the school’s Fischer Fine Arts Library, Van Pelt Library, and talks, exhibits, lectures, and performances on Penn’s campus.
The PAFA/Penn BFA is a competitive program. Students who are not selected for the program may enroll in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts four-year BFA Program. Like PAFA/Penn students, Penn BFA students will gain access to private studios—in the fourth year of the program. Studios are accessible 24/7. Students will have the opportunity to invite faculty and Artists from the PAFA Visiting Artist Program to their studios to critique of their work as they prepare for the Annual Student Exhibition at PAFA. The Exhibition allows students to organize, install, present, and sell their work in the PAFA museum galleries.
The PAFA BFA Program begins with the first-year foundation experience, where students will study traditional and contemporary art-forms. In the second and third years, students will complete a combination of liberal arts and studio classes. Students will also collaborate with peers in shared spaces in a group studio. Students can choose an area of study such as Illustration, Printmaking, Drawing, Painting, Animation or Sculpture. Additional program features include access to digital labs and workshops, lectures, and demonstrations, and hands-on critiques—throughout the program.
Led by the Illustration Department at PAFA, the Illustration students can expect to take courses such as Illustration Methods, Digital Print & Web Design, History of Illustration, Narrative and Sequential Drawing, Narrative Projects, Letter Press and Book Arts, Digital Imaging, Illustration I-II, Visual Narration, and Business Practices of Art. All Programs require completion of a Thesis, the Illustration Projects course, and the Portfolio course.
Graduates of the PAFA/Penn BFA and the PAFA BFA are prepared to launch careers in Book and Magazine Illustration, Animation, Poster and Storyboard Art, Graphic Novels, and Medical Illustration, among others.
University of Pennsylvania is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) Founded in 1740, the University of Pennsylvania serves more than 28,000 students enrolled in more than 400 programs in four undergraduate and 12 graduate schools. Since 1929, Penn has partnered with Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA).
Founded in 1805, PAFA is the first art school and museum in the United States. This private, non-profit school serves several hundred students enrolled in BFA, MFA, and certificate programs. PAFA is accredited through the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). PAFA is also member of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD) and The Common Application.
23. Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California (Top 30% of colleges considered)
Academy of Art University (Academy of Art) houses the School of Illustration, which has programs leading to a Certificate, AA, BFA, MA or MFA. Degree programs can be completed entirely online, and the Illustration Certificate is offered onsite. Students in all programs have access to drawing rooms, a live model drawing studio, drawing workshops, and computer labs equipped with digital workstations, new media technology, and software.
Other School of Illustration features include the opportunity to study abroad in Florence, Italy, illustration internships, guest speakers, and opportunities to collaborate in the classroom with faculty and peers, and outside of the classroom with professional designers and artists. All School of Illustration students also have the opportunity to work with WRiTE BRAiN BOOKS, which produces illustrated, textless books designed to help kid’s self-author their own books.
Across programs, students will take courses such as Digital Media: Illustrative Imaging, Perspective, Clothed Figure Drawing, Writing for Picture Books, Perspective for Characters & Environment, Visual Development, Vector illustration & Motion, Children’s Book Illustration, Situation & Environment, Editorial illustration, 150 Years of American Illustration, Concept, Technique and Illustration, Graphic Novel/Comic Book, The Rendered Figure, Writing the Short Story, Digital Painting, History of Comics: American Comics, and Graduate Seminar in Europe.
The Academy of Art Illustration Program also features coursework that helps students prepare to market their work or launch their own studios or freelance businesses. Examples include Surface Design and Licensing, Professional Practices for Illustrators, Advanced Art Licensing & Portfolio Building, Portfolio Preparation and Self Promotion, Designing Careers, Blogging: Content Creation & Promotion, and Collaborative Project: The Agency.
Graduates of the Illustration Programs at Academy of Art University have been hired at Marvel Comics, Penguin Publishing Group, The Atlantic, Chronicle Books, Wired, National Geographic, and The New York Times, among others.
Academy of Art University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC), and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). This family-owned university serves more than 7,000 students, making it one 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.
24. Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, Denver, Colorado (Top 35% of colleges considered)
The Illustration Program at Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design (RMCAD) has Illustration and Illustrative Design options leading to a 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, collaboration with professional Illustrators, focused one-on-one instruction, and self-promotion and portfolio development courses.
Graduates of the RMCAD Illustration BFA Program are prepared for careers in Editorial Illustration, Comic Books and Graphic Novels, Concept Art for Games & Animations, Product Design & Licensing, Children’s Book Illustration, and even Technical & Medical Illustration.
Illustrative Design BFA explores storytelling, communication design problems, sustainable practice, design, typography, digital media, and portfolio development. Students in this program enjoy small class sizes, hands-on training, a combination of both online and on-campus coursework, personalized instruction, and portfolio development. Classroom tools include Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, and After Effects.
Graduates of RMCAD’s Illustrative Design BFA Program are prepared positions such as Illustrator, Art Director, Package Designer, Graphic Designer, Motion Designer, Typographer, and Creative Director.
Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA). The school is also an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Launched in 1963 as Rocky Mountain School of Art, RMCAD serves more than 1,000 students enrolled in more than a dozen degree and certificate programs.
25. University of the Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Top 35% of schools considered)
The School of Design at University of the Arts (UArts) has an Illustration Program with BFA and Minor options for students seeking a career in Illustration or those looking to enhance a creative major such as Painting or Animation. The BFA Program features opportunities to experiment and collaborate with other majors in the School of Design such as Animation, Interaction Design, Fine Arts, Product Design, and Graphic Design.
Students in the program will work and learn in shared studio spaces and in facilities such as the Cintiq Lab and Makerspace. Students will also receive intense training in industry-standard software such as Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, After Effects, and Illustrator.
Although it is not required, Illustration BFA students have the opportunity to complete a Design Internship at an individual artist studio or major companies and studios such as Cartoon Network, Barnes & Noble, and as Anthropologie.
The Figurative Illustration Minor requires 15 credit hours of study. Courses include Figure Anatomy, Illustration I: Pictorial Foundation, Illustration II: Illustration Methods, Responsive Drawing, and Figure Communication or Figure Painting.
Graduates of the Illustration Programs at University of the Arts have been hired at or worked with a wide variety of companies, studios, brands, magazines, newspapers, networks, publishers, and agencies. Examples include DreamWorks, Nickelodeon, Marvel Comics, Time Magazine, NASA, Penguin Group Publishing, MTV, Cartoon Network, Disney, American Museum of Natural History, Martha Stewart, Simon & Schuster, ESPN, Oprah, Meta, Nickelodeon, Fortune, 20th Century Fox, Blizzard Entertainment, NPR, Mattel, Hallmark, The Wall Street Journal, NASA, Fisher Price, Ralph Lauren, Scholastic, PBS, Harper-Collins, the United States Postal Service, Random House, Rolling Stone, Fisher Price, Major League Baseball, National Geographic, The New York Times, Hasbro, The New Yorker, Newsweek, Reader’s Digest, and Warner Bros.
University of the Arts is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). Founded in 1876 as part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, UArts serves close to 1,500 students enrolled in more than 40 degree programs in design, fine arts, music, media arts, dance, theater, and crafts. More than 20 minors are available and open to all students. Programs at University of the Arts are housed in the Schools of Art, Dance, Design, Film, Music, Theater Arts, and Graduate and Professional Studies.