What are the top private illustration schools in the US for 2023?
|Ranking||School||State||% of Schools Considered|
|1||School of Visual Arts||New York||2%|
|2||ArtCenter College of Design||California||3%|
|3||Savannah College of Art and Design||Georgia||4%|
|4||Ringling College of Art and Design||Florida||5%|
|5||Rhode Island School of Design||Rhode Island||7%|
|6||Pratt Institute||New York||8%|
|7||California College of the Arts||California||9%|
|8||The New School’s Parsons School of Design||New York||10%|
|9||Maryland Institute College of Art||Maryland||15%|
|10||College for Creative Studies||Michigan||15%|
|11||Otis College of Art and Design||California||15%|
|12||Columbus College of Art and Design||Ohio||20%|
|13||Minneapolis College of Art & Design||Minnesota||20%|
|14||Brigham Young University||Utah||20%|
|15||Cleveland Institute of Art||Ohio||20%|
|16||Syracuse University||New York||25%|
|17||Academy of Art University||California||25%|
|18||Kansas City Art Institute||Missouri||25%|
|19||Washington University in St. Louis||Missouri||25%|
|21||Laguna College of Art and Design||California||30%|
|22||Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design||Colorado||30%|
|23||Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design||Wisconsin||30%|
|24||University of Pennsylvania||Pennsylvania||35%|
|25||University of the Arts||Pennsylvania||35%|
Our 2023 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 a number of paths to study Illustration. Students interested in developing illustration skills in s short period may enroll in a single course or workshops. Both options can last anywhere from a few days to several months, and some options can be completed entirely online. Examples of single courses and workshops include Animals and Creatures in Illustration, Comics Poetry: Experimenting with Text and Image, Crash Course for Artists, Illustrators and Cartoonists, Accordion Book Workshop, Illustration as Design as Illustration, Etching: Illustrating Books with Prints, Careers in Illustration: A Drawing Workshop.
For degree-seeking artists, School of Visual Arts has an Illustration BFA Program and an Illustration as Visual Essay MFA Program. Housed in the Illustration Department, the Illustration BFA provides 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.
Illustration BFA students 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.
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.
SVA’s MFA Illustration as Visual Essay Department was established in 1984. The Department’s MFA is a competitive program that accepts just 20 students per year. Program features include a classroom-based curriculum; 24/7 access to personal workspaces; guest lecturers, speakers, and mentors; the Illustration Business Boot Camp, internship opportunities; and participation in exhibits and gallery shows.
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.
In addition to coursework and projects in computer illustration, creative writing, storytelling, and visual essay, SVA MFA students have the opportunity to audit classes in Animation, Film, and Fine Arts. Students in this 60 credit-hour, two-year MFA Program will complete four workshops, Book Seminar (course 5040), Computer Illustration Portfolio (course 5090), and a Thesis Project completed over two courses. Illustration Boot Camp and courses such as The Digital Book, History of Storytelling, and Perceptual Appetizers are also part of the program.
School of Visual Arts alumni have worked for brands such as Prada and Van’s, and on major productions such as Sleepy Hollow.
School of Visual Arts opened in 1947 as the Cartoonists and Illustrators school. Classes began with just three teachers and 35 students. Today, School of Visual Arts serves approximately 4,110 students enrolled in dozens of BFA, MA, MFA, and MPS programs. SVA is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), with individual program accreditation by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) and the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA).
2. ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena, California (Top 3% of schools considered)
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 may continue their studies by enrolling in the school’s Interdisciplinary MFA Program, which allows students to customize the degree to support any medium. Other program features include individual studio spaces; access to state-of-the art facilities, software, galleries, and project studios; and study abroad opportunities in Paris, Cologne, Berlin, and Mexico City.
Thanks to partnerships with major companies and studios across the U.S., BFA and MFA students 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.
ArtCenter College of Design was established in 1930. This private, nonprofit design school has a main campus in Pasadena, with additional campuses in Los Angeles and Downtown Pasadena. Approximately 2,250 ArtCenter students also have access to satellite studios in Petersen Automotive Museum (LA) and Berlin, Germany. Programs include 11 undergraduate and 10 graduate options ranging from Illustration to Transportation Systems and Design. ArtCenter College of Design is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
3. Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia (Top 4% of schools considered)
Savannah College of Art and Design has BA, BFA, MA, and MFA degree options for students who would like to study Illustration. All programs provide the opportunity to declare a Minor 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.
For Illustrators who would like to add Publishing and Design to their skill set, SCAD has an undergraduate Digital Publishing Certificate that 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.
Degree-seeking students at SCAD have the following degree options: the Visual Communication BA with an Illustration Concentration available at the Atlanta and Savannah campuses; the BFA in Illustration (Atlanta, Hong Kong, Savannah); an Illustration MA (Atlanta, Savannah, eLearning); and the Illustration MFA Program (Atlanta, Savannah, eLearning).
All BA and 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.
Course examples across programs 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.
The SCAD 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 of free electives and advanced courses such as Illustration Business Strategies and Entrepreneurship, Career Strategies for Illustration, and Professional Portfolio for Illustrators.
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 MA at Savannah College of Art and Design features a Graduate Internship, Directed Projects in Illustration, and the Illustration Final MA Project. The program requires 45 credit hours to graduate. The SCAD Illustration MFA consists of 90 credit hours and features two Graduate Internships, Directed Projects in Illustration, Advanced Studio Techniques, Illustration for Publications, Professional Practices in Illustration, and Illustration Markets. Students in this terminal degree program may develop additional skills in a specific area through the program’s four required 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, 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.
Providing more than 100 degree programs and over 75 minor options and certificates, Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) has more programs and specializations than any other art and design college in the U.S. Founded in 1978, the school opened in 1979 with just 71 students, one classroom, and an administration building. Today, SCAD serves more than 15,000 students across campuses in Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia, and Lacoste, France. Savannah College of Art and Design is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
4. Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota, Florida (Top 5% of schools considered)
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.
Ringling College of Art and Design is a private, not-for-profit college that serves more than 1,600 students enrolled in eleven majors leading to a BFA degree, two majors leading to a BA, and minor options in 10 areas. Founded more than 130 years ago by circus magnate John Ringling, RCAD is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
5. Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island (Top 7% of schools considered)
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.
Throughout the Program, Illustration BFA students will participate in a number of workshops such as Maya Basics, Pigments & Emulsions, and ZBrush Sculpting and Illustration. The BFA Program at Rhode Island School of Design culminates with the completion of a professional portfolio and public exhibition.
The Illustration MFA at Rhode Island School of Design is a new, 60-credit advanced studio program that consists of art and design coursework, seminars, and elective coursework from any department. Studio examples include Social Engagement and Agency, Narrative Structures, and Perception and the Art of Communication. Seminar examples include Isms and Illustration—Critical Theory and Illustration History; Media Issues and Literacy—Research Practicum; and Contemporary Visual Narrative.
Traditions, Trappings, Culture, Kitsch; Visible Cities; Exhibiting Research; and Losing Paradise, Inventing the World, are just a few sample electives.
The RISD Illustration MFA Program culminates with the Graduate Thesis completed across two Seminars: Articulating Connections-Guided Thesis Prep, and Paradigms and Contexts—Publishing the Thesis and Beyond.
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.
Founded in 1877, Rhode Island School of Design is one of the first art and design schools in the U.S. This private, nonprofit college serves approximately 2,620 students enrolled in dozens of majors and programs. RISD is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) and the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA). The Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and MA in Teaching programs have special accreditation by the National Architecture Accrediting Board, Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board, and the RI Department of Education, respectively.
6. Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York (Top 8% of schools considered)
Pratt Institute (Pratt) has several paths to study Illustration for individuals seeking a shorter program and those seeking a four-year degree. Established in 2014, Pratt’s School of Design has a four-year Communications Design BFA Program with an Illustration Emphasis that features project-based coursework in a collaborative studio environment. The Emphasis explores advanced level storytelling, authoring, image-based communication, and socio-political commentary.
This 126 credit-hour program encourages experimentation and elective coursework that allows students to develop skills in focused areas. 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.
For students seeking a shorter program, the School of Art at Pratt Institute has a two-year Associates of Occupational Studies (AOS) and an AAS Program. The Illustration AOS 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 AAS features a Liberal Arts component that allows students to transfer into Pratt’s Fine Arts or Communication Design BFA Programs. Both options explore Illustration for print and web, drawing, advertising and editorial, visualization, professional practices, traditional and digital methods, and industry software.
Graduates of the Illustration Programs at Pratt Institute 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.
Founded in 1887, Pratt Institute is the only New York City Art and Design school with a traditional campus. One of the nation’s first colleges to welcome students without regard to color, gender, or class, the school serves approximately 5,140 students across campuses in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Utica, New York. Nearly 50 undergraduate and graduate degree programs are offered across six schools and The Center for Interdisciplinary Studies. Pratt Institute is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
7. California College of the Arts, San Francisco and Oakland, California (Top 9% of schools considered)
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.
Established in 1907 as the School of the California Guild of Arts and Crafts, California College of the Arts had just three teachers and 43 students when it opened. Today, CCA employs 420 faculty members that serve just approximately 1,620 students enrolled in more than 40 undergraduate, graduate, minor, and dual degree options. California College of the Arts is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC), the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), and the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB).
8. The New School’s Parsons School of Design, New York, New York (Top 10% of schools considered)
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.
The New School Parsons was founded in 1896 as The Chase School. The school serves approximately 10,815 students enrolled more than 120 degree and diploma programs across six colleges and schools, including Parsons Paris. The New School Parsons is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
9. Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, Maryland (Top 15% of schools considered)
Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) has three paths to study Illustration. The undergraduate level, MICA has an Illustration BFA with Sequential Art and Preproduction Tracks. At the graduate level, students can choose between the Illustration MA and the Illustration Practice MFA.
Students in the Illustration BFA 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.
The MICA Illustration 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; collaborative projects with the Center for Design Thinking and graduate students from other departments at MICA; a state-of-the-art studio environment; and courses taught by leaders in the field.
The Illustration MA Program at MICA culminates with a capstone portfolio project, exhibition, and review panel.
The Illustration Practice MFA is a 60 credit hour program that features opportunities to collaborate with MICA’s Dolphin Press & Print, the Modern Graphics History Library at Washington University, the Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies, and the Center for Design Thinking at MICA. Students in this program two-year program will also collaborate with industry professionals and peers. All Illustration Practice MFA students have the opportunity to communicate with visiting critics and artists-in-residence. The MICA Illustration Practice MFA culminates with the MFA Thesis.
Graduates of the Illustration MA and MFA Programs at MICA are Freelance Illustrators or they work in leadership positions such as Art Director, Educator, Design Manager, Curator, Gallery Manager, Exhibiting Artist, and Entrepreneur. Program alumni have also gone on to launch their own Freelance Illustration careers.
Founded in 1826, Maryland Institute College of Art is the nation’s oldest independent, continuously degree-granting college of art and design. The school serves nearly 3,500 undergraduate, graduate, and open studies students from 49 states and 52 countries. Programs at MICA lead to a BFA, MA, MFA, MBA, MPS degree, or post-baccalaureate certificate. 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).
10. College for Creative Studies, Detroit, Michigan (Top 15% of colleges considered)
The College for Creative Studies (CCS) houses the Illustration Department, home to the Illustration Program. BFA and Minor options are available. The Illustration Minor consists of 15 credits chosen from courses in the Illustration BFA Program. Examples include Creative Perspective, Figure Illustration I-II, and Digital Illustration.
The CCS Illustration BFA 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.
Founded in 1906 as the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts, College for Creative Studies is a private, nonprofit institution that serves more than 1,400 students enrolled in 23 Art and Design programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. CCS is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and it is an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).
11. Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, California (Top 15% of schools considered)
Otis College of Art and Design (OTIS) houses the Communication Arts Department, home to the Illustration Program. Two pathways are available: the BFA and a Minor. BFA students 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.
Established in 1918, Otis College of Art and Design is Los Angeles’ oldest professional school of the arts. This private, non-profit college serves more than 1,200 students enrolled in 11 BFA and MFA degree programs in the 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.
12. Columbus College of Art and Design, Columbus, Ohio (Top 20% of schools considered)
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.
Columbus College of Art & Design was established in 1879 by five women. The school serves approximately 1,010 undergraduate and graduate students from 36 states and 14 countries. CCAD provides 11 undergraduate majors, 18 minors, and three graduate programs across 10+ departments. Columbus College of Art & Design is accredited by Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). CCAD is also affiliated with the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD).
13. Minneapolis College of Art & Design, Minneapolis, Minnesota (Top 20% of schools considered)
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.
Minneapolis College of Art and Design was established in 1886 by the Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts. The school serves roughly 800 students from 40 states and 13 countries. Programs include 14 undergraduate majors leading to a BFA or BS, three MA degrees, one MFA degree, and seven professional development certificate options. 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). The school is also affiliated with the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD).
14. Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah (Top 20% of colleges considered)
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.
Brigham Young University was founded as Brigham Young Academy (BYA) in 1875 by Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints President Brigham Young. With 34,390 students enrolled in more than 435 programs, BYU is the one of the largest private universities in the U.S. Brigham Young University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).
15. Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland, Ohio (Top 20% of schools considered)
Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) has two paths to study Illustration including BFAs in Illustration and 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.
Chartered in 1882 as the Western Reserve School of Design for Women, Cleveland Institute of Art is an independent, not-for-profit college that serves approximately 655 students enrolled in 13 majors in Fine Arts, Entertainment Arts, Design, and Crafts. Programs at CIA are managed and taught by approximately 50 full-time and 70 adjunct faculty, who are all professional artists and designers. Cleveland Institute of Art is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) and the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
16. Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York (Top 25% of schools considered)
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 BFA and MFA options. BFA students have 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.
The Illustration MFA at Syracuse University is a cross-disciplinary, experimental, and research-focused program that requires 60 credit hours, including 27 credits of studio electives. Course examples include Creative Strategy, Play Matters, Story Lab, Visual Voice I-II, Visual Integration, and Entrepreneur.
Other program benefits include opportunities to interact with professionals at New York studios and within the arts and publishing industries, and elective travel courses during MAYmester and the Summer Program. During the two-week long MAYmester, students take an intensive three-credit course for four hours Monday through Friday.
The culminating experience for the SU Illustration MFA is the 12 credit-hour Thesis. Graduates are prepared for advancement opportunities in their current careers, as well as leadership positions in fields such as Advertising, Book Publishing, Comic Book Publishing, Architecture, Magazine Publishing, Entertainment, News Media, and Animation.
Founded in 1870, Syracuse University serves approximately 21,320 students from all 50 states and 120 countries. More than 200 majors, 100 minors, and 200 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 France, Italy, London, Poland, Chile, and Spain. Syracuse University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
17. Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California (Top 25% of colleges considered)
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).
18. Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, Missouri (Top 25% of schools considered)
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.
Kansas City Art Institute was established in 1885 as a Sketch Club. Situated within Kansas City’s Arts Corridor—just steps from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art—this four-year art and design college serves more than 700 students enrolled in 13 majors across 15 program areas. Kansas City Art Institute is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).
19. Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri (Top 25% of schools considered)
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 are three paths to study Illustration including BA and BFA Degrees in Studio Art & Design with a Major in Communication Design and the Illustration + Visual Culture MFA (MFA-IVC).
For Studio Art & Design Majors, the College of Art has a 15-unit Design Minor that allows students to mix and match courses in areas such as Illustration, Communication, the Illustrated Book Studio, and Design.
BA and BFA students 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.
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, which allow students to focus in specific areas of Design, Art and Entertainment. Elective examples include Illustration Concepts and Media, Narrative Comics, Image & Story, The Illustrator’s Sketchbook, Book Arts, Printmaking, Art History, Visual Culture, Applied Illustration, Animated Worlds, Branding and Identity, Game Design, Type and Image: Experiments on Press, Typography, and Painting.
Consisting of 60 credit hours, the MFA-IVC Program at WashU 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. An internship is required as well as two final Thesis courses including Thesis Studio 1: Drawing & Voice, and Thesis Studio 2.
Graduates of the MFA-IVC Program at the WUSTL’s Sam Fox School are prepared for careers 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.
Founded in 1853, Washington University in St. Louis serves approximately 17,050 students enrolled in more than 300 academic programs across 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. Washington University in St. Louis has been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) since 1913.
20. Willamette University, Portland, Oregon (Top 30% of schools considered)
Willamette University is home to Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA). Serving nearly 500 students, PNCA 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.
Willamette University was established in 1842, making it the oldest university in the West. This private Liberal Arts college serves approximately 2,400 students enrolled in dozens of programs across the College of Arts & Sciences, the College of Law, Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA), and Atkinson Graduate School of Management. Willamette University and PNCA merged in 2021.
Pacific Northwest College of Art, which remains an independent college within Willamette, was established in 1909 and serves approximately 490 students. The school offers 11 BFA degrees, eight minors, and eight graduate MA and MFA degrees within the PNCA Hallie Ford School of Graduate Studies.
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).
21. Laguna College of Art and Design, Laguna Beach, California (Top 30% of schools considered)
Laguna Beach 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, each semester, Seniors 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 the skills needed 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 and Graphic Design + Digital Media (GD+DM). Both Programs allow students to add an Illustration Emphasis. An 18 credit hour Illustration Minor and a 30 credit hour Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Drawing + Painting are also available. The Minor provides the opportunity to create a variety of portfolio pieces, and the Certificate prepares students for positions in the field or for entry into the LCAD Studio Art MFA Program.
The 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 Illustration Emphasis 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, European Museum of Modern Art (MEAM), Salmagundi Club, Art Renewal Center, Laguna Art Museum, Poets + Artists, Portrait Society of America, Sue Greenwood Fone Art, Gallery 1261, Arcadia Contemporary, Laguna Plein Air Painters Association (LPAPA), and Koplin Del Rio Gallery, among others.
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.
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.
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 Adobe, Coca-Cola, Sony Pictures, Saatchi & Saatchi, Red Bull, Lexus, Fox Entertainment, Warner Bros., Maserati, Vans, Disney Interactive, IKEA, Nike, Razorfish, Pixar, Amazon, Capitol Records, Hurley, Sony Music, Meta, AT&T Entertainment Services, Live Nation, R/GA, and Taco Bell.
Laguna College of Art and Design opened in 1961 as Laguna Beach School of Art (LBSA). The school has a main campus in Laguna Beach and educational affiliates locally and around the world including Florence Academy of Arts in Florence, Italy, Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art, and NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences (NHTV), Netherlands. Laguna College of Art and Design serves around 770 students enrolled in dozens of degree and minor programs. The school is regionally and nationally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).
22. Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, Denver, Colorado (Top 30% of colleges considered)
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.
Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design began in 1963 as Rocky Mountain School of Art. Serving more than 1,000 students, RMCAD offers 16 degree and certificate programs offered in campus/hybrid and online formats. Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and it is an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).
23. Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD), Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Top 30% of colleges considered)
The Illustration BFA Program at Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD) has a major component, known as the Seminar Series, which provides the opportunity for students to interact, one-on-one, with outside professionals representing a cross-section of the field. Illustration BFA students also benefit from access to MIAD’s new Illustration studios, classrooms, and the Emerging Technology Center; participation in semester-long study abroad experiences; portfolio development courses; and internships at local and regional companies and studios.
The MIAD Illustration BFA Program explores traditional and digital illustration, visual communication, design, and art direction. Course examples Figure Drawing for Illustrators, Illustration I-IV, Research, Process and Connection, Fabrication, 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 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, Editorial, Exhibit Design, Graphic Design, Game Design, Forensic Illustration, Textile Design, Comics, Medical Illustration, New Media, Children’s Book Illustration, Animation, Fashion Illustration, Architecture, and Storyboard Art.
Program alumni are employed at (or own) companies such as Hallmark, Kohl’s Corporate, Harley-Davidson, Kohler, Estee Lauder, Studio8Design, Rockwell Automation, 4Design, Hanson Dodge Creative, THIEL Design.
Founded in 1974, Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design is the only four-year, nonprofit, private college of visual art and design in the State of Wisconsin. Serving 1,750 degree-seeking, pre-college, and outreach/special programs students, MIAD offers 21 degree and minor programs in everything from Animation to Sustainability. Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design is a member of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD)—a consortium of 39 leading art schools in the United States and Canada. MIAD also accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art & Design (NASAD) and the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
24. University of Pennsylvania - Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Top 35% of colleges considered)
University of Pennsylvania (Penn or UPenn) and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) work in partnership to provide a Coordinated BFA Program that combines Fine Arts training at PAFA with UPenn’s Liberal Arts curriculum. This Dual Degree Program begins with the First-Year Foundation experience, where students will study traditional and contemporary art-forms. After the first year, students will select a Studio Art Focus from six different Concentrations including Illustration, Drawing, Printmaking, Painting, Animation, and Sculpture. All Studio Art courses are taken at PAFA.
In the second and third years of the Penn/PAFA BFA Program, students will complete a combination of Liberal Arts and studio classes. During this time, students are assigned to individual, private studios with 24/7 access. In the final year of the Program, students complete the Liberal Arts curriculum consisting of 16 courses taken at UPenn’s College of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies. Once enrolled full-time, students gain access to Penn’s Fischer Fine Arts Library and Van Pelt Library. Students will also have opportunities to attend and participate in talks, exhibits, lectures, and performances on the UPenn campus.
Led by the Illustration Department at PAFA, PAFA/Penn BFA students will take courses such as Illustration I-II, Visual Narration, Letter Press and Book Arts, Digital Imaging, Illustration Methods, Digital Print & Web Design, Narrative and Sequential Drawing, Narrative Projects, Business Practices of Art, and History of Illustration. To graduate, students will compete a Thesis, the Illustration Projects course, and a Portfolio course.
The PAFA/Penn BFA is a very competitive program. Students who are not selected for the program may enroll in the four-year BFA Program at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Like PAFA/Penn students, upper-level PAFA BFA students will gain 24/7 access to private studios. Students will have the opportunity to invite faculty and Artists from the PAFA Visiting Artist Program to their studios to critique 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.
Graduates of the PAFA/Penn BFA and the PAFA BFA are prepared to launch careers in areas such as Magazine Illustration, Storyboard Art, Graphic Novels, Comics, Book Cover Art, Poster Art, Illustration for Animation and Games, Scientific and Medical Illustration, Art Direction, and Fine Art.
Established in 1740, University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) is one of the nation’s oldest universities. The school, which houses 189 research centers and institutes, provides more than 400 programs to approximately 28,040 students from across the U.S. and just about every continent. Programs at UPenn are housed across 16 colleges and schools. The University of Pennsylvania is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
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.
25. University of the Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Top 35% of schools considered)
University of the Arts (UArts) houses the School of Design. Serving 200 students, the School has an Illustration Program with BFA and Minor options. The Illustration BFA Program features opportunities to experiment and collaborate with students in other School of Design Majors such as Product Design, Graphic Design, Interaction Design, Fine Arts, and Animation. Students in this 120 credit hour program also work and learn in shared studio spaces and facilities such as Makerspace and the Cintiq Lab.
The Illustration BFA Program consists of intense training in the latest industry software including After Effects, InDesign, Adobe Photoshop, and Illustrator. Course examples for the program include Digital Design Lab, Figurative Interpretation & Personal Voice, New Media Illustration, Comic Creation, Illustration with Digital Media, Conceptual Problem Solving & Narrative Development, Children’s Book Illustration, Object & Worldbuilding, History of Illustration, Art, Design & Moving Image I-II, Illustration Workshop: Personal Viewpoints, and Illustration Markets & Promotion.
Although it is not required, Illustration BFA students have the opportunity to complete a Design Internship at an individual Artist Studio or places such a Cartoon Network, Anthropologie, and Barnes & Noble. The Program culminates with the Thesis completed across two courses: Illustration Thesis Studio I and Illustration Thesis Studio II.
Consisting of 15 credit hours of study, the UArts Figurative Illustration Minor focuses on skills development related to Painting, Figurative Drawing, and Imagemaking. Courses Illustration I: Pictorial Foundation, Illustration II: Illustration Methods, Figure Anatomy, 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 Blizzard Entertainment, Mattel, Hallmark, The Wall Street Journal, NASA, Ralph Lauren, PBS, Harper-Collins, Random House, DreamWorks, Nickelodeon, Marvel Comics, Time, NASA, Penguin Group Publishing, MTV, Cartoon Network, Disney, Martha Stewart, Simon & Schuster, ESPN, Facebook, Nickelodeon, Fortune, 20th Century Fox, Rolling Stone, Fisher Price, Major League Baseball, National Geographic Magazine (Nat Geo), The New York Times, Hasbro, The New Yorker, Newsweek, Reader’s Digest, and Warner Bros.
Founded in 1876 as part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, University of the Arts serves approximately 1,300 students enrolled in more than 40 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in Fine Arts, Design, Media Arts, Dance, Music, Theater, and Crafts. More than 20 minors are available and open to all students. Programs at UArts are housed in the Schools of Art, Dance, Design, Film, Music, Theater Arts, and Graduate and Professional Studies. University of the Arts is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).