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|Ranking||College||State||Percent of Schools Considered|
|1||School of Visual Arts||New York||1%|
|2||Ringling College of Art and Design||Florida||1%|
|3||Rhode Island School of Design||Rhode Island||2%|
|4||ArtCenter College of Design||California||3%|
|5||Pratt Institute||New York||4%|
|6||Savannah College of Art and Design||Georgia||4%|
|7||Columbus College of Art and Design||Ohio||5%|
|8||Maryland Institute College of Art||Maryland||10%|
|9||Otis College of Art and Design||California||10%|
|10||Fashion Institute of Technology||New York||10%|
|11||The New School/Parsons||New York||10%|
|12||Massachusetts College of Art and Design||Massachusetts||10%|
|13||California College of the Arts||California||10%|
|14||Syracuse University||New York||10%|
|15||Kansas City Art Institute||Missouri||15%|
|16||Virginia Commonwealth University||Virginia||15%|
|17||Minneapolis College of Art & Design||Minnesota||15%|
|18||The University of the Arts||Pennsylvania||15%|
|19||Washington University in St. Louis||Missouri||15%|
|20||College for Creative Studies||Michigan||15%|
|21||University of Hartford||Connecticut||15%|
|22||Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design||Wisconsin||15%|
|23||Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts + University of Pennsylvania||Pennsylvania||20%|
|24||Cleveland Institute of Art||Ohio||20%|
|25||California State University - Long Beach||California||20%|
|26||California State University - Northridge||California||20%|
|27||Columbia College Chicago||Illinois||20%|
|28||Laguna College of Art and Design||California||20%|
|29||San Jose State University||California||20%|
|30||Pacific Northwest College of Art||Oregon||25%|
|31||Moore College of Art and Design||Pennsylvania||25%|
|32||Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis||Indiana||25%|
|33||Watkins College of Art||Tennessee||25%|
|34||Queens College||New York||25%|
|35||University of New Haven||Connecticut||25%|
|37||University of Colorado Denver||Colorado||30%|
|38||California State University - Fullerton||California||30%|
|39||Ferris State University||Michigan||30%|
|40||Academy of Art University||California||30%|
Our 2019 rankings of the top 40 college illustration programs in the US. For an explanation of our ranking criteria, click here.
1. School of Visual Arts, New York, New York
The School of Visual Arts (SVA) was founded in 1947 as Cartoonists and Illustrators School. The school serves more than 6,000 students enrolled in over 30 programs. Offerings for aspiring illustrators include a BFA in Illustration and an MFA in Illustration as Visual Essay. A BFA in Cartooning is also available. According to the school, SVA has the largest illustration faculty of any school in America. In addition to employing 69 faculty members, the SVA Illustration Department serves 473 students enrolled in more than 75 courses.
The BFA curriculum consists of 72 credits in studio, 30 credits in humanities and sciences, 15 credits in art history, and three credits in elective courses. Sample courses for the program include Collage Illustration, Designing Tattoos and Other Emblems, Etching and Monoprint as Illustration, Laboratory for Moving Pictures: Adventures in Limited Animation, Novelty Books for Young Children, and Pop-Up: 3D Paper Engineering.
While still students at School of Visual Arts, students have landed assignments for The New Yorker, The New York Press, Mad Magazine, and The Village Voice. Students are also frequent winners of the highest awards at the Society of Illustrators, American Illustration, and many other industry-based student competitions.
The MFA in Illustration as Visual Essay is a competitive program that accepts just 20 students per year. Students in the program can expect to complete requirements in Computer Illustration, Creative Writing, Drawing, Painting, Storytelling, and Visual Essay. Students will also complete a number of workshops as well as an Illustration Business Book Camp.
Other Highlights for the two-year program include close interaction between faculty and students, a personal workspace with 24-hour access, seven days a week, the opportunity to audit classes in film, animation, fine arts and humanities, and regularly scheduled guest speakers from the New York professional arts community. Opportunities for access to working artists, gallery shows, museum exhibitions and internships are also available.
Graduates of SVA’s Illustration Department have gone on to work on films such as Sleepy Hollow and for designers such as Prada and Van’s.
2. Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota, Florida
Ringling College of Art and Design (RCAD) was established in 1931 by circus baron, art collector, and real estate developer John Ringling. The school opened with just 75 students and 111 course offerings. Today, Ringling College of Art and Design serves 1,400 students and offers BFA degrees in eleven disciplines and BA degrees in two. Just a few majors include Computer Animation, Film, Game Art, Motion Design, Visual Studies, and Illustration.
Offered through the Illustration Department, the Illustration BFA covers the fundamentals of color theory, composition, anatomy, and digital and traditional media. The school says that “working in 2D and 3D, Illustration students are introduced to and familiarized with professional industry techniques through exercises, demonstrations, guest speakers, critiques, collaborative projects, internships, recruiter workshops, and interactions with real clients in the area.” Sample courses for the program include Computer Illustration, Design and Topography, Figure Drawing, Film and Narrative, Illustration Media, and 3D Design for CA & IL.
Other program highlights include the opportunity to enter a semester-long exchange program or a four-five week summer program at Studio Arts Center International (SACI), located in Florence, Italy, internship opportunities at major companies such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Blue Sky Studios, Disney, Hasbro, and Pixar, and participation in The Annual Illustration show, Illest of the Ill—a department juried exhibition curated and coordinated entirely by students.
Students in the program also have access to two Cintiq labs solely for Illustration, access to three 24-hour Cintiq labs, painting and drawing studios, and a laptop for every student, fully equipped with the latest Adobe Creative Suite software.
Ringling College students have won more wards in the 40-year history of the Society of Illustrators than any other college, and comprise the highest number of accepted entries into the Society’s annual Student Scholarship Competition. Graduates leave the program with a “comprehensive, cohesive portfolio” that showcases their work and they will be prepared for illustration positions in a range of industries.
Graduates have been hired by American Greetings, Apple, Blue Sky Studios, Cartoon Network, Disney, EA Games, GM, Google, Hallmark, Marvel Comics/Lucasfilm, Riot Games, United Airlines, Walt Disney, Zynga, and many others.
3. Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island
Founded in 1877, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is home to 2,480 students from across the U.S. and 57 other countries. This private school of art offers 16 undergraduate and 16 graduate (MA, MFA, MAT) art and design programs. Certificates are also available, including a Certificate in Natural Science Illustration.
The school’s most popular programs include Film/Animation/Video, Graphic Design, Industrial Design, Painting, and Illustration. Offered through the Illustration Department, the BFA in Illustration is Rhode Island School of Design’s largest major. The program has approximately 300 undergraduate students “with a diverse range of skills and interests,” says the school.
Program highlights include a full roster of visiting artists and art directors, professionals from across the country who offer feedback through annual portfolio reviews, and access to computer resources, printmaking studios, software such as AfterEffects, InDesign and Maya, and the ISB Gallery, which hosts a mix of student or curriculum related exhibitions throughout the academic year.
Sample courses for the program include Advanced Painting, Animalia, Cinematic Storytelling, Digital 3D for Illustrators, Dragon Concept & Character Development, In 3-d Mixed Media, Fantasy Painting: The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of, Style & Substance, Merging Worlds, The Magic of Books, Virtual Reality for Palliative Care, Visible Cities, and Word, Images and Ideas. Students will take workshops such as Maya Basics, Pigments & Emulsions, and Zbrush Sculpting and Illustration as well.
Famous Rhode Island School of Design alumni include Seth Macfarlane, creator of Family Guy, Daniel Sousa, animator and director of the Oscar-nominated film Feral, and Lance Wilder, animator for The Simpsons. Other alumni work as entrepreneurs or creative professionals through studios such as Pixar, DreamWorks, and Harmonix, or for networks like Fox, HBO, and PBS.
4. ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena, California
Founded in 1930, ArtCenter College of Design is home to approximately 2,100 students enrolled in 11 undergraduate and seven graduate degree programs in Industrial Design, Visual, and Applied Arts Disciplines. The school, which also offers a joint MS/MBA program with the Drucker-Ito School of Management, has two campuses in Pasadena and satellite studios in Los Angeles (at the Peterson Automotive Museum), and Berlin. Programs for aspiring illustrators include a BFA in Illustration. An Interdisciplinary MFA is also available.
Students in the program choose from five main areas of specialization including Illustration Design, Illustration/Fine Art, Entertainment Arts, Motion Design and Surface Design. A Designmatters Minor is also available. The curriculum moves from foundations skills such as figure drawing, painting and perspective and to the students chosen specialization or minor. Per the school, “the curriculum encompasses a wide range of core studies and collaborations with other disciplines that equips students with strong practical skills, as well as substantial business knowledge.”
Sample courses for the program include Advanced Portraiture, Designing Social Enterprise, Digital Illustration, Experimental Collection Strategies for Surface Design, Illustrative Storytelling, Op Ed Illustration, 3D Motion Graphics, Sequential Design and Visual Development. Graduates of the program have been hired at ArtCenter industry partners such as Apple, Blizzard, DreamWorks, Google, Mattel, Walt Disney and many others.
Notable Illustration alumni include Rockstar Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park; Mark “Crash” McCreery Creature Designer/Concept Designer for Batman Returns, Jurassic Park, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl; Drew Struzan, Movie Poster Illustrator for Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, the Muppets, Star Wars and others; and Phil Hettema, Experiential Designer for The Amazing Adventures of Spider Man, Jurassic Park: The Ride, and Hello Kitty Park.
5. Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York
Founded in 1887, Pratt institute is home to 4,600 students enrolled in 22 undergraduate degree programs, 26 graduate degree programs, and a variety of Certificate and Minor programs across five schools and The Center for Continuing and Professional Studies. Programs for aspiring illustrators are offered through the School of Art and the School of Design. Options include a BFA in Communications Design with an Illustration Emphasis, AOS and AAS degrees in Illustration, and an AAS in Graphic/Illustration.
Established in 2014, the School of Design is housed in the Juliana Curran Terian Design Center. Per the school, students who select the BFA with an illustration Emphasis “take a series of upper-level studio courses that explore topics particularly relevant to image-based communication such as advanced storytelling, socio-political commentary and authorship. Courses throughout the major encourage experimentation with multiple technologies, platforms and techniques.”
A variety of unique electives “provide opportunities to explore a wide spectrum of contemporary illustration practice including graphic novels, animation and 3D modeling, independent publishing, editorial illustration, children’s books, concept art and illustrated typography.”
The School of Art houses Pratt Institute’s Illustration Associate Degree Programs. The AOS in Illustration is a career-oriented track, which prepares students for careers in the art and design professions. The AAS in Illustration is transfer-oriented track, which positions graduates to transfer directly into the junior year of the Pratt BFA Programs in Fine Arts or Communication Design. The AAS in Graphic Design/Illustration follows an art and design curriculum that includes a liberal arts component that prepares students to transfer to Pratt’s BFA in Communications Design or the Fine Arts Department.
Upon completion of the program, BFA graduates are prepared to seek positions in a variety of industries or they may enroll in Pratt Institute’s Graduate School of Arts, which offers an MFA.
Pratt Institute alumni have landed positions at major studios such as Blue Sky, Digital Domain, Cartoon Network Studios, DreamWorks Studios, Industrial Light & Magic, Rhythm and Hues, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Curious Pictures, Gameloft, Sony Imageworks, and many others.
6. Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia
Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) was founded in 1978. With campuses in Savannah, Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Lacoste, France, SCAD is home to nearly 13,000 students from nearly 50 states and 115 countries. The school offers more than 40 majors and over 70 minors and certificate programs, including Illustration.
Offered through the School of Communication Arts, four degree options are available for aspiring illustrators as well as four minors and related programs. Degree options include a BA in Visual Communication with a Concentration in Illustration (Atlanta, Savannah), a BFA in Illustration (Atlanta, Hong Kong, Savannah), an MA in Illustration (Atlanta, Savannah, eLearning), and an MFA in Illustration (Atlanta, Savannah, eLearning). Minors include Animated illustration and Publication Design, Scientific illustration, Illustration for Entertainment, and Illustration for Surface Design. Related degrees include a BFA in Sequential Art (Atlanta, Hong Kong, Savannah)
The Animated illustration and Publication Design program is offered at the Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Savannah campuses. All others are offered at the Savannah campus only. Minor programs are 25 hours and include courses such as Digital Illustration, Illustrative Anatomy and Perspective, Imaginative Illustration: Character Refinement, and Type and Image for Illustrators.
Per the school, students in SCAD’s Illustration degree programs SCAD’s will learn to create “fine-art drawings, bringing ideas, characters and personalities to life using both traditional and digital techniques.” Students will work in a “professional environment through a program structured like a working studio,” and they will “develop a personal style and technique, learning to express their own unique vision while forming a well-rounded perspective on design.”
Students in the degree programs have the opportunity to study outside of their main discipline by taking courses in Advertising, Graphic Design, Motion Media, Printmaking, and Sequential Art. Sample major curriculum courses for the programs include Directed Projects in Illustration, Contextual Character Design, lllustrating Beyond the Page: The Narrative Experience, Illustration Business Strategies and Entrepreneurship, Illustration Markets, Illustration for Publications, and Materials and Techniques.
The BFA in Illustration has four concentration options including Animated Illustration and Publication Design, Concept Design for Animation and Games, Illustration for Games, and Illustration for Surface Design. Each concentration requires four courses, and students have the opportunity to choose from 10 elective hours to further refine their focus.
7. Columbus College of Art and Design, Columbus, Ohio
Established in 1879, Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD) is one of the oldest private art and design colleges in the United States. The school is home to more than 1,300 students enrolled in 12 bachelor’s degree and two master’s degree programs covering a broad range of subjects. Programs for aspiring illustrators include a BFA in Illustration with Concentrations in Illustration/Entertainment Design/Drawing; Illustration/Entertainment Design/Modeling; and Illustration/Illustrative Design.
An Illustration Minor is available as well as an MFA program. Project proposals for the MFA can be based in Illustration, Painting, Drawing, Animation, Interactive Design and many other areas. Columbus College of Art and Design has also launched a BFA in Comics and Narrative Practice. The curriculum for this program includes nearly a dozen illustration courses.
All students may participate in CCAD’s International Exchange Program, which highlights study at China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China; Universidad Mayor, Santiago, Chile; Xi’an Fine Arts Academy, Xi’an, China, and Northumbria, Newcastle, England. Students may also study at CCAD-approved programs at Studio Art Centers, Florence, Italy, and University of Arts London, London.
CCAD BFA graduates have landed positions at American Greetings, Cartoon Network, CBS News, DC Comics, Disney Consumer Products, DreamWorks, Hallmark, Hasbro, Marvel Comics, Ogilvy & Mather, Pixar, Sony Pictures, The Wall Street Journal, and many others.
8. Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, Maryland
Founded in 1826, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is the oldest continuously degree-granting college of art and design in the nation. The school, which is home to nearly 3,500 students from 49 states and 65 countries, offers more than 80 programs leading to the BFA, MA, MFA, and MPS degrees. Post-baccalaureate certificate programs are also available and programs are offered in the areas of fine arts, design, electronic media, art education, liberal arts, and professional studies.
Undergraduate programs for aspiring illustrators include a BFA in Illustration with Concentrations in Studio, Illustration + Humanistic Studies, Book Arts, and Sequential Art. Interdisciplinary options for specialized study include Studio Concentrations in Book Arts, Animation, Graphic Design, and Printmaking. In addition to first-year and liberal arts requirements, undergraduates will complete 54 credit hours in illustration. Sample courses include Illustration I & II, Life Drawing, Studio Drawing, and Professional Development.
Per the school, “seniors are mentored in two semesters of portfolio building work in Senior Illustration I and II to prepare a solid body of work in order to become professional illustrators. Professional Development for Illustrators includes portfolio preparation, business practice, intellectual property, and copyright issues.”
Graduate programs include an MA in Illustration and an MFA in Illustration Practice. The MA is a one-year program for students interested in a career in illustration or in refining their existing illustration practice. The degree culminates in independent work in the form of a capstone portfolio project, exhibition, and review panel. The MFA is a two-year program that attracts “experienced illustrators, advanced students from related disciplines, including writing, design, animation, film, digital media, etc., and students with a cultivated passion for illustration in all its forms.”
Students in the program will develop an independent, second-year thesis project using a medium appropriate to their personal direction and emerging illustration markets, including an exhibition and accompanying case study book.
Graduates of MICA illustration programs have gone on to land positions as Brand Illustrator for Uber, Author and Illustrator of "Nimona," Book Illustrator, Illustrator and Comic Artist for Random House, and many others. Graduates have also continued their education in graduate programs or have successful careers as freelance illustrators.
9. Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, California
Otis College of Art and Design (OTIS) was established in 1918 by founder and publisher of the Los Angeles Times, General Harrison Gray Otis. Home to approximately 1,100 full-time students, OTIS offers 11 BFA degree programs ranging from Digital Media (Animation, Game and Entertainment Design, and Motion Design) to Toy Design. The school also offers MFA degrees in Fine Arts, Graphic Design, Public Practice, and Writing, and a variety of minors and certificate programs.
Specific programs for aspiring illustrators are offered through the Communication Arts Department. Offerings include a BFA and a Minor in Illustration. Program highlights include visiting artists, conventions, field trips, and student exhibitions. Students can expect to take foundation courses such as Connections Through Color and Design, Drawing and Building Form, Introduction to Visual Culture, and Ways of Knowing. Sample Illustration courses include Alternative Materials and Procedures for Illustrators, Entrepreneur 101, Illustration Communication Studio, Printmaking, and Typography for Illustrators.
Otis College of Art and Design lists the following selected employers Conde Nast Publications, Disney Consumer Products, Hallmark, Interscope Records, Los Angeles Magazine, Mattel, Ogilvy Worldwide, Sony Music, Twentieth Century Fox, WB Network, and Young & Rubicam.
10. Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), New York, New York
Founded in 1944, Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) is a member of the State University of New York (SUNY) system. The school serves approximately 8,846 students at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Programs are offered through the Schools of Art & Design, Business & Technology and Liberal Arts in the areas of Art, Business, Communications, and Design. Serving approximately 3,322 students the School of Art & Design houses the Illustration Department, which offers AAS, BFA, and MFA Illustration programs.
Department highlights include a close affiliation with the Society of Illustrators—the industry's top professional organization, 50 award wins by students in highly competitive student art exhibitions, including the prestigious Society of Illustrators Annual Scholarship Competition, and the mentoring by art directors or illustrators who analyze students’ work and offer professional advice and support. Illustration students also have the opportunity to gain an international perspective on the global world of illustration through a study abroad course in Italy.
Sample courses include Applying Color to Illustrate the Written Word, Bok Illustration, Comic Book Illustration, Fantasy and Science Fiction Illustration, Illustrating the Male Figure, Illustrating the Written Word, Illustration Rendering Techniques, Stylistic Illustration, and Watercolor Comps and Illustrations.
The Illustration Portfolio Thesis is a final preparation for students entering the illustration business. The three-credit, six lab hours course highlights guest speakers from industry that provide students with insight into business practices, entrepreneurial strategies, and freelance and staff employment. Students present and defend their visual thesis before faculty and peers.
FIT graduates have gone on to build successful careers at Advertising Agencies such as Ogilvy & Mather, Young & Rubicam, DDB, BBDO, and J. Walter Thompson, at corporations such as American Greetings and Hallmark, Magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, and entertainment companies such as Walt Disney, Warner Brothers, DreamWorks SKG, and LucasArts Entertainment.
11. The New School/Parsons, New York, New York
The New School was founded in 1896 by American Impressionist William Merritt Chase. Established as The Chase School, the school later changed its name to New York School of Fine and Applied Art. Today, known as The New School/Parsons, this art and design college is home to nearly 5,500 students enrolled in 130 degree and diploma programs. Options for aspiring illustrators include a BFA in Illustration. Minors in Immersive Storytelling and Comics and Graphic Nature are also available, as well as MFA programs.
The BFA in Illustration program is part of Parsons' School of Art, Media, and Design (AMT). The program prepares students to work in a range of areas including animation, editorial and advertising illustrations, graphic novels, hand lettering, picture books, surface and display design, and toy designs. Sample courses for the program include studio courses such as Drawing/Imaging, Space/Materiality, and Time, and others such as Intro to Visual Culture: Recitation, Language and Letterform, and Objects as History.
Program highlights include projects and internships with Parsons partners including Nickelodeon, Toon Books, The New York Times, Moleskine, Barnes & Noble, and Brooklyn Industries, access to events such as Comic Arts Brooklyn, MoCCA Fest, and other professional gatherings, and the opportunity to connect with New York–based professional organizations such as American Illustration and the Society of Illustrators.
Per the school, these organizations “bring acclaimed art directors, illustrators, and publishing professionals to New York City and the Parsons campus.”
12. Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston, Massachusetts
Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) was founded in 1873 as a training institution for aspiring drawing teachers, architects, artists, and designers. Today, the school offers more than 20 undergraduate art programs, nearly a dozen graduate programs, and around seven certificate programs to a population of more than 2,000 students. The Illustration Department at MassArt offers a BFA in Illustration that the school says, “emphasizes the understanding of character development and narrative techniques.”
Students in the program take a variety of illustration and liberal arts courses taught by instructors who are freelance illustrators or illustrators who have their own businesses. Sample liberal arts courses include Introduction to Western Art, Literature/Writing/Film, and Thinking, Making, Writing: Using Words with Clarity and Flair. Sample major courses include Color for Illustration, Digital Illustration, Form Study, Human Figure Illustration, Media Techniques, Studio for Drawing, Technical Illustration, Visual Language, and Word and Image.
During their senior year, students will complete 18 major credit hours consisting of Studio Electives, a Thesis Project, Senior Illustration, and the Illustration Portfolio. Students will present their portfolio to invited professionals from advertising, corporate, editorial, institutional, and publishing markets.
13. California College of the Arts, San Francisco and Oakland, California
Founded in 1907, California College of the Arts (CCA) is home to more than 1,500 undergraduates and 450+ graduate students enrolled 22 undergraduate and 12 graduate degree programs, plus four minors. The school offers a BFA in Illustration and MFA programs in Fine Arts, Comics, and more. A BFA in an Individualized major is also available.
Per the school, the BFA in Illustration is taught by “Award-Winning Illustrators” and “digital innovators using the latest technology.” The curriculum is interdisciplinary, which allows students to explore courses outside the program such as Animation, Creative Writing, Fine-Art Painting, Graphic Design, and Printmaking. The program also provides the opportunity for students to develop as entrepreneurs through courses such as Professional Practice, Thesis, and Portfolio.
Other sample courses include Illustration Studios 1-3, Illustration Tools: Digital Illustration, Illustration Tools: Painting for Illustrators, Literary & Performing Arts Studies, Media History: History of Illustration, 2D, 3D & 4D, and Visual Studies.
Graduates of the Illustration program at California College of the Arts are prepared to seek positions at magazines, for the entertainment industry, and for websites, books, comics, products, packaging, posters, and more.
14. Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York
Syracuse University (SU) was founded in 1870. The school, which serves more than 22,500 students from across the U.S. and 118 countries, offers more 200 majors, 100 minors, and 200 advanced degree programs across 12 colleges and schools and a graduate school. The School of Art offers two programs for aspiring illustrators including BFA and MFA degrees in Illustration.
The BFA in Illustration combines storytelling, drawing, painting, design, and research. Four focuses help students explore specific professional areas. Focuses include Visual Development, Editorial, Sequential, and Licensing. Other program highlights include engagement with nationally and internationally known visiting artists each year, courses taught by practicing illustrators and artists whose work is published and exhibited nationally and internationally, global study opportunities at the SU campus in Florence, Italy or other countries, workshops and lectures, and visits to New York and Los Angeles.
All BFA students will have the opportunity to develop a portfolio that will be shown to art directors and illustrators for feedback.
Alumni from the illustration program have gone on to work in areas such as illustration for children's books, comics, graphic novels, newspaper, greeting cards, licensing, advertising, magazine, book and online publishing, as well as visual development in animated films, television, and the gaming industry.
The three-year MFA program offers online coursework in addition to classes at its two New York City locations (the Fisher Center and Lubin House) as well as in Syracuse, Los Angeles, and Florence, Italy. Students will complete hours of major studio courses, 12 studio elective credits, 12 art history and related academic credits, and six free elective credits. The program ends with a graduate seminar worth three credits and a final presentation, also worth three credits.
Program highlights include the option to participate in the Ginsburg-Klaus Art in Los Angeles Week (also known as “Art in LA”), the Turner Semester pilot residency program, which allows students to experience the arts of the West Coast, and to live and work in San Pedro (the Los Angeles Harbor area) during the spring semester, and the opportunity to interact with visiting and resident artists and scholars. An optional internship is also part of the program.
15. Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, Missouri
Established in 1885, Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI) has trained students such as Walt Disney (who took Saturday Classes as a child), and multimedia artist Robert Rauschenberg. Today, the school serves more than 700 students, enrolled in 13 art and design programs across several departments. The Department of Illustration houses the school’s BFA in Illustration program.
Per the school, “illustration students work with traditional and digital media to develop the conceptual, technical and aesthetic skills necessary for success in the diverse range of practices in this evolving field. Courses such as Drawing and Design Systems, Exploring the Narrative and Visual/Sequential Storytelling are geared toward enabling students to simultaneously express themselves as artists while learning how to communicate substantive visual messages.” Courses are taught by department faculty who are practicing professionals in the areas of publishing, editorial, advertising and institutional.
Other program highlights include collaborative assignments, a required internship in a professional work setting, access to studio and classroom technology that prepares students for diverse areas of professional practice, and the opportunity to work in digital and analog environments “designed to facilitate creativity and interdisciplinary approaches to image making.”
Recent graduates are employed at MTV, Nickelodeon, Hallmark, American Greetings, Nike and many others. Their work has been featured in many publications such as The New York Times, Women’s Day, Wired, and numerous children’s books. Some have won awards in publications such as Print, Communication Arts, American Illustration and the Society of Illustrators.
16. Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia
Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) began as Medical College of Hampden-Sydney in 1838. It later became the Medical College of Virginia and after merging with Richmond Professional Institute in 1968, the school became Virginia Commonwealth University. Today, VCU serves more than 31,000 students from across the U.S. and over 100 countries. The school offers over 200 academic programs through more than a dozen colleges and schools. The Illustration Program is offered through the School of the Arts, Department of Communication Arts.
The Illustration Program has two options: the BFA in Communications and the BFA in Communications with a Concentration in Scientific and Preparatory Medical Illustration. The BFA in Communications focuses on three areas including drawing, illustration, and visual studies. Per the school, “new elective courses are designed to reinforce and expand the drawing, design, and illustration components of the curriculum. Students will have the opportunity to develop projects in illustration.”
Sample courses for the program include Digital Drawing, Fundamentals of Typography, Illustration: Drawing and Painting, Sequential Imaging, and Visual Studies.
The BFA with a Concentration in Scientific and Preparatory Medical Illustration requires 32 credits in the biological sciences and chemistry, in addition to communication major and illustration courses. Sample courses for the program include Business of Communication Arts, Concept Drawing, Drawing Studies: The Figure in Context, Scientific Illustration, Time Studio, and Visual Communications.
All communications students have the opportunity to complete an internship and/or study abroad.
17. Minneapolis College of Art & Design, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis College of Art and Design was founded in 1886. The school, which serves around 800 students from 45 states and 15 countries, offers more than a dozen undergraduate majors and minors, and three graduate programs. Program options for aspiring illustrators include a BFA in Illustration. A BFA in Comic Art and an MFA program are also available.
The BFA program begins with foundation classes to help develop technical skills and work ethic and progresses to courses that build both conceptual and technical illustration skills. Sample courses for the program include Children’s Book, Digital Illustration, Editorial Illustration, Foundation 2D and 3D, and Illustration and Products.
In years three and four of the program, students will gain real-world experience through a required internship and they will have the opportunity to study abroad or elsewhere in the U.S., and participate in the Emerging Talent Showcase and share their work with potential employers. Per the school, students will also “develop and complete a semester-long project to culminate in the Commencement Exhibition.” The exhibition showcases the work of MCAD graduates.
18. The University of the Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The University of the Arts (UArts) was founded in 1876 and it is the nation’s only comprehensive arts university. The school is home to 1,900 students enrolled in 46 undergraduate and graduate programs, and more than 30 minors, through the College of Art, Media & Design, the College of Performing Arts, the Division of Liberal Art, and the Division of Continuing Studies (Grad Programs).
The College of Art, Media & Design houses the School of Design, which offers a BFA in Illustration and a Minor in Figurative Illustration. An MFA in Studio Art is also available. The BFA program allows students to declare a concentration. Options include Animation Movement, Animation Visual Development, Game Art, Graphic Design Communication, Graphic Design Typography, Photography, Painting and Printmaking.
The program blends creative visual problem solving, digital experiences, drawing, figure modeling, illustration, painting, picture making, digital experiences, as well as specialized graphic design courses, self-discovery through mentor-student relationship, and history of pictorial image making. Sample courses include Communication Design, Figure Anatomy, Illustration I-IV, Image/Time, Materials, Responsive Drawing, and Words, Images & Idea.
The Minor in Figurative Illustration requires 15 credit hours including Figure Anatomy, Illustration I and II, Responsive Drawing, and Figure Communication or Figure Painting.
Graduates of the Illustration Program at UArts have gone on to create illustrations for The New Yorker, New York Times, Rolling Stone, ESPN, Random House, Ralph Lauren, Fortune and others.
19. Washington University in St. Louis (Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts), St. Louis, Missouri
Founded in 1853, Washington University in St. Louis serves nearly 16,000 students enrolled in more than 90 fields of study across 10 colleges and schools. Part of the Art & Architecture Division, Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts houses the Communication Design Program. Here, aspiring illustrators can earn a BFA in Communication Design with an Emphasis in Illustration, and an MFA in Illustration + Visual Culture. A Minor in Design is also available.
Per thee school, the minor “allows students to mix and match courses in areas such as illustration, communication design, and the illustrated book studio to suit interests and schedules.”
The collaborative BFA in Communication Design with an Emphasis in Illustration combines graphic design, illustration, and interaction design. This means, students in the program can choose to focus on illustrating stories, creating comics, and designing printed posters and books, as well as study the history of printed images, comics, and advertising, make pictures for games and motion graphics, and more. During the last year of the program, “students will pursue a capstone project that culminates in an illustrated book, zine, screen-based presentation, graphic novel/mini-comic, or digital experience,” says the school.
The final project is displayed in a public exhibition and reviewed by external design professionals.
The MFA in Illustration + Visual Culture (MFA-IVC) is a two-year program that combines studio practice in illustration with curatorial training in visual and material culture. The two-year program consists of courses such as Comics and Cartooning: A Survey, lllustration Studio: Artist, Author, Audience, Illustration Studio: Drawing & Voice, Literatures of Drawing, Readings in Visual and Material Culture, and The Illustrated Periodical. Students in the program will also complete an internship.
Graduates of the MFA program will be prepared to work as author-artists of graphic novels and picture books, professors of illustration, critical writers on popular culture, and curatorial staff in museums, libraries, and auction houses. This program launches in Fall 2019.
20. College for Creative Studies, Detroit, Michigan
Founded in 1906, the College for Creative Studies (CCS) is home to more than 1,300 students enrolled in over a dozen degree programs across 14 academic departments. Programs for aspiring illustrators are offered through the Illustration Department. Options include a BFA and a Minor in Illustration. An MFA program is also available.
The school says that the BFA curriculum “emphasizes the fundamentals of image making, visual language and visual storytelling and teaches how to translate various traditional media into digital illustration.”
Sample courses for the program include Anatomical Figure Illustration, Digital Fundamentals, Figure Illustration, Illustration Techniques, 3D Techniques, 2D techniques, and Visual Narration. Students in the minor will choose five courses (15 credits) from the BFA curriculum.
Other BFA program highlights include access to a large network of key industry players via alumni, sponsored projects and a faculty of freelance illustrators, creative directors, art directors and concept and storyboard artists. Students also have the opportunity to complete an internship. Previous internships include Anthropologie, Cartoon Network, Diane von Furstenberg, Disney Consumer, Fisher Price, Insomniac Games, Mattel, Spark, WJBK Fox 2 News, and others.
Students will graduate from the BFA program with experience in traditional methods of illustration, newer digital trends, and with “the understanding of how traditional media translates into the digital illustration workflow process” known as “tradigital.”
21. University of Hartford, Hartford, Connecticut
University of Hartford traces its roots back to 1877, when one of the three founding schools, the Hartford Art School, opened. It was initially called the Hartford School for Decorative Arts. Today, University of Hartford (chartered in 1957) offers 100 degree programs in the arts, humanities, business, engineering and technology, education, and health professions. The school serves approximately 5,000 undergraduate and nearly 1,500 graduate students from 48 states and 48 countries.
University of Hartford has two program options for aspiring illustrators including a BFA and MFA in Illustration. Offered through Hartford Art School (HAS), which serves around 310 students, the BFA curriculum is designed to introduce students to the techniques and processes used by illustrators. It covers the three primary markets for illustrators: advertising illustration, book illustration, and editorial illustration. Sample courses for the program include Digital Illustration, Drawing for Illustration, Foundation 2D, 3D and 4D Studio, and Intermediate Illustration.
Students in the program will complete a portfolio and a senior project. In the portfolio preparation course, students learn to prepare their work for professional presentation. Per the school, “considerable emphasis is placed on the development of personal style and direction throughout the program.”
The MFA In Illustration is a low-residency program designed for working adults. Also offered through HAS, the MFA combines “intensive, on-campus sessions” in the summer with travel during spring and fall. Fall and spring semesters take place off-campus in places such as Dallas, San Francisco, Pasadena, New York City and other destinations.
Other program highlights include guest speakers, museum visits, and studio visits to places such as Communication Arts Magazine, Electronic Arts Entertainment, Disney Animation Studios, DreamWorks Animation Studios, Lucasfilm, Nickelodeon Studios, and the Society of Illustrators.
22. Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD), Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Founded in 1974, Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD) is Wisconsin’s only four-year, private college of visual art and design. The school, which serves 630 students, 600 pre-college students, and 250 outreach/special programs students, offers five degree programs and more than a dozen minors. Among the degree programs is a BFA In Illustration that prepares students to work in areas from publishing to web design and as freelancers or entrepreneurs. A 15-credit Minor in Illustration is also available.
Per the school, program highlights include the internship and semester-long study abroad opportunities, the opportunity to build a professional portfolio, and networking opportunities through MIAD’s Illustration Seminar, “where a series of workshops are presented by practicing professionals, including MIAD Illustration alumni, representing a cross-section of the field.” Sample courses for the program include Computer Studio, Digital 2D, Figure Drawing for Illustration, Illustration Media, Professional Practice for Illustrators, Systems of Drawing, Typography, and Visual Language.
Students in the BFA in Illustration program may complement the degree with studio minor such as Arts Management, Book Arts or Digital Media Production, or a liberal studies minor such as Advertising, Copywriting, or Writing. Communication Design, Industrial Design, and Interior Architecture and Design are other options.
23. Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts + University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Founded in 1740, the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) is home to 25,367 students enrolled in more than 400 programs across 16 schools. For nearly 100 years, the school has partnered with Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA), established in 1805 and the first museum and school of fine arts in the nation. Per the school, the partnership “provides students with an unparalleled opportunity to pursue their artistic passions and intellectual pursuits in the Ivy League.”
BFA students have access to more than 800 courses in 50+ areas of study. Programs for aspiring illustrators include the PAFA/Penn BFA in Illustration and a Certificate Illustration (PAFA). An MFA program is also available. The PAFA/Penn BFA in Illustration combines studio training with a fine arts focused liberal arts education. The program helps students develop skills in storytelling, visual communication, and entrepreneurship.
Courses in the program include Business Practices of Art, Digital Imaging, History of Illustration, Illustration Methods, Letterpress and Book Arts, Narrative and Sequential Drawing, Visual Narration, and courses with master illustrators such as David Wiesner and E.B. Lewis. Students in both the BFA and Certificate program have access 24-hour access to workspaces and digital facilities including two sky lit painting studios, a number of large painting classrooms, illustration/drawing studios and painting studios, and a rooftop terrace often used for cityscapes.
Per the school, graduates of the PAFA/Penn Illustration Programs “will be equipped with the tools to launch careers in fields including animation, book and magazine illustration, graphic novels, poster and storyboard art, medical illustration, and many other art- and design-related professions.”
24. Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland, Ohio
Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) is an independent college of art and design that serves 615 students from around the globe. Established in 1882, the school offers 15 majors in Crafts, Design, Digital Arts, and Fine Arts. Programs for aspiring illustrators include BFA degrees in Illustration and Biomedical Art (Medical Illustration).
The BFA in Illustration provides the opportunity to experiment with a variety of traditional materials and techniques, including acrylics, collage, inks, pencils, and oils, "while mastering contemporary digital processes using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator." Students in the program will learn to create polished illustrations for all current and emerging markets including advertising, entertainment, gaming, licensing, publishing, and social expression.
Other program highlights include field trips to professional art studios and advertising agencies, interaction with visiting artists, and the opportunity to share the final portfolio with employers, illustrators, and designers, who are invited each year to CIA. Per the school, graduates of the program “will be prepared to enter the industry as a staff artists, freelance illustrators or creative entrepreneurs.”
The Biomedical Art (Medical Illustration) program is one of only a few BFA degrees of its kind in the United States. The program “combines applied art, science, and technology to create visual education materials on scientific and medical topics.” The curriculum “incorporates leading-edge digital media techniques, interactivity, and animation.” Students in the program learn how to “blend artistic talent with knowledge of natural science, a biomedical intellect, and strong visual communication skills.”
Sample courses for the program include Computer Imaging and Animation, Editorial Illustration and Instructional Design and Multimedia. Students and graduates of the program benefit from CIA’s professional partnerships with Case Western Reserve University, University Hospitals Case Medical Center, the Cleveland Clinic, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the Cleveland Botanical Garden. Graduates have gone on to land positions such as Art Director, Biomedical Illustrator, Illustrator, 3D Animation Artist/Designer, and many others.
25. California State University Long Beach, Long Beach, California
California State University Long Beach (CSULB) was established in 1949. One of the 23 campuses of the California State University System, CSULB is home to 37,500 students enrolled in more than 300 programs across eight colleges. The College of the Arts, School of Art, offers several programs for aspiring illustrators. Options include a BFA with an Illustration Track, an individualized MA or MFA, and a Certificate in Biomedical Art.
Students in the BFA program can take courses from both the Illustration and Animation Tracks and work together in the school’s digital lab, in addition to learning traditional skills. Sample courses for the program include Advanced Illustration, Advanced Life painting, Costumed Figure Drawing, Experimental Animation, Special Studies in Illustration, Storyboarding for Film and Television, and Visual Development. Workshops and presentations are also part of the program as well as courses taught by resident illustration faculty comprised of experienced professional artists currently working in the fields of illustration and animation.
As customized programs, the MA and MFA “are dependent on the student’s preparation, interests and talents,” says the school. “This program centers on each student developing a strong personal and independent creative vision.” Students in the program “will create a focused body of work in the form of an exhibition as the culminating experience of the degree.”
The interdisciplinary Certificate in Biomedical Art is sponsored by the Art and Biological Sciences Departments. The program is available to students who are presently enrolled in a degree program in the Biological Sciences or in Art at CSULB.
Graduates of the Illustration Programs at CSULB are prepared a professional position as an artist or designer, and for teaching studio art within a selected specialization.
26. California State University-Northridge, Northridge, California
Founded in 1958, California State University Northridge (CSUN) serves more than 40,000 students enrolled in more than 140 programs. The school consists of nine colleges, including the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication, which houses the Department of Art. Several illustration programs are available through the Department and include BA, MA and MFA degrees in Visual Arts with a Concentration Illustration.
Per the school, in the Illustration Concentration, students will study illustration “as both an art form and as a profession. Topics cover “portfolio and website development, goal setting, researching employment opportunities, self-promotion and business and trade practices.” Projects focus on a variety of technical skills in digital media and fine art, self-expression, conceptual problem-solving abilities, composition and design, and the development of a personal artistic vision. Other program highlights include interaction with visiting artists, internship and study abroad opportunities, and the opportunity to exhibit illustrations at various showcases.
All Curb College Department of Art students have the opportunity to participate in industry and studio events, organized studio tours, and ongoing collaborative educational partnering with DreamWorks studios and Seoul Institute of the Arts. Students also participate in industry events and internships with Nickelodeon, Disney, Film Roman, Warner Bros., and others.
27. Columbia College Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Columbia College was established in 1890 and it serves more than 7,000 undergraduate students and 285 graduate students from nearly every state and more than 60 countries. The school has over 100 academic majors or programs across several schools and more than 20 departments. Schools include the School of Media Arts, the School of Fine and Performing Arts, and the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The School of Fine and Performing Arts is home to the Illustration Program, which has both BA and BFA options.
The BA is a flexible program allows students to choose a minor or second major. Minor options include Animation, Creative Writing, Game Art, Journalism, Graphic Design, and Motion Graphics. Second major options that complement the degree include Computer Animation, Game Art, Graphic Design, and Traditional Animation.
The BFA is requires more advanced courses in illustration than the BFA program, which leaves little time for a minor or a second major. Sample courses for the BA program include Design Lab, Digital Illustration, Figure Drawing, Illustration Studio I, II & III, Illustration: Materials & Techniques, and Survey of Typography. The program also consists of a required internship.
Major courses for the BFA include Cartooning, Children's Book Illustration, Commercial Illustration, Drawing the Graphic Novel, History of Political and Social Illustration, Special Issues in Illustration, and Survey of Typography. An internship is part of the program as well as a Portfolio Development course. Because many illustrators work independently, both the BFA and BA programs also emphasize work emphasizes business skills in entrepreneurship and freelance.
BA and BFA students typically intern at a design firm, advertising agency, or art gallery and both programs also prepare students for positions in industries such as advertising, book and magazine publishing, entertainment/film, fashion, and product packaging.
28. Laguna College of Art and Design, Laguna Beach, California
Established in 1961 as the Laguna Beach School of Art, Laguna College of Art and Design (LCAD) is home to more than 600 students and it offers twelve undergraduate majors and four graduate degrees. Options for aspiring illustrators include a BFA in Graphic Design + Digital Media with an Illustration Emphasis, a BFA in Illustration in Entertainment Design, and an Illustration Minor, which consists of 15 credit hours in courses such as Computer Imaging, Graphic Illustration and Illustrative Painting.
The BFA in Graphic Design + Digital Media with an Illustration Emphasis (GD+DM) prepares students for careers in illustration, motion graphics, 3D, package design, user experience and interfaces, advertising, social media, photography and video, and virtual reality. Classes are project-based and include titles such as Communication Design, Design Drawing, Digital Videography, Fundamentals of Illustration, Rendering, and User Interface Design. Students in the program will have the opportunity to complete a professional portfolio and complete real-world projects with industry partners such as Obsidian Entertainment, OC Art Studios, and Xist Publishing.
Students in the Illustration in Entertainment Design BFA program will learn how to combine art and technology to create live shows, museum exhibitions, themed events, themed restaurants and parks, TV and film productions, and more. Per the school, the curriculum provides “real-life, hands-on instruction with concept design, model and prop-making, and 3-D digital tools.” Sample courses for the program include Artistic Environment Design for Entertainment, Art of Costume, Fundamentals of Maya, Pictorial Design for Illustration, and Visual Storytelling for Entertainment.
Graduates of the Entertainment Design program work at a variety of major companies and studios including Blizzard Entertainment, DreamWorks Animation, Marvel Entertainment, Microsoft Studios, Obsidian Entertainment, Warner Bros., and many others.
29. San Jose State University, San Jose, California
San Jose State University (SJSU) was founded in 1857 and it is home to more than 32,000 students enrolled in 145 areas of study, with an additional 108 concentrations, across eight colleges. The College of Humanities and the Arts, Department of Design offers a BFA in Animation/Illustration. Graduates of this program have worked on films from A Bug’s Life and Finding Nemo to Monsters, Inc. and Shrek.
Graduates have also been hired at more than 135 animation studios, game design companies, film studios, and academic institutions. Just a few include 20th Century Fox, Animation Mentor, Blue Sky Studios, Blizzard Entertainment, Cartoon Network, Cogswell Institute, Disney Interactive, Electronic Arts, Lucasfilm Animation, NBCUniversal Studios, Nickelodeon, Pixar, Sony/Columbia, The Art Institute of Las Vegas, Disney Animation, and Zynga.
The Department of Design also offers an MFA in Digital Media Art. The program is offered at the CADRE Institute, which “reflects the innovative atmosphere in Silicon Valley.” Academic programs emphasize artistic experimentation within a context of historical, cultural, and theoretical study. The program is intended for students with interest in contemporary research. CADRE's diverse community of faculty and graduate students produce artworks involving visualization, simulation, hypertextuality, information, mapping, telepresence, networks, and interactive systems.
Technical facilities include a wide range of computing resources. Students work across the boundaries of computer visualization, animation, digital video, multimedia, electronic sculpture, sound and virtual reality. CADRE supports its own networking environment and offers excellent opportunities to produce internet-based artworks.
30. Pacific Northwest College of Art, Portland, Oregon
Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) was founded in 1909. This fine arts and design college offers eleven BFA degrees, seven graduate degrees including MFA and MA degrees, a Minor, a Post-Baccalaureate, and a variety of Community Education programs for adults and youth. Around 550 students from 42 states and 10 countries are enrolled in 21 areas of study from Animated Arts to Video and Sound.
The Illustration Program is one of the top undergraduate options at PNCA. A BFA is available as well as a Community Education Certificate. PNCA also offers an MFA program. Per the school, the BFA in Illustration “combines development of technical skill in traditional studio media and new and emerging technologies with conceptual inquiry to empower (students) to create visual messages capable of engaging clients and changing culture.”
Program highlights include mentorship programs, professional practices instruction, portfolio preparation and internship opportunities. Internships for seniors and recent graduates have taken place at companies such as Dark Horse Comics, Microsoft, Nike, Nintendo, and Wieden+Kennedy.
PNCA students also have the opportunity to show their work at an annual end-of-year showcase hosted by the Illustration Department at a downtown gallery.
31. Moore College of Art and Design, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Moore College of Art and Design was founded in 1848 as the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (PSDW). The school serves around 400 students enrolled in ten majors leading to the BFA degree. Several programs are offered for illustrators including a BFA in Illustration and a 15 credit hour Illustration Minor. The school also offers an MFA program.
Offered through the Illustration Department, the BFA in Illustration consists of a “rigorous curriculum takes students through a comprehensive range of contemporary illustration-based courses, classical life drawing and painting courses,” says the school. Sample courses for the program include Business for Illustration, Convention, Canon, Sign; Digital Painting for Illustrators, Digital Modeling for Illustrators, Illustration Concepts and Practices I & II, Pictorial Fundamentals, and Visual Thinking.
Besides a unique curriculum, program highlights include guest illustrators, art directors and artist representatives in advertising, animation, book, corporate, editorial and illustration, a yearly field trip to the Museum of American Illustration in New York, with visits to the art departments of Forbes, Time and The Wall Street Journal, and regular trips to the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, and the Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington, Delaware.
Moore College of Art and Design also provides students with the opportunity to create a customized learning experience, offering 17 tracks leading to one of 12 minors to complement the major courses of study. Besides Illustration, just a few Minor offerings include Animation & Game Arts, Creative Writing, Fine Arts, Graphic Design with two tracks - Communication Design with a Print Emphasis and Interactive Design, and Photography and Digital Arts.
Students also have the opportunity to complete a paid internship. Moore is the only art and design school to provide $1,000 paid internships for each student in every major. Recent internships include Marvel Entertainment, Museum of Comic & Cartoon Art, Penguin Group, Society of Illustrators, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, and others. These internships often lead to permanent employment. The school reports that 94% of 2017 Illustration graduates are employed, 88% with businesses in their field of study.
32. Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis, Indiana
Indiana University-Purdue University (IUPUI) was created in 1969 after Indiana University (est. 1891) and Purdue University (est. 1869) merged their many programs and schools. Today, IUPUI serves 28,710 students from 50 states and 142 countries, enrolled in 350 undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs. Seventeen schools grant degrees in Engineering, Health Sciences, Liberal Arts, Life Sciences, and more.
The Herron School of Art + Design at Indiana University-Purdue University offers a BFA Drawing + Illustration. The school also offers MFA programs. BFA program highlights include access to the latest equipment and technology in students’ choice of studio spaces, the opportunity to enhance the degree with a Minor in Book Arts or Design Production, and classes taught by faculty who are working professionals in the field.
The program, which consists of extensive studio experience in both drawing and illustration, requires completion of courses such as Advanced Drawing & Illustration, Building & Making, Digital Rendering, Image & 4D Studio, Narrative Drawing, and Studio Art & Technology. Per the school, the curriculum “provides broad exposure to both traditional and contemporary techniques in all media including digital technology. Students develop skills from both fine and applied arts perspectives.”
Graduates of the program are prepared to pursue positions such as Animator, Children's book illustrator, Comic Artist or Graphic Novelist, Editorial Illustrator, Packaging Designer, Scientific or Technical Illustrator, Set or Exhibition Designer, Storyboard or Concept Artist, or Toy or Product Designer. Some graduates go on to work as freelance artists or designers, while others start their own businesses.
33. Watkins College of Art, Nashville, Tennessee
Watkins College of Art (formerly Watkins College of Art, Design & Film) was founded in 1885. The school serves more than 300 students enrolled in BFA degrees in Film, Fine Art, Graphic Design, Illustration, Interior Design, and Photography, a BA in Art, and MFA degrees in Film and in Visual Arts. In the BFA in Illustration program, students will “explore the entire illustration process, including character development, sequential imagery, storyboarding, and visual narration,” says the school.
The program teaches specific techniques related to picture books, game design, and animation, and students will “analyze the historical and contemporary roles of illustration in reflecting, serving, and advancing culture.” Special topics will also be explored through classes such as Illustration/Printmaking Camp and The Picture BookProxy-Connection. Other sample courses for the program include Digital Design, Digital Design & Illustration, Figure Study, Introduction to HTML & CSS, Mathematics for Visual Arts, Pictorial Problems, Surface, Space & Time, and Visual Narratives.
During their junior and senior years, upper-division students will have the opportunity to complete up to two internships. In recent years, Watkins students have gained experience at Advent, Anderson Design Group, The Buntin Group, Prosper Press (San Francisco), Vanderbilt University Creative Services, Warner Brothers Nashville, and others.
34. Queens College, Flushing, Queens, New York
Founded in 1937, Queens College is part of the City University of New York (CUNY) system. The school serves more than 19,000 students from nearly 170 countries enrolled in hundreds of programs across four academic divisions. The Division of Arts & Humanities is home the Art Department, which offers a BFA in Design with a Concentration in Animation and Illustration and a 21 credit hour Minor in Animation and Illustration.
Sample courses for both programs include Advertising Design, App Design, Book Design and Production, Children’s Book Illustration, Color and Design, Creative Coding, Digital Moviemaking, Graphic Novel, Illustration I, II & III, Introduction to Adobe After Effects, Pixel-Based Imagery, Publication Design, Storyboarding and Storytelling, and Web Design. Per the school, students will also complete an internship that provides “real-world experience as a designer while receiving college credit and building their resume.”
Graduates of the Animation and Illustration program at Queens College are prepared for a variety of designed-based positions such graphic designer, software and web developer, animator, marketing and advertising specialist, or product designer.
35. University of New Haven, West Haven, Connecticut
Founded in 1920, University of New Haven serves 7,000 students enrolled in 57 undergraduate majors, 31 areas of graduate study, and a doctorate in criminal justice. The school consists of the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Business, the School of Health Sciences, the Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences, and the Tagliatela College of Engineering. The Illustration BFA program is housed within the College of Arts and Sciences.
Per the school, students in the program will “develop their ability to create compelling and effective visual communication, built on a solid foundation in drawing, design, painting, liberal arts, and art history.” Students will also learn about character development, narrative forms, and storyboarding, “both in the studio and through visits with professionals in the field.” Students will hone their craft using the latest digital technologies.
Sample courses for the program include Calligraphic Drawing, Narrative Drawing, Printmaking – Relief and Intaglio, and Rapid-Pose Life Drawing. In addition to a variety of courses, students will have the opportunity to complete an internship and they have access to the Career Development Center. Benefits of the center include career assessments, networking, and job shadowing, as well as on-campus interviews and salary negotiation coaching.
Note: The Illustration BFA program will be offered exclusively at the main campus in West Haven beginning Fall 2019. This program, along with all academic programming, will cease at Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts at the close of the academic year in May 2019.
36. Arcadia University, Glenside, Pennsylvania
Founded in 1853, Arcadia University serves 3,850 students enrolled in dozens of degree programs across five colleges and schools. The College of Arts and Sciences houses the Illustration Program, which has several offerings for aspiring illustrators. Options include a BFA in Art with a Studio Concentration in Illustration, a BA in Scientific Illustration with an Optional Emphasis in Premedical Illustration, and a Minor in Scientific Illustration.
The BFA in Art with a Studio Concentration in Illustration consists of a wide range of academic and studio courses. Students in the program benefit from small class sizes, practical, hands-on internships and apprenticeships, and study abroad opportunities. In addition, each year, the Visual and Performing Arts Department schedules field trips to area museums, including New York and Washington, D.C.
Per the school, graduates of the program are prepared for graduate study in studio art as well as entry-level positions in a variety of “art occupations connected with business and industry, government and social agencies, and future possibilities for careers as exhibiting artists.”
The BA in Scientific Illustration with an Optional Emphasis in Premedical Illustration consists of courses such as Advanced Drawing, Comparative Anatomy and Physiology, Digital Fabrication, Graphic Design (Typography), Human Genetics and Development, Illustration I, Illustration II (Children’s Book Illustration), and Scientific Illustration. Students in the program will have the opportunity to receive supervised training in illustration, design, computer imaging, systematics and/or collections management at a studio or research institution in the Philadelphia area.
Past internship sites include the Academy of Natural Sciences, Jefferson Hospital and the Philadelphia Zoo.
37. University of Colorado Denver, Denver, Colorado
University of Colorado Denver (CU Denver) originated in 1912 as an extension of the University of Colorado Boulder and gained its independence in 1973. The school serves approximately 19,400 students enrolled in more than 140 degree programs in 13 schools and colleges. The College of Arts & Media houses the Illustration Program, which consists of a BFA in Fine Arts with an Illustration Emphasis and a Minor Illustration.
Per the school, students in the BFA program “receive instruction in conceptual illustration, digital illustration, rendering, perspective, painting, exhibition preparation, professional practices and the use of various artistic and illustration techniques.” Sample courses for the program include Anatomy for the Artist, Digital Painting, Graphic Novel Workshop, Illustration I, II, III & IV, Painting, Drawing and the Printed Image, and Typography Studio
"In preparation for a professional illustration career, the coursework allows students to master numerous essential digital and traditional tools and work to successfully bring the two together in ambitious and innovative illustrative work.” In addition to coursework in a range of areas, students will complete studio courses and lectures, as well as an internship and a Capstone course.
Graduates of the program are prepared to pursue a freelance illustration career, as well as positions in advertising, design, entertainment, publishing, and many others.
38. California State University Fullerton, Fullerton, California
Founded in 1957, California State University Fullerton (CSUF) serves approximately 39,340 students enrolled in 110 degree programs across eight colleges. The College of Arts is home to the Department of Visual Arts, which offers three programs for aspiring illustrators. Options include BFA, MA, and MFA programs in Art with a Concentration in Illustration.
The BFA program is designed for students interested in developing skills in a focused area and preparing for graduate study. The Illustration Concentration requires preparation courses such as 3D Computer Animation, Lettering and Typography, and Life Drawing. Major courses include Cartooning and Caricature, Digital Narrative Illustration, Elements of Sequential Art, Special Studies in Illustration, and Visual Development and Background Painting. All students will have the opportunity to complete an internship.
Per the school, the MA program “provides a balance of study and practice for those who wish a career in the visual arts, or who want to prepare for further graduate work in the field.” The program consists of nine units of required studio courses, as well as at least 12 units in Illustration. Students may also take an additional three to six units in Illustration or other electives. All students will complete a project to exhibit in one of the Department of Arts graduate galleries.
The MFA is a “rigorous” studio program that requires 60 units to graduate. Students in the program must take 24 units in the Studio Area of the Illustration Concentration, at least 12 units of electives, and independent study. A studio project is also part of the program.
Graduates of the Illustration programs at CSUF have found employment at major entertainment and publishing companies, such as the Cartoon Network, DreamWorks SKG, Lucas Films Ltd. and Walt Disney Company.
39. Ferris State University, Grand Rapids, Big Rapids, Michigan
Ferris State University was founded in 1884 as Big Rapids Industrial School. The school began its 2017-2018 academic year with a total enrollment of 13,798 students across all campuses, including 9,860 on the main campus in Big Rapids. Ferris offers more than 190 educational programs through eight colleges including Arts and Sciences, Business, Education and Human Services, Engineering Technology, Health Professions, Pharmacy, KCAD, and Michigan College of Optometry.
Founded in 1928, KCAD is located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The school serves more than 1,000 students enrolled in around 24 BFA, BS, MA, MFA, and Certificate programs. Among these programs are two offering for aspiring illustrators—a BFA in Illustration and a BFA in Medical Illustration.
Launched in the 1960s, the BFA in Illustration teaches students to master multiple illustration techniques in both traditional and emerging media. Sample courses for the program include Digital Illustration Painting, Illustration Life Drawing, Illustration Professional Practices, Illustration Techniques, Rendering, and Watercolor Techniques for the Illustrator.
Program highlights include focused study of illustration, participation in the KCAD Illustration Society, and access to KCAD galleries, labs, and the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA). Students also have opportunities to participate in summer travel/study experiences as well as internships during the academic year and summer.
Graduates of the program are prepared to pursue careers as a freelance illustrator, as well as art director, cartoonist, editorial illustrator, fashion illustrator, mural designer, storyboard illustrator, and many others.
The BFA in Medical Illustration is a three-year program that consists of classes from KCAD, Ferris State University, Grand Rapids Community College, and Michigan State University. Students in the program will take a combination of Art, Communication, and Science coursework. Students will study Anatomy, Biology, and Medical Terminology, illustration techniques such as include All-Digital Illustrations, 2D Animations, Traditional/Digital Hybrids, Traditional Drawing Methods, and 3D (Digital) Modeling, and Visual Communications.
Graduates of the program are prepared to seek intermediate to advanced positions in the field or for further graduate or professional level study.
40. Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California
Established in 1929, Academy of Art University serves more than 7,200 students enrolled in dozens of Art, Design, Fashion, and Architecture programs. Degrees are offered at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and many programs are available entirely online. The School of Illustration offers five programs for aspiring illustrators. Options include AA, BFA, MA and MFA degrees in Illustration. A Certificate in Illustration is also available. These degree programs are available entirely online, and some courses for the certificate program are offered online.
The AA in Illustration focuses developing skills in the areas of anatomy, figure drawing, rendering, and traditional media including charcoal and paint. The Digital Media component for the program focuses on imagery using both vector and bitmap tools. The BFA program consists of eight semesters of coursework covering the areas such as drawing, composition and color, presentation skills, professional development, tools and techniques, and visual problem solving.
Sample courses for the program include Advanced Perspective for Illustration, Analysis of Form, Blogging: Content Creation & Promotion, Editorial Illustration for Apps and Publication, Film & Games, Digital Media 2: Illustrative Imaging, Elements of Digital Painting, Illustration for Consumer Products & Licensing, Interactive and Vector Art, Interactive Illustration, Portfolio Preparation and Self Promotion, Social Media Strategies, and Web Design. Students in the program will also complete an internship, collaborative projects, and a study abroad experience.
The MA and MFA programs prepare students for intermediate to advanced positions in a range of industries. They are also prepared for success as entrepreneurs or freelancers. Sample courses include Head Drawing for Illustrators, Perspective for Characters & Environment, Professional Practices for Illustrators, Skill Enhancement: Advanced Digital Painting, Skill Enhancement: Interactive & Vector Art, and The Rendered Figure. Graduate students will attend a Graduate Seminar in Europe, complete a thesis, and participate in a study abroad experience.
Students in all programs benefit from guest speakers, workshops, and events that the school says help students “create an insider network” that connects them with industry professionals. They have the opportunity to work with WRiTE BRAiN BOOKS, which has been a partner to Academy of Art University for more than half a decade, and to collaborate with “artists, designers, and innovators outside of the classroom.” Internship opportunities are also available.
Graduates of the program are prepared to pursue a career as a children’s book illustrator, comic book artist, concept artist, editorial or advertising illustrator, graphic novelist, interactive illustrator, storyboard artist, and many others. Graduates have been hired by Chronicle Books, Marvel, Random House, The Atlantic, The New York Times, Wired, and many other companies.