What are the top game design programs in Michigan for 2021?

Top 5 Michigan Game Design Schools - 2021 College Rankings
1Michigan State UniversityEast Lansing
2College for Creative StudiesDetroit
3Ferris State UniversityBig Rapids
4Eastern Michigan UniversityYpsilanti
5Lawrence Technological UniversitySouthfield

Our 2021 ranking of the top game design school programs in Michigan. For an explanation of the ranking criteria, click here.

1. Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan
Michigan State University

Founded in 1855, Michigan State University (MSU) serves around 47,000 students enrolled in more than 200 programs in 17 degree-granting colleges. The College of Communication Arts and Sciences houses the Media and Information (MI) Department, home of the Game Design and Development Program.

Founded in 2005, the Program offers BA and BS degrees in Media and Information with a Games and Interactive Design Specialization and a BA or BFA in Studio Art with a Game Design and Development Specialization. The Specialization is also available to other majors “on a case-by-case basis, particularly those in the Honors College,” says the school. An interdisciplinary Game Design and Development Minor is also available.

The Minor “brings together students in Media and Information, Computer Science, and Studio Art. For most majors outside of MI, the Minor often nearly fulfills the student's cognate requirements.” The College of Engineering, College of Arts & Letters, and College of Communication Arts and Sciences administer the Minor jointly. The College of Communication Arts and Sciences is the lead administrative unit.

Graduate game offerings include an MA in Media and Information with a Focus in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) + Serious Game Design & Research Certificate and a PhD in Information and Media. The PhD program offers a range of research areas including Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Games and Meaningful Play, Game Design and Development, Human-Centered Technology Design, Computational Communication, Media Innovation, and Design and Entrepreneurship, to name a few.

MSU offers another program option for students interested in majoring in computer science. The BS in Computer Science, offered in the College of Engineering, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, provides the option to add the Game Design and Development Minor. Students in the program “will learn the foundations, and develop core competencies in their primary area of study and broaden their horizons as interdisciplinary team members, learning game design theories and principles, collaborating on the design and development of game projects, and engaging in active learning and authentic, situated creative problem-solving.”

Course highlights for the Game Design Programs at MSU include Advanced 3D Modeling, Building Virtual Worlds, Collaborative Game Design, Compositing and Special Effects, Computer Graphics, Experiments in Digital Video, Figure Modeling, Game Design and Development, Game Design Studio, Interaction Design, Interactive Environments and Digital Fabrication,  Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, Sound Design for Cinema, Television, and Games, and Spatial Design.

Besides offering a variety of courses and programs for game designers, the College of Communication Arts and Sciences houses the Games for Entertainment and Learning (GEL) Lab. The mission of the GEL Lab is to “design innovative prototypes, techniques, and complete games for entertainment and learning and to advance state of the art knowledge about social and individual effects of digital games.”

2. College for Creative Studies, Detroit, Michigan
College for Creative Studies

The College for Creative Studies (CCS) was founded in 1906 as the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts by a group of local civic leaders inspired by the English Arts and Crafts movement. The Society members began teaching informal classes in basic design, drawing and woodcarving and in 1911, they opened a gallery where student and prominent modern artists could display and sell their work.

In 1926, as the Art School of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts, the Society became one of the first arts and crafts organizations to offer a formal, four-year program in art, with an enrollment of 280 students. Today, CCS is a private, fully accredited college that offers BFA and MFA degrees to more than 1,400 students. Among the schools largest programs is Entertainment Arts.

Serving 329 students, The Entertainment Arts Department offers a BFA in Entertainment Arts with a Focus in Animation, Concept Design, Digital Film or Games.

The Games Concentration teaches students how to produce 2D and 3D images and concepts for video games. As a complement to the program, students may choose coursework from other areas or a Minor in Animation & Digital Media, Fine Arts, Illustration, or Visual Culture. All BFA students will take 126 credit hours including 84 in studio areas and 42 in general studies.

The school says that in addition to coursework in their chosen major, first-year students will take courses in the Foundation Department where they will study basic design, color theory and drawing. Students in all majors will also take courses in the Liberal Arts Department, which the school says is designed to provide them with an understanding of the larger social and cultural context in which they live.

In addition to Game Artists or Designer, graduates of the program are prepared to seek positions such as 3D Modeler, 3D Visualization Artist, AR/VR Developer, Character Artist, Compositor, Creative Director, Environment and Vehicle Designer, Level Designer, Rigger, Look Development Artist, Technical and VFX Artist, Video Game Specialist, and many others.

CCS Entertainment arts alumni have landed positions at places such as Bento Box Entertainment, Blur Studios, Disney ABC Television Group, DreamWorks, Lerner Film, Palace Sports & Entertainment, Pandemic Studios, Pixomondo, PopCap Games, Red 5 Studios, Smiley Face Productions, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Stardock Entertainment, Stargate Digital, and Tippett Studio.

3. Ferris State University, Big Rapids, Michigan
Ferris State University

Ferris State University (FSU or Ferris) dates back to 1884. On September 1, 1884, the Big Rapids Industrial School opened, and a year later, the institution became Ferris Industrial School. Around 1898, the name changed to Ferris Institute, and in 1963, it became Ferris State College. In 1987, FSU changed its name yet again to Ferris State University.

The school offers 180 undergraduate and graduate majors including 2-year degrees that "ladder" into

4-year, BA and BS degrees, eight master's degrees, and Doctorates of Education, Optometry, and Pharmacy. Some FSU majors are offered at no other university in Michigan or the United States.

Programs are offered in the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business, Education and Human Services, Engineering Technology, and Health Professions, and Pharmacy, as well as Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD) and Michigan College of Optometry.

Established in 1928, Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD) opened its doors in 1931 with just 35 art students. Today, the school serves more than 1,000 students enrolled in around 24 BFA, BS, MA, MFA, and Certificate programs. Aspiring game designers will find education pathways at Kendall College of Art and Design and in the College of Business’ School of Digital Media.

KCAD offers a BFA in Digital Art and Design. The program allows students to work in one of two focus areas including Entertainment Art (animation, digital 3D, visual development for games and animation, and sequential arts like comics and storyboards) or Multimedia Design (interaction design for the web, apps, virtual reality, the internet of things, and video and motion design animation). 

Students in the program will gain knowledge and hands-on experience via high-end equipment and on-campus facilities such as Cintiq Studios and a wide range of cameras, microphones, and lighting equipment, and via access to The Dow Center FlexLab, and KCAD Library. Graduates will leave the program with the skills and experience needed to pursue career paths in areas such as 2D animation, 3D game art, visual development, interaction design, and motion design.

School of Digital Media programs include a BS in Digital Media Software Engineering (DMSE), a BAS in Digital Animation and Game Design (DAGD), and a Digital Media AS. The BS in DMSE is designed as an engineering degree focused on the methodologies, procedures, and technologies involved in the software development process. The program offers students the opportunity “to actively compete” in many growing industries such as Video Game Development, Information Technology, and Entertainment.

The BA in DAGD Program is “focused on educating students in the latest tools and technology used to create digital and interactive content,” says the school. Aspiring game designers will learn how to animate and render 3D characters and scenes, author interactive applications and games, build content in industry leading game engines, create and manipulate 2D textures and images, and design and create 3D game level mods. They will learn to edit, manipulate, and develop digital video, model, rig, and light 3D characters and scenes, and prepare a professional portfolio and demo reel.

In addition to game design and asset creation, the program prepares students to pursue careers in growing industries such as architectural flythroughs, educational software, film, independent game and animation development, legal simulation, medical visualization, product design, web development, and more.

The AS program combines existing courses within the DAGD, DMSE, and Television and Digital Media Production (TDMP) programs into an introductory and exploratory degree within the School. It allows students to complete their general education requirements while enrolling in courses from across the digital media curriculum. Graduates of the program are prepared for entry-level positions in a variety of industries or they will enjoy a “smooth transition” into any of the bachelor’s degree programs offered in the School of Digital Media.

4. Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, Michigan
Eastern Michigan University

Founded in 1849, Eastern Michigan University (EMU) offers more than 350 programs to nearly 16,300 students. EMU houses the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business, Education, Health & Human Services, and Technology, along with seven centers and institutes. The School of Visual & Built Environments is part of the College of Engineering & Technology. Serving 1,939 students, the College offers a BS with a Focus in Simulation, Animation, and Gaming (SAG) or a 21 credit hour Minor in SAG. 

The school says the SAG degree is a “multidisciplinary area of study, combining traditional art mediums, programming, creative writing and story development with coursework focusing on modeling, rigging, animation, lighting, and camera work in 3D.” Course highlights include Advanced Modeling, Environment Design, Game Design, Game Development and Planning, SAG Rigging, Simulation and Animation Dynamics, and Texturing and Mapping, and Unity I-III, to name a few.

Graduates of the program go on to become Character Designers, Computer Animators, Concept Artists, Effects Artists, Game Designers, Modeler and Storyboard Assistants and many others.

EMU’s College of Arts and Sciences' School of Communication, Media & Theater Arts offers another option for aspiring game designers—the BA in Entertainment Design and Technology. This multidisciplinary program allows students to choose a Minor in SAG or other area and up to nine cognate elective credit hours. Elective highlights include Environment Design, Graphics for Simulation I-II, Introduction to Simulation, Animation and Gaming, Story Development, Texturing and Mapping, and Unity I.

Other program highlights include a hands-on work environment and collaboration with faculty and other students, an internship, and connections with corporate affiliates who regularly provide support for productions and offer employment opportunities for students.

5. Lawrence Technological University, Southfield, Michigan
Lawrence Technological University

Lawrence Technological University (LTU) was founded in 1932, thanks to Henry and Edsel Ford who provided “guidance and space in their sprawling former Model T assembly plant.” Today, LTU sits on a 107 acre campus, which has doubled in size since 1981. The campus houses the Detroit Center for Design + Technology (est. 2016) and the school has centers in southeastern and northern Michigan, Canada, China, Germany, India, Mexico, and Taiwan.

LTU serves 2,915 students enrolled in 100 programs in the Colleges of Architecture and Design (CoAD), Arts and Sciences, Engineering, and Management. Programs for aspiring game designers are offered through the College of Arts and Sciences, and CoAD’s Department of Art + Design. Options include a BS in Computer Science with a Concentration in Game Software Development, a BFA in Game Design, and a Minor in Game Art. A unique Minor in Game Design with a Dual Major in Computer Science and Other Major is also available.

“In hands-on interactive studios,” students in the 129 credit hour BS program “explore animation, interactive computer graphics, two- and three-dimensional representation and transformation, modeling, game genres, and graphics programming.” Students will also create their own completely envisioned computer games. The Minor in Game Design highlights courses such as Intro to Games & Animation and Game Genre Development. 

Delivered through the College of Architecture and Design, the BFA in Game Design is a project-focused, multidisciplinary program that focuses on art asset creation, game design, game mechanics, game scripting, and programming. Course highlights for the program include 2D Animation, Game Art Methodology, Game Art: Senior Project, Game Design, Integrated Game Studio, Motion Graphics, New Media, Professional Practice, Senior Seminar, and Sophomore Portfolio. An internship is also part of the program.

The CoAD Minor in Game Art allows current students to pursue expertise secondary to their major and receive recognition for completing the study. Students in the program will take courses such as 2D and 3D Animation, Concept Art for Games, Digital Drawing and Painting, History of Game Design, and Visual Communication. The program requires 12 credit hours in Game Art Studio, which dives into the creation of 2D and 3D game assets, before students develop a game prototype at the end of the Minor.

Graduates of LTU’s Game Design Programs are prepared to seek positions in 3D modeling, animation, app development, art direction, concept art, game design, game development, game writing, illustration, motion graphics, project management, storyboarding, user experience/user interface design (UX/UI), and more.

Current students and graduates work for local and national companies, including 3DExcite, Chimera Labs, Dead Art Games, Dreaming Door Studios, FanLabel, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Flyover Games, Ford, Jackbox Games, Mackevision, Quicken Loans, Pixo, Pluto, Seventy 7, and many others.