What are the top graphic design school programs in Massachusetts for 2021?

Top 5 Massachusetts Graphic Design Schools - 2021 College Rankings
1Boston UniversityBoston
2Massachusetts College of Art and DesignBoston
3Northeastern UniversityBoston
4Lesley UniversityCambridge
5University of Massachusetts-LowellLowell

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

1. Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts
Boston University

Boston University (BU) was established in 1839. The school houses nearly 35,600 students served by a faculty and staff of 10,000—making BU Boston’s largest employer.

With more than 300 programs of study offered in 17 colleges and schools, offers BFA, MFA, and Certificate Programs in Graphic Design. One of the programs in the College of Fine Arts’ School of Visual Arts is the Graphic Design BFA. The program “provides a sequenced studio approach to design, preparing students to thrive in a dynamic, creative professional environment,” says the school.

Students will begin the program with Foundations, which introduces “visual concepts in two and three dimensions, with an emphasis on drawing from observation.” In the second year of the program, students specialize in graphic design coursework, with yearlong graphic design and typography studios that emphasize form and communication. Third year students participate in graphic design and typography studios that “address authorship, audience, and medium.” Projects are completed in communal workspaces equipped with flat files, printers, and paper trimmers. “With training, students are also granted access to the School’s Printmaking facilities, which include etching, lithography, silkscreen, bookmaking, letterpress, and digital print studios.”

Students in the BFA program have the opportunity to complete coursework outside of the School of Visual Arts and explore a variety of programs across the BU community. Many undergraduate Graphic Design students are dual-degree majors.

The BFA in Graphic Design culminates in the thesis project and end of year exhibition, where students “articulate a personally driven design methodology through an installation of their work in the Boston University Art Galleries.”

Upon completion of the BFA program, students have the option to enroll in BU’s Graphic Design Graduate Certificate Program. This one-year full-time rigorous and intensive study in graphic design is an ideal step towards an MFA in Graphic Design. The curriculum includes core studio and typography requirements and allows students to choose elective courses based on their specific interests and career goals. Students in the program will complete 30 credit hours of study.

The MFA in Graphic Design “provides a sequenced studio approach to advanced design thinking and problem solving for visual communication, preparing students to thrive in a dynamic professional environment.” Graphic Design Studios form the programs core and electives complement the studios, providing the opportunity to specialize in areas of interest. Elective courses currently include Information Design, Design for the Web, Interactive Design, Experience Design, Motion Graphics, Design Theory, History of Graphic Design, Editorial Design and Exhibition Design.

MFA students also benefit from lectures by nationally and internationally distinguished designers and direct contact with the industry. The program culminates in a master’s thesis, which is presented in an exhibition format at the Boston University Art Galleries.

2. Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston, Massachusetts
Massachusetts College of Art and Design

Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) began as Massachusetts Normal School in 1873. The development of the school was in response to the Massachusetts Drawing Act, which required all cities in the Commonwealth of over 10,000 residents to include drawing in their public school curricula.

Today, MassArt is known as “the Commonwealth’s art and design school,” and it serves 2,000 undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education students.

The school offers dozens of programs in areas such as Animation, Film and Video, Glass, Illustration, Industrial Design, Painting, Printmaking, and Sculpture. Programs lead to the BFA, MFA, MDES, MAT, or MArch. Options for aspiring graphic designers include a BFA in Communication Design and a Graphic Design Certificate (GDC).

Students in the GDC program “explore the formal elements of design including composition, color, texture, shape, typography, and imagery to master the art of communication design,” says the school. This 38 credit hour program is designed for working adults who are interested in advancing into a career in graphic design. Graduates will leave the certificate program with a portfolio of professional quality work.

The Communication Design BFA Program challenges students to “develop design solutions in the areas of package design, publication design, web and app design, interactive communication, and advertising, as well as the creation of graphic identities and brand systems.” Course highlights for the program include Advanced Web Projects, Community Partnership Design, and Disobedient Design: From Activist Posters to Augmented Reality, Experimental Book Arts, Identity Systems, Information Architecture, Language of Motion, Letterpress Printing, Poster Design, Programming for Designers, and Type Design.

Students in the program will have the opportunity to complete immersive options such as the Course Assistantship, Design Research, Independent Study, and an Internship.

Graduates of the Communications Design BFA and GDC work for ad agencies, design studios, in-house corporate design departments, and as freelance designers. Some graduates have gone on to launch their own independent start-ups and studios.

3. Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts
Northeastern University

Founded in 1898, Northeastern University (NU) serves more than 20,000 students enrolled in more than 250 majors and over 150 combined majors in eight colleges. The school also offers select advanced degrees at graduate campuses in Charlotte, North Carolina, Seattle, Silicon Valley, and Toronto.

The College of Arts, Media and Design (CAMD) offers a range of programs for aspiring Graphic Designers. Options include a BFA in Design with a Concentration in Graphic and Information Design, Interaction Design, or Experience Design, a BA in Art with a Concentration in Visual Studies, and a BA in Communication Studies and Graphic and Information Design.

Half-Majors in Graphic and Information Design, Interaction Design, and Visual Studies, and Minors in Graphic and Information Design, Experience Design, and Interaction Design are also available. Graduate offerings include MFA degrees in Information Design and Visualization, Studio Art, and Interdisciplinary Arts.

All CAMD students have the opportunity to complete an internship, a professional portfolio of their work, and a study abroad experience with University of Arts London. Students may spend their second spring semester in London studying Fine Art at Central Saint Martins. Other study abroad options include a semester in Berlin, Cuba, Ireland, Rome or Venice.

4. Lesley University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Lesley University

Founded in 1909, Lesley University serves nearly 6,600 students enrolled in more than 100 programs through four colleges and schools. The College of Art & Design serves around 750 students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate art & design programs, including eight BFAs, two MFAs, and several Certificates. Options for aspiring graphic designers include a BFA and Online Certificate in Graphic Design.

The Certificate is designed for recent graduates and working professionals seeking advancement in the field. The program requires 18 credit hours of study covering history of modern design, imagemaking, screen and print technologies, studio habits, typography, and visual research. The Graphic Design Certificate is an accelerated program that typically takes one year to complete.

BFA Program highlights include hands-on experience in small studios, the Design Internship, and the option to pursue a second major or minor. Examples include Graphic Design + Political Science = Urban Planner or Graphic Design + Sports Marketing and Management = Senior Designer for On-Field Jerseys and Apparel.

Course highlights for the program include 3D Concepts, Design Thinking and Research, Design Workshop, Drawing Intensive, Image in Context, Interactive Workshop, Intro to Interactivity, Professional Practices, Senior Design Studio, Typography, Visual Communication, and Visual Culture Seminar.

Graduates of the BFA in Graphic Design can pursue careers such as Book Illustrator, Commercial Graphic Designer, Information Architect, and Mobile App Designer in areas such as Advertising, Branding, Information Design, Packaging, Publishing, and Signage and Wayfinding.

5. University of Massachusetts-Lowell, Lowell, Massachusetts
University of Massachusetts-Lowell

University of Massachusetts-Lowell (UMass Lowell) was established in 1895. The school offers programs in six colleges in the disciplines of Business, Education, Engineering, Fine Arts, Health, Humanities, Sciences, and Social Sciences. Serving more than 18,000 students, UMass Lowell offers more than 170 academic programs in six colleges and the Honors College.

The university’s largest college, the College of Fine Arts, Humanities, & Social Sciences (FAHSS), offers undergraduate & graduate programs through 11 departments & numerous interdisciplinary programs. The Art & Design Department offers a BFA in Art with a Concentration in Graphic Design.

The BFA curriculum consists of a “rigorous competence-building sequence of core courses (Graphic Design I,II,III and Typography I,II,III),” says the school. Through these courses, “students learn the fundamentals of design as well as a wide variety of skills such as team building, critical thinking and problem-solving, which are necessary to succeed in the field. They also gain competences in public speaking and writing. In addition, they learn how to continually adapt to new technology.”

Assignments for the program focus on Graphic Design in Context, Graphic Design Systems, and Professional Practice. In addition to core courses, students can take advantage of courses in Animation, Interactive Design, Motion Graphics, Web Design, and Advanced Independent Studies.

Other program highlights include access to state-of-the-art studios and labs (including the Senior Lab), professional internships, co-ops and study abroad opportunities, and exhibits and visiting artists throughout the year.

The Graphic Design Concentration prepares students for careers in App Design, Book Design, Brand Identity Design, Corporate Design, Package Design, User Experience, and Web Design.