What are the top Massachusetts graphic design schools for 2023?

Top 5 Massachusetts Graphic Design School Programs - 2023 College Rankings
1Massachusetts College of Art and DesignBoston
2Boston UniversityBoston
3University of Massachusetts DartmouthDartmouth
4Lesley UniversityCambridge
5Northeastern UniversityBoston

Our 2023 ranking of the top 5 graphic design school programs in Massachusetts. For an explanation of the ranking criteria, click here.

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

The Communication Design Program at Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) has two program options for students seeking careers in Graphic Design: the Communication Design BFA and the Communication Design Certificate. The MassArt Communication Design BFA explores advertising, branding and package design, interactive communication, information design, web and app design, user experience design, and publication design. Program features include hands-on studio courses led by designers who are active in the industry; collaborative projects; readings and presentations; and the MassArt Internship.

In addition to several design studio courses, BFA students will complete Professional Practice, Independent Study, Advanced Projects I-II, the Graphic Design Portfolio course, and the Senior Degree Project. Other course examples include Graphic Design I-IV, Advertising and Art Direction, Lettering in Design, Typography I-III, Identity Systems, Programming for Designers, Experimental Book Arts, Poster Design, Print Production Workshop, Advanced Web Projects, Tools for Web & App Development, Type Design, and Information Architecture.

Graduates of the Communications Design BFA Program at Massachusetts College of Art and Design work in advertising, book publishing, public relations, marketing, print media, entertainment, web development, social media, and animation and multimedia, among others. Some program alumni have established successful freelance careers, while others have gone on to launch their own creative studios and design firms.

The Communication Design Certificate at Massachusetts College of Art and Design has three stackable levels of certification. Level 1  consists of four courses and covers visual communication for print and screen-based mediums. Level 2 consists of three courses and a non-credit workshop. Building on skills learned in Level 1, Level 2 includes advanced coursework in brand design, interactive design for web and mobile interfaces, typography, and UX design. Level 2 students will complete a professional portfolio.

Level 3 consists of four courses and one non-credit workshop. The most advanced of the three, this level consists of advanced courses in design systems. Level 3 graduates are prepared to pursue immediate employment in visual designs, brand strategy and design, graphic design, UX/UI design, and product design at advertising agencies, design studios, interactive agencies, web design companies, and non-profits. Graduates also have the skills needed launch their own design studios and freelance businesses.

Founded in 1873 as Massachusetts Normal School, Massachusetts College of Art and Design is the nation’s first and only public college of art and design. The school serves approximately 1,785 students enrolled more than 40 degree, minor, and certificate programs. More than 150 continuing education students are enrolled in over 100 classes and workshops in all areas of art and design.

Massachusetts College of Art and Design is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) and it is also an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

2. Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts
Boston University

Boston University (BU) has several paths to study Graphic Design including BFA, MFA, and Certificate options. Programs are housed in the College of Fine Arts’ School of Visual Arts (SVA), which is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

Established in 1954, SVA provides workshops, seminars, immersive studio experiences, internship opportunities, unique electives, and minors that complement all design programs. In addition to all SVA has to offer, Graphic Design students have access to state-of-the-art facilities such as the Engineering Production Innovation Center (EPIC), the Visual Arts Resource Library, the Media Center, Computer Labs, and Darkrooms.

The BU Graphic Design Certificate Program is designed for students with a bachelor’s degree with little to no experience in graphic design. This one-year, intensive program requires 30 credit hours of study including core studios, typography, and electives. Graduates of this program are prepared for positions in the industry or for entry into the Graphic Design MFA Program.

Consisting of 60 credit hours, the MFA Program provides 24/7 access to individual private studios, visiting artists and designers, workshops, and group critiques. Through BU’s partnership with AIGA Boston, MFA students also have opportunities to network with industry leaders through campus events and visits to area studios. Of the 60 required credit hours, 32 are in Graduate Graphic Design courses. Other requirements include Graphic Design Theory I-II, History of Graphic Design, and Graduate Typography. Twelve required elective credit hours allow students to explore additional areas within and outside of design.

The Graphic Design BFA Program at Boston University provides the opportunity to specialize in an area of interest through electives. Examples include Experience Design, Interactive Design, Exhibition Design, Motion Graphics, Design for the Web, and Editorial Design. Consisting of 132 credit hours, the BFA curriculum is cross-disciplinary with course options from the Faculty of Computing & Data Sciences, Innovate@BU, Hariri Institute for Computing, the College of Communication, and Questrom School of Business.

Other BU BFA Program benefits include partnerships with area design studios and businesses that lead to internships and employment; participation in a two-week design intensive in Amsterdam; and a two-week Printmaking workshop at the Franz Masareel Centrum in Kasterlee, Belgium. Students in both the BFA and MFA Graphic Design Programs at BU also have the opportunity to participate in the Studio Arts program in Venice, Italy. Students in this program will complete 16-18 credit hours in graphic design, painting, printmaking, drawing, Italian, art history, and sculpture. Courses are courses are held at BU’s Venice Center, with some electives offered off-site at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia.

Graduates of the Graphic Design Program at Boston University have been hired at or worked with places such as Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSLO), Free People, and Converse. Some program alumni have launched their own design studios or creative firms, while others have found success as freelance designers.

Boston University dates back to 1839, where it began as the Newbury Biblical Institute. Officially chartered in 1869, the school serves approximately 36,730 students enrolled in more than 300 programs of study across 22 colleges, divisions, and schools. With 10,000 faculty and staff and a 175-acre campus that houses close to 3,000 buildings, laboratories, classrooms, and libraries, BU is Boston’s largest employer. Boston University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

3. University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, Dartmouth, Massachusetts
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

The College of Visual Performing Arts (CVPA) at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (UMass Dartmouth) has three pathways to study Graphic Design. Options include the Art + Design BFA: Graphic Design, the Visual Design MFA with a Specialization in Graphic Design, and the 18 credit our Graphic Design Minor. In this program, students will work with digital tools such as InDesign and Illustrator to create packaging, book designs, and posters to be included in their professional portfolios. Course examples include Art of the Book, Experimental Processes, and Advanced topics in Graphic Design.

The 120 credit hour Art + Design/Graphic Design BFA explores areas such as the design process; audience, message, and environment; books and posters; symbols; and interactive media. Throughout the program, students will have opportunities to complete projects in Packaging, Visual Systems, Books and Periodicals, Motion Graphics and Visual Effects, Corporate Identity and Branding, Typography, Information Design, App Design, Interactive Media, and Web Design.

Other program highlights include access to the UMass Dartmouth IDEAStudio and state-of-the-art computer labs; internship opportunities at companies such as Hasbro, iRobot, and Make & Co.; and study abroad programs across 59 countries and 115 cities. Programs are a full semester, summer, or winter.

In the final year of the Art + Design BFA Program at UMass Dartmouth, students will complete GD; Community Engagement, Professional Design Practice, and the Graphic Design Capstone. Graduates have been hired by companies, studios, and brands such as Puma, Hasbro Gaming, Bose Corporation, Hill & Partners Branded Environments, Monadnock Media, Grouper Design, Game Seven Marketing, Boston Bruins/TD Garden, Fidelity, Catch Fire Creative, Digitas, and Liberty Mutual. Some program alumni have gone on to pursue graduate study at schools such as Cranbrook Academy of Art, Pratt Institute, Vermont College of Fine Arts, Brown University, and UMass Dartmouth.

The Visual Design MFA with a Specialization in Graphic Design at UMass Dartmouth is a 60 credit-hour program that takes two to three years to complete. The Visual Design Program as a whole explores Visual Communication in a broad sense. The Graphic Design Specialization allows students to develop skills in this area through Graduate Studios and Electives.

Students in all Visual Design Specializations will complete the 21 credit hour core, which consists of courses such as Methods & Theory in Art History, Writing Seminar, Graduate Seminar I, and Graduate Seminar II: On Creativity. Other program benefits include individual assigned workspaces; local, regional, and campus-based exhibition opportunities, visiting artists; access to the Visual Resources Center, which includes more than 150,000 archived images; and assistantships that provide stipends, fee reductions, and tuition waivers.

In addition to leadership positions such as Arts Administration, Publications Management, Art Direction, and Curatorial Project Management, graduates of the Visual Design MFA Program at UMass Dartmouth are prepared to pursue careers in higher education. 

University of Massachusetts Dartmouth began as New Bedford Textile School in 1895. Today, the school provides more than 150 programs to approximately 7,220 students from 42 states and 56 countries.

Programs at UMass Dartmouth are housed across eight colleges and schools. University of Massachusetts Dartmouth is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

4. Lesley University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Lesley University

Lesley University’s College of Art and Design serves approximately 700 students enrolled in a variety of undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs. Paths for students interested in Graphic Design include the Graphic Design BFA and a Graphic Design Certificate. A major component of the Graphic Design BFA Program is the Art & Design Internship. This core requirement provides opportunities to work at studios and organizations of all sizes such as Hasbro, New Balance, Arnold Worldwide, American Repertory Theater, Puma, and Rue La La.

Consisting of 123 credit hours, the Graphic Design BFA provides the opportunity to pursue a second Major or one of 45 Minors in Art and Design or Liberal Arts. Examples of major/second major combinations include Graphic Design + Sports Marketing and Management, and Graphic Design + Political Science. In the Major, students will complete 45 core course credits including Typography I-III, Language of Design, Interactive Workshop, Professional Practices, Visual Communication I-III, Junior Design Studio, Design Workshop, and Design Senior Studio 1-2.

Elective options provide additional opportunities to pursue studies in other areas of Art and Design or in-demand areas in Graphic Design. Examples include Packaging and Presentation, Binding & Boxes, Environmental Graphic Design, Brand Realization, Advanced Web Projects, Digital Filmmaking Techniques, Animation, Letterpress Studio, Interactive Projects, Assemblage/Mixed Media, and Visual Books. Other electives, such as Graphic Design London, allow students to study overseas during Spring Break.

The Graphic Design Certificate is a post-baccalaureate, fully online program that consists of 18 credit hours. Courses are delivered in accelerated eight-week terms. Required courses include Language of Design, Typography I-III, Visual Communication I, and History of Modern Design. The Graphic Design Certificate Program can be completed in one year, part-time.

Graduates of the Graphic Design Programs at Lesley University enjoy a 95% employment rate. Examples of possible careers include Advertising Designer, Brand Manager, Book Illustrator, Packaging Designer, Mobile App Designer, Web Designer, Information Designer, Commercial Graphic Designer, Publications Designer, Exhibit Designer, and Wayfinding Signage Designer.

Founded in 1909, Lesley University serves more than 6,000 students enrolled 100+ programs housed in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the College of Art & Design, the Graduate School of Education, and the Graduate School of Arts & Social Sciences. Lesley University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

5. Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts
Northeastern University

The College of Arts, Media and Design (CAMD) at Northeastern University (Northeastern) has several programs for students seeking an undergraduate or graduate degree in Graphic Design. At the undergraduate level, the CAMD has a Design BFA with Concentrations in Graphic and Information Design, Experience Design, and Interaction Design. At the graduate level, students can earn an MFA, MS, or Certificate in Information Design and Visualization. All options prepare students for positions such as Graphic Designer, User Experience Designer, Product Manager, Futuristic Product Designer, Creative Director, Design Strategist, Design Consultant, and Exhibition Designer.

A major component of the CAMD BFA is the Co-op Program, which allows students to gain valuable experience working in the arts, design and media, fashion and travel, food and beverage, government and civic, and news and publishing sectors. Examples of participating companies include NBC Universal, Thomas Reuters, New Balance, The TJX Companies, Ogilvy, The Boston Globe, The Museum of Fine Arts, The Boston Beer Company, Reebok International, City of Boston, MassDOT/MBTA, Dana-Faber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, AutoDesk, Fidelity Investments, edX, and Education First. 

Students in the Design BFA Program at Northeastern University will graduate with a professional portfolio of their best work.

The Information Design and Visualization Programs at Northeastern University are STEM-designated and feature seminars, studio courses, visiting artists and researchers, workshops, and the option to create a focus area from electives. The 60 credit hour MFA explores design, programming, data analysis, and research methods. The MFA takes two years to complete and the program culminates with a thesis project and exhibition.

The MS is a one-year, 32 credit hour program that explores areas such as human factors, programming, user testing, design process, data physicalization, and user-scenario mapping and observation. The MS program is also available at Northeastern University’s Vancouver, British Columbia campus.

Both graduate options provide Co-op experiences with The Broad Institute, Philips Research, Thomas Reuters, and MassDOT/MBTA. Examples of potential careers include Design Researcher, Data Visualization Expert, Visualization Researcher, Visual Communication Expert, and Visual Strategist.

The Information Design and Visualization Graduate Certificate at Northeastern University consists of 16 credit hours. Designed for students looking to complement their degree in areas such as Communications, Data Science, Design or Media, the Certificate Program explores multidisciplinary areas such as programming, design process, data analysis, user testing, and design critique.

In addition to Co-op experiences, all Northeastern University CAMD students have the opportunity to complete an internship and/or study abroad at the University of Arts London and Central Saint Martins. Other study abroad options include a semester in Ireland, Cuba, Venice, Rome or Berlin.

Graduates of the Information Design and Visualization Programs at Northeastern University are prepared to pursue leadership positions in creative agencies, research institutions, major companies and studios, and public institutions. Graduates are also prepared to pursue a PhD and careers in the academic world.

Northeastern University began as the Evening Institute of the Boston Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in 1898. The school serves approximately 41,850 students enrolled in more than 400 programs across eight colleges. Northeastern University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).