What are the top graphic design school programs in North Carolina for 2020?

Top 5 North Carolina Graphic Design School Programs - 2020 College Rankings
1North Carolina State University at RaleighRaleigh
2Appalachian State UniversityBoone
3University of North Carolina-CharlotteCharlotte
4East Carolina UniversityGreenville
5Meredith CollegeRaleigh

Our 2020 ranking of the top 5 graphic design school programs in North Carolina. For an explanation of the ranking criteria, click here.

1. North Carolina State University at Raleigh, Raleigh, North Carolina
North Carolina State University at Raleigh

North Carolina State University (NC State) at Raleigh was established in 1887. The school serves 34,340 students enrolled in more than 300 degree programs across 12 colleges and 65 academic departments. The College of Design houses the Graphic Design program, which offers two degree paths—a Bachelor of Graphic Design and a Master of Graphic Design. The College has recently established a PhD in Design/Information Design Concentration as well.

The undergraduate and graduate degrees are NASAD (National Association of Schools of Art and Design) accredited and the PhD Concentration is set to receive NASAD approval after graduating its first class.

Students in the undergraduate program study comparative ideas about, and methods for, creating visual communication. Sequenced core studios, typography courses, and image-making courses “progressively introduce and develop skills, processes, and sensitivities across a range of media,” says the school. Graduate students will “closely examine the cultural and technological situatedness of graphic design and its products, and seek understanding of the people who use and interact with the things that graphic designers make.”

Students in all programs will explore and become proficient in a wide range of media — print, web, mobile, virtual reality, augmented reality, and embedded technology. Students will also practice visualization strategies such as mapping, diagramming, and storyboarding, they will develop strong formal and conceptualization skills through project-based assignments, and immerse in advanced studios that cover special topics such as data visualization, branding, and accessible design.

Another major highlight of the Graphic Design Program at NC State is the opportunity to gain valuable professional experience through paid internships within leading firms, and/or participate in sponsored studios as part of the graphic design curriculum. Students also have the opportunity to study abroad for a semester or summer at the NC State Prague Institute, or take advantage of other study abroad options.

2. Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina
Appalachian State University

Appalachian State University was founded in 1899. The school serves approximately 19,280 students enrolled in more than 220 academic programs through the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Fine and Applied Arts, Reich College of Education, Walker College of Business, Hayes School of Music, Beaver College of Health Sciences, and Cratis D. Williams School of Graduate Studies. App State also offers a Doctorate of Education.

The College of Fine and Applied Arts houses the Department of Art, which offers several programs for aspiring graphic designers. Options include a BFA in Graphic Design and BS degrees in Graphic Communications Management – Cross Media Production (GCM – CMP) or Print/Packaging Production (GCM – PPP). 

The program consists of 66 semester hours in Art Studio and related areas and 12 semester hours in Art History/Criticism and allows students to take a mix of both prescribed and elected courses in art, concentrating on individual strengths and interests. Sample courses for the program include Typography, Digital Imaging, Calligraphy, Interaction Design, Idea Lab, Motion Graphics, Sign, Symbol, Image, Design Methods, and Graphic Design Professional Practice.

Graduates of the BFA program “will be prepared to successfully contend for the rigorous and highly competitive careers in graphic design as well as for admittance into graduate level programs,” says the school.

The BS in GCM-CMP “focuses on applying graphic messaging across different channels/platforms such as web, email, print, cover wraps, etc. to communicate to various markets.” Sample courses include Digital Media Composition, Cross Media Production, Packaging Production, Web Development for Graphic Communications, and 3D Imaging and Animation. An industry internship is also part of the program.

The BS in GCM – PPP “covers a wide variety of processes and methods of production.” This includes flexography, digital printing systems, offset lithography, variable data printing and wide format printing “in addition to the design and production of packages that protect and promote products in channels of distribution.” Students in this program can expect to take many of the same courses required in the GCM – CMP program, as well as courses such as Advanced Packaging Production and Sustainability for Graphic Communication. This program also requires completion of an industry internship.

3. University of North Carolina-Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina
University of North Carolina-Charlotte

Founded in 1946, University of North Carolina Charlotte (UNC Charlotte) serves approximately 29,615 students enrolled in over 200 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs in nine colleges. The College of Arts + Architecture (COA+A) offers a BFA in Art, Studio Art, with a Concentration in Graphic Design. This “professional” degree program allows students to choose more than one Studio Concentration. Options that complement the Graphic Design Concentration include Digital Media, Illustration, Photography, and Print Media.

The 125 credit hour Art with Graphic Design program includes 80 credits in Art. Sample courses include Animation & Interactivity, Communications Design, Digital Media, Digital Media Drawing, Figure Drawing, Graphic Design, Interactive Art & Design, Print Production, and Typography. Students will complete several graphic design projects and the Senior Seminar, and they will participate in the BFA Senior Exhibit. An optional, but strongly recommended internship is also part of the program as well as Study Abroad opportunities. Among the study abroad opportunities is a recurring summer program in Rome, Italy.

4. East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina
East Carolina University

East Carolina University (ECU) was founded in 1907 as a teacher training school. Today, the school serves around 28,700, making it the third largest university in North Carolina. East Carolina University offers more than 200 undergraduate, graduate and minor programs through 12 colleges and schools. The College of Fine Arts & Communication houses the School of Art and Design (SoAD), which has several programs for aspiring graphic designers. Options include a BFA in Art with a Concentration in Graphic Design, a BFA in Art Education with a Concentration in Graphic Design, and an MFA in Art with a Concentration in Graphic Design.

The BFA programs include “a strong grounding in the traditions of typography” and address “issues of business, communication, social science, and art,” says the school. “Most classes center around the examination and discussion of student work so a consistent output of graphic design is essential. This limits the graphic design students to those who want to work. The work includes thinking, reading, and talking as well as the production of designed objects.”

Course highlights for the undergraduate programs include Graphic Design Studio, Graphic Design Survey, and Advanced Graphic Design. Students in the program will have opportunities to produce projects for actual clients, and internships and study abroad opportunities are also part of the program.

The MFA in Art with a Concentration in Graphic Design is a 60 credit hour program that includes coursework in Graphic Design, Art History, Supporting Art Areas (art electives) and coursework outside of the SoAD. Graduates of the program are prepared to seek employment in “academia as a professor of graphic design, undertake high-level graphic design practice, or a variety of other options.”

5. Meredith College, Raleigh, North Carolina
Meredith College

Chartered in 1891, Meredith College opened with just over 200 women. Today, the school serves a population of nearly 2,000 students, including men at the graduate level. Meredith offers more than 80 majors, minors, and academic programs and a range of experiential learning opportunities to enrich students’ academic experience, including honors, study abroad, undergraduate research, internships, and community-based learning.

The school offers a BFA and a Minor in Graphic Design. Both programs offer “individualized instruction and hands-on learning opportunities,” says the school, and a curriculum that provides “a solid understanding of traditional design concepts, current computer skills, typography, corporate branding, and advertising strategy, which prepares students to create effective print and interactive design projects that impact their audience in a powerful and memorable way.”

Graphic Design majors are required to complete 61-63 credit hours, including 27 hours of core arts curriculum and 34-36 hours of courses focused on subjects including design concepts, typography and portfolio development. All majors are strongly encouraged to complete an internship. The Minor in Graphic Design are required to complete 21 credit hours. Areas of study within the minor may include corporate design/branding, editorial design, advertising, book design, package design, digital media packaging, wayfinding/information design, and web design.