What are the top South Carolina graphic design schools for 2023?

Top 5 South Carolina Graphic Design School Programs - 2023 College Rankings
1Clemson UniversityClemson
2University of South CarolinaColumbia
3Coastal Carolina UniversityConway
4Winthrop UniversityRock Hill
5University of South Carolina UpstateSpartanburg

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

1. Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina
Clemson University

Clemson University (Clemson) houses the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business, home to the Department of Graphic Communications, which has two paths to study Graphic Design. At the undergraduate level, the College has a Graphic Communications BS Program that serves 400 students. Program benefits include access to a 14,000-square-foot main laboratory and two additional state-of-the-art labs equipped with packaging and printing equipment; collaborative projects with students in the Packaging Science Department; access to the Sonoco Institute, which hosts workshops, classes, and seminars; and the opportunity to add a Brand Communications, Packaging Science, or Business Administration Minor.

Course examples for the program include Graphic Communications I-II, Planning and Controlling Printing Functions, Current Developments and Trends in Graphic Communications, Package and Specialty Printing, Digital Imaging, Marketing, Junior Seminar in Graphic Communications, and Technical Writing.

In addition to a summer Co-op Education requirement, a major component of the Clemson Graphic Communications BS is the Internship Program. Students are required to hold an industry internship for at least two semesters before graduating. The Department hoss an Intern employer Day each semester, providing the opportunity to interview with representatives from more than 40 companies. 

Graduates of the Graphics Communications BS Program at Clemson University have gone on to pursue graduate study at Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) and Wake Forest University. Others have been hired at places such as Newell Brands, The Hughes Agency, R.R. Donnelley, Horizon Investments, and Boston Beer Company.

The Clemson University Graphic Communications MS Program has both Thesis and Non-Thesis options. The Thesis option requires 33 credit hours to graduate. Non-Thesis students will complete 30 credit hours. Core courses for both options include Current Developments and Trends in Graphic Communications, Package and Specialty Printing, Commercial Printing, Graphic Communications Graduate Seminar, and Research Problems I-II.

The Thesis option requires the Master’s Thesis Research course. The Non-Thesis option requires Graphic Communications Research Problems I-II. For students without relevant work experience, an industrial internship is a required for both options.

Graduates of the Graphic Communications MS at Clemson University are placed in creative, technical, and scientific positions; sales, marketing, and customer service; packaging, printing, and publishing; and academic and management.

For students seeking a program that provides a foundation in Art, Clemson University has a Fine Arts Program with BA and BFA pathways. Housed in the College of Architecture, Arts, and Humanities’ Department of Art, both programs are accredited by National Association for Schools of Art & Design (NASAD).

The Art BA is a Liberal Arts program that allows students to customize their studies with a double major or minor in any area. Students may also choose an emphasis such as Digital Art or Design Media. The Visual Arts BFA offers emphasis areas such as New Media, Drawing, Printmaking or Photography, with complementary coursework in Graphic Design and Animation.

Program benefits for both pathways include the visiting artist series, access to Lee Gallery, the annual field trip to art centers such as New York City, the four-week summer school in Orvieto, Italy, and the opportunity to exhibit works in the Lee Art Gallery in the senior year or the programs. In addition, Clemson Art students regularly display their work in national and regional venues, as well as locally in the Pendleton and Greenville arts districts.

Graduates of the Clemson University Art and Visual Arts Programs work at art museums and galleries, for publications, and in public relations, exhibit design, graphic design, illustration, art therapy, media, retail, animation and cartoons, and art journalism. Recent employers include Anthropologie, GDC Home, Museum of the Cherokee, Kaleidoscope Design Factory, and Greenville County Schools. 

Some program alumni have gone on to pursue graduate study at Northwestern University, Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD),  Sotheby’s Institute of Art, University of Georgia, and Christie’s Education.

Founded in 1889, Clemson University opened in 1893 as Clemson Agricultural College. On the first day of classes, the school welcomed 446 students. Today, Clemson serves approximately 27,340 students enrolled in 80+ majors, 90+ minors, and more than 130 graduate degree programs. Clemson University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

2. University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina
University of South Carolina

The College of Arts and Sciences at University of South Carolina (U of SC) houses the School of Visual Art and Design—the largest school of art in the state. Classes are held in McMaster College, the School’s 85,000-square-foot facility designed specifically for the study and creation of the visual arts. A comprehensive school for the study of the studio arts, the School of Visual Art and Design has several paths to study Graphic Design. Options include BA and BFA degrees in Studio Art and a Studio Art MA. Students may Concentrate in Graphic Design or Graphic Design + Illustration.

Across programs, Graphic Design courses cover Branding, Packaging, Poster Design, Illustration, Logo Design, Motion Graphics, Publication Design, Interactive Design, Editorial Design, and Multimedia.

The BA is ideal for students who would like to study multiple areas of art or declare a double major. The BFA is a pre-professional degree that allows students to focus in one of seven concentrations. In addition to Graphic Design, students may concentrate in Drawing, Printmaking, or Photography, among others. Both BA and BFA students will graduate from the program with a professional portfolio. BFA students will have a solo exhibition of their creative research to be judged by major faculty.

The Studio Art MA at University of South Carolina is a 30 credit, two-year program that allows students to take courses across studio disciplines and electives, in addition to the Graphic Design or Graphic + Illustration Design Concentrations.

All students (BA, BFA, and MA) have access to internship opportunities, the study abroad program, and the South Carolina Chapter of the AIGA. AIGA SC provides a wide variety of programming that includes workshops, guest speakers, and special design events such as a summer design film series.

Founded in 1801 as South Carolina College, University of South Carolina has eight campuses in 20 locations that serve approximately 42,445 students. The flagship campus in Columbia serves approximately 31,530 students enrolled in hundreds of areas of study across 16 colleges and schools. University of South Carolina is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

3. Coastal Carolina University, Conway, South Carolina
Coastal Carolina University

Coastal Carolina University (CCU) is home to Edwards College of Humanities and Fine Arts, which has more than 50 degree, certificate, and minor options. Within Edwards College is the Department of Visual Arts, which has several paths to study Graphic Design. For degree-seekers, the Department has both BA and BFA Programs. The BFA is in Visual Communication Design and the BA is in Graphic Design. For students seeking a shorter program, an 18 credit hour Graphic Design Minor is available. The program is also ideal for students who would like to enhance their degree in another Art and Design discipline or those looking to learn the basics of Graphic Design, without committing to a degree program.

Across programs students have access to CHROMA—a student organization for Visual Arts that sponsors lectures, workshops, field trips, and other events to complement the in-class experience. Graphic Design students also launched their own American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) chapter, which features guest speakers, events, exhibitions, and publications.

Other program features include the opportunity to publish student works in, or be a part of the production process for, CCU publications such as Archarios, Tempo, and The Chanticleer Newspaper. Students also have access to state-of-the-art equipment and labs, development workshops, internship opportunities, and the CCU Study Abroad Program.

The Visual Communication Design and Graphic Design Programs at Coastal Carolina University require a minimum of 120 credit hours to graduate. Course examples across programs include Graphic Design I-IV, Motion Design, Special Topics in Visual Communication Design, Interaction Design, Concepts in the Artistic Process, Typography I-II, A Survey of Graphic Design, Identity Systems, Introduction to Photography, and User Experience (UX).

CCU Graphic Design students will participate in the Senior Showcase. VCD students will participate in the Visual Communication Design Exhibition and the Senior Showcase. In addition to a Professional Portfolio of the student’s best work, graduates of the Design Programs at Coastal Carolina University will have work experience gained through the Graphic Design Internship.

Graduates are prepared to pursue positions such as Graphic Designer, Brand Identity Designer, Photo Editing Artist, Logo Designer, Advertising Designer, User Interface (UI) Designer, Packaging Designer, Creative Director, Layout Artist, User Experience (UX) Designer, Exhibit Designer, Book Designer, and Publications Designer.

Founded in 1954 as Carolina Junior College (CJC) (a branch of the College of Charleston) Coastal Carolina University opened with 53 students and a handful of part-time instructors. Housed in Conway High School, classes at CJC met after hours. Today, Coastal Carolina University sits on a 621 acre campus that houses 115 main buildings, and the school is just minutes from Myrtle Beach, SC. Coastal Carolina University serves more than 10,000 students enrolled 100+ undergraduate majors and 30 graduate-level fields of study across six colleges. Coastal Carolina University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

4. Winthrop University, Rock Hill, South Carolina
Winthrop University

The College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) at Winthrop University (Winthrop) is one of just 37 university arts programs in the U.S. accredited in all areas of the arts. The CVPA is also South Carolina’s only comprehensive collegiate arts program nationally accredited in all the arts. Within the CVPA is the Department of Design. Serving around 600 students, the Design Department has a Design BDes Program with Graphic Design, Illustration, Experience Design, and Interior Design Concentrations.

Program features include small class sizes; courses taught by practicing professionals in their fields; access to Studio 351—a professional space for designing projects for real clients across York County; National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) accreditation; internship and study abroad opportunities; and access to state-of-the-art production facilities, labs, and studios.

The Design BDes Program at Winthrop University consists of 120 credit hours, with 62 in the Major. Graphic Design course examples include Corporate Identity, Visual Thinking and Symbolic Communication, Design Concepts, History of Graphic Design & Illustration, Three-Dimensional Graphic Design, Visual Communication Seminar I-III, Graphic Arts Production Practices, Multimedia Design, Intermediate Typography, and Design Studio Experience.

Students in the BDes Program will also complete 21 credit hours of Cognate Requirements including Advertising Principles, Contemporary Business Issues or Personal Finance, Preparation of Oral & Written Reports, and nine credit hours of electives. In the final year of the program, students will take the Professional Portfolio and Practices Senior Thesis Proposal, and Senior Thesis courses. A Professional Internship is also part of the program.

Graduates of the Design BDes Program at Winthrop University are prepared to seek positions at Advertising Agencies, Marketing Firms, Production Studios, Museums, Packaging Design Firms, Web Design Studios, Public Relations Firms, and companies and organizations with in-house design departments.

Founded in 1886, Winthrop University serves approximately 5,175 students from 41 states and 32 countries. Students at Winthrop University have access to approximately 70 undergraduate majors, graduate programs, and certificates housed across five academic colleges including Arts and Sciences; Business Administration; Education; University College; and Visual and Performing Arts. Programs are available on campus and online. Winthrop University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

5. University of South Carolina Upstate, Spartanburg, South Carolina
University of South Carolina Upstate

The College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at University of South Carolina Upstate (USC Upstate) has a Visual Arts Program accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Within the Visual Arts Program is a Graphic Design BA that emphasizes learning by doing through internships and other experiential activities. Visual Arts students have interned with a variety of companies and organizations including Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Spartanburg Art Museum, The Palladian Group, Whipp, Inc., the Spartanburg Herald Journal, and West Main Artist Coop, among others.

Other program features include small class sizes; the opportunity to enhance the degree by adding the Art History Minor; and access to state-of-the-art studio labs and faculties located in the 8,000-square-foot P. Kathryn Hicks Visual Arts Center and in the Humanities & Performing Arts Center.

The Graphic Design Program at University of South Carolina Upstate also operates a student-run, faculty-led design firm known as The Studio. This is the only space of its kind at any College or University in North or South Carolina. All students have the opportunity to work in The Studio on Graphic Design and Branding projects for local businesses, non-profit organizations, and USC Upstate.

In addition to working on projects both on and off campus, Graphic Design BA students will compete courses such as 2D Design, Graphic Design I-III, Interface Design, 3D Design, History of Graphic Design, Computer Graphics, and Senior Seminar in Graphic Design. Upon completion of the program, students will have a professional portfolio of their best work.

Graduates of the Graphic Design BA Program at USC Upstate are employed in the creative departments of advertising agencies, design firms, publishing companies, retail companies and brands, public relations firms, and corporations.

University of South Carolina Upstate was established in 1967. This public, regional university serves approximately 5,000 students enrolled in Bachelor's degree programs in Liberal Arts, Sciences, Business Administration, Nursing, and Teacher Education. Master's degree programs are offered in Education, Nursing, and Informatics. Programs at USC Upstate are housed across five colleges. University of South Carolina Upstate is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).