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

Top 5 Tennessee Graphic Design Schools - 2021 College Rankings
1University of Tennessee Knoxville
2University of Tennessee – ChattanoogaChattanooga
3University of MemphisMemphis
4Nossi College of ArtNashville
5Middle Tennessee State UniversityMurfreesboro

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

1. University of Tennessee – Knoxville, Knoxville, Tennessee
University of Tennessee – Knoxville

University of Tennessee – Knoxville (UT Knoxville or UTK) was founded in 1794 as Blount College. Part of the UT System, UTK is Tennessee’s flagship university and premier public research institution. The school, which serves 30,559 Students, includes the UT Space Institute, more than 900 programs offered in 11 colleges, and over 300 study abroad programs to enhance the college experience.

The College of Architecture and Design houses the School of Design, which offers a BFA Graphic Design and a 15 credit hour Graphic Studies Minor. Recently moved from the School of Art, the four-year program “provides an undergraduate education stressing creative and intellectual thinking, diverse problem-solving, innovative investigations, and creative research in all forms of communication,” says the school. Program highlights include small class sizes, collaborative Design Studios, 24/7 access to equipment, and participation in the Annual Senior Show.

Over the past five years, graduates of the UTK Graphic Design Program have enjoyed an impressive 90% employment rate. Alumni work at leading companies such as Apple, Facebook, GAP, Google, HGTV, Instagram, and Zillow. Some have started their own companies including Matchstic Media, Morris Creative, Nathanna Design, Old City Mailroom, Robin Easter Design, and many others.

2. University of Tennessee – Chattanooga, Chattanooga, Tennessee
University of Tennessee – Chattanooga

University of Tennessee Chattanooga (UTC) was founded in 1886. The school serves more than 10,000 students enrolled in dozens of degree programs through six colleges and schools. The College of Arts and Sciences houses the Department of Arts, which a BFA in Studio with a Concentration in Graphic Design.

This four-year program “engages contemporary theory and practice” in students’ chosen media, says the school. By their senior year, “students concentrate almost exclusively on studio coursework within the area of concentration, with an emphasis on individual expression, open exploration, and experimentation.”

Course highlights include Critical Theory for the Visual Artist, Design History, Expanded Drawing, Interactive Media, Media Art, Observational Drawing, Processes and Materials for Graphic Design, Space and Sequence, Studio Processes, Typography, and Visual Literacy for Graphic Design. Students will complete two Graphic Design Workshops as well as Portfolio Review, Professional Preparation for the Visual Artist and Visual Arts Internship.

graduates of the program are prepared to pursue positions at advertising agencies, marketing firms, PR companies, production studios, publishers, technology companies, and more.

3. University of Memphis, Memphis, Tennessee
University of Memphis

University of Memphis (U of M) was founded in 1912 as West Tennessee State Normal School. The school serves around 22,200 students enrolled in more than a dozen bachelor's degree programs in over 250 areas of study, master's degrees in 50+ subjects, doctoral degrees in 25+ disciplines, Education Specialist degrees in two areas, a Juris Doctor (law degree), and Graduate Certificate programs in 40+ areas of study. Programs are offered in 13 colleges and schools.

The College of Communication and Fine Arts houses the Department of Art, which offers BFA and MFA degrees in Graphic Design. The Department plans to launch a Graduate Certificate in Graphic Design in Fall of 2021.

The BFA requires a minimum of 120 semester hours. “The curriculum covers key aspects of design and visual communication for both the print and digital environment,” says the school. Instruction consists of “the fundamental concepts of visual communication, current graphic computer applications, and methods of developing creative solutions, which give meaningful form to ideas and information, and business practices.”

The 60 credit hour, three-year MFA Program “explores critical issues facing the field of contemporary visual communications using design criticism and studio research as a comprehensive platform for investigation.” Within the framework of the program, “structured coursework is balanced by individual study opportunities. Critical, theoretical and studio research culminates in a visual and written thesis focusing on a specific visual communication problem.” The MFA offers teaching assistantships and the BFA provides internship opportunities.

4. Nossi College of Art, Nashville, Tennessee
Nossi College of Art

Nossi College of Art began as a Fine Art school in 1973.  Today, Nossi focuses on business, marketing, and technology in addition to art. With 300 students, the school offers undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs in Digital Photography, Graphic Design Media, Illustration, Instructional Design and Technologies, Photography, Video & Film, and Web & Interactive Design. The Graphic Design Media Program builds advertising, marketing and leadership skills to prepare students for “higher-paid positions in the industry,” says the school.

Students build upon their “graphic design framework with advanced instruction in brand strategy and art direction, 3D modeling, 3D technologies, advanced motion graphics, advertising art direction and much more.” Students will learn “print, interactive design, coding, advertising and branding” and “master basic design principles,” as well as advertising theories and strategies.

Course highlights include Adobe InDesign, Advanced Typography, Advertising Art Direction, Business Marketing for Creatives, Environmental Graphic Design, Graphic Design Processes, Interactive Design, Motion Graphics, Production Art, Publication Design, User Experience Design (UX), User Interface Design (UI), Typography, and Web Language. Students will complete Independent Study (optional), the Capstone course, and a Portfolio and Promotion course.

Nossi College often partners with local businesses, non-profits and events, so design students will have the opportunity to work one-on-one with real clients to build their portfolios. Internships are optional. Nossi’s 133 credit hour GD program, which leads to a Bachelor of Graphic Arts (BGA), may be completed in 44 months.

Graduates can pursue positions such as App Developer, Art Director, Brand Identity Developer, Creative Director, Digital Publisher, Freelance Designer, Graphic Artist/Designer, Marketing Director, Motion Graphics Designer, Package Designer, Production Artist, Senior Design Manager, Typographer, UI or UX Designer, Web Designer, and more.

5. Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Middle Tennessee State University

Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) opened on September 11, 1911 as one of three state normal schools for teacher training. The school serves nearly 22,000 students enrolled in more than 300 undergraduate and graduate degrees of study in diverse disciplines that prepare students for high-demand careers. Programs are offered more than a dozen colleges and schools.

The College of Liberal Arts houses the Department of Art and Design and the College of Media and Entertainment houses the School of Journalism and Strategic Media. The Department of Art and Design offers a BFA in Art with a Concentration in Graphic Design. The School of Journalism and Strategic Media offers a BS in Journalism with a Concentration in Visual Communication.

Graphic Design hosts the largest collection of art majors across the Department of Art and Design. In the BFA program, students learn to use art and technology to convey ideas. Sample courses for the program include Book Arts, Color Drawing, Digital Illustration, Graphic Design Technologies, In-House Design, Interactive Design Interface Design, Package Design, Printmaking, and Word and Image.

Students in the program will have the opportunity to complete an internship and participate in the Art Study Abroad Program. They will complete a Professional Portfolio and the required Senior Project. For the Project, each student will devise a project that conceptually and visually addresses his or her design/illustration goals. This is a six-hour studio course.

The BS in Journalism with a Concentration in Visual Communication teaches students “how to work with the technology used in both digital and print publication, while also studying theories and practices of visual communication,” says the school. The main emphasis of the program “is on publication design, including print and interactive media that deliver information, opinion, and entertainment via newspapers, magazines, books, newsletters, brochures, websites, and mobile apps.”

Course highlights include Digital Storytelling for Journalism, History of Visual Communication Design, Information Web Design, Special Topics in Professional Issues, Visual Communication Applications, and Visual Storytelling for Journalism. Like students in the BFA program, BS students will have the opportunity to complete an internship and study abroad experience. Students will leave the BS program with a Professional Portfolio of their best work.