What are the top Tennessee graphic design schools for 2023?

Top 5 Tennessee Graphic Design School Programs - 2023 College Rankings
1University of TennesseeKnoxville
2University of MemphisMemphis
3University of Tennessee at ChattanoogaChattanooga
4Middle Tennessee State UniversityMurfreesboro
5Nossi College of ArtNashville

Our 2023 ranking of the top 5 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

The College of Architecture and Design at University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UT Knoxville or UTK) houses the School of Design, home to the Graphic Design BFA Program and the Graphic Design Studies Minor. Across programs, students benefit from small class sizes, collaborative Design Studios, and 24/7 access to state-of-the-art labs and equipment.

The UTK BFA begins with a Design-Centered Foundations Program, which takes place in studio setting. Upon completion of the one-year Foundations requirement, students must pass the Portfolio Review in order to gain access to upper-division courses. Consisting of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary projects, the 120 credit hour BFA Program includes courses such as Expanded Principles of Typography, Advanced Design Investigations, The Idea of Design, Graphic Design Studio, Design as Visual Message-Making, and Professional Seminar.

BFA students have the option to complete the Practicum (45 working hours), the Undergraduate Research and/ or a Study Abroad experience. All students must complete a Capstone Project, which will be presented at the Annual Senior Show. The Graphic Design BFA at University of Tennessee, Knoxville can be completed in four years, full-time.

The Graphic Design Studies Minor requires 15 credit hours of study. Students in this program will take The Idea of Design, The Art of Presentation Design, and The Art of Identity Design. To reach 15 credit hours, students may choose two courses from a wide variety of courses. Examples include Advertising Principles, User-Centered Design, Communication for Media, Non-Major Introduction to Book Arts and Papermaking, Writing, Layout, and Production of Technical Documents, and Public Relations Principles. The UTK Graphic Design Studies Minor takes two years to complete, full-time.

Graduates of the UT Knoxville Graphic Design Programs are prepared to pursue positions at advertising agencies, publishing companies, magazines, design studios, public relations firms, marketing firms, film studios, web design companies, game studios, and museums. Graduates are also prepared for positions in in-house design departments across all industries.

Over the past five years, graduates of the Graphic Design Programs at University of Tennessee, Knoxville have enjoyed a 90% employment rate. Alumni work at major companies, agencies, and design studios such as IDEO, Google, Apple, Facebook, Accenture, Zillow, HGTV, Instagram, Boeing, Herman Miller, Coca-Cola, and Discovery.

Some UTK Graphic Design graduates go on to launch their own companies and studios. Examples include Matchstic Media, Morris Creative, Robin Easter Design, Nathanna Design, and Old City Mailroom.

Founded in 1794 as Blount College, University of Tennessee, Knoxville serves 33,805 students enrolled in more than 900 programs including 547 graduate programs of study. Programs at UT Knoxville are housed across 11 colleges. University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has been continuously accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) since 1897.

2. University of Memphis, Memphis, Tennessee
University of Memphis

The College of Communication and Fine Arts at University of Memphis (U of M)  houses the Department of Art, which has BFA and MFA degrees in Art with a Concentration in Graphic Design. A 12 credit hour Graphic Design Graduate Certificate available for students seeking a shorter program. Launched in Fall 2021, the curriculum for the Graduate Certificate explores technology and interaction, communication and methodology, and the collaborative process. Courses may be taken in any sequence and include Interactive Media Design, History of Graphic Design, Writing/Design Process, and Print Communication Design.

At both the BFA and MFA levels, the Graphic Design Program at University of Memphis explores print and digital design, visual communication, creative solutions, and current industry computer applications. Students in all programs benefit from courses taught by instructors with both professional and design education experience, access to state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, and a variety of internship opportunities.

The Art BFA with a Graphic Design Concentration requires 120 credit hours and the MFA requires 60 credit hours. BFA students will complete 67 hours in Graphic Design. Course examples include Design Practice Studio, Typographic Design I-II, Interactive Media Design, Graphic Design Methods, Electronic Pre-Press Production, Computer Assisted Graphic Design, Writing/Design Process, Visual Thinking, and Print Communication Design. Graduates of the U of M Graphic Design BFA Program will enter the job market with a professional portfolio of their best work.

The Art MFA with Graphic Design Concentration consists of 42 credit hours in 7000-level courses. Course examples include Problems in Graphic Design and Visual Communication Research. Completed on a three-year, full-time schedule, the MFA culminates with a Thesis Exhibition.

Graduates of the Graphic Design Programs at University of Memphis are prepared to pursue positions such as Graphic Designer or Computer Graphic Designer, Digital Media Designer, Packaging Designer, Advertising Designer, Brand Manager, Design Director, Multimedia Artist, User Experience (UX) Designer, Multimedia Producer, Exhibit Designer, Digital Artist, 3D Artist, Web Designer, Layout Designer, Concept Artist, and Illustrator.

University of Memphis was established in 1912 as West Tennessee State Normal School. Serving approximately 21,915 students, U of M is a public research institution that provides more than 375 areas of study, subjects, and disciplines leading to degrees and certificates at all levels. Programs at U of M are housed across 13 colleges and schools. University of Memphis is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

3. University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Chattanooga, Tennessee
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

The College of Arts and Sciences at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC or UT Chattanooga) houses the Department of Art (UTC Art). Within the Department is an Art BFA Program with a Graphic Design Concentration. As part of UT Chattanooga, BFA students have access to internships at local and national companies, as well as experiential learning opportunities, and cooperative education assignments with partner companies.

Course examples for this 120 credit hour program include Graphic Design Workshop I-II, Interactive Media, Processes and Materials for Graphic Design, Typography I-II, Expanded Drawing, Critical Theory for the Visual Artist, Professional Practices in Graphic Design, and Portfolio Review.  

Graduates of the Graphic Design Program at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga are prepared to pursue positions at advertising agencies, publishing companies, creative studios, marketing firms, newspapers, web design companies, public relations firms, production studios, technology companies, and magazines.

Founded in 1886, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga serves approximately 11,285 students enrolled in 97 undergraduate programs, 88 graduate programs, and 50 minors across six colleges and schools. University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

4. Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Middle Tennessee State University

The College of Liberal Arts at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) houses the Department of Art and Design—home to the Graphic Design Program—which serves the largest number of students across the entire department. Program features include access to state-of-the-art Apple computer labs and studios; internship opportunities; seminars and workshops; and participation in the Graphic Design Show.

Leading to a BFA, the Graphic Design Program at Middle Tennessee State University consists of 120 credit hours including 41 in general education, 79 in the major, and 0-3 in electives. Course and elective examples for the program include Graphic Design Technologies, Interface Design, Word and Image, Typographic Design, Interactive Design I-III, Print Media: Book Arts, 3D Design, Typography in Motion, In-House Design, Advanced 3D Practices, Mixed Media Painting, Digital Illustration, Package Design, and Print Media: Lithography and Monotype.

In the final year of the MTSU Graphic Design Program, students will complete Portfolio I-II and the Senior Project. Graduates are prepared for graduate study or positions with companies (or within industries) that require Graphic Design skills. Potential job opportunities include Advertising Designer, Graphic Designer, Fashion Illustrator, Motion Graphics Designer/Editor, Book Designer, Package Designer, Corporate Designer, Exhibit Designer, Publications Designer, Creative Director, Interactive Designer, Communications Specialist, Illustrator, and Educator.

Examples of employers that have hired Middle Tennessee State University alumni include Brown Foreman (Jack Daniel’s & other well-known brands), Johnson & Johnson, Gannett, Yeah Yeah Creative, Dell, Blue Tractor Design, HCA, LaCroix Design Co., Nissan, Thomas Nelson Publishers, iostudio, Asurion, South Central Media, Delta Airlines, Ethos. Rutherford County Schools, The Lampo Group,  PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Mother Nature Network, and Motlow State Community College.

Middle Tennessee State University was established in 1909 as Middle Tennessee State Normal School. The school opened with 125 students on September 11, 1911. Today, MTSU serves more than 20,000 students enrolled in 300+ programs across eight undergraduate colleges and the College of Graduate Studies. Middle Tennessee State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

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

Nossi College of Art (Nossi) has a 133 credit hour Graphic Design (GD) Program that leads to a Bachelor of Graphic Arts (BGA). Program features include small class sizes, opportunities to work with local clients on real-world projects, and an active internship program.

Course examples for the Nossi GD Program include Success Strategies, Advertising Art Direction, Business Marketing for Creatives, Advanced Typography, Web Language I-II, Production Art, Corporate Identity, Graphic Design: Media, Packaging Design, Adobe InDesign, User Interface Design, User Experience Design, Advanced Motion Graphics, Layout Design, Exploring 3D, Publication Design, and Environmental Graphic Design.  

During the senior year of the GD BGA Program at Nossi College of Art, Design students have the option to complete the Independent Study course, worth 1-4 semester hours of credit. The Capstone and Portfolio & Promotion (P&P) courses are required to graduate. During the P&P course, students will create communication materials for self-promotion and develop strategies for networking and community involvement. As part of the course, students will also participate in a formal portfolio presentation of their work to the public and to their peers.

The Capstone course is the culminating experience for the Nossi Graphic Design Program. Students will utilize all of their combined skills to create a single project displaying their knowledge in Design.

The Nossi Graphic Design BGA Program can be completed in 44 months. Graduates are prepared to pursue positions such as Graphic Artist, Senior Design Manager, Graphic Designer, Brand Identity Developer, Production Artist, Production Artist, UI or UX Designer, Creative Director, Package Designer, Web Designer, Typographer, App Developer, Marketing Director, Motion Graphics Designer, and Digital Publisher.

Launched in 1973 as a Fine Art school with just two students, Nossi College of Art has expanded to provide business, marketing, and technology programs to approximately 300 students. Nossi also provides undergraduate programs in Illustration Technologies, Graphic Design, Videography & Filmmaking, Photography, and Culinary Arts. Nossi College of Art is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).