|Virginia Commonwealth University
|Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
|George Mason University
|James Madison University
|Virginia State University
Our 2019 rankings of the top 5 graphic design school programs in Virginia. For an explanation of the ranking criteria, click here.
1. Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia
Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) was established in 1838. It is home to more than 31,000 students enrolled in more than 200 programs through 15 colleges and schools. The School of the Arts, which serves more than 3,000 students, offers 25 degree programs. An additional four programs are offered at VCU’s Qatar campus. The School of the Arts (VCUarts), Department of Graphic Design, has several programs for aspiring graphic designers. Options include BFA degrees in Graphic Design and Communication Arts, and an MFA with a Concentration in Design/Visual Communications.
Per the Department, students in the MFA program “concentrate on the philosophical, communicative, and aesthetic relationships of visual problem solving and the interacting skills leading to the effective articulation of concepts.” BFA students will take courses in the areas of Publication and Print Design, Sequential and Motion Design, and Interaction Design, “along with a series of related Studio and Seminar courses.” Both BFA options prepare students to create effective visual communications.
2. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia
Founded in 1872, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) serves more than 34,000 students enrolled in around 280 undergraduate and graduate degree programs through seven colleges. The College of Architecture and Urban Studies, which serves more than 2,300 students, houses the School of Architecture + Design, the School of Public and International Affairs, the School of Visual Arts, and the Myers-Lawson School of Construction. The Graphic Design Program is offered through the School of Visual Arts (SOVA).
This competitive program requires successful completion of the SOVA Foundation Program before being admitted to the Graphic Design Program, which leads to a BFA. Students must also pass a portfolio review before being admitted to the program. Per the school, “once admitted to the Graphic Design program, students take a tiered series of courses in Typography and Design. Additionally, students take a variety of electives in Art and Design (such as Web Design, Human Centered Design, Mobile Design, Hand-Lettering, Art Direction, Motion Graphics, and Packaging – as well as various courses within the disciplines of Drawing, Painting, Ceramics, and Sculpture).”
During students’ junior or senior year, they will complete a required internship of at least 130 hours. Students have interned at companies such as USA Today, Seventeen Magazine, ESPN, MARC USA, HeyYo, and Modea. In addition to experience gained through the internship program, Graphic Design students will graduate with a professional portfolio.
“Graduates of the program may find themselves working in print design, packaging design, and interaction design.” They can be found working at Twitter, the Brooklyn Art Museum, Jonathan Adler Design, iStrategyLabs, Urban Outfitters, Allure Magazine, Modea, and more.
3. George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia
George Mason University (GMU) was founded in 1949. The school serves more than 34,000 students from 130 countries of origin, enrolled in hundreds of programs through 10 colleges and schools. The College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) houses the School of Art (SOA), which offers an Undergraduate Certificate, Minor and an MA in Graphic Design. Art Undergraduates may also apply to the accelerated master's degree in Graphic Design. If accepted, students will be able to earn an Art and Visual Technology BFA and a Graphic Design MA after satisfactory completion of 150 credits.
The Certificate Program is designed for working adults with a four-year undergraduate degree seeking to advance into a career in graphic design. Per the school, “students learn layout, typography and semiotics in a project-based learning environment that asks them to create posters, brochures, publications and identity systems. Throughout the program, the portfolio development process is emphasized as students prepare for careers as graphic designers, project managers and art directors.”
The MA “offers students a comprehensive study and preparation for the graphic design profession.” Students in the 36 credit hour program will take courses in Brand Design, Image Making, Typography, and Web Design. Sample courses include Advanced Typography, Advanced Web Design, Brand Identity Design, Experiential Design History, Special Topics in Art and Visual Technology, and Special Topics in Graphic Design. All students will complete Independent Study, Independent Project Research, CVPA Graduate ProSeminar, and Graduate Design Seminar.
The last step in the completion of the MA Program is the final project “that calls upon all the skills of a working designer.”
4. James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia
James Madison University (JMU) was established in 1908 as the State Normal and Industrial School for Women at Harrisonburg. The school serves approximately 22,686 students enrolled in more than 130 degree programs through numerous colleges and schools. The School of Art, Design and Art History (SADAH) is an academic unit within the College of Performing and Visual Arts. Here, students can earn a BFA in Graphic Design that consists of 120 credit hours of study.
Sample courses for the program include Advanced Typography, Brand Identity, Computer Graphics, Design Methodology, Illustration, Interactive Media, Intermediate Book Arts: Concept, Content, Form, Intermediate Typography, Letterpress, Package Design, Poster Design, and Web Design. Students will complete a Portfolio Review course, Independent Studies in Graphic Design, and a Graphic Design Internship.
SADAH Graphic Design graduates are prepared for a variety of careers such as Advertising Designer, Graphic Designer, Illustrator, Multimedia Designer, Printmaker, and many others.
5. Virginia State University, Petersburg, Virginia
Founded in 1882, Virginia State University (VSU) serves approximately 4,600 students enrolled in around 50 undergraduate and graduate programs, two doctoral degree programs and seven certificate programs through six schools. The College of Humanities and Social Science houses the School of Liberal Arts and Education (SOLA). SOLA is home to the Department of Art and Design, which offers a BFA with a Graphic Design Concentration.
Course highlights include Advertising Design, Digital Photography, Editorial Illustration, Graphic Design, Graphic Design History, Package Design, Publication Design, Silkscreen Procedures, Strategic Design, and Visual Narrative. Students will complete several portfolio courses, an internship, and a Senior Thesis. Cooperative work assignments and study abroad opportunities are also available.