What are the top Virginia graphic design schools for 2023?

Top 5 Virginia Graphic Design School Programs - 2023 College Rankings
1Virginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmond
2Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Blacksburg
3George Mason UniversityFairfax
4James Madison UniversityHarrisonburg
5Liberty UniversityLynchburg

Our 2023 ranking 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

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) is home to the School of the Arts (VCUarts), which houses the Department of Graphic Design. Degree pathways here include the Graphic Design BFA and the Design MFA with a Visual Communications Concentration. Students in both programs have access to resources such as the student-run Golab, which provides print and production services, and middle Of broad (mOb)—an experimental design lab that provides opportunities to work on real-world state projects. Past projects have included projects signage for the James River Park System, a reimagined Monument Avenue in Richmond and the development of bridge concepts for Interstate 95.

Consisting of 122 credit hours, the VCUarts Graphic Design BFA includes the mandatory Art Foundation Program (AFO), which provides a first year, studio-based experience that explores current issues in art and design. Upon completion of the AFO, students move on to studio and seminar courses in graphic design that will help them develop skills in interaction design, publication and print design, and sequential and motion design. Course examples include Typeface Design, Book Arts, Design Activism, Research as Practice, and Web Design.

The 60 credit hour Design/Visual Communications MFA at Virginia Commonwealth University is a design and research degree that culminates in a final research project, work of art, thesis or dissertation. MFA students will complete several Visual Communications Workshops and Seminars, Research/Individual Study, and an Internship or Teaching Practicum. Study abroad opportunities are also available.

Graduates of the VCUarts Graphic Design and Design/Visual Communications Programs are Interaction/Interface Designers, Creative Directors, Environmental Graphic Designers, Broadcast/Film Designers, and Exhibition Designers.

Founded in 1838, Virginia Commonwealth University is a top 100 research university that serves more than 28,900 students. The largest employer in Richmond, Virginia, VCU offers more than 200 programs across 15+ colleges, schools, and centers. Virginia Commonwealth University accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Founded in 1928, the School of the Arts at (VCUarts) is a four-year, non-profit art and design school accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), the National Association of Schools of Dance (NASD), the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM), and the National Association for Schools of Theatre (NAST). The school serves around 3,200 students enrolled in 18 bachelor’s degree programs and five master’s degree programs.

2. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), Blacksburg, Virginia
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

The School of Visual Arts (SOVA) at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) houses the Graphic Design Program, which includes a required 130-hour internship that takes place in the students junior or senior year. In addition to the internship, SOVA students may gain hands-on experience in the student-run, faculty-led Graphic Design Center known as FourDesign, which attracts real-world clients from within the industry.

Leading to a BFA, Virginia Tech Graphic Design Program explores user interface and user experience (UI/UX) design, problem-solving, conceptual thinking, and aesthetic development. Students will complete required courses in Design and Typography, with access to a variety of Studio Art and Creative Technologies courses, and electives. Course examples across areas include Hand-Lettering, Motion Graphics, Advanced Typography, Human-Centered Design, 3D Computer Animation, Art Direction, Packaging, New Media Art, Creative Code, Web Design, Mobile Design, Visual Communication Design, Pictorial Arts Studio, and Mapping.

Students will leave the Graphic Design BFA Program with work experience and a portfolio of their best work.

Graduates of the Graphic Design Program at Virginia Tech work in fields such as advertising, product design, brand management, exhibit design, marketing, web and interaction design, and packaging design. Program alumni have been hired at major companies and organizations such as Amazon, ESPN, Google, NASA, the Brooklyn Art Museum, USA Today, Warby Parker, Axios, and Willow Tree Apps.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University opened on October 1, 1872 as Virginia’s land-grant institution. The school serves more than 37,000 students enrolled in approximately 280 undergraduate and graduate programs across more than a dozen departments and schools. Virginia Tech houses campuses, and educational and research facilities across Virginia, as well as a study-abroad site in Switzerland. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

3. George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia
George Mason University

George Mason University (GMU) has several paths to study Graphic Design. At the graduate level, GMU has a Visual and Performing Arts MFA with a Graphic Design (GD) Concentration. Housed in the College of Visual and Performing Arts-School of Art, this program consists of 60 credit hours, with 36 in the GD Concentration. Course examples include Graduate Graphic Design I-II, Visual Communication Theories, Brand Identity, Special Topics in Graphic Design, Advanced Typography, Special Topics in Art and Visual Technology, and Advanced Graduate Graphic Design I-II.

At the undergraduate level, the School of Art at GMU has BA and BFA degrees in Art and Visual Technology (AVT). The School also has non-degree options, including a GD Certificate and a Minor, and an AVT Minor. The GD Certificate is designed for students with a four-year degree from an accredited institution. Minors are 20 credit hours and allow students to explore Graphic Design, New Media Art, Printmaking and Book Arts, Drawing, and more.

The AVT BA is a Liberal Arts Program and the AVT BFA is a Professional Degree Program. Both options require the Studio Foundations Experience, studio core and research practicum courses, art history, a critical theory requirement, interdisciplinary studio course electives, and a capstone. BFA students will also complete Professional Practice coursework and choose a concentration in Graphic Design or Studio Art. Studio art courses explore New Media, Printmaking and Book Arts, Photography, Drawing, Painting, and Sculpture.

BA students will have the opportunity to create an unofficial area of focus through Studio electives that explore Drawing, New Media, Painting, Photography, Printmaking and Book Arts, and Sculpture. All AVT students may complete an internship and participate in the GMU Study Abroad Program.

Graduates of the George Mason University Art and Design Programs are prepared to pursue careers in all areas of graphic and visual design at advertising agencies, book publishers, museums, web design companies, marketing firms, magazines, packaging design firms, branding agencies, and more.

Founded in 1949 as a branch of the University of Virginia, George Mason University serves approximately 39,050 students from all 50 states and 130 countries, making it the largest public university in the Commonwealth of Virginia. GMU offers more than 200 degree programs across 10 colleges and schools. George Mason University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

4. James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia
James Madison University

The College of Visual and Performing Arts at James Madison University (JMU) houses the School of Art, Design and Art History. Within the school is a collection of programs accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Among them is an Art BFA with a Major in Graphic Design. Though demanding (students begin the major with intensive 300 level courses), the Art BFA provides the opportunity to add a complementary Minor such as Book Arts, Communication Studies, Technical and Scientific Communication, Film Studies, or Computer Information Systems.

The Graphic Design Major at JMU explores the design process, industry-standard technology and tools, visual language, and craft, with specialized coursework in that covers package design, brand identity, user interface and user experience (UI/UX) design, interaction and web design, illustration, design for print, and design issues. Course examples include Brand Identity, Interactive Media, Letterpress, Wayfinding, Signage, Exhibit Design, Digital Media Design III, Package Design, Intermediate Book Arts: Concept, Concept, Form, Topics in Graphic Design, Illustration, Typography, and History of Design.

Graphic Design students at James Madison University have the opportunity to complete an internship, independent study, or travel abroad. Students will also work and learn in the Design Center, which features a dedicated classroom for interaction and web design; and iMac general computer lab with 22 workstations and Adobe Creative Suite; access to a books-arts room with bookmaking and letterpress; and a print-production room with bookbinding/assembly equipment. All students entering their senior year will also have designated individual desks in the Senior Studio. 

Other Graphic Design Program features include participation in student chapters of AIGA: The Professional Association for Design; interactions with visiting designers and exhibitions at the Duke Hall Gallery of Fine Art; the opportunity to work for a variety of JMU offices and organizations; participation in shows at JMU galleries with faculty and peers; and frequent field trips to design events, studio visits, and to attend guest speaker events.

Graduates of the Graphic Design Program at James Madison University are prepared to pursue career paths such as Package Designer, Advertising Designer, Visual Designer, Creative Director, Production Artist, Digital Designer, Imaging Artist, Illustrator, Art Director, Multumedia Designer, and Graphic Designer. Program alumni have been hired at Google, The New York Times, Adobe, and Wired, among others.

James Madison University was established in 1908 as the State Normal and Industrial School for Women at Harrisonburg. Today, JMU serves approximately 22,225 students enrolled in more than 135 programs of study across ten academic departments and schools. James Madison University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

5. Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia
Liberty University

The School of Communication and the Arts at Liberty University (Liberty U) has a number of paths to study Graphic Design. Options include a Graphic Design BFA, Graphic Design MFA, Digital Design: Graphic Design BS, and a Studio & Digital Arts: Graphic Design BS. The Graphic Design BFA consists of 120 credit hours, including courses such as Introduction to Graphic Design, Drawing I, Introduction to 3D Design, and Digital Photography. This program is campus-based and can be completed in four years.

The Graphic Design MFA consists of 60 credit hours completed over two years. Course examples include Publication Design, Visualization Illustration, Interactive Design, and History of Graphic Design. The Graphic Design MFA at Liberty U is delivered 100% online.

The Digital Design: Graphic Design BS consists of 120 credit hours, including courses such as Advanced Typography, Vector Illustration, Digital Imaging, and Interactive Design. This program is delivered 100% online and students can complete the program in 3.5 years.

The Studio & Digital Arts: Graphic Design BS is a residential program that requires 120 credit hours of study. Course examples include 3D Graphics, Typography, Studio & Illustration Foundations, Graphic Design I-II, and Professional Practices.

A major component of all programs is the opportunity to complete an internship with a major company, studio or organization. Students have interned at places such as Disney, Ralph Lauren, Bloomingdale’s, ESPN, Vision Marketing, Prototype Advertising, and Riverviews Artspace. Liberty U students also benefit from study abroad experiences in London and Paris, and extensive Portfolio Development coursework.

Graduates of the Liberty U Graphic Design Programs are prepared to pursue positions in Branding, User Interface (UI), Packaging Design, Illustration, and Textile Design, among others. Program alumni work for companies and organizations such BBDO, Conde Nast, M&C Saatchi Mobile, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Discovery Communications, Hallmark, Capital One, ACCO Brands, SAP, Active Network World Headquarters, Alloy Research and Brand Strategy, Chromat, and the Motion Picture Association of America.

Founded in 1971, Liberty University opened with just over 150 students. Today, Liberty U serves more than 130,000 students enrolled in 700 programs, including 450 online options. Liberty students come from all 50 states and just about every country around the globe. Programs at Liberty U are housed across 15 colleges and schools. Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).