What are the top Washington graphic design schools for 2023?

Top 5 Washington Graphic Design School Programs - 2023 College Rankings
1University of WashingtonSeattle
2Cornish College of the ArtsSeattle
3Western Washington UniversityBellingham
4Central Washington UniversityEllensburg
5Eastern Washington UniversityCheney

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

1. University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
University of Washington

The College of Arts & Sciences (ArtSci) at University of Washington (UW) houses the School of Art + Art History + Design (SoA+AH+D), home to the Division of Design, which has two paths to study Graphic Design: the Bachelor of Design (BDes) and the Master of Design (MDes). The BDes has Visual Communication, Interaction Design, and Industrial Design Majors.

One of the largest and most decorated undergraduate programs at UW, Visual Communication Design is a professional program that explores all areas of design systems, new media, typography, publication design, visual methods/processes, information design, and exhibition design. Consisting of 180 credit hours, the Visual Communication BDes is intensive and collaborative, with opportunities to take electives in other areas of interest.

Courses for the program are five credit hours and include titles such as Marks + Symbols, Interface Design I-II, Exhibition Design, Visual Systems, Information Design, Publication Design, Advanced Typography, Corporate Identity, and Motion Design.

In the Junior and Senior years of the UW BDes program, students will complete an internship, a Design Capstone, and Design Exhibition worth 1-3 credit hours. Students will also have the opportunity to complete a Study Abroad experience in places such as Paris, London, or Amsterdam.  

The MDes Program at University of Washington emphasizes individualized and interdisciplinary studies,  which provides plenty of opportunities to study Visual Communication. This two-year, terminal degree is suited to students who already have a degree in a design-related field and several years of work experience in the field. The program is research-based and allows students to choose courses from and complete research projects with the College of Engineering; the Departments of Communication, Psychology, and Biomedical Informatics; and the Schools of Business and Nursing. Past thesis topics include Information visualization, Urban Planning, Aviation, and Healthcare.

Throughout the MDes Program, students will have opportunities to complete several special projects led by design faculty and sponsored by major corporations. Other program benefits include project-based studios, seminars, and independent study. During the final year of the UW MDes Program, students will work with their Chair and committee to complete a thesis document and exhibition to be displayed at UW’s Henry Art Gallery.

Established in 1861, the University of Washington serves approximately 60,080 students across campuses in Seattle (main), Bothell, and Tacoma, Washington. UW houses more than 300 programs and 570+ degree options across 18 colleges and schools. The University of Washington is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) and is a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU). Engineering at the University is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

2. Cornish College of the Arts, Seattle, Washington
Cornish College of the Arts

Cornish College of the Arts (Cornish) has Design BFA Program that begins with the Visual Arts Foundation Program. This project-based, immersive, and interdisciplinary experience allows students to collaborate with peers and faculty from across Visual Arts Departments at Cornish. Upon completion of the Foundation Program, students will begin the Design BFA Program, where they will learn to create logos, brand identities, and publications. Students will also develop apps and websites, work with  augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR), design user interfaces, and build worlds.

Product design, typography, bookbinding, packaging, drawing, letterpress, and printmaking are just a few skills students will master. To enhance the degree, students have the opportunity to select a minor in an area such as Experience Design or Game Art.

Other program features include access to Print, Photo, Painting and Drawing Studios, the Film Studio, and the Galleries at Cornish, which provide professional space for classroom critiques, documenting artwork, filming performances, and full exhibitions.

Graduates of the Design BFA Program at Cornish College of the Arts are prepared for graduate study or to pursue a variety of positions in Fine Art, Design, Illustration, and more. Examples of possible job titles include Graphic Designer, Brand Designer, Packaging Designer, UI/UX Designer, Interactive Designer,  Logo Designer, AR/VR , Storyboard Artist, and Concept Artist.

Cornish College of the Arts dates back to 1914 when pianist and music educator Nellie Cornish founded The Cornish School for Drama, Music, Dance. Today, Cornish serves 635 students enrolled in Visual and Performing Arts Programs leading to a BFA or Bachelor of Music. Situated near theaters, museums, galleries, and music venues, and the Space Needle, Cornish College of the Arts has been accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) since 1977.

3. Western Washington University, Bellingham, Washington
Western Washington University

The College of Fine and Performing Arts (CFPA) at Western Washington University (WWU) houses the Department of Design, which has a Design BFA Program consisting of 117 credits. Program benefits include access to the Design Production Lab, the Annual Design Field Trip to visit firms in Portland or San Francisco, summer study abroad experiences in Germany and Switzerland, and internships with a variety of companies. Recent BFA internship firm include Disney, Starbucks, Smashing Ideas, Ten Gun Design, and Acrylicize.

Design BFA students at Western Washington University also have opportunities to build their portfolios through campus-wide work experiences at Labyrinth Literary and Fine Arts Magazine, at VU Publicity Center, Jeopardy Magazine, The Planet Magazine, and Klipsun Magazine. The CFPA Department of Design provides additional opportunities to design for off-campus partners.

Course examples for the WWU Design BFA Program include Digital Design, Graphic Design, Principles of Interaction Design, Print and Finish, Motion, Design Technology, Foundations of Visual Communications, Design View, and Professional Practices. Students may add the Illustration Certificate (the only one of its kind in the Northwest) or a Minor in User Experience (UX) Design, Sustainable Design, Computer Science, Arts Enterprise and Cultural Innovation, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics), or Internet Resource Creation and Management.

During the final year of the BFA Program students will complete the Senior Seminar, BFA Workshop, and Design Portfolio courses.

Graduates of the WWU Design BFA Program typically find employment in their field of choice within six months of graduation. The work in advertising agencies, packaging and printing firms, consulting, design studios, web design firms, publications, and in-house departments. Program alumni are Graphic and Visual Designers, Art Directors, Web Designers, UX/UI Designers, Brand Designers, Production Managers, Digital Artists, and Interactive Designers.

Recent WWU graduates have been hired at Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks technology, Meta, Alaska Airlines, Nordstrom, Fantagraphics Books, Seattle Sounders, and Ticketfly.

Western Washington University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). Established in 1893 as New Whatcom State Normal School, WWU serves around 15,200 students enrolled in more than 200 academic programs in seven colleges that house dozens of departments.

4. Central Washington University, Ellensburg, Washington
Central Washington University

The College of Arts and Humanities at Central Washington University (CWU) houses the Department of Art + Design, which has both BFA and MFA degrees in Graphic Design or with a Graphic Design Concentration. All undergraduate Graphic Design students will begin as an Art BA Major, with the opportunity to apply to the BFA Program during their Junior year.

Once admitted into the BFA Graphic Design Sequence, students will complete a 10-12 credit Cooperative Education Summer Internship, along with courses such as Corporate Graphic Design, Advertising Graphic Design, Intermediate Layout and Design, Advanced Interface Design, and Intermediate Typography. Other program features include access to state-of-the art facilities, studios, and labs; the Visiting Artist + Speaker Series; seminars and workshops; the opportunity to exhibit work on campus; and participation in CWU Study Abroad and Exchange Programs.

Graduates of the Graphic Design BFA Program at Central Washington University will enter the job market with a professional portfolio of their best work.

The MFA is a Visual Art Program that takes three years to complete. The program consists of 90 credit hours, and students can concentrate in areas such as Graphic Design, Drawing, or Photography. Other program benefits include access to semi-private spaces; one-on-one studio visit critiques by visiting artists; participation in a minimum of three exhibitions on campus, with other opportunities to present work in the community; and Graduate Teaching Assistantships.

Graduates of the Graphic Design MFA Program at Central Washington University are prepared for leadership positions in Graphic Design and other related areas. Program alumni are also prepared to pursue careers as Professional Studio Artists and Educators.

Central Washington University is a public, four-year university that serves more than 10,000 students each year. The school provides more than 170 programs housed across five colleges and dozens of departments. In addition to the main campus in Ellensburg, CWU has six university centers (Des Moines, Lynnwood, Pierce County, Moses Lake, Wenatchee, and Yakima) and two instructional sites (Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Sammamish). Central Washington University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

5. Eastern Washington University, Cheney, Washington
Eastern Washington University

Eastern Washington University (EWU) has two paths to study Graphic Design. For students seeking a degree, EWU has a studio-based Visual Communication Design BDes Program that requires 82-85 credit hours in the Major. The Program explores all areas of design, as well as drawing and sketching, digital tools, and illustration. Course examples include Drawing for Communication, Emergent Design, Typography, Visual Communication Design 1-3, Web Design, Motion Design, and Visual Thinking.

Electives allow students to develop skills in additional areas such as 3D Animation, Photography, User Experience Design, Digital Sound, Imaginary Worlds, and Experimental Design. In addition, Visual Communication Design BDes students will have opportunities to complete an internship, the Directed Study course, and an individual or group design project for the Final Senior Project requirement.

For students seeking a shorter program, Eastern Washington University has a Design Minor that explores Typography, Digital Tools such as Adobe Creative Cloud, Web Design, and History of Design. Consisting of 27 credit hours, the Program features courses such as Social Media Design and Management, Digital Foundations, Web Design, Typography 2, and Visual Communication Design.

Eastern Washington University has an additional program option that can be taken alone or as a complement to the Graphic Design BDes (or other related programs). Students in this 26 credit hour program will develop skills in areas such as User-Centered Design (UCD), Experience Development, Web Design, Rapid Prototyping, and HTML 5. Courses include User Experience Design 1-2, and Web Design 1-3.

Students in all Design Programs at EWU enjoy small class sizes; access to state-of-the-art labs, studios, and production facilities; hands-on experience in the classroom; workshops and seminars; and participation in the Study Abroad Program.

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

Founded in 1882, Eastern Washington University began as Benjamin P. Cheney Academy. In 1889, the school was renamed State Normal School at Cheney, and in 1937 to Eastern Washington College of Education. Today, EWU serves 10,915 students enrolled in 120+ majors, 150+ areas of study, and nearly 130 graduate programs, degrees, and certificates. Eastern Washington University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).