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

Top 5 Wisconsin Graphic Design Schools - 2021 College Rankings
1Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design Milwaukee
2University of Wisconsin – StoutMenomonie
3University of Wisconsin – MadisonMadison
4University of Wisconsin – MilwaukeeMilwaukee
5University of Wisconsin – Stevens PointStevens Point

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

1. Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD), Milwaukee Wisconsin
Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design

Founded in 1974, Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD) is Wisconsin’s only four-year, private college of visual art and design. The school is also a member of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD)—a consortium of 39 leading art schools in the United States and Canada.

MIAD serves nearly 900 degree-seeking students, 600 pre-college students, and 250 outreach/special programs students enrolled in five BFA degree programs and more than a dozen minors. Programs include Communication Design, Illustration, Interior Architecture and Design, New Studio Practice: Fine Arts, and Product Design.

The Communication Design BFA consists of 120 credits hours of study including 78 studio credits and 42 liberal studies credits. Minors that complement the program include Advertising, Art Management, Book Arts, Copywriting, and Digital Media Production.

Communication Design coursework begins with the study of 2D design and ends in the creation of a professional portfolio. Course highlights include Advertising Design, Computer Studio, Digital 4D, Information Graphics, Packaging Design, Research, Process & Connection, Service Learning, Systems of Drawing, and Visual Language. Students will complete Senior Writing Seminar and several Communication Design Thesis courses. 

Throughout the Communication Design program, students will have the opportunity to take on internships at advertising and design firms in Milwaukee and across the U.S. They will also build their portfolio with real-world experience through MIAD’s Visual Resources Studio. “Self-promotion, presentation and collaboration will all be introduced and refined throughout the program,” says the school. Graduates of the program are prepared to work in marketing communication firms and major corporations.

MIAD Communication Design alumni hold positions such as Advertising Designer, Art Director, Graphic Designer, Package Designer, Storyboard Illustrator, and Web Designer. In addition, many graduates of head their own successful advertising agencies and design firms.

2. University of Wisconsin – Stout, Menomonie, Wisconsin
University of Wisconsin – Stout

University of Wisconsin – Stout (UW-Stout) was established in 1891 as The Stout Manual Training School. Today, the school is one of just 125 polytechnic universities in the U.S. and the only one in Wisconsin. Serving nearly 8,000 students, UW-Stout offers 49 undergraduate degrees and 22 graduate programs, many of which are unique to Stout or are not offered elsewhere in the Midwest.

Programs are offered in three colleges and six schools, including the School of Art And Design, where students can earn a BFA in Graphic Design and Interactive Media, BS in Graphic Communications (GCOM), an MFA in Design or a Minor in Graphic Media and Print Management. All programs except for the Hybrid MFA in Design are on-campus.

The BFA in Graphic Design and Interactive Media has two Concentrations: Communication Design (CD) and Interaction Design (ID). CD is an exploration of graphic design including advertising, publication, packaging, and motion graphics. ID is “a study of design for interactivity across web, mobile app, and emerging screen-based media,” says the school.

Graduates of the programs hold titles such as Advertising/Marketing Designers, Art Directors, Brand Strategists, Interactive Designers, Logo and Identity Systems Designers, Motion Graphics Designers, Package Designers, and more. They have been hired at companies such as FCB, NPR, Target, and many others.

Core coursework for the BS in GCOM covers areas such as building digital media files, campaign anatomy and delivery, color science and applications, cost analysis for graphics projects, creative graphics software tools, fundamentals of package manufacturing, planning for digital production, Professional practices in graphics, visual graphics and conditional imagery, web graphics, and working with graphics clients.

Ninety-nine percent of Graphic Communications graduates are employed or continuing their education. Graduates work in graphics and graphic design, imaging, marketing, and media, to name a few.

3. University of Wisconsin – Madison, Madison, Wisconsin
University of Wisconsin – Madison

University of Wisconsin – Madison (UW Madison) was founded in 1848. The school serves approximately 45,540 students enrolled in more than 200 undergraduate majors and certificates and over 250 masters, doctoral, and professional programs through 13 colleges and schools.

The School of Education houses the Art Department, which offers two professional programs—Studio Art and Art Education—across three undergraduate degrees and two studio certificate programs. Studio art majors may pursue the BS in Art (BS-Art) - Graphic Design or the BFA in Graphic Design. A Graphic Design Certificate is also available.

All art majors must complete a Foundations year, which includes courses in contemporary and modern art, analog and digital design for two, three and four-dimensional art practices, and drawing concepts and methods. “Students may select their breadth and elective studio courses from a list of incredibly diverse studio offerings,” says the school.

The BFA program is a studio-intensive, professional-level degree that requires 72 studio credits, “spent in intermediate and advanced-level studio courses, allowing art and design students to graduate with a highly advanced portfolio.” In the BS program, students will spend approximately 17 of the 45 required studio credits “in intermediate and advanced-level studio courses, allowing students to graduate with a high-intermediate level portfolio.”

Course highlights for the programs include Digital Art & Code, Digital Imaging Studio, Relief Printmaking, Serigraphy, Topics in 4D Art, and Video/Performance. Students in both programs will also take Advanced Studio and Colloquium in Arts. BFA students will complete the Professional Practices Capstone Course.

For artists who are not interested in a degree program, but would like to develop their talents, the Art Department offers Certificate in Art Studio with five focus areas: 2D, 3D, 4D (time-based), Graphic Design, and Photography. Students “will complete one course focusing on the historical context of art, two courses that provide a foundation for their chosen area, and two related electives that allow for the exploration and development of their skills.”

4. University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UM-Milwaukee or UWM) opened its doors on September 25, 1956. The school was created when Wisconsin State College, Milwaukee and the local campus of University of Wisconsin-Extension merged. Today, the school serves 25,000 and houses 15 schools and colleges, including Wisconsin’s only Schools of Architecture, Freshwater Sciences and Public Health.

Peck School of the Arts at UWM offers a BFA in Design & Visual Communication. The curriculum for the program “includes coursework in composition, typography, strategy and design process, design methodologies and research, portfolio development, web and multimedia design, design entrepreneurship, and real-world internships in local design firms,” says the school. “Risk-taking, experimentation and productive criticism are central to {the} program,” and the “curriculum works as an on-going design laboratory.”

Other program highlights include the Senior Capstone Showcase—an annual event at which graduating Design & Visual Communication majors exhibit their Capstone Project and Portfolios, portfolio review, lectures, and workshops through Wisconsin Portfolio Review, and membership in AIGA-Wisconsin and United Adworkers Local.

Graduates are prepared to pursue positions such as Advertising Director, App Developer, Exhibit Designer, Font Designer, Freelance Artist, Graphic Artist or Designer, Illustrator, Interactive Designer, Production Designer, Program Director/Coordinator, User Interface Designer, Web Designer/Developer, and many others.

5. University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, Stevens Point, Wisconsin
University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point

University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point (UW-Stevens Point or UWSP) welcomed its first class of 201 students on September 17, 1894. Back then, UWSP was known as Stevens Point Normal School. Today, the school serves 7,315 students across the Stevens Point, Marshfield and Wausau campuses. More than 100 program options are available within 80 baccalaureate degree programs, 90 minors, and 17 graduate programs in the Colleges of Fine Arts and Communication, Letters and Sciences, Natural Resources, and Professional Studies. Five-year program options that blend undergraduate and graduate degrees are also available as well as online courses, certificates and non-credit options.

The College of Fine Arts and Communication (COFAC) houses the School of Design and Communication—home of the Department of Art and Design, which offers a BFA in Graphic Design. Program highlights include the opportunity to work with real clients in the community, required design internships, including London internships during the summer, and membership in student groups such as the AIGA Student Chapter, Student Art League (SAL), and SCULPT.

Students also have opportunities to enter local, regional, national, and international art and design competitions and they are invited get their portfolios reviewed by professionals working in the field at annual events in Stevens Point, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis.

Graduates of the Graphic Design BFA Program at UWSP are prepared to compete for positions such as Art Director, Brand Manager, Graphics Coordinator, Graphic Designer, Marketing Specialist, Packaging Designer, Publication Designer, User Experience Designer, and many others.