What are the top Wisconsin graphic design school programs for 2023?

Top 5 Wisconsin Graphic Design School Programs - 2023 College Rankings
1Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design Milwaukee
2University of Wisconsin – MadisonMadison
3University of Wisconsin – StoutMenomonie
4University of Wisconsin – Eau ClaireEau Claire
5University of Wisconsin – MilwaukeeMilwaukee

Our 2023 ranking of the top 5 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

Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD) has several paths to study Graphic Design or different areas of design. For degree-seeking students, MIAD has a 120 credit hour Communication Design (CD) Program that leads to a BFA. For students seeking a degree in a related area plus a Minor, MIAD has Minors in Book Arts, Digital Media Production, Advertising, and Copywriting. Minors are 15 credit hours, and the Copywriting option is provided in conjunction with nearby Marquette University.

Required credits for the CD BFA Program include 78 studio credits and 42 liberal studies credits (English & Writing, 12; Art History, 12; and Humanities & Sciences, 18. Studio courses for the program explore advertising, 2D, 3D and 4D design, typography, web design, and packaging. Students will take courses such as Communication Design I-IV, Research, Process & Connection, Visual Language, Advertising Design, Fabrication, Computer Studio I-III, Packaging Design, Critical and Creative forms, Advanced Computer Studio, Digital 4D, Patterns in Nature, and Information Graphics.

A Communication Design Thesis totaling six credit hours is required as well as, the Professional Portfolio/Practice course, worth three credits. This course is a culmination of study in the MIAD Communication Design Program.

MIAD Communication Design graduates are Graphic Designers, Book Designers, Art Directors, User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) Designers, Advertising Designers, Publication Designers, Illustrators, Web Designers, and Package Designers. Some MIAD alumni go on to pursue graduate study or launch their own creative agencies and design studios.

MIAD interns and alumni work for companies such as Google, Harley-Davidson, Nike, High Sierra, General Motors, Trek, Kohler Company, Milwaukee Tool, Ford Motor Company, Land’s End, GE Healthcare, Hanson Dodge Creative, Fiskars, Delta Faucet, Generac, and PIVOT Cycles.

Founded in 1974, Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design is the only four-year, nonprofit, private college of visual art and design in the State of Wisconsin. Serving 1,750 degree-seeking, pre-college, and outreach/special programs students, MIAD offers 21 degree and minor programs in everything from Animation to Sustainability. Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design is 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. The school is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art & Design (NASAD) and the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

2. University of Wisconsin – Madison, Madison, Wisconsin
University of Wisconsin – Madison

The School of Education at University of Wisconsin – Madison (UW Madison) houses the Department of Art, which offers an BFA and BS degrees in Art with a Graphic Design Option. An 18 credit hour Graphic Design Certificate is also available. Course examples for this program include Basic Graphic Design, History of Graphic Design and Typography, Introduction to Digital Forms, 2D Design, and Information Graphics.

The  UW Madison BFA requires 72 credits hours of studio courses and 18 in aesthetics, while the BS requires 45 studio credits and 13 in aesthetics courses. Students in both programs must complete the first year program before entering the major, which consists of six courses that may be completed by participating in the Contemporary Art & Artists First-Year Interest Group (FIG). Course examples include Foundations of Contemporary Art, Current Directions in Art, History of Graphic Design and Typography, and Global Arts.

Course examples for the Graphic Design Option include 3D Digital Studio, Typeface Design, Information Graphics, Graphic Design for Branding and Identity, Motion Typography, Colloquium in Art,  Graphic Design for Publications, Product Development for Graphic Design, Digital Art and Code, Graphic Design for Posters, Installation and Environments, Graphic Design for Games, User Experience and Graphic Design, and Graphic Design for Packaging. In addition, the BFA and BS programs require the Graphic Design Practicum, and the Design Portfolio and Professional Practice course.

All Department of Art Programs are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

Graduates of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Art Programs work in graphic and multimedia design, advertising and marketing, book design, community arts, user experience design, publication design, animation and film, exhibit design, interactive design, public relations, and photography.

Founded in 1848, University of Wisconsin–Madison serves approximately 49,885 students enrolled in more than 200 undergraduate majors and certificates, and over 250 masters, doctoral, and professional programs in 13 colleges and schools. University of Wisconsin–Madison has been continuously accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) since 1913.

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

The School of Art and Design at University of Wisconsin – Stout (UW-Stout) has a Graphic Design and Interactive Media Program that leads to a BFA. Accredited by the National Association for Schools of Art and Design (NASAD, this career-focused program has two Concentrations: Communication Design (CD) and Interaction Design (ID). Learning for both options takes place in studio classrooms and design labs where students have opportunities to work on real-world projects.

Other program benefits include internships and study abroad experiences, and the opportunity to exhibit student work at two galleries housed in the School of Art and Design, and off-campus spaces throughout the year.

The UW-Stout Graphic Design and Interactive Media BFA requires 120 credit hours, with 80 credits in the concentration. Course examples across concentrations include Serigraphy Printmaking, Typography: Letterform, Graphic Design I-II, User Experience Design, and Web Design. Advertising Design, Typographic Design, Publication Design, Sign and Exhibition Design, Information Design, Interactive Media Design, Typography in Motion, Product and Packaging Graphics, and Advanced Interactive Design. Both concentrations provide the option to complete a Field Experience or Cooperative Education Experience. The Senior Project – Graphic Design course is the culminating experience for the BFA Program. 

Graduates of this program enjoy a near perfect employment rate. Alumni are Graphic Designers, Brand Strategists, Packaging Designers, Creative Directors, Logo and Identity Systems Designers, Interface Designers, Motion Graphics Designers, Advertising/Marketing Designers, Communications Strategists, Application Designers, Web Designers, and Interactive Designers.

Examples of companies that have hired graduates of UW-Stout’s Graphic Design and Interactive Media BFA Program include FCB, Hatch Design, Target, Innopark (India), National Public Radio (NPR), Ponzi Vineyards, WorkSimple - The Social Goal Management Company, Volume One, Madison Companies, Ziba, and Strapped to a Meteor.

The College of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Management at UW-Stout has an additional undergraduate option for students seeking a shorter program or an add-on to a degree program such as the Packaging BS, the Graphic Design and Interactive Media BFA, or the Business Administration BS. The Graphic Media and Print Management Minor consists of 18 credit hours. Course examples include Cross-Media Campaigns, Digital Marketing Strategy and Practice, Advertising Design, Usability and Design Testing, and Web Production and Distribution.

At the graduate level, the School of Art and Design at University of Wisconsin – Stout has a Hybrid Design MFA Program that consists of 60 credit hours. This interdisciplinary program explores Graphic Design, Animation and Digital Media, Industrial Design, Digital Cinema, Photography & Video, Sustainable Design, Interactive Media & UX, and Game Design.

Course examples include Ethics in Design, Sustainable Design Practice, Design Seminar I-II, Critical Issues in Design Education and Practice, and Research Strategies in Design. The Design MFA takes three years to complete, full-time. With a near perfect employment rate, program alumni have been hired at Apple, DreamWorks Animation, Edward Jones, Shutterfly, Ramsey EnglerLTD, UW-River Falls, Wold Architects and Engineers, Vancouver College of Art and Design, and UW-Stout.

Established in 1891, University of Wisconsin-Stout is one of just 125 polytechnic universities in the U.S. and the only one in the State of Wisconsin. Serving approximately 7,225 students, the school offers more than 65 undergraduate and graduate programs, many of which are unique to UW-Stout or are not available anywhere else in the Midwest. University of Wisconsin – Stout is accredited by Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

4. University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, Eau Claire, Wisconsin
University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire

The College of Arts and Sciences at University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire (UW-Eau Claire) houses 48 majors and the Department of Art and Design. Within the Department is a Graphic Design BFA that explores typography, logo design, promotional materials, symbols, Color systems, visual identities, design and the history of lettering. An interdisciplinary Graphic Communications Program leading to a BA or BS is also available.

The curriculum for the Graphic Design BFA Program is studio-focused, with courses that cover topics such as Principles of Graphic Design, Multimedia Development, 3D Computer Modeling, Illustration Narratives, Video for Art and Design, Graphic Communications, Art of the 20th Century, and Website Development. The Graphic Communications Program explores many of the same topics, as well as Animation Programming, Visual Communication Design, Web Database Design and Implementation, and Visual Identity Design. In addition, Graphic Communications students may Specialize in a variety of areas through electives. Examples include Brand and Reputation Management and Digital Animation.

All students in the UW-Eau Claire Graphic Design and Graphic Communications Programs benefit from the career development and preparation component of the program. Students will have opportunities to complete internships both on campus and off campus or a combination of the two. Students will also participate in on-campus Career Conference and the Client Communication and Management Career Fair.

A required Travel Experience is also an important component of the Graphic Design and Graphic Communications Programs at UW-Eau Claire. Experiences include the department’s national field trips or at least two of the department’s regional field trips, as well as option to explore art and architecture meccas such as New York, Chicago, Paris, Florence, or Rome.

All students have access to Foster Gallery—the largest art gallery in the Eau Claire area. This learning space hosts exhibition receptions, open viewings, installation opportunities, guest speaker presentations, and the annual juried student art show. Students may participate in all Foster Gallery has to offer.

The Design Programs at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire culminate with the Senior Exhibition, which provides the opportunity for students to present their best work to their peers and the public.

Across programs, graduates enjoy a 100% employment or graduate school rate. Alumni are prepared to pursue positions in all areas of Art and Design. Examples include Graphic Designer, Layout Artist, Brand Identity Designer, Marketing Communications Specialist, Marketing and Communications Graphic Designer, Art Director, Multimedia Artist, Design Manager, Film and Video Editor, Graphic Communications Coordinator, Web Designer, Brand Manager, Creative Director, and Marketing Manager.

Examples of companies that have hired UW-Eau Claire Graphic Design graduates include Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD), PPG Industries, Volume One, Wilmington Trust Company, Minnesota Wild, Mason Companies, and LA, Inc.

University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire was established in 1916. With more than 200 academic programs across four colleges, UW-Eau Claire serves approximately 10,065 students primarily from Wisconsin and Minnesota. Around 8.5% of students are from other states and 2.2% are from countries outside the U.S. University of Wisconsin Eau Claire is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

5. University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
University of wisconsin milwaukee

University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee (UM-Milwaukee or UWM) houses Peck School of the Arts, home to the Design and Visual Communication (DVC) Program. Leading to a BFA, the Program explores Graphic Design, Production Techniques, Design Systems, and Design History.

An ongoing laboratory, the Design Program at UWM features interdisciplinary projects; real-world internships at local design firms; access to the aDream Lab and additional motion capture, VR and AR, and digital fabrication and design facilities; and the Golda Meir and American Geographical Society Libraries. Students will also have opportunities to showcase their work, including semester projects and design research projects, during two public events held each year, and an annual event held each Fall semester known as the Designer Entrepreneur Showcase.

Other program features include participation in AIGA-Wisconsin (AIGAWI), which hosts workshops, portfolio reviews, professional studios, and other AIGAWI events; free membership to United Adworkers—a Milwaukee organization made up of designers, advertising professionals, directors, and photographers; and portfolio development throughout the program.

The DVC BFA Program at University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee consists of 123 credit hours including 45 in the University Core, 15 in the First-Year Program, 15 in the Art and Design Core, and 48 in the DVC Major. Course examples include Design and Visual Communication I-II, 2D Studio: Concept, Color and Composition, Moving Images and Sound in Art & Design, Creative Technologies, Introduction to Print and Narrative Forms, Typography I-II, Package Design, Experimental Typography, Web Design I-II, Research in Universal Design and Fabrication, and Creative Coding.

The DVC BFA Program at UWM culminates with Design & Visual Communication III—the Senior Capstone BFA Exhibition in Design & Visual Communication. Held each Spring, the event provides the opportunity for graduating Designers to exhibit their Capstone Projects and Portfolios.

Graduates of the Design and Visual Communication (DVC) Program at University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee are prepared for careers such as Graphic Designer, Advertising Director, Packaging Designer, Exhibit Designer, Printmaker, Font Designer, User Interface Designer, Web Designer, Motion Graphics Designer, Creative Director, and Brand Manager.

University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee was established in 1956, when Milwaukee State Teachers College and Milwaukee Extension Center merged. Today, the school houses the state’s largest School of Education and Wisconsin’s only Bachelor’s Program in ASL/English Interpretation. UWM also serves approximately 24,030 students enrolled in more than 200 degree programs across six campuses, and 15 colleges and schools. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).