|1||School of the Art Institute of Chicago||Top 5%|
|2||University of Illinois at Chicago||Top 10%|
|3||Columbia College Chicago||Top 10%|
|4||University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign||Top 15%|
|5||DePaul University||Top 20%|
Our 2018 rankings of the top 5 graphic design school programs in Illinois. For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.
1. School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois (top 5% of schools considered)
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is one of the oldest accredited independent schools of art and design in the country. Founded in 1866 as the Chicago Academy of Design, the school serves 3,650 students enrolled in more than 25 programs. Programs for aspiring graphic designers are offered through SAIC’s Visual Communication Design Department. Options include a BFA, MFA or Certificate in Graphic Design.
The BFA program has two major areas of focus including Physical Media (print, objects, and environments) and Virtual Media (interactive and time-based media). The MFA program offers the opportunity to explore other related departments at SAIC such as Printmedia, Writing, Photography, Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Objects, and Film, Video, New Media, and Animation (FVNMA). The purpose of this opportunity is to “extend students’ design work into new territories.” The Graphic Design Certificate is designed for “students with an interest in exploring graphic design with an emphasis on print media,” says the Department.
Other Graphic Design Program highlights include an active AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) student chapter, Exploratory Languages (a lecture series featuring leading designers and design educators from across the country), and CIPB (Chicago International Poster Biennial), which is an international competition representing leading designers from throughout the world. Internship opportunities and the option to study abroad are other highlights.
2. University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois (top 10% of schools considered)
Established in 1982 and home to more than 30,500 students, University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) is the largest university in Chicago. The school, which has regional campuses in Peoria, Rockford, Springfield, Urbana, IL, and The Quad Cities, offers 248 degree programs and 32 certificates across 15 colleges. The College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts houses the School of Design, which offers a Bachelor of Design (BDes) and a Master of Design (MDes) in Graphic Design.
The four-year BDes program highlights studio-based instruction, while the two-year MDes focuses on an independent master’s research project. A third option is the MDes Prelim Program. Offered to applicants who do not hold a bachelor’s degree in design, the Prelim Program is a customized yearlong program that prepares students for the two-year MDes.
3. Columbia College Chicago, Chicago, Illinois (top 10% of schools considered)
Columbia College was established in 1890. It serves more than 8,000 students enrolled in over 100 academic majors or programs across three schools and more than 20 departments. Schools include the School of Fine and Performing Arts, the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the School of Media Arts. The School of Fine and Performing Arts, Department of Design offers several programs for aspiring graphic designers. Options include BA and BFA degrees in Graphic Design and a Minor in Graphic Design.
The BA in Graphic Design has two Concentrations: Publication Design and Web Design. Students in this program may also pursue a minor or double major. Sample courses include Experimental Typography for Graphic Design, Graphic Design I, II & III, Publication Design, Visual Culture, and Packaging Design. Per the school, graduates of the BA in Graphic Design will be able to "create and develop visual responses to communication problems through an understanding of typography, composition, aesthetics, and construction of meaningful design solutions."
BFA Graphic Design students will take most of the same courses as BA students, with an additional focus on design research. Graphic Design Minors will take courses such as Typography, Website Design and Graphic Design: Form and Structure. All programs offer internship and study abroad opportunities.
4. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, Illinois (top 15% of schools considered)
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (U of I or UIUC) is one of the original 37 public land-grant institutions created after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act in 1862. Founded in 1867, the school is home to nearly 48,000 students enrolled in more than 150 programs across 15 Colleges and Instructional Units. The College of Fine and Applied Arts, School of Art and Design offers BFA degrees in Graphic Design and New Media, an MFA in Graphic Design and a Minor in Art + Design. The MFA in Painting, Sculpture, and New Media complements Graphic Design.
All design students may study for a semester abroad and they have access to internship opportunities at regional, nationwide and international companies. Design students have gone on to land positions in Interaction Design, Art Direction, Publication Design, Motion Graphics, Photography, Type Design, Environmental Design, and Social/Service Design at advertising agencies, marketing firms, PR firms, studios, publishers, and more.
5. DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois (top 20% of schools considered)
With a population of nearly 22,800 students, DePaul University is the nation’s largest Catholic University. Established in 1898, the school offers 300 programs of study across 10 colleges and schools and four campuses. Located at the downtown Chicago campus, the College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM) offers a BFA and a Minor in Graphic Design.
Per the school, the program “teaches students conceptual, creative and technical design skills to plan and execute the design of visual communication, advertising, interactive and web design, social media, illustration, film title design and animation.” Sample courses include Typography, Publication Design, Motion Graphics, Semiotics and Visual Design, Digital Illustration and Photography, Production Design, Editing, Web Design, Animation, and Advertising Design. Graphic Design Minors will take many of the same courses.