Our 2018 rankings of the top 5 graphic design school programs in Tennessee. For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.
University of Memphis (UofM) was founded in 1912 as West Tennessee State Normal School. The school serves around 25,500 students enrolled in 17 bachelor's degree programs in more than 250 areas of study, master's degrees in 54 subjects, doctoral degrees in 26 disciplines, Education Specialist degrees in 2 areas, a Juris Doctor (law degree), and Graduate Certificate programs in 44 areas of study through 13 colleges and schools.
The College of Communication and Fine Arts, Department of Art, has two programs for aspiring graphic designers leading to either a BFA or MFA. The BFA requires a minimum of 120 semester hours. Per the school, “the curriculum covers key aspects of design and visual communication for both the print and digital environment.” Instruction consists of “the fundamental concepts of visual communication, current graphic computer applications, and methods of developing creative solutions, which give meaningful form to ideas and information, and business practices.”
The 60 credit hour, three-year MFA Program “explores critical issues facing the field of contemporary visual communications using design criticism and studio research as a comprehensive platform for investigation.” Within the framework of the program, “structured coursework is balanced by individual study opportunities. Critical, theoretical and studio research culminates in a visual and written thesis focusing on a specific visual communication problem.”
The MFA offers teaching assistantships and the BFA provides internship opportunities.
University of Tennessee Knoxville (UTK) was founded in 1794 as Blount College. It is home to more than 28,300 students enrolled in 300+ degree programs and 170+ undergraduate majors, concentrations, and specializations across 11 colleges. The College of Arts and Sciences, School of Art has several options for aspiring graphic designers including BA and BFA degrees in Graphic Design and Art, and MFA degrees in Time-Based Art and Printmaking. Per the School, Graduates of the School of Art are prepared to pursue graduate work or careers such as Fine Artist, Graphic Designer, Digital Artist, Photographer, Media/Film Artist, and Arts Administrator, to name a few.
Founded in 1936, Memphis College of Art (MCA) serves of 400-450 students from 25 states and five foreign countries. The school offers BFA, MFA, and MA degrees in areas such as Animation, Illustration, Photography, Sculpture, Painting/Drawing, and Graphic Design. The Graphic Design area has two options—a BFA in Graphic Design and a BFA in Design Arts with a Concentration in Graphic Design.
Students in both programs may study Advertising Design, App Design, Brand Identity, Data Visualization and Mapping, Design Research, Design Theory, Design Thinking, Digital Design, Exhibition Design, Information Design, Packaging Design, Publication Design, Signage Design, Social Design, Sustainable Design, System Design, Typography, Way Finding Design and Web Design. The Graphic Design BFA requires 30 credits in the major and the Concentration requires 21 credits.
Offered through the Department of Design, the Graphic Design Program also highlights internship and study abroad opportunities, as well as excellent job placement services. Around 82 percent of MCA graduates report working in an art-related field and 95 percent report working in any field or graduate school.
University of Tennessee Chattanooga (UTC) was founded in 1886. The school serves more than 11,500 students enrolled in dozens of degree programs through six colleges and schools. The College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Arts offers one program for aspiring graphic designers—a BFA in Studio with a Concentration in Graphic Design. Per the school, the four-year program “engages contemporary theory and practice” in students’ chosen media.
By their senior year, “students concentrate almost exclusively on studio coursework within the area of concentration, with an emphasis on individual expression, open exploration, and experimentation.” Sample courses for the program include Typography, Interactive Media, Processes and Materials for Graphic Design, Professional Practices in Graphic Design, Survey of Time-Based Art, Space and Sequence, Expanded Drawing, Visual Literacy for Graphic Design and Graphic Design Workshop.
Students will also complete a Visual Arts Internship that will prepare them to compete for positions at ad agencies, marketing firms, production studios, technology companies, and many others.
Watkins College of Art (formerly Watkins College of Art, Design & Film) was founded in 1885. The school serves more than 300 students enrolled in BFA degrees in Film, Fine Art, Graphic Design, Illustration, Interior Design, and Photography, a BA in Art, and MFA degrees in Film and in Visual Arts. In the BFA in Graphic Design Program, students will develop their “capacity to create fun and arresting visual pieces that help people, businesses, and missions thrive,” says the school. Students will accomplish this by honing “fabrication and production techniques in a wide range of print and digital media,” by employing “research-based strategies and methods for connecting with target audiences,” and by exploring “methods for activating public spaces.’ Students will “collaborate with classmates to design and execute exhibitions of their work” and they will “develop a professional-level portfolio with samples from genres such as package design, logo development, corporate identities, illustration, and editorial design.”
Sample courses for the 120 credit hour BFA in Graphic Design include Digital Design, Web & Interactive, Advanced Typography, Promotion & Packaging, Advanced Web Development, Experimental Typography, Brand Development, and Digital Design & Illustration.