What are the top illustration schools in Missouri for 2023?

Top 5 Missouri Illustration Schools - 2023 College Rankings
1Kansas City Art InstituteKansas City
2Washington University in St. LouisSt. Louis
3Missouri State UniversitySpringfield
4University of Central MissouriWarrensburg
5Webster UniversityMultiple

Our 2023 ranking of the top illustration schools in Missouri. For an explanation of the ranking criteria, click here.

1. Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI) houses 21,500 square feet of studios—including the new Tony Jones Studios—that provide the opportunity for students to learn and work in a professional environment. Through KCAI’s on-campus agency MICRO, students also have opportunities to gain hands-on experience off campus with partner brands such as the Kansas City Royals and Children’s Mercy Hospital.

All programs at Kansas City Art Institute begin with the KCAI Foundation Program. This immersive experience lasts a full year and includes dedicated industrial studios and independent work and storage spaces; workshops; collaborative programs, projects, and problem-solving; training in the Print Center (digital design and output), Beals Studios (digital fabrication), and Central Shop (woodworking); faculty mentors; and 16 contact hours of studio per week.

During the first-year program, students will also participate in the Foundation Seminar, which provides the opportunity to interact with activists, artists, and KCAI alumni.

The Illustration BFA Program at Kansas City Art Institute is housed in the Department of Illustration—one of the school’s largest and fastest growing departments. Students in the program will complete a required internship with potential employer’s such as The Kansas City Star, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Boulevard Brewing Company, Porter Teleo Design Firm, and The American Jazz Museum. In addition to an internship, BFA students may double major in Illustration and Creative Writing or Illustration and Art History.

During the course of the KCAI Illustration BFA Program, students will explore 2D and 3D, traditional and digital media, and storytelling, while creating comic books, editorial  magazines, children’s books, and video games. Course examples for the program include Graphic Form for Illustrators, Covers and Pages, Storytellers-Myth Makers, Sketchbook: The Cultural Safari, Analytical Drawing Systems, Paper and Ink, US (Collaboration, Teamwork and Flexibility), Illustration in Action: Networking & Exhibition, and Professional Practice: The Business of Illustration.

The KCAI Illustration BFA Program culminates with a Thesis that students will complete over two courses including Senior Studio: Image and Thesis I and Senior Studio: Image Thesis II.

Graduates of the Illustration BFA Program at Kansas City Art Institute have won awards presented by publications such as The Society of Illustrators, Communication Arts, American Illustration, and Print. Program alumni are employed by industry leaders such as Nike, Hallmark, Nickelodeon, American Greetings, and MTV, and their work has been featured in children’s books and in publications such as The New York Times, Wired, Women’s Day, and Step-Inside-Design.

Kansas City Art Institute was established in 1885 as a Sketch Club. Situated within Kansas City’s Arts Corridor—just steps from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art—this four-year art and design college serves more than 700 students enrolled in 13 majors across 15 program areas. Kansas City Art Institute is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

2. Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri
Washington University in St. Louis

Washington University in St. Louis (WashU or WUSTL) is home to Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts. Established in 2006, the Sam Fox School houses the College of Art, Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, and the College of Architecture. Within the College of Art are three paths to study Illustration including BA and BFA Degrees in Studio Art & Design with a Major in Communication Design and the Illustration + Visual Culture MFA (MFA-IVC).

For Studio Art & Design Majors, the College of Art has a 15-unit Design Minor that allows students to mix and match courses in areas such as Illustration, Communication, the Illustrated Book Studio, and Design.

BA and BFA students may select an Emphasis in Illustration. Course examples include Applied Illustration, Illustration as Practice, The Illustrator’s Sketchbook, Image and Meaning, and Illustration as Entrepreneur. The Communication Design BFA at WashU culminates with a Capstone Project. For this final project, students have created illustrated books, graphic novels, screen-based art, comics, digital experiences, and zines. Capstone Projects are displayed in a public exhibition and reviewed by Design professionals.

The Illustration + Visual Culture MFA is a two-year, fully residential program that consists of 50% Illustration studio work, 20% Visual Culture, History and Theory, 15-20% hands-on archive work, and 10-15% electives, which allow students to focus in specific areas of Design, Art and Entertainment. Elective examples include Illustration Concepts and Media, Narrative Comics, Image & Story, The Illustrator’s Sketchbook, Book Arts, Printmaking, Art History, Visual Culture, Applied Illustration, Animated Worlds, Branding and Identity, Game Design, Type and Image: Experiments on Press, Typography, and Painting.

Consisting of 60 credit hours, the MFA-IVC Program at WashU requires courses such as The Illustrated Periodical, Comics & Cartooning: A Critical Survey, Readings in Visual & Material Culture, Special Collections: Exhibitions & Engagement, Graduate Drawing Studio, and Special Collections: Research Methods. An internship is required as well as two final Thesis courses including Thesis Studio 1: Drawing & Voice, and Thesis Studio 2.

Graduates of the MFA-IVC Program at the WUSTL’s Sam Fox School are prepared for careers such as Curatorial Staff in Museums, Libraries, and Auction Houses; Critical Writers on Popular Culture; Professors of Illustration; and Author-Artists of Graphic Novels and Picture Books.

Founded in 1853, Washington University in St. Louis serves approximately 17,050 students enrolled in more than 300 academic programs across seven schools. The Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts was founded in 2006 after the merging of the academic units of Architecture and Art, and the Washington University in St. Louis Museum. Washington University in St. Louis has been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) since 1913.

3. Missouri State University, Springfield, Missouri
Missouri State University

Missouri State University (MSU) houses the Judith Enyeart Reynolds College of Arts and Letters, home to the largest publicly funded Department of Art and Design in the state. Within the Department is a Design BFA Program with two Tracks: the four-year Illustration Option and the 4.5-year Graphic Design and Illustration Option. The Illustration Option explores both Traditional and Digital Illustration. The Graphic Design and Illustration Option combines components of the Graphic Design Track and the Illustration Track. Students in this program will explore Traditional Illustration, Information Graphics, and Web Design.

Courses examples across programs include Materials and Techniques for Illustration, Drawing I-III, Special Topics in Design, Illustration, Advanced Web Design for Design Majors, Intermediate Illustration, Printmaking I-II, Basic New Media Design, Advanced Graphics, and Image Design. Students in both Tracks will have the opportunity to complete an internship and study abroad experience.

In the eighth and final semester of the Design BFA Program, students will complete the Professional Design Practicum. This Design Workshop consists of the development and production of materials for the student’s professional portfolio. Of these materials is the Final Project, which contains design work for a non-profit organization or a selected design issue, a written thesis related to it, and public presentation of the project.

Missouri State University BS, BA, and BFA graduates enjoy a 92% employment (or graduate school) rate. Art and Design graduates are prepared to pursue careers in areas such as Advertising, Book Publishing, Web Design, Journalism, Portraiture, Newspaper and Magazine Publishing, Consulting, and Education. Program alumni are also prepared to launch their own studios or freelance businesses. 

Founded in 1905, Missouri State University has four physical campuses including three in Missouri (Springfield, West Plains and Mountain Grove) and one in Dalian, China. The school serves 24,000 students enrolled in more than 160 degree programs with over 270 options. Programs at MSU are housed across eight colleges. Missouri State University has been continuously accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) since 1915. MSU is also an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

4. University of Central Missouri, Warrensburg, Missouri
University of Central Missouri

The College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at University of Central Missouri (UCM) houses the School of Visual and Performing Arts. Within the School is the Division of Art and Design, which has a Studio Art BFA with an Illustration Area. The Program is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

Other Program features include a collaborative environment and mentorship; participation in the First Friday event, which provides the opportunity to meet and network with successful alumni; participation in the Kleppe Visiting Artist Lecture Series; access to state-of-the-art studios, facilities, and labs; and the opportunity to gain work experience through the UCM Internship Program. Students have completed internships with companies and studios such as Bumble, Gear for Sports, Whiskey Design, Vahalla Studio, Signal Theory, Bumble, and Barkley.

All Design BFA students have the opportunity to submit their work for review in the Division’s Annual Juried Art Show before graduation, and participate in the Design-a-thon, which involves working with a nonprofit and producing work for real-world clients.

In the classroom, students will take courses such as Illustration in the Digital Frontier, Comics and Graphic Storytelling, and Illustration Concepts. Throughout the Program, Design BFA students will also engage in portfolio building activities, leading to the development of a polished professional portfolio of their best work.

Graduates of the Design BFA Program at University of Central Missouri are prepared for in-house design positions, leadership roles at advertising agencies and galleries, and careers in publishing, television and film, animation, game design, social media, and education. UCM Design alumni are also prepared for graduate study. Past graduates have completed advanced degrees at School of Visual Arts in New York City and Washington University’s Sam Fox School of Design.

University of Central Missouri was founded in 1871. One of the oldest universities in the state, UCM opened with just 30 students. Today, the school comprises two campuses and an Online Division that serve more than 10,500 students from 47 states and 36 countries. UCM provides more than 150 programs across four colleges. University of Central Missouri is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

5. Webster University, St. Louis and Webster Groves, Missouri
Webster University

Webster University (Webster) is home to Leigh Gerdine College of Fine Arts. Within the College is the Department of Art, Design, and Art History (DADAH), which has two paths to study Illustration including the Art BFA and Illustration Certificate. Consisting of 120 credit hours, the Art BFA has an Illustration Emphasis that consists of 73 required credit hours, 29 elective credit hours, and the 18 credit-hour Global Citizenship Program (GCP).

GCP requirements come from courses designated “Roots and Cultures,” “Social Systems & Human Behavior,” “Global Understanding,” and “Physical & Natural World” or “Quantitative Literacy.” DADAH Art BFA students will also complete the Global Cornerstone Seminar and Global Keystone Seminar.

The Illustration Emphasis is an intensive studio program that includes courses such Narrative Figure Drawing, Illustration, Digital Visualizations, Character Design, Anatomy Studies, Materials and Making, Current Art, Creative Strategies, and Professional Practice for Illustrators.

During the final year of the Art BFA/Illustration Program at Webster University, students will complete the DADAH Critique and BFA Review, and participate in the Senior Exhibition.

Webster’s 18 credit hour Illustration Certificate is designed for students interested in supplementing a related Major. Core courses for the Illustration Certificate Program include Digital Visualizations, Narrative Figure Drawing, Illustration, and Topics in Studio Art: Illustration. To reach 18 credit hours, students may choose electives from Animation, Art, and Design. Examples include Character Design, Printmaking Concepts and Techniques, Comic Book Creation, Design Play, Text and Image, Design for Digital Portfolios, and Anatomy Studies.

Graduates of the Illustration Programs at Webster University are prepared to pursue careers areas such as Children’s Book Publishing, Courtroom Illustration, Magazine Publishing, Advertising, Patent Illustration, Forensic Art, Animation and Film, Textile Design, Storyboard Art, Graphic Design, Game Design, Fashion Design, Architecture, Comic Book Publishing, and Medical Illustration.

Webster University was founded in 1915 as Loretto College by the Sisters of Loretto. When it opened, the school became the first senior Catholic college for women in Missouri and one of the first Catholic women’s colleges west of the Mississippi River. Today, Webster serves a diverse population of more than 10,000 students enrolled in more than 160 programs across five colleges and schools. Webster University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).