What are the top graphic design school programs in the US?
|1||Rhode Island School of Design||Rhode Island||1%|
|2||ArtCenter College of Design||California||1%|
|3||School of Visual Arts||New York||1%|
|4||The New School’s Parsons School of Design||New York||1%|
|5||Pratt Institute||New York||1%|
|6||Yale School of the Art||Connecticut||1%|
|7||Maryland Institute College of Art||Maryland||1%|
|8||Savannah College of Art and Design||Georgia||2%|
|9||Carnegie Mellon University||Pennsylvania||2%|
|10||California Institute of the Arts||California||2%|
|11||School of the Art Institute of Chicago||Illinois||2%|
|12||North Carolina State University at Raleigh||North Carolina||2%|
|13||Virginia Commonwealth University||Virginia||2%|
|14||California College of the Arts||California||2%|
|15||University of Texas at Austin||Texas||3%|
|16||Minneapolis College of Art and Design||Minnesota||3%|
|17||Ringling College of Art and Design||Florida||3%|
|18||University of North Texas||Texas||3%|
|19||Washington University in St. Louis||Missouri||3%|
|20||Otis College of Art and Design||California||3%|
|21||University of Cincinnati||Ohio||3%|
|22||Cooper Union||New York||4%|
|23||Arizona State University||Arizona||4%|
|24||University of California, Los Angeles||California||4%|
|25||Brigham Young University||Utah||4%|
|26||University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign||Illinois||4%|
|27||University of Southern California||California||4%|
|28||University of Washington||Washington||4%|
|29||University of Illinois at Chicago||Illinois||5%|
|30||University of Kansas||Kansas||5%|
|32||Kansas City Art Institute||Missouri||5%|
|33||The Ohio State University||Ohio||5%|
|35||Fashion Institute of Technology||New York||6%|
|36||Massachusetts College of Art and Design||Massachusetts||6%|
|37||San Diego State University||California||6%|
|38||Academy of Art University||California||6%|
|39||Michigan State University||Michigan||6%|
|40||Portland State University||Oregon||6%|
|41||Iowa State University||Iowa||6%|
|42||Rochester Institute of Technology||New York||6%|
|43||College for Creative Studies||Michigan||7%|
|44||Kent State University||Ohio||7%|
|45||University of Houston||Texas||7%|
|46||Columbia College Chicago||Illinois||7%|
|47||Texas State University, San Marcos||Texas||7%|
|48||Pennsylvania State University||Pennsylvania||7%|
|49||Syracuse University||New York||7%|
|50||The University of the Arts||Pennsylvania||7%|
Our 2021 rankings of the Top 50 Graphic Design School Programs in the US. We considered over 700 colleges with graphic design programs for this year's rankings. For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.
Founded in 1877, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is one the nation’s first art and design schools. The school serves just over 2,200 students from around the world enrolled in undergraduate and graduate degrees in more than 20 majors, a certificate program, and one concentration. RISD also offers a large collection of continuing education courses that attract around 5,800 students each year.
Degree programs are offered in Architecture, Art Education, Design or Fine Arts. RISD’s most popular programs are Graphic Design, Film/Animation/Video (FAV), Illustration, Industrial Design, and Painting. Aspiring graphic designers have two options: the four-year undergraduate BFA and the graduate MFA with two tracks.
One of the largest departments at RISD, Graphic Design serves approximately 165 students and features dedicated studios in the Design Center where they “learn the fundamental value of typography, imagery, grids, systems and more in the course of creating everything from traditional books, posters, logos and websites to apps, interactive texts and other digital media,” says the school. Programs are offered at the undergraduate and graduate levels, including a four-year BFA in Graphic Design and two- and three-year Tracks leading to the MFA in Graphic Design.
The core BFA curriculum “builds a range of analytical, formal, sensory and technical design experiences. Sophomores begin exploring visual principles of form, image, color and typography.” During their junior year, students will focus on “conceptual thinking in areas such as communication theory, visual systems and information design.” The final year of the program focuses on “design applications, with a range of electives available to expose students to specific areas of graphic design practice.” Upper level students also have opportunities to pursue professional internships.
The MFA Tracks provide the same opportunities as the BFA does, but the program allows students to tailor individual courses of study through cross-disciplinary electives. MFA students will also complete the Graduate Studio and Graduate Seminar Sequences. Course highlights include Graduate Form, Graduate Type Design, and Graduate Type Typography. Both MFA Tracks require a Thesis.
Graduates of all programs enjoy a high employment rate. Around 96% of all RISD graphic design graduates are employed one year after graduation, and 70% are employed in positions directly related to their major.
Founded in 1930, ArtCenter College of Design has campuses in Berlin and Pasadena, and satellite studios in Los Angeles at the Peterson Automotive Museum. The school serves approximately 2,250 students representing more than 40 countries. Academic offerings include 11 undergraduate and seven graduate degree programs in a variety of Applied Arts, Industrial, and Visual Design Disciplines. A joint MS/MBA program with the Drucker-Ito School of Management is also available.
Programs for aspiring graphic designers include BFA and MFA degrees in Graphic Design (Gx) and a 132-unit Designmatters Minor. The undergraduate graphic design program prepares students for careers in print and branding, packaging and environmental graphic design, motion and visual interaction design, transmedia, and spatial media. Course highlights include Information Design, Materials of Art and Design, Motion Design, Narrative Imaging, Package Design, Transmedia, and Visual Interaction Design. Students will complete 87 studio units, which allows them to create an emphasis area through electives. All students will have the opportunity to complete a portfolio and career preparation courses.
The graduate program, known as MGx, has two- and three-year options. The two-year option is five terms and the three-year option is seven terms. Students who need additional design skills typically choose the three-year program. Both programs require a thesis, Graduate Studio, Graduate Seminar, Professional Leadership, and Graduate Portfolio courses. MGx students also have the opportunity to complete Graphic Design Internship OR Studio Independent Study OR Testlab Berlin.
ArtCenter Gx graduates “are highly sought after by the most exciting and disruptive global brands,” says the school. They have been hired at Uber, Tesla, Google, Facebook, Nike, and creative agencies such as IDEO, R/GA, Local Projects, “and other future-forward organizations.”
The School of Visual Arts (SVA) opened in 1947 with just three teachers and 35 students (mostly World War II veterans). Known as the Cartoonists and Illustrators school, the school employed New York City-based professionals working in the arts as faculty—a practice that continues today.
SVA currently serves 7,000 students enrolled in 31 programs. Offerings for aspiring graphic designers include a BFA in Design and a Design/Designer as Entrepreneur MFA. The BFA Program “is a multidisciplinary educational system in itself, offering separate majors that include Graphic Design, Motion Graphics, Interaction Design and 3D Design,” says the school.
The program can be further divided into package design, editorial design, information graphics, corporate identity, publication design, CD packaging, book jacket design, environmental design and website design. Other program highlights include intensive one-week workshops, exhibitions that are routinely covered by NBC, CBS. ABC, and CNN, competitions, enrollment in the AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Artists) and the Art Directors Club—two of the most prestigious design organizations in the country, industry review, and internships.
The Design/Designer as Entrepreneur MFA “inspires” students to conceive, produce, brand and market their own innovative content. Interaction, motion graphics, branding, and user experience are covered as well as typography as a visual language, video and new media directing, and art book and digital publishing. Students will also take classes in business, marketing, ethnography, strategy, research, advertising, promotion, intellectual property and networking.
The MFA program includes “advanced instruction in a variety of authoring skills, such as writing, editing, criticism, typography as a visual language, Film and new media directing, visual journalism and book and magazine publishing,” during the first year. Students will also take courses in marketing, research, advertising, promotion, publicity, intellectual property and networking. In the second year of the program, students will design and write a proposal for a product that will be presented to a panel of "guest faculty" who will decide whether it has enough merit to progress to the developmental stage. In this stage, “students will produce a prototype for backers, publishers, producers or distributors. Working individually, this final proposal, dummy or prototype will be professionally produced for presentation purposes.”
Graduate students will have access to the SVA MFA studios, open 24 hours a day and “designed to simulate an operational design/media firm with spacious workstations that allow for individual and collaborative work.”
Graduates of the SVA Graphic Design Programs have gone on to work for commercial and not-for-profit corporations, institutions and businesses. Many founded their own start-ups, design firms and studios. Some have become partners in businesses and individual projects. Graduates have started over 50 design studios around the globe.
The New School was founded in 1896 as The Chase School by American Impressionist William Merritt Chase. In 1904, Arts Educator Frank Alvah Parsons joined the school, later becoming its sole director. Between 1904 and 1910, parsons launched an Advertising Program, Costume Design and Interior Decoration.
Today, known as The New School/Parsons, this art and design college serves 5,100 students enrolled in 130 degree and diploma programs across five schools including the Schools of Art and Design History and Theory; Art, Media, and Technology (AMT); Constructed Environments; Design Strategies, and the School of Fashion.
The School of Art, Media, and Technology offers several degree programs for aspiring graphic designers including AAS, BFA and MPS degrees in Communication Design. The School of Continuing & Professional Education offers a Graphic and Digital Design Certificate. The program, which consists of eight courses, can be completed online or through a combination of online and on-campus courses.
The curriculum for the 60 credit hour AAS in Communication Design program (formerly Graphic Design) “is grounded in typography and interaction design for print and digital media, integrating socially responsible technology-driven design approaches,” says the school. Course highlights include Design History & Practice, Interaction, and Typography. The program consists of a Professional Practices & Portfolio course and a Capstone is required. Students in the program have the option to take an elective or complete an internship.
The Communication Design BFA is the oldest undergraduate program of its kind in the U.S. The program begins with “an intensive study of typography and interaction.” Students will expand their “expertise in brand and editorial design, digital products, type design, motion graphics, and spatial graphics.” Course highlights for the program include Drawing/Imaging, Interaction Studio, Sustainable Systems, and Visual Culture (Advanced Research Seminar).
The one-year, 30 credit hour MPS program offers a concentration in Digital Product Design. This graduate program “combines instruction in advanced interaction design with coursework that develops your user-experience, design-thinking, and collaboration abilities.” Students will graduate with “industry-ready conceptual and front-end development skills and a network of design professionals to help” them “advance in or enter a rapidly growing field.”
Career opportunities for Communication Design graduates include Digital Product Design, Graphic Design, Interaction Design (IxD), Product Development or Management, and User Experience (UX) Design, to name a few.
Founded in 1887, Pratt Institute is situated in the historic Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn, New York. The school, which prepares its nearly 5,000 students for careers in architecture, art, design, information science and liberal arts, and liberal arts and sciences, offers more than 25 undergraduate degree programs and concentrations along with more than 26 graduate degree programs. In addition to the Brooklyn campus, programs are offered at campuses in Manhattan and Utica, New York.
At the main campus in Brooklyn, students are enrolled in programs in the schools of Architecture, Art, Design, and Liberal Arts and Sciences. Founded in 2014, The School of Design offers “up to four of Pratt’s oldest and most esteemed disciplines,” says the school, including Communications Design (BFA, MFA), Fashion Design, Industrial Design, and Interior Design. The School of Art offers an Associate of Occupational Studies (AOS) in Graphic Design and an AAS in Graphic Design/Illustration. All programs offer the opportunity to complete an internship.
The AOS is an intensive 69 credit hour program integrates “the best of new media and technologies with a strong commitment to a traditional art and design curriculum.” This career track option takes just two years to complete. The AAS program is also 69 credit hours. Students in the program” follow an exciting art and design curriculum that includes a liberal arts component.” This positions students to transfer to Pratt’s Fine Arts Department or the BFA in Communications Design.
In the Communication Design Program, “students learn to engage audiences, explore technologies, develop visual languages, challenge preconceptions, redefine problems, and identify opportunities through the lens of communication design.” Students in the BFA program have the opportunity to choose a focus area. Options include Graphic Design, Illustration, and Advertising Art Direction.
Graphic Design students will “explore topics and modes of practice, such as typographic and identity systems, visual rhetoric, interactivity, experience design, sustainability, and inclusivity.” Projects in the program “encourage critical inquiry, collaborative processes, and experimentation with multiple technologies and platforms.” Through electives students can explore a “wide spectrum of specializations in graphic design, including user experience, motion graphics, type design, independent publishing, data visualization, and post-artifact books.”
The 60 credit hour MFA in Communications Design emphasizes studio practice in graphic design—communications, identities, objects, environments, and systems. Graduates are prepared to enter careers in print and digital media, typography, identity systems and branding, design strategy, social media and interaction design, motion design, environmental design, data visualization, information design, and user experience design.
For aspiring graphic designers seeking an advanced degree with a specific focus, the School of Design-Communications Design Program offers a MS in Package Design. First offered in 1966, this 48 credit hour program is an initial master’s degree that offers students structured courses on the decision-making process for new product and package development, featuring direction in package design, typography, brand development, marketing, structural packaging, packaging technology, fragrance packaging, and the business aspects of the package industry. This is a full-time program, which culminates in a capstone thesis project.
For students who are not yet ready to commit to a degree program, the School of Continuing and Professional Studies (SCPS) offers Certificate Programs in Digital Design including Graphic Design, Digital Product Design, Human-Centered Design, Motion Graphics, and many others. These programs may be taken individually or “stacked,” producing an “accelerated path to completion.” Like the undergraduate and graduate Communication Design/Graphic Design programs, Certificate programs offer the opportunity to complete an internship.
Students in all programs will have the opportunity to enroll in one of more than 20 study abroad programs and international exchange programs in over a dozen locations such as Florence, Milan, Copenhagen, London, and Tokyo.
Graduates of the Graphic Design and Communication Design Programs at Pratt are “equipped to pursue a spectrum of exciting career paths as creative professionals.” Pratt alumni “continue to distinguish themselves in design studios, cultural institutions, branding agencies, and independent enterprises making significant contributions to the fields of art and design, publishing, education, film, gaming, advertising, and many more.”
Founded in 1701, Yale University serves nearly 13,600 students enrolled in dozens of programs in the areas of art, architecture, divinity, drama, forestry and environmental studies, law, management, music, public health, and more. The school, which houses more than 145 departments and schools, is home to one of the most prestigious fine arts schools in the U.S.
Established in 1869, Yale School Art was the nation’s first art school connected with an institution of higher learning. With an enrollment of more than 100 students, the school offers a BA in Art and MFA degrees in Graphic Design, Painting and Printmaking, Photography, and Sculpture. An interdisciplinary Film & Video program is also available.
The BA in Art offers the opportunity for intensive study leading to greater specialization in one or more areas such as Graphic Design, Painting/Printmaking, Photography, and Sculpture. Course highlights for the program include Advanced Graphic Design, Communicating with Time, Motion, and Sound, Graphic Design Methodologies, Interactive Design and the Internet, Intermediality: Typography, Motion, and Meaning, Introduction to Graphic Design, Letterform, Mobile Computing, Moving Image Methods, Print to Screen, Programming as Writing, Visual Thinking, and Writing as Metadata. Students in the program will complete a Sequence: Exhibition Design, which will allow them to showcase their designs.
The Yale Graphic Design MFA (Yale GDMFA) is a 60 credit hour program that accepts just 12 students each year and up to six students into the preliminary-year program. MFA applicants for this competitive program are expected to have “substantial and distinguished experience in visual studies and related professional experience,” says the school. Students can expect support for their graphic design collections in several ways including, “studio work led by faculty meeting weekly, small five- or six-person thesis groups meeting biweekly, and individual sessions with writing and editing tutors.”
Lectures, presentations, and workshops are also part of the program as well as access to “extraordinary” resources including Yale University courses, conferences, films, lectures, museums, and the “extensive” research and rare book collections of Sterling and Beinecke libraries. Students also have a designated workspace in the design studio loft and access to equipment including bookbinding materials, wide format printers, a RISO duplicator, Vandercook press, and workspaces in the School of Art buildings. More resources supporting interdisciplinary projects including motion capture and VR are available at the nearby Center for Collaborative Arts and Media.
The Yale Graphic Design MFA takes two years to complete, full-time.
Founded in 1826, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is the nation’s oldest independent, continuously degree-granting college of art and design. The College enrolls nearly 3,500 students and each year, it attracts more than 175 visiting artists, critics, designers, poets, writers, and art historians from across the U.S. and around.
MICA offers around 80 programs leading to the BFA, MA, MFA, or MPS degree. Study areas include art education, design, electronic media, fine arts, liberal arts, and professional studies. A number of post-baccalaureate certificate programs are also available.
Programs for aspiring graphic designers include a BFA in Graphic Design with three Concentrations including Graphic Design Studio, Book Arts Studio, and Graphic Design + Humanistic Studies, an MA in Graphic Design (GDMA) and an MFA in Graphic Design (GD MFA).
The undergraduate graphic design curriculum at MICA features a three-year sequence of core design courses. Highlights include Body/World Machine, Cartographies, Color/Design/Process, Haptics and Optics, PhotoImaging, and Typography. Graduates of the program will have the skills and experience needed to create designs for books, magazines, apps, websites, posters, advertisements, games, logos, film titles, and many other media.
The 60 credit hour MFA program features two years of full-time study that that the school says combines “critical seminars, guided studio courses, and independent work.” Students in the MFA program may “take advantage of electives in many MICA departments, including video, printmaking, and digital media,” to create a focus.
The MA program prepares students for advancing their careers and/or for applying to the competitive MFA. Program highlights include an “intensive introduction to design,” provided by the GDMA Studio, “taught with a strong emphasis on design fundamentals, process, visual research, and working across media,” a Design Theory and Practice Seminar, and the GDMA Workshop. Through the workshop, GDMA students will have the opportunity to create and exhibit a self-directed design project and a professional portfolio.
Founded in 1978 in a renovated armory, Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) has grown into a multi-campus art college with locations in Savannah and Atlanta, Georgia, Hong Kong, and Lacoste, France. The school, which serves more than 15,000 students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries, offers more than 40 majors and over 75 minors. This is more degree programs and specializations than any other art and design college.
SCAD also offers more graphic design programs than just about any other school in our rankings. Options include BA, BFA, MA, and MFA degrees in Graphic Design and Design Management MA and MFA programs. A Minor in Graphic Design is also available.
All programs highlight Entrepreneurship, User Experience and Interface Design (UX/UI), Mobile Technology, and Product Packaging. Students have the opportunity to declare a double major in the areas of Advertising, Branded Entertainment, Illustration, Motion Media Design, Sequential Art and more, and access to Minors such as Advertising and Branding, Advertising Copywriting, Mobile and Interactive Design, and Motion Media Design. Students may complement their degree with a Certificate in Digital Publishing as well.
All graphic design students will “learn how to weave entrepreneurship and modern technology with product and user-centered design,” says the school. They will “learn from titans of the industry at Airbnb, Google, Hasbro, and more” Students will also “gain an all-access pass to leading-edge resources and star-studded signature events like SCADstyle, attended by luminaries from global art, fashion, and modern design.”
The Graphic Design programs and Minors are offered in Atlanta, Savannah, and online via eLearning. The Design Management MA is offered at Savannah and online, and the MFA is offered in Savannah.
SCAD graduates are prepared to join elite agencies, multinational companies, or start their own businesses as they lead branding, visual marketing, interactive media, and immersive campaigns. Graduates work at top companies around the globe including Apple, IBM, Ralph Lauren, Under Armour, Verizon, and many others.
Carnegie Mellon University (CMU or Carnegie Mellon) is a global university with more than a dozen degree-granting locations, and more than 20 research partnerships. Just a few locations include Silicon Valley, Africa, Qatar, and Australia. Founded in 1900 by industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, the school has produced 10 Academy Award winners, 50 Tony Award Winners, and 20 Nobel Laureates. CMU is also the former home of one of the world’s most famous artists—Andy Warhol.
serving around 14,800 students, Carnegie Mellon offers 80 majors and over 90 minors within its six undergraduate schools, colleges, and inter-college degree programs. The College of Fine Arts (CFA), which houses the School of Design, was the first comprehensive training institution in the country.
Here, aspiring graphic designers can earn a Bachelor of Design (BDes), formerly BFA, with a Communications, Products or Environments Track. Students may focus in one or all three areas or pursue a more interdisciplinary focus that combines two of the three.
Other undergraduate options include the Minor in Design Application and the Undergraduate Interdisciplinary Degree known as “BXA,” which provides students with the ability to evenly balance their study of humanities or sciences with design. While BXA majors may take 26 design courses and 15 outside courses, most BXA students take 12 design courses, with the balance of their courses taken outside of the School of Design. The Minor is for students admitted to other programs on campus who are interested in gaining “fundamental design skills and/or exposure to design.”
“CMU also offers a unique program called Integrative Design, Arts, and Technology (IDeATe), which allows student to concentrate their studies on cross-campus industry themes like game design, animation and special effects, innovation and entrepreneurship, intelligent environments, and learning media design.”
Graduate options include a one-year Master of Arts (MA) in Design program, a one-year Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Design for Interactions, a two-year Master of Design (MDes) in Design for Interactions program (includes a one-year thesis project), a PhD in Design, and a Professional Doctor of Design (DDes) (distance learning with intensive residential components). The graduate programs are interdisciplinary and offer studio and seminar courses as well as hands-on exposure to design processes, skills, and thinking.
Students in the graduate programs can expect to take courses such as Design Principles and Practices, Prototyping for Interaction Design, Seminar: Design Thinking, and Studio: Visual Communication Fundamentals. Students may complement their skills and knowledge with elective courses outside of design. Courses in interaction or communication design, policy, business, service or social innovation, or professional writing are recommended.
California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) opened its doors in 1970. Founded by Roy and Walt Disney, the school began as a multidisciplinary community of artists. Today, the school offers degree programs in art, design, film, music, theater, and dance, and is the nation's first postsecondary institution to offer graduate and undergraduate degrees in both the visual and performing arts.
Serving just over 1,500 students, CalArts provides more than 70 degree programs, including the unique Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA). Programs are administered within six schools including the School of Critical Studies, The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance, the School of Art, the School of Film/Video, The Herb Alpert School of Music, and the School of Theater. The School of Art houses the Graphic Design Program, which has BFA and MFA options. A Digital Arts Minor and an Interschool Degree option are also available.
The Minor is “designed to help undergraduate students grasp the knowledge to build, engineer and design innovative custom systems,” says the school. The Interschool Degree Option is available to a small number of graduates and advanced third- and fourth-year undergraduates whose skills and artistic interests warrant pursuing a degree in more than one School.
The BFA program is a full-time, four-year program that prepares students for a career in print and publication design, web and interface design, motion graphics for broadcast and film, branding, identity and type design, and design history and education. Each year in the program, “builds on the experience of the previous as a sequence of additional classes explore image-making, typography and design history. Baseline coursework is followed by more specialized classes in areas such as web design, motion graphics, and type design.” In addition to core studio classes, all candidates in the Program are required to pass a Graduation Portfolio Review in order to complete the program and obtain the BFA degree.
The MFA program offers two- and three-year options. During the two-year program, students deepen and refine their work through a set of required and elective courses covering subjects such as type design, web design, typography, motion graphics, design theory and design history. Students will also work with visiting designers on short-term projects within the focused studio environment.
“The three-year program is designed for students who do not have a Graphic Design undergraduate degree, but who typically demonstrate a talent and enthusiasm for design, and a level of expertise in their given field. The heart of the Program is the Visual Literacy course, a critique class comprised of a series of structured projects designed to teach design principles, process, methodology and skills.” Students in both programs are required to pass a Thesis Review to obtain the MFA degree.
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, the school has been recognized as “the most influential art college in the United States,” by Columbia University’s National Arts Journalism survey.
More than 3,000 students are enrolled in more than 50 areas of study in 24 departments at SAIC. The Visual Communication Design Department (VCD) houses the Visual Communication Design Program, which offers BFA and MFA degrees in Studio with a Visual Communication Design Pathway. A Post-baccalaureate 30 credit hour Certificate in Studio is also available and can serve as a track into the MFA program.
The BFA program has two major areas of focus: Physical Media (environments, print, and objects) and Virtual Media (interactive and time-based media). This includes books/bookbinding, coding/programming/scripting, data visualization/diagrams/maps, design issues, film titles and fonts, identity systems, illustrations, image text narrative, installations/wayfinding signage, and interface design. Other components include letterpress printing, methodologies, museum exhibitions/kiosks, packages/package graphics, posters, print production and offset printing, digital/screen-based production, publications/magazines, strategy, symbols/web icons, theory, typography, websites/design for mobile phone and tablets, and video.
In the MFA program, faculty “guide students in self-initiated work that explores issues of personal interest and cultural/social significance.” This 60 credit hour program offers the opportunity to explore other related departments at SAIC such as Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Objects; Film, Video, New Media, and Animation (FVNMA); Photography; Printmedia; and Writing. The purpose of this opportunity is to “extend students’ design work into new territories.”
Other Visual Communication 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 and optional study abroad opportunities are also offered.
North Carolina State University (NC State) began as a land-grant institution in 1887, with a focus on agriculture and research. Today, NC State is one of the nation’s largest schools, serving more than 36,000 students, enrolled in 300 degree programs in a wide range of disciplines. Programs are offered in 12 colleges and more than 60 academic departments.
The College of Design, Department of Art + Design, houses the Graphic Design program, which offers two degree paths—a Bachelor of Graphic Design (BGD) and a Master of Graphic Design (MGD). Both programs are NASAD (National Association of Schools of Art and Design) accredited and the MGD is one of the few graphic design graduate programs with STEM Classification (CIP).
Students in the undergraduate program “study comparative ideas about, and methods for, creating visual communication,” says the school. “Through project-based assignments, students acquire strong formal and conceptualization skills. They learn and practice graphic design strategies, such as mapping and diagramming, to understand design problems, audiences, contexts, and visualization techniques, including ideation and iteration, to explore and refine design possibilities and determine appropriateness.”
All undergraduate students have the opportunity to take an advanced studio in another College of Design discipline (a swing studio), study abroad for a semester or summer at the NC State Prague Institute, and gain professional experience through paid internships within leading firms, and/or participate in sponsored studios as part of the graphic design curriculum.
Graduate students have two options: two-year and three-year programs. In both, students will “closely examine the cultural and technological situatedness of graphic design and its products, and seek understanding of the people who use and interact with the things that graphic designers make.”
Students in all programs will explore and become proficient in a wide range of media — print, web, mobile, virtual reality, augmented reality, and embedded technology. Students will also practice visualization strategies such as mapping, diagramming, and storyboarding and develop strong formal and conceptualization skills through project-based assignments. They will also immerse in advanced studios that cover special topics such as accessible design, branding, and data visualization.
Established in 1838 as the medical department of Hampden-Sydney College, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) is a public research university that serves around 31,100 students enrolled in more than 200 programs in 13 schools and one college. The School of Arts (VCUarts) houses 16 departments and programs offering 18 bachelor’s and five master’s degrees. The Department of Graphic Design at VCUarts offers several programs for aspiring graphic designers. Options include a BFA in Graphic Design, and an MFA in Design with a Concentration in Visual Communications.
Students in the BFA program will learn about publication and print design, sequential and motion design, and interaction design. After completing the Art Foundation Program, students will advance to hands-on Studio and Seminar courses in sequential order that will move them through the 122 credit hour curriculum. Course highlights for the program include Book Arts, Design Methods and Processes, Design Technology, Imaging, Interaction, Letterpress, Studio Management, and Visual Narrative.
Students in the MFA program “concentrate on the philosophical, communicative, and aesthetic relationships of visual problem solving and the interacting skills leading to the effective articulation of concepts,” says the school. Graduates will have the skills and knowledge needed to pursue a career in Design Education and/or further their professional practices in conducting visual or theoretical research, and in investigating the intersections of function and expression in design problem solving.
Another option for aspiring Graphic Designers is the Communication Arts BFA (CA BFA). Offered in the Communication Arts Department, the CA BFA is a flexible program that allows students to study 3D Modeling, Advanced Figure Drawing, Concept Design and Entertainment Design (such as video games and visual effects), Scientific Illustration, and Sequential Imaging (such as comic books and storyboards). “The program is centered on a rigorous investigation of studio methods and practices which explore conceptual and theoretical concerns for understanding and creating image, media, content and context.”
The focus during the junior and senior years is typography along with advanced coursework in everything from illustration to digital drawing. The senior year of the program culminates with the capstone portfolio course and a variety of electives are offered each semester to provide students the opportunity for specialized study.
Both BFA options prepare students to create effective visual communications for the advertising industry, business, entertainment, marketing, public relations, publishing, retail, and more.
California College of the Arts (CCA) was founded in 1907 by a German-born cabinetmaker with links to the Arts and Craft Movement. Today, the school is one of America’s top art and design colleges with 100 full-time and 400 part-time faculty members that serve 1,850 students from 42 states and 49 countries. Degree options include 22 undergraduate and 11 graduate programs.
Options for aspiring graphic designers include BFA degrees in Graphic Design and Interaction Design, and an MFA in Design that focuses on Graphic Design, Industrial Design, and Interaction Design.
Highlights for all programs include the opportunity to immerse in the areas of Brand Identity, Motion Graphics, Print and Screen-Based and Interactive Design. Elective offerings will “strengthen” students “design toolkit,” says the school and CCAs extensive internship program provides real-world experience. Students have the opportunity to intern for design firms, publishing houses, and nonprofits as they work toward a polished thesis project.
“Situated within a top art college, the Graphic Design program also benefits from an atmosphere of hands-on making and experimentation. Students are constantly giving and getting feedback and testing their ideas with faculty, visiting experts, and peers.”
Students also benefit from CCAs location in the San Francisco Bay Area, home to Apple, Netflix, IDEO, YouTube, Pinterest, NASA, Google, and many other technology companies. Graduates of the Graphic Design Programs have landed positions at innovative design firms, museums, publishing houses, technology companies, nonprofits, and more.
Founded in 1881, the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) opened its doors in 1883 with one building, eight professors, one proctor, and 221 students. Today, UT Austin is home to nearly 52,000 students enrolled in over 500 degree programs and fields of study in 18 colleges and schools. The College of Fine Arts, School of Design and Creative Technologies has several programs for aspiring graphic designers including BA, BFA, and MFA degrees in Design. In addition, the Center for Professional Education offers an online Graphic Design Certificate that consists of 13 sessions over 13 weeks.
BA and BFA Design students develop their research, problem-solving and critical thinking/making skills through studio-based courses, while elective courses and the university’s core curriculum emphasize the liberal arts. In their junior year, students must complete at least one professional internship, which may include working at major companies with offices in the Austin area. Just a few include Apple, Dell, EA Games, Frog, Google, IBM, Pentagram, and Samsung.
The BFA is a pre-professional degree program encompassing typography, image creation/manipulation, interaction design and 3D design that is intended to prepare students for employment in the field of design. During the senior year, BFA Design students undertake a capstone design project and show their work in a public exhibition at the Visual Arts Center.
The Design BA is an “equally rich and rigorous exploration of design as a field,” says the school, “but is intended for students who prefer the flexibility and breadth of a liberal arts degree to the more studio-intensive, pre-professional BFA degree.” BA students enroll side-by-side with BFA students in rigorous introductory design studio courses. In the final two years of study, BA students take fewer upper-division studio courses.
The MFA in Design is a 60 credit hour program that accepts exceptional students with preexisting design skills. The program prepares students for “thought and organizational leadership in the field of design or in fields where design is being utilized strategically. In addition to advanced studio work in established design disciplines,” students have the “opportunity to study, explore and work in disciplines that intersect with design.”
All students in the program “will enjoy a formal curricular partnership with another discipline on campus and develop a thesis that thoughtfully intersects design with another field such as business, anthropology, engineering, or art.” In addition, the MFA Design program offers preparation for college teaching in the field of design through a series of classes exploring design pedagogy.
Design graduate students share studio space and have access to many other departmental and university resources, including The Computer Lab, The Design Lab, The Digital Fabrication Lab, The Wood Shop, The Visual Arts Center, The Harry Ransom Center, The Materials Lab, The Foundry, and the Fine Arts Library.
Established in 1886, Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) houses more than 90,000 works of art representing 5,000 years of world history. The school’s more than 800 students have full access to these works along with creative spaces/classrooms, professional facilities, additional galleries, student housing complexes, artist studios, and a sculpture garden. Students also have access to 23 art and design degree programs and undergraduate minors. Degree programs lead to the BFA, BS, MA, or MFA.
Among the schools art and design programs are a BFA in Graphic Design, Post-Baccalaureate Certificates in Graphic Design and Interactive Design and Marketing, and an MFA in Visual Studies. A 30 credit hour MA in Graphic and Web Design is also available.
Students in the 120 credit hour BFA program “will develop their own voice and produce original work, they will research, engage with, and create innovative concepts, content, and form, and learn to communicate ideas visually,” says the school. They will have the opportunity to take electives outside of graphic design, complete a required internship to gain practical, real-world experience, participate in the Emerging Talent Showcase to share their work with potential employers, and complete a semester-long project to culminate in the Commencement Exhibition.
The 60 credit hour MFA program allow students to pursue creative work in Graphic Design, Illustration, Interactive Media, Paper and Book Arts, Printmaking, and more. Students will participate in opportunities “unique to MCAD’s MFA program” at art galleries, art centers, and nonprofits, designed to position students for success post-graduation. Most credits in the program are earned through one-on-one work with a faculty mentor who is an expert in the students chosen field. Optional internships are part of the program as well as a capstone thesis exhibition and paper in the final year.
Designed for motivated working adults, the 30 credit MA in Graphic and Web Design takes place entirely online. With small class sizes designed to encourage collaboration, courses for the program cover design principles, ideation, programming, ideation, research, typography, web design, workflow management, and more. Students can start in fall or spring, and take one or two classes per semester.
Students in all programs also have the option to study abroad in places such as England, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, or anywhere in the U.S.
Founded in 1931, Ringling College of Art and Design (RCAD) is a collaboration between Dr. Ludd M. Spivey, president of Southern College (now Florida Southern College), and circus baron, John Ringling. On opening day, the school had just 75 students and 111 course offerings. Today, RCAD serves more than 1,600 students enrolled in BFA degrees in eleven disciplines and BA degrees in two. A number of Minors are also available.
Students in all programs benefit from RCAD’s “rigorous curriculum” that the school says “employs the studio model of teaching and immediately engages students through a comprehensive program that is both specific to the major of study and focused on the liberal arts.” Other highlights include visiting artists from major studios such as Blue Sky Studios and DreamWorks, focused internship opportunities, and the chance to work with local businesses (and at the school’s in-house design firm known as The Design Center) on real-world projects.
For aspiring graphic designers, RCAD offers a BFA and a 15 credit hour Minor in Graphic Design. Launched in 1980, the Graphic Design program allows students to collaborate with other artists such as copywriters, developers, illustrators, photographers, and printers “to make their ideas a reality,” says the school. Course highlights include Contemporary Design Culture, Design & Typography, Drawing & 2D Design, Drawing & 3D Design, Interactive Design, New Media Design, and Visual Persuasion. For Course GDES 491, students have three options: Design Center, an Internship, or Graphic Design Elective.
RCAD internships have led to many full-time employment opportunities. Graduates have been hired by companies such as Arc Worldwide, Facebook, Google, Instagram, Leo Burnett, Microsoft, Nickelodeon, Saatchi & Saatchi X, Studio BCC, Walt Disney Imagineering, Wieden + Kennedy, and many others.
Founded in 1890 as Texas Normal College and Teachers’ Training Institute, University of North Texas (UNT) serves nearly 41,000 students making it one of the top five largest universities in Texas. The school offers 109 bachelors, 94 masters and 36 doctoral degree programs in 14 colleges and schools.
Considered one of the nation’s top art schools, UNT has been educating aspiring artists since 1894. The school’s College of Visual Arts and Design (CVAD) houses the Design Department, home to the Communication Design Program, which offers a BFA in Communication Design with a Concentration in Graphic Design.
Students begin the program “by learning to use the basic principles of design and design thinking, and progress to learn image making, color theory and typography as they create a wide variety of visual communications,” says the school. Course highlights include Advertising Copywriting, Cause-Based Design, Communication Design Studio, Foundations – Space, Foundations – Systems & Transformations, Graphic Design, Graphic Design Advanced Campaigns, Image Making & Color Theory, Interaction Design, Publication Design, and Typography.
Other program highlights include intensive studio courses and the opportunity to complete a professional internship.
Students who complete the Graphic Design Concentration will gain the ability to generate original, creative messages and ideas, and develop a professional portfolio to submit to potential employers. Graduates “are regularly recognized in national and international design competitions and have a high placement rate at top design, interactive and advertising firms throughout the country.”
Founded in 1853, Washington University in St. Louis serves nearly 15,000 students enrolled in more than more than 90 fields of study in seven schools. The Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts offers a BA in Design and BFA in Communication Design. The BA in Design is a 120 credit hour, collaborative program that allows students to experience design research and process through work in graphic design, interaction design, illustration, and fashion. Students can complete a broad design degree without a concentration, or choose a concentration in Communication or Fashion.
The BFA in Communication Design is a “collaborative program at the intersection of graphic design, illustration, and interaction design,” says the school. Students in this program can choose to design interfaces for mobile devices and the web, they can make pictures for games and motion graphics, or illustrate stories and create comics and design printed posters and books. Students can also choose to apply design skills to social problems in the community, including areas such as public health and urban education, or they may study the history of printed images, comics, and advertising through the Douglas B. Dowd Modern Graphic History Library.
The first year requires studio coursework in 2D and 3D design, digital design, drawing, and a weekly lecture course. Second year students explore disciplines across art and design, selecting from introductory courses in fashion design, graphic design, illustration, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, and typography.
Course highlights include Branding & Identity, Content to Cover: The Design of Books, Design for Social Impact, Enchanted Objects: Material Culture, Letterpress Printing, Pictures for Communication, Sculpting Realities, Visualizing Literature: Texture/Structure, and Visual Principles for the Screen. Professional Practice Seminars help students “develop essential skills like writing preparing a portfolio and CV, applying for internships and jobs, and presenting a public lecture” on their work.
The BFA Program culminates in a Senior Capstone, which may be an illustrated book, graphic novel/mini-comic, screen-based presentation, digital experience or zine. The final project is displayed in a public exhibition and reviewed by external design professionals.
Otis College of Art and Design (OTIS) was established in 1918 by founder and publisher of the Los Angeles Times General Harrison Gray Otis. Serving approximately 1,100 full-time students, OTIS is a private nonprofit institution and national leader in art and design education. “Alumni and faculty are Fulbright, MacArthur, and Guggenheim grant recipients, Oscar awardees, legendary costume designers, leaders of contemporary art movements, entrepreneurs, and design stars at Apple, Abercrombie & Fitch, Pixar, DreamWorks, Mattel, Nike, and Disney,” says the school.
OTIS offers 11 BFA degree programs including Architecture/Landscape/Interiors, Digital Media (Animation, Game and Entertainment Design, and Motion Design), Fashion Design, Communication Arts (Graphic Design, and Illustration), Fine Arts (Painting, Photography, and Sculpture/New Genres), Product Design, and Toy Design. OTIS also awards an MFA degree in Fine Arts, Graphic Design, Public Practice, and Writing, as well as a variety of minors and certificate programs.
The BFA in Graphic Design is offered through the Communication Arts Department. A Minor in Advertising Design and a Graphic Design Certificate are also available. Formats covered in the BFA Graphic Design Program include branding and logo development, posters, books, package design, apps, websites, and interactive design. Students in the program “learn to articulate a critical and theoretical perspective and develop graphic design skills, such as type design and traditional letterpress,” says the school. “Strong craft and presentation skills are emphasized throughout,” with students achieving “the highest level of design excellence through critiques, reviews, and workshops.”
Course highlights for the program include Advanced Image Making Projects, Communication Studio I-IV, Connections through Color and Design, Creative Action Studio, Drawing and Building Form, Systems and Identity Design, Type and Alternative Media, Typography, Visual Language, and Writing in the Digital Age. A Senior Thesis/Research Paper, Senior Project/Seminar, and Capstone are also part of the program.
The MFA in Graphic Design is an accelerated LA-based program that takes 14 months to complete. During the program, students learn to work across media and platforms through a series of visiting workshops, courses in design theory and history, studio projects, and round table discussions. “The coursework engages research, discourse, critical thinking, and iterative process with the goal of discovering many possible design outcomes. In so doing, the program supports students in taking on the challenges and opportunities in contemporary graphic design practice.”
Graduates of the Graphic Design programs at OTIS have landed positions at major companies and studios such as ABC, Inc. and Partners, Apple, Anthropologie, Capitol Records, Conde Nast Publications, Disney Consumer Products, GUESS?, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Ogilvy Worldwide, Sony Music, Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Bros. Records, and Young & Rubicam.
Founded in 1819, the University of Cincinnati (UC) serves nearly 47,000 students enrolled in more than 400 academic programs across 14 colleges and a graduate school. UC is the global founder of cooperative education (co-op), so students also have access to some of the world’s best experience-based learning opportunities. UC co-op students “earn a collective $75 Million per year working in 22 countries and 44 states for more than 1,300 employers,” says the school.
The College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning (DAAP) houses the Myron E. Ullman Jr. School of Design, which offers a BS in Communication Design (BSDES). The program, which takes five years to complete, offers three concentration areas including Graphic Design, Interaction Design, and Motion Design.
Students in the BS program will take a broad range of courses such as Design Ideation, Foundational Drawing and Design, Kinetic Communication, Photodesign, and Typography. Courses are supplemented with general education requirements, directed electives, design history, and interdisciplinary courses in design thinking and user-centered design. Studios “will refine and develop specific or general skills,” says the school “and be enhanced with further study in design history, methodology, research methods, and global studies.” Students in the program also reinforce their skills in the field through several co-ops.
Besides the BS in Communication Design, aspiring graphic designers might consider another program offered through UC’s Blue Ash College. The Art and Visual Communication (AVC) Department at Ash offers a two-year Associate of Applied Business (AAB) in Applied Graphic Communication. The program is designed for “students seeking foundational skills appropriate for further study in the design field or for employment in areas of design support.” Classes are small, so students receive considerable personal attention and direction from faculty. Though the program is a two-year degree, students may take up to three years to complete it.
Graduates of the Communication Design and Graphic Communication programs at UC have career opportunities in advertising, branding and corporate identity, digital product design, exhibit design, interface design, motion graphics and post-production design, package design, service design, user experience design, and web design.
The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art (Cooper Union or CU) was founded in 1859 by industrialist, inventor, and philanthropist Peter Cooper. Considered one of the most prestigious private institutions in the world, CU awards all admitted undergraduate students a half-tuition scholarship currently valued at $22,275 per school year.
Serving nearly 900 students, Cooper Union offers programs in the areas of Art, Architecture and Engineering, with 55% of undergraduates enrolled in engineering, 28% in art, 17% in architecture, and 81 graduates in the Maurice Kanbar Graduate Institute working toward the Master of Engineering (MEng) degree and Master of Architecture (MArch). The school also offers courses in the humanities and social sciences.
Cooper Union School of Art offers a flexible BFA in Art with a Specialization in Graphic Design. Students in the program may take elective studio classes and seminars, offered on a rotating basis, and they have the option to focus their work in one or more areas of specialization. Besides Graphic Design, options include Drawing, Film and Video, Painting, Photography, Printmaking, and Sculpture. Students may also enroll in advanced studio classes with the same course number multiple times.
The school says students are also “encouraged to follow an integrated approach by selecting from various areas while observing a prerequisite system designed to allow in-depth study in specific disciplines.” Other program highlights include internship and study abroad opportunities.
Founded in 1885, Arizona State University (ASU) serves more than 110,000 students across five campuses and more than 45,000 on one additional campus. The Tempe campus serves more than 53,000 students, making it the largest campus in the ASU system and one of the largest in the U.S.
The ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts houses the Design School, which offers programs in the areas of Architecture, Environmental Design, Industrial Design, Interior Design, Landscape Architecture, Urban Design and Visual Communication Design/VCD (Graphic Design). Visual Communication Design (VCD) options include a Bachelor of Science in Design (BSD in Graphic Design), a Master of Science in Design (MSD) with a Concentration in Visual Communication Design (VCD MSD), and a Master of Visual Communication Design (MVCD).
The BSD “curriculum develops a strong foundation of design principles through lower-division studio and lecture courses, using this to build an overall understanding of how design can shape perception and meaning using visual media,” says the school. “Upper-division studio courses provide opportunities for students to work in collaborative teams addressing professional projects in information design, interaction design, exhibition design, animation, motion graphics, branding, publication design, web design, interface design and the multiple contemporary facets of sensorial design.”
The MSD for individuals interested in “advanced studies in visual language, history, theory, criticism and methodology, design processes and technology.” The degree “develops an understanding of contemporary graphic design issues through specialized research and design skills. It also prepares the graduate student for a career in graphic design education.” Course highlights for the program include Contemporary Issues (Seminar), Methods in Visual Communication, Qualitative Research and Design, and Visiting Designers.
In addition to an internship in teaching design, a major component of the MSD program curriculum is the Travel Studio. Completed in the fall semester of the final year, students have the opportunity to “travel all over the world” and “experience a foreign place or country for one week.” The trip is faculty led and the cost is inclusive within tuition fees.
The MVCD has two options—a two-year studio-based program and a three-plus program. The two-year studio program is designed for students with a degree in VCD or Graphic Design and a three-plus program (three years plus one summer) is designed to be a first professional degree for those students who do not have an undergraduate degree in VCD or Graphic Design. Course highlights for the programs include Advanced Exhibit Design, Advanced VCD Studio, Creative Environment and Collaborative Leadership, Dynamic Visual Representation, Information Design, Motion Graphics/Interaction Design, Principles for Collaboration in Design, Sustainable Visual Communication, and Technology for Design. Several internships are part of the program as well as Visiting Designers and the Travel Studio.
Founded in 1919 as the Southern Branch of the University of California, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) is considered one of the leading arts and cultural centers in the western United States. The school, which hosts more than 1,000 visual and performing arts events each year attracting more than 500,000 patrons, serves nearly 45,000 students enrolled more than 125 undergraduate majors in 109 academic departments, and master’s degrees in over 80 academic and professional fields.
Programs for aspiring graphic designers are offered in School of Arts and Architecture, Department of Design Media Arts (DMA). Options include BA and MA degrees in Design Media Arts. The BA in DMA program “emphasizes innovative creation with digital and mass media within the context of a public research university,” says the school. The curriculum highlights “a solid foundation in form, color, space, motion, typography, and interactivity, followed by a broad selection of area studies courses in video, visual communication, network media, game design, and narrative.”
Course highlights include 3D Modeling and Motion, Drawing and Color, Network Media, Special Topics in Interactivity and Games, Special Topics in Visual Communication and Image, Word + Image, and Video.
Other program highlights include courses taught as studios of no more than 22 students, the opportunity to take other electives from the university to broaden the experience, and a Senior Project “where each student defines their own” project “based on individual interests within the areas of interactivity and games, video and animation, and visual communication and image.”
The two-year MFA in DMA begins with skills and theory courses, then progresses to “thesis definition, exploration, and production, through a series of studio and seminar courses.” Highlights include Interactivity, Media Histories, Programming Media, and Special Topics in Media Arts: Contemporary Media Arts. Sixteen units of electives is required, providing an opportunity for students to select courses outside the department.
Students in the program will take several Graduate Seminar Courses and they have the opportunity to work as teaching assistants and to collaborate with faculty members on research projects.
Founded in 1875 by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), Brigham Young University (BYU) serves 30,745 undergraduate students—the largest undergraduate enrollment of any private university in the U.S. The school also serves close to 2,800 graduate students enrolled in 88 master's degree programs, and 32 doctorate programs. Around 187 undergraduate majors and 110 undergraduate minors are also offered in dozens of colleges and departments.
The College of Fine Arts and Communications, Department of Design offers a BFA in Graphic Design and a Graphic Design Fundamentals Certificate. The Certificate is 15 credit hours and includes the following courses: Introduction to Graphic Design, Typography, Graphic Design, Interaction Design, and Creating Online Media. The program prepares graduates for positions such as Design Assistant, Junior Graphic Designer, Junior Production Artist, and Marketing Production Artist.
The BFA in Graphic Design “simulates a professional studio experience with students working to solve complex visual problems” says the school. “As members of a small cohort group, students complete a variety of individual and collaborative projects under close faculty direction.” Course highlights for the program include 3D Design, Advertising, Bookbinding, Branding, Design Thinking, Entrepreneurship, Illustration, Interaction Design, Letterpress Studio, Motion 1 & 2, and Typography. Students in the program will complete the BFA Capstone Project and a required Professional Internship.
Student interns have the opportunity to apply their design skills in a real working environment, they will learn how to meet the needs of the client while preserving the integrity of the design principles they have learned in class, and interact with team members from all areas of expertise on a real-world project.
Graduates of this limited enrollment program (40 students) “will be able to create design solutions across multiple mediums, including print, interactive media, and film.”
University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign (UIUC) was established in 1867 as Illinois Industrial University. The school is one of the original 37 public land-grant institutions created after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act. UIUC serves nearly 52,400 students enrolled in 150 undergraduate and more than 100 graduate and professional programs. Programs are offered across 16 “academic units,” including the College of Fine and Applied Arts, which houses the School of Art and Design—home to the Graphic Design Program.
Degree options include a BFA and MFA in Graphic Design. The 122 credit hour undergraduate program prepares students for entrance into the professional practice of design visual communications. “studio work addresses graphic design fundamentals (typography and image making), design history and contemporary practices, research methods, user experience, and social responsibility,” says the school. In addition, “students have the opportunity to develop their personal interests by taking advantage of a highly interdisciplinary selection of elective courses offered by the School of Art + Design. Highlights include Sustainability, Video, and the design of Ninth Letter, “a nationally-distributed and award-winning literary arts journal.”
Just a few required courses include Advanced Interaction Design, Ethics of a Designer in a Global Economy, Expressive Drawing, Graphic Design Toolbox, Image Practice, Time Arts, Typographic Systems, and Visualization Drawing. Students in this program will also have the opportunity to complete an internship.
The 64 credit hour MFA prepares students to “contribute to the field of design by entering into practice, academia or both.” Students in the program have the opportunity to “explore responsible futures through research in traditional print media and emergent technologies including, but not limited to, data visualization, digital interaction, information design, systems thinking, and visual narrative.”
Other program highlights include the opportunity to take courses at Siebel Center for Design, collaboration with PhD students in Informatics, who specialize in design, and networking through “world-class” programs across campus. Students will also develop partnerships at the Research Park—a leading technology hub that cultivates start-ups and accelerates corporate innovation at companies such as Abbott Laboratories, ADM, Ameren, Capital One, and State Farm.
Established in 1880, University of Southern California (USC) is a private research that employs 4,000 full-time faculty serving 46,000 students. More than 200 undergraduate programs and over 400 graduate and professional programs are offered at USC across more than 20 schools, colleges, and academic units. In addition to the Los Angeles campus, USC offers programs and has centers in Marina Del Rey, Orange County, Sacramento, Washington, D.C., Catalina Island, Alhambra, and around Southern California.
Programs for aspiring graphic designers are offered at USC Roski School of Art and Design. Founded in1895, Roski is one of the oldest art schools in Southern California. Degree options for designers include the BFA, MFA, and Dual BFA/MFA in Design. A Minor in Communication Design is also available.
The Design BFA is a four-year pre-professional that begins with foundation courses such as Drawing and Illustration. Students will gain experience “with a wide array of artistic media,” says the school, and participate in “skills-based workshops in 2D and 3D design-specific media.” Design coursework is “complemented by a series of critical theory seminars, professional design internships, and international design study tours,” along with “a senior thesis and Minors in Advertising, Business, Communication, Entrepreneurship and Marketing.” A required 26 units of electives allows students to refine their focus.
Course highlights for the BFA program include 3D Design Studio, Art and Design Studio, Digital Tools for Design, Illustration for Art and Design, Publication Design, Typography, and Web Design.
The Design MFA is a five-term, 56-unit studio-based program administered in collaboration with the Graduate School, It is a professional degree in the practice of design that highlights mentored relationships with design faculty, participation in regular seminars, and discussions and studio visits with leading visiting designers, writers and theorists from around the world. The Roski School's partnership and affiliation with the contemporary design community in Los Angeles, such as American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), is also critical component of the MFA Design Program.
Students will complete an MFA Design Thesis and the opportunity to gain experience as a teaching assistant is available on a competitive basis. Field internship opportunities, design study tours to Asian or European cities, and the option to take Design Studio Co-Lab are other program highlights.
The 24-unit Communication Design Minor includes coursework in graphic design, advertising, marketing, and business. Course highlights include Advanced Design Projects, Business and Professional Communication, Communication and Social Media, Graphic Design in Fashion, Ideas in Intermedia, Marketing of Creative Disruption and Innovation, Special Projects in Design, and Video Installation and Moving Image Environments.
Students in the Communication Design Minor may also take advantage of the New York or International Design Study Tours.
Established in 1861, University of Washington (UW) serves more than 54,000 students at campuses in Seattle, Tacoma, and Bothell. The UW’s 18 colleges and schools offer more than 570 degree options across 300+ programs, with more than 1,800 undergraduate courses alone each quarter. Each year, UW Bothell confers more than 12,000 bachelors, masters, doctoral, and professional degrees.
The school’s College of Arts & Sciences houses the School of Art + Art History + Design (SoA+AH+D), which offers a Bachelor of Design (BDes) in Visual Communication Design and a Master of Design (MDes). One of the largest undergraduate programs at the University of Washington, Visual Communication Design is a professional program “primarily aimed at visual communication in the corporate, institutional and municipal sectors,” says the school.
Students in the programs engage in all phases of typography, information design, design systems, exhibition design, publication design, new media, and visual methods/processes. Course highlights for the BDes include Corporate Identity, Exhibition Design, Information Design, Interface Design, Marks + Symbols, Publication Design, and Visual Systems. A Design Capstone is also part of the program as well the opportunity to complete an internship.
The two-year MDes is a terminal degree “for designers who wish to deepen their practice by engaging in advanced research and scholarship, or who are interested in pursuing academic careers.” The program “stresses interdisciplinary work and research-driven design practice.” MDes students have taken courses and participated in research projects with the Business School, the College of Engineering, the Department of Biomedical Informatics, the Department of Communication, the Department of Psychology and the School of Nursing. Theses have addressed topics such as topics as aviation, healthcare, information visualization, and urban planning.
Students in both programs will have the opportunity to compete for more than 100 seats in the SoA+AH+D study abroad program to explore art, art history, and design in an international context. Past students have studied in Japan, Rome, Spain, and Tuscany.
University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) was formed in 1982 by two U. of I. campuses—the Medical Center campus, which dates back to the 19th century, and the comprehensive Chicago Circle campus which, in 1965, replaced the two-year undergraduate Navy Pier campus that opened in 1946 to educate returning veterans. Today, with more than 33,500 students enrolled, UIC is the largest university in the Chicago area.
UIC offers 260 degree programs and 66 certificate programs across 15 colleges. This includes the College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts (CADA), which houses the School of Art and Art History, Department of Art—home to the Graphic Design Program. Degree options include the Bachelor of Design (BDes) and Master of Design (MDes) in Graphic Design, and 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.
The four-year BDes program highlights studio-based instruction, while the two-year MDes focuses on an independent master’s research project. In the BDES program, “emphasis is placed on perfecting hand skills and in developing proficiency with digital technology,” says the school. “Through exposure to design practice, design culture, and critical observation, students experience Chicago as a global design center.”
Course highlights for the BDes include Analyzing the Natural World, Digital Media Design: Interactivity, Form + Image Studio, Type: Experimentation, and Understanding the Individual in Society. Students will also complete a thesis.
The two-year MDes “is a globally oriented program delivered in Chicago and Basel, Switzerland.” Chicago-based students have the opportunity to participate in the Basel School of Design Summer Workshops. In both locations, students will focus on the independent master’s research project. The program culminates in a public exhibition of the project.
The University of Kansas (KU) opened in 1866 with just 55 students. Today, the school serves 28,500 students across five campuses in the Lawrence, Overland Park, Kansas City, Wichita, and Salina. More than 400 degree and certificate programs are offered in 13 schools, including the only schools of pharmacy and medicine in the state.
The School of Architecture and Design at KU houses the Department of Design, which offers a BFA in Visual Communication Design (Graphic Design). Students in the program “learn to combine communication and technology with design and business to create powerful visual solutions,” says the school. Course content “deals with a variety of visual communication design problems related to the community, society, industry, commerce, and advertising and attention is given to the development of a well-rounded, representative, and quality portfolio.”
Course highlights include Book Arts, Bookmaking, Designing for Change, Designing for Social Interactions, Digital Letterpress, Elements of Type, Environmental Graphics, Exhibition Design, Letterpress, Motion Graphics, Publication & Editorial, The Photobook, Typographic Systems, and Visual Communication. The program also offers internship and study abroad opportunities as well as the option to complete the Certificate in Book Arts.
The Certificate requires 12 credit hours, and students learn production across the “whole book—papermaking, typography, printing, and binding, informed by the history of the book.”
KU Visual Communication Design graduates work in a wide range of areas such as branding, corporate marketing communications, exhibition and environmental design, interface design, magazine and book design, motion graphic design, packaging design, traditional print media, and website design. Potential job titles include Advertising Art Director, Animator, and Art Director, Commercial/Industrial Designer, Exhibition Designer, Graphic Designer, Marketing Manager, Multimedia Specialist, Public Relations Manager, and many others.
Auburn University was established in 1856 as the East Alabama Male College. Today, the school serves a co-ed population of nearly 31,000 students enrolled in more than 140 degree options in 12 colleges and schools, plus the graduate school. The College of Architecture, Design, and Construction houses the School of Industrial and Graphic Design, which offers a BFA in Graphic Design (BFA GDES). This is Alabama’s only GDES Program to receive accreditation by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) accreditation.
Students in the program “follow a curriculum that provides variety and depth in all aspects of the field, supported by Fine Arts electives,” says the school. This includes branding, illustration, motion, packaging, publication, typography, UI/UX, and packaging, app, and wayfinding design.
In addition, “students have excellent opportunities for internship and cooperative education experiences as a result of well established relationships with regional, national and international companies and firms.” As a result of their overall experience and education, students will build a strong portfolio of work.
Graduates of the program are prepared to design positions with magazines and in logo and identity development, interactive media, exhibitions, illustration, environmental graphics, packaging, and web design.
Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI) was established in 1885 as a Sketch Club. Today, this art and designs school serves nearly 700 students, enrolled in 13 BFA programs with courses taught by practicing artists, designers, and scholars.
KCAI offers a BFA in Graphic Design Program that balances “proficiency in software with essential hand skills, such as drawing, painting, collage, model making and experimental processes,” says the school.
Students in the program can expect an “immersive studio experience” and a “rigorous, diverse curriculum.” Course highlight Branding & Identity, Communication, Information and Data Visualization, Interaction, Media, Social Innovation, and Type and Image.
All students will have the opportunity to participate in KCAI’s internship program, three- to five-week long faculty-led travel programs, and full semester programs that can take them to one of several participating art and design colleges in the U.S. or abroad. These programs have allowed students to gain valuable professional experience in real world settings.
Graduates of KCAI’s Graphic Design Program have gone on to work with local and national design and advertising firms such as Airbnb, Barkley, Nickelodeon, Design Army, DMH, Fossil, Garmin, Hallmark, Hint, Hyperakt, Pentagram, Populous, Radius, R/GA, Salesforce, the Getty, and VML.
The Ohio State University (OSU) was established in 1870 as Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College. This land-, sea- and space-grant university houses more than 200 academic centers and institutes, where research, policy-making, knowledge creation and student engagement happen daily across many disciplines. Serving more than 68,000 students, the school offers over 200 majors, minors and specializations in 18 colleges and schools.
OSU’s College of Arts and Sciences houses the Department of Design. Established in 1968, the Department has an 18:1 student to instructor ratio and more than 3,000 Design alumni. Programs for aspiring designers include a Bachelor of Science in Design (BSD) in Visual Communication Design and a Design Thinking Minor.
Students in the BSD program use digital tools “including advanced computing technology, to visualize and present translations of complex data and ideas,” says the school. Students will “study and explore research-based approaches to the visual design of information, the development of brand identities based on present and future conditions, and the creation of way-finding systems for navigating complex environments.”
The production of printed materials such as books, brochures, packaging, and posters is also part of the program. Sample courses include Design Media 1 for Visual Communication Design, Typographic Design, Materials + Processes for Visual Communication Design, Design Research, Collaborative Design, Professional Practices, Sustainability and the Built Environment, and Design Matters. In their senior year, designers will complete a final project “that demonstrates each student's comprehensive knowledge and ability to work independently.”
The Design Thinking Minor is a 15 credit hour program that introduces students to new and creative ways to solve problems. Courses include Design Practice, Design History, Exploring Design Thinking, Visualization as Thinking, and Presentation as Thinking.
Graphic design students who would like to pursue graduate study at OSU have two options: the MFA in Visual Arts offered through the Department of Art and the MFA in Digital Animation and Interactive Media offered through the Department of Design. The MFA in Visual Arts offers emphases in seven studio areas: Art and Technology, Ceramics, Glass, Painting and Drawing, Photography, Printmaking, and Sculpture. The 66 credit hour, three-year program allows students to work across disciplines and with faculty from all seven studio areas.
The MFA in Digital Animation and Interactive Media allows students to select courses that cover visual design, technical skills for animation and interactive media, programming and algorithms, audio design, writing and scripting, and professional development. Students in all graduate art programs have 24/7 access to private and semi-private studio spaces as well as The Wexner Center for the Arts—a world-renowned contemporary art center located on campus; The Fine Arts and Cartoon Libraries; and the Urban Arts Space—an off-campus, OSU-run gallery in downtown Columbus. The Urban Arts Space is the location of the third-year thesis exhibitions.
Boston University (BU) was established in 1839. The school houses nearly 35,600 students served by a faculty and staff of 10,000—making BU Boston’s largest employer.
With more than 300 programs of study offered in 17 colleges and schools, offers BFA, MFA, and Certificate Programs in Graphic Design. One of the programs in the College of Fine Arts’ School of Visual Arts is the Graphic Design BFA. The program “provides a sequenced studio approach to design, preparing students to thrive in a dynamic, creative professional environment,” says the school.
Students will begin the program with Foundations, which introduces “visual concepts in two and three dimensions, with an emphasis on drawing from observation.” In the second year of the program, students specialize in graphic design coursework, with yearlong graphic design and typography studios that emphasize form and communication. Third year students participate in graphic design and typography studios that “address authorship, audience, and medium.” Projects are completed in communal workspaces equipped with flat files, printers, and paper trimmers. “With training, students are also granted access to the School’s Printmaking facilities, which include etching, lithography, silkscreen, bookmaking, letterpress, and digital print studios.”
Students in the BFA program have the opportunity to complete coursework outside of the School of Visual Arts and explore a variety of programs across the BU community. Many undergraduate Graphic Design students are dual-degree majors.
The BFA in Graphic Design culminates in the thesis project and end of year exhibition, where students “articulate a personally driven design methodology through an installation of their work in the Boston University Art Galleries.”
Upon completion of the BFA program, students have the option to enroll in BU’s Graphic Design Graduate Certificate Program. This one-year full-time rigorous and intensive study in graphic design is an ideal step towards an MFA in Graphic Design. The curriculum includes core studio and typography requirements and allows students to choose elective courses based on their speciﬁc interests and career goals. Students in the program will complete 30 credit hours of study.
The MFA in Graphic Design “provides a sequenced studio approach to advanced design thinking and problem solving for visual communication, preparing students to thrive in a dynamic professional environment.” Graphic Design Studios form the programs core and electives complement the studios, providing the opportunity to specialize in areas of interest. Elective courses currently include Information Design, Design for the Web, Interactive Design, Experience Design, Motion Graphics, Design Theory, History of Graphic Design, Editorial Design and Exhibition Design.
MFA students also benefit from lectures by nationally and internationally distinguished designers and direct contact with the industry. The program culminates in a master’s thesis, which is presented in an exhibition format at the Boston University Art Galleries.
Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) opened in 1944 with just 100 students on the top two floors of the High School of Needles Trades. Today, as part of the State University of New York (SUNY) system, FIT spans an entire city block and serves more than 10,000 students enrolled in a variety of programs. Just a few include Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing, and Menswear, which are unique to the college, and Fashion Business Management, Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design, and Toy Design, the first of their kind in the country.
Programs are offered in five academic divisions including the Schools of Art and Design, Liberal Arts, and Graduate Studies, Jay and Patty Baker School of Business and Technology, and the Center for Continuing and Professional Studies.
The School of Art and Design offers 17 programs that provide “a practical, hands-on, real world based education,” says the school. Programs for aspiring graphic designers include an AAS in Communication Design Foundation and a BFA in Graphic Design.
The Communication Design AAS “focuses on computer technology, typography, color theory, layout design, and conceptual problem solving. Students develop their own styles while studying design principles, theory, and communication skills.” Other program highlights include field trips to top design firms in New York City, guest lectures, and internship opportunities. Graduates of the program will be prepared for entry-level design positions or for further study in a related BFA program at FIT. Options include Advertising and Digital Design, Graphic Design, Packaging Design, and Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design.
The curriculum for the Graphic Design BFA includes “the study and design of products such as magazines, posters, websites, annual reports, books, and signage.” The program covers advanced typography, corporate identity systems, art history, and more. Besides versatile design skills “that can be applied to magazine and newspaper publishing, catalog production, and promotional publication design,” students will develop “critical thinking, research, analysis, and presentation skills.”
Other program highlights the opportunity to study with practicing professionals and to gain first-hand experience through internships at major institutions and design firms such as MoMA, Pentagram, the Art Directors Club, and many others. Students also have the opportunity to study abroad in England at Chelsea College of Art & Design, the London College of Communication, or Nottingham Trent University.
The Graphic Design BFA Program concludes with a senior thesis project and a juried design exhibition. Students will graduate with “a strong portfolio to present to potential employers.”
Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) began as Massachusetts Normal School in 1873. The development of the school was in response to the Massachusetts Drawing Act, which required all cities in the Commonwealth of over 10,000 residents to include drawing in their public school curricula.
Today, MassArt is known as “the Commonwealth’s art and design school,” and it serves 2,000 undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education students.
The school offers dozens of programs in areas such as Animation, Film and Video, Glass, Illustration, Industrial Design, Painting, Printmaking, and Sculpture. Programs lead to the BFA, MFA, MDES, MAT, or MArch. Options for aspiring graphic designers include a BFA in Communication Design and a Graphic Design Certificate (GDC).
Students in the GDC program “explore the formal elements of design including composition, color, texture, shape, typography, and imagery to master the art of communication design,” says the school. This 38 credit hour program is designed for working adults who are interested in advancing into a career in graphic design. Graduates will leave the certificate program with a portfolio of professional quality work.
The Communication Design BFA Program challenges students to “develop design solutions in the areas of package design, publication design, web and app design, interactive communication, and advertising, as well as the creation of graphic identities and brand systems.” Course highlights for the program include Advanced Web Projects, Community Partnership Design, and Disobedient Design: From Activist Posters to Augmented Reality, Experimental Book Arts, Identity Systems, Information Architecture, Language of Motion, Letterpress Printing, Poster Design, Programming for Designers, and Type Design.
Students in the program will have the opportunity to complete immersive options such as the Course Assistantship, Design Research, Independent Study, and an Internship.
Graduates of the Communications Design BFA and GDC work for ad agencies, design studios, in-house corporate design departments, and as freelance designers. Some graduates have gone on to launch their own independent start-ups and studios.
Serving 33,870 students and open since 1897, San Diego State University (SDSU) is the oldest and largest university in San Diego and the third largest in the state. With nearly 200 degree programs, SDSU houses seven colleges, including the College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts (PSFA), which has 10 core departments and schools, including the School of Art + Design. Here, aspiring designers can earn a BA (in Applied Arts and Sciences), MA or MFA with a Graphic Design Emphasis.
The Graphic Design program “is structured as a sequence of core studios in design fundamentals, typography, image-making, and history courses, that progressively introduce form and concept-development skills across a range of media,” says the school. Upper level students will have the opportunity to work with a wide range of clients, organizations, and communities through SDSU’s internship and Design Studio programs. They will solve “contemporary design problems” by applying the skills acquired during the first two years of the program.
During the final year of the program, students will build a professional portfolio that prepares them for entry-level positions in a variety of areas within graphic design.
Graduates hold titles such as Advertising Artist, Corporate Image Designer, Graphic Designer, Graphic Illustrator, Layout/Production Artist, Print Production Specialist, and Technical Illustrator, among others.
Established in 1929, Academy of Art University is a family-owned institution that serves more than 7,200 students from 112 countries, making it one of the largest private, accredited art and design schools in the nation.
Program offerings range from acting, animation and architecture to visual development, web design, and writing for film and television. Degrees are offered at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and many programs are available entirely online.
Academy of Art houses the School of Graphic Design where students are mentored by faculty with “years of graphic design experience working with top-flight studios and brand-name companies with strong ties to the industry,” says the school. Areas covered include Branding, Communication Design, Editorial Design, Environmental Design, Experience Design, Innovation, Motion Graphics, Packaging, Print, Typography, and User Experience.
Programs in the School of Graphic Design lead to the AA, BFA, MA, MFA, and Certificate. AA students can expect to take 66 units of coursework, BFA students will complete 132, and the Certificate requires 120 units of study. Students seeking an MA in Graphic design must complete 36 units to graduate and MFA students must complete 63.
Course highlights for the undergraduate programs include Branding Principles, Composition for the Artist, Design Technology, Human-Centered Design, Interaction Design, Motion Graphics, Package Design, Programming and Culture, Visual Communication, Visual Systems, and Web Design. BFA students will also complete Internship in Graphic Design and Senior Portfolio.
MA students can expect to take courses such as Making Ideas Visible, Type Experiments, User Experience Design, and Visual Thinking. MA Portfolio Seminar is also part of the program. MFA students will take many of the same courses as well as three Thesis courses, Directed Study, Professional Practices for Designers & Advertisers, and the Internship.
School of Graphic Design graduates hold positions such as Creative/Art Director, Graphic Designer, Product Designer, and User Experience (UX) Designer. Companies that have hired Academy of Art graduates include Apple, Google, global design company IDEO, Nike, R/GA (advertising and marketing), and Square, to name a few.
Founded in 1855, Michigan State University (MSU) serves nearly 50,000 students enrolled in more than 200 programs in 17 degree-granting colleges. The school, which sits on one of the biggest and greenest campuses in the nation, lists notable alumni such as NBA legend Magic Johnson, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, celebrated actor James Caan, and film director/producer/writer/actor Sam Raimi.
MSU’s College of Arts & Letters, Department of Art, Art History, and Design, offers a BFA and a 15 credit hour Minor in Graphic Design. An MFA that allows students to select a track such as Graphic Design is also available.
The BFA program offers the unique opportunity for students to gain real-world design experience by providing design services to the community. “MSU's Design Center in the Department of Art, Art History, and Design works with internal and external clients to effectively communicate the client's messages in a professional manner,” says the school. “From logos to packaging, and brochures to websites, Design Center has worked on a variety of projects, each specifically targeted to address the goal and personality of an individual client.”
Undergraduate students who “exemplify creativity, dedication, and professionalism in the Graphic Design Program” are selected to join the Design Center creative team each year.
Other program highlights include AIGA membership, internship opportunities, and the Annual Visiting Artist & Scholar Lecture Series. Past lecturers include Martin Venezky, Ben Fry, Jim Sherraden of Hatch Showprint, Stuart Bailey, Jan Wilker, Cheryl Towler Weese, Hans Allemann, Karen Cheng, Nancy Skolos & Tom Wedell, James Victore, Andrew Blauvelt.
MSU Graphic Design alumni are Art Directors, Creative Directors, Freelancers, Graphic Designers and Video Editors with advertising agencies, design firms, in-house design offices, production studios, publishing companies, and more.
Portland State University (PSU) opened its doors in the summer of 1946 to just 220 students. Today, the school serves nearly 24,000 students, making it the biggest art school in the Pacific Northwest.
PSU offers more than 200 degree programs in nine colleges and schools. The College of the Arts houses the schools of Architecture, Art + Design, Music, and Theater + Film. With around 1,400 students enrolled, the School of Art + Design offers BA, BS, BFA degrees and Minors in areas from Art History to Graphic Design.
PSU’s Graphic Design Program has options leading to the BFA and a Minor in Graphic Design (MAGD). The Minor consists of 32 credit hours of study and start terms are flexible. Course highlights for the program include Communication Design Systems, Computer Graphics for Art & Design, Digital Imaging & Illustration, Narrative and Communication Design, and Typography.
The curriculum for the BFA consists of lower and upper division courses. Lower level courses “introduce students to principles of basic design and art and their specific applications in graphic design,” says the school. They also provide a comprehensive studio experience with an increased emphasis on design thinking.” Upper level courses “focus increasingly on areas of specialization, opportunities for engaging in professional internships, and work to develop a professional portfolio as the culmination of students’ design studies.”
Other program highlights include the option to add the Advertising Management Minor, the Show & Tell and Matthias Kemeny Endowed Design Lecture Series, participation in the Annual Student Showcase Be Honest, and the Graphic Design Senior Showcase known as Fresh. Students also have the opportunity to sign up for Summer Study Abroad experiences such as Art History in Rome, Berlin: The Fall and Rise of an Art City, or Mixed Media and Printmaking in Guanajuato, Mexico.
Founded in 1858, Iowa State University serves 31,825 students enrolled in more than 100 undergraduate majors and over 200 fields of study leading a graduate or professional degree. Programs are offered in eight colleges, two schools, and roughly 150 academic departments. The College of Design houses the Department of Graphic Design, which offers BFA and MFA degrees in Graphic Design, and an MA in Experiential Graphic Design (MAxDG).
The BFA in Graphic Design is a four-year degree consisting of one year in the College of Design Core Design Program, which allows students to experiment with interdisciplinary work at the earliest stages of their college education, make informed degree choices, and apply to multiple programs at the end of the first year. Students in the program will have the opportunity to complete the Junior year Graphic Design Practicum that provides real-world experience with clients such as Habitat for Humanity and the Special Olympics. In their Senior year, students will also complete a summer internship or study abroad experience in College of Design’s Rome Program or Graphic Design in Europe.
Other program highlights include travel experiences every semester to design centers across the country and option studios in a variety of graphic design applications. This includes 3D Animation, Branding and Logo Design, Exhibition Design, Motion Graphics, Multimedia, Narrative, Packaging, Publications, Typography, Wayfinding, and Web and E-commerce.
The Graphic Design MFA program consists of 64 credit hours of study. The terminal degree in the field, the MFA produces graduates who are “skilled in communication design and problem solving,” says the school, and “adept in the use of visual language, symbology, and interaction.” Program highlights include Graphic Design Field Study opportunities including study and tours of museums, galleries, artist and/or designer studios, and participation in the International Study Abroad Program in Western Europe, where students visit art museums, design studios, and educational facilities.
The MAxGD Program is designed for artists seeking a graphic design specialization with little or no previous experience in the area. This 30 credit hour program “focuses on preparing students for visual communication” and it “provides a comprehensive exposure to all aspects of user experience, including but not exclusive to wayfinding, exhibition design, interaction, information design, and placemaking.”
Other program highlights include internship opportunities, participation in senior shows, and study abroad experiences.
Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) began with the merging of the Rochester Athenaeum (est. 1829), and a technical training school known as Mechanics Institute (est. 1885). With campuses in Rochester, New York, Dubai, Croatia, Kosovo, and China, RIT serves nearly 19,000 students majoring in everything from Art and Design to Robotics and Science Exploration. Programs for aspiring graphic designers include a BFA in Graphic Design and an MFA in Visual Communication Design (VCD).
Offered through the College of Art and Design’s School of Design, the BFA integrates major courses, studio and free electives, and liberal arts, and aspects of business and professional practices, collaborative projects, computer-based skills, and workflow. Students are “exposed to a full range of topics throughout the curriculum, including information design, web and interaction design, branding and identity design, design systems, exhibit and wayfinding design, user experience design, and professional practices,” says the school.
Other program highlights include access to RIT's Vignelli Center for Design Studies, the Cary Graphic Design Archive, and the Cary Library along with alumni and guest speaker events, internship opportunities, co-ops, and freelance experiences. In addition, “interdisciplinary and collaborative projects within RIT and with outside organizations result in innovative and meaningful hands-on projects that encourage students to explore the social, ethical, and environmental impact of design.”
Graduates of the BFA in Graphic Design will leave the program with a completed portfolio and the skills needed to pursue positions within advertising agencies, corporations, design firms, and technology companies around the world. Potential job titles include Digital Designer, Graphic Designer, Freelance Designer, Interactive Designer, and many others.
The MFA in VCD is a cross-disciplinary 60 credit hour program that “focuses on all areas of design, including graphic design, user experience/interaction design, design studies, motion graphics, and 3D digital design.” Students have the option to enhance the degree by choosing an option in Communication Design, Interaction Design, or Motion and 3D Digital Design.
The MFA in VCD, which enrolls around 100 students, also allows all eligible students to participate in an optional co-op program the summer between their first and second years. Some students may have the opportunity to participate during the fall and spring terms.
Graduates of the MFA program are prepared to seek positions in industries such as Advertising, PR, and Marketing, Design, Electronic and Computer Hardware, and Internet and Software, to name a few. Potential job titles include Consulting Art Director and Visual Designer, Designer/Animator, Graphic Designer, Type Designer, UI/UX Designer or Designer and Developer, UX and Visual Designer, and many others.
The idea for the College for Creative Studies (CCS) dates back to 1906 when a group of local civic leaders established the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts. Members began teaching informal classes in basic design, drawing, and woodcarving and in 1911, and they opened a gallery where student and prominent modern artists could display and sell their work.
In 1926 and with an enrollment of 280 students, the Society became one of the first arts and crafts organizations to offer a formal, four-year program in art under the name Art School of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts.
Today, CCS is a private, fully accredited college offering BFA and MFA degrees to more than 1,400 students. With an enrollment of 114 students, the Graphic Design Department is one of the top five largest departments at CCS. Degree options for aspiring graphic designers include a BFA in Communication Design (Graphic Design). Degrees that complement Graphic Design include BFAs in Advertising: Copywriting, Advertising: Design, and Fine Arts.
The BFA in Communication Design (Graphic Design) covers print, motion and interaction. In fall 2021, the degree will become a STEM-designated program for all entering students.
The current program begins with the core principles of print-based graphic design. This includes color, hierarchy, image, messaging, and typography. Students will “merge what they’ve learned with the language of code in order to build media and create interactive environments on a wide variety of platforms.” Course highlights for the program include 2D Design, 3D Techniques, Advanced Communication Design, Business Practices, Concepts & Methods/Visual Culture, Digital Techniques, Interaction I-III, Typography I-III, Visual Culture, and Visual Narration: Africa/America, and Visual Narration: Asia.
Other program highlights include the opportunity to study abroad for a semester or a year in places such as Austria, Australia, Germany, Mexico, and Paris; internship opportunities at places such as Chrysler, Converse, Foote Cone & Belding, FUSE, Microsoft, Quicksilver, Reebok, Urban Outfitters, and Whirlpool; and one of the highest post-graduate employment rates in the country.
Graduates of the Communication Design (Graphic Design) Program at CCS are prepared to pursue a wide range of job titles such as Advertising Designer, Brand manager, Creative Director, Editorial Designer, Graphic Designer, Interaction Designer, Interactive Art Director, Mobile Media Designer, Social Media Director, User Experience Designer (UX), User Interface Designer (UI), Visual Designer, and Web Designer.
Many CCS Design alumni are entrepreneurs who open their own design studios across the country and the globe, including Los Angeles, New York City, the Netherlands, and in of course, in Detroit.
Founded in 1910 as a teacher-training school, Kent State University (KSU) serves 38,000 students enrolled in more than 340 degree programs offered in more than 40 colleges, departments, and schools.
The College of Communication and Information houses the School of Visual Communication Design (VCD), which offers several programs for aspiring graphic designers. Options include BA, BFA, MA, and MFA degrees in Visual Communication Design.
The BA is a 123-credit hour program that focuses on “design and illustration in the context of a broad program of general studies,” says the school. An internship is required for the program and well as completion of a minor. Suggested options include Advertising, Communication Studies, Digital Sciences, Electronic Media, Fine Art Studio, Health Communication, Language, Management or Entrepreneurship for Non-Business Majors, Marketing, Photo-Illustration, Public Relations, and Visual Journalism.
Note that most KSU internships are paid, and students have the opportunity to work at major companies across Cleveland and in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco.
For the BFA program, approximately two-thirds of the coursework focuses on “the creation and study of the visual arts,” with the remainder in general studies. Because of the greater emphasis on upper-level studio courses, the BFA allows majors the opportunity to build greater expertise in a given area of the field. An internship is a required component of the BFA program as well as an exit portfolio presentation for public display.
The MA in VCD consists of 32 credit hours of study that can be completed in three semesters. The program “is recommended for students seeking professional employment after completing their degree and who need to build a portfolio of work to enhance career opportunities.” Potential emerging markets for graduates include branding, digital media, social media, and user experience design.
The MFA is one of only three programs in the state to offer the Master of Arts degree in Visual Communication Design and was the first to offer the terminal degree in the field, the Master of Fine Arts. The MA is a 32 credit hour program that prepares students to work in emerging markets such as social media, branding, digital media and user experience design.
The MFA in VCD is an interdisciplinary program that focuses on theory, research, and design process. Classes “have been developed to create an educational experience in design highlighted by field research methods, design thinking, and social innovation, augmented by practical university teaching experience where MFA candidates work hands-on with students at the freshman and sophomore level.”
“This approach helps graduates gain the necessary tools to succeed in their careers as innovative leaders in visual communication, design management, entrepreneurship and higher education.”
The MFA consists of 60 credit hours of study that takes five semesters to complete. Graduates of the program “typically pursue careers in design education, but also stand out in the industry for their ability to solve problems from a research-based design perspective.”
Established in 1927, University of Houston (UH) serves more than 47,000 students enrolled in 250 undergraduate majors and minors, 108 master’s degrees, and 50 doctoral and professional degrees. The school houses 36 research centers along with more than 15 colleges and schools. The Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts houses the School of Art, which offers a BFA in Graphic Design and an MFA in Studio Art with a Concentration in Graphic Design.
The BFA includes coursework in design history, theory, methods and practices. Students “learn a range of design methodologies and techniques,” says the school “in addition to interdisciplinary collaboration, presentation skills, team building, community outreach, ethics and sustainable practices—all tools to become top competitors in the national design-job market and leaders within the profession.”
Upon completion of all coursework, undergraduate students will participate in a senior exhibition that “showcases a diverse portfolio of work including environmental, interactive, motion, print and web projects.”
The MFA in Studio Art with a Concentration in Graphic Design is a 60 semester-hour degree that includes 18 hours in the concentration 12 hours in art history, 24 hours of related arts, and six hours of graduate seminar. Upon completion of all coursework for the program, all graduate students must present their work in a thesis exhibition at the Blaffer Museum, with accompanying photographic documentation.
Columbia College Chicago (Columbia) was founded in 1890 as the Columbia School of Oratory. Serving nearly 7,000 students from all 50 states and 60 countries, Columbia offers 150 majors, minors, and graduate programs in the Schools of Media Arts, Fine and Performing Arts, and Liberal Arts and Sciences. The School of Fine and Performing Arts offers BA and BFA degrees in Graphic Design. A Second BA in Graphic Design is also available for students who have already earned a bachelor’s degree.
Students in the Graphic Design programs at Columbia will “develop advanced skills in typography, layout, information design, packaging design, and other applications through hands-on courses.” They will also learn the software and technology needed to “deliver dynamic visual communications,” and “gain experience in research and client management.” Business is a major component of the program, as it prepares students for positions in ad agencies, design firms, and in-house corporate design. It also prepares students to launch their own businesses.
BA Graphic Design students will take fewer credit hours in the major than BFA students will, and they are encouraged to choose a minor or double major in another program such as Advertising, Fine Arts, Motion Graphics, or Photography. BA students will choose a concentration in one discipline such as Publication Design, Web Design, or a general concentration.
The BFA requires more advanced courses in graphic design. Students in this degree track do not choose a concentration and they will take courses across disciplines including Publication Design, Visual Identity, and Web Design.
Students in both the BA and BFA programs have the opportunity to intern at firms such as Foote, Cone & Belding and Leo Burnett, and with clients like Procter & Gamble. Besides real-world experience, graphic design students will graduate from the program with polished portfolio to share with potential employers.
Graduates of the programs have landed positions at places such as Fjord (part of Accenture Interactive), Google, Leo Burnett, and Modern Luxury.
Created in 1893, Texas State University (originally Southwest Normal School) was established as a teacher’s college. Today, the school serves nearly 38,000 undergraduate, post-baccalaureate, master's, and doctoral students enrolled in more than 200 programs in 10 Colleges and Schools. The College of Fine Arts & Communication houses the School of Art and Design, which offers BFA and MFA degrees in Communication Design. The school says the program is “one of the largest public programs in the country.”
BFA students have three areas of professional study to choose from including Art Direction, Graphic Design, and Interactive Media. Course topics in art direction, brand experience, corporate identity, design research, environmental graphics, human centered design, interactive design, sustainable packaging and typography prepare students for professional practice within a designer/client relationship. Students may further their education with independent study courses and professional internships.
Communication Design courses are taught in a studio environment, with class sizes limited to approximately 16. Students have access to the Mitte Complex, which has Macintosh labs, an open lab for student use, digital color printing availability including RISO, digital still and video camera checkout, and a photography studio and a multidisciplinary innovation lab equipped with laser cutter, CNC router, 3D printer and die cutter.
The MFA curriculum is “designed to provide advanced study in the areas of corporate advertising art direction, graphic design, and digital media design. The graduate program will provide students with the following: advanced problem-solving methodologies, updating technological advancement relating to communication design, examination of historical events within the discipline, and emerging theoretical constructs.”
“Web-based delivery is heavily featured in course curriculum, as well as online video conferences, live chat, and blogging interfaces. In addition, the program offers courses via extended weekend seminars, evening courses, and independent directed study. This non-traditional structure allows active professionals to participate.” The MFA program also offers “limited graduate assistant positions for qualified students who wish to immerse themselves full time in their graduate studies.”
For students seeking a future career in higher education, the program provides the appropriate academic credential and the terminal degree in the discipline of visual communication design: the MFA.
“The exchange of ideas on an international basis is an important component of the MFA Communication Design program.” Guest professors from around the world visit the Texas State campus to” lecture and share their unique perspective on communication design with graduate students. In addition, selected students are encouraged to participate in international field trips to expand their knowledge in the field of communication design.”
Texas State University Communication Design students have been published in “prestigious design journals” such as CMYK, Communication Arts, Graphis New Talent Annual, Logo Lounge, PRINT, and Step Inside Design. Students have also received recognition in local, regional, and national competitions such as AIGA Flux, American Advertising Federation Awards, Art Director's Club of Houston, Austin Addy Awards, Creative Summit, The National Show, The One Show, and the San Antonio Addy Awards.
Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) is Pennsylvania’s only land-grant university. Chartered in 1855 as one of the nation’s first college of agricultural science, today, Penn State serves nearly 90,000 students enrolled in degree options ranging from degree options ranging from more than 275 undergraduate majors to more than 300 graduate and professional programs, including medical and legal studies. Programs are offered across 24 campuses that house sixteen academic colleges and several additional schools that range from the arts to the sciences with many subjects in between.
The College of Arts an Architecture is home to the Stuckeman School’s Department of Graphic Design, which offers a BDes degree and a Minor in Graphic Design as well as a supporting MFA in Art with a Concentration in Graphic Design in conjunction with the Penn State School of Visual Arts. Program highlights include design studies blended with a range of business, communications, and liberal arts courses, small class sizes, and courses taught by faculty with extensive experience in art direction, branding, storytelling, typography, UX/UI design, and visualizing information.
Course highlights for the BFA program include Applied Experience Design, Book Design, Design Photography, Design Thinking and Creativity, Experience Design Process + Methods, Graphic Design Studio, Package Design, Practical Communications, Programming for the Web, Time and Sequence, Typography, and Visualizing Information. Students will also have the opportunity to complete a studio apprenticeship or internship.
The 60 credit hour MFA consists of 30 credits in the major area of concentration (Graphic Design), 12 credits in art history and critical studies, 10 credits in related areas, and eight credits in graduate seminar. Course highlights for the program include Graduate Seminar, Graphic Design I-II, Individual Studies, New Media Art, Photography I—II, Printmaking I-II, Supervised Experience and College Teaching, and Thesis Research.
Students in the MFA program must pass a candidacy review, which is usually held at the end of the second semester of study, submit an artist’s statement, pass the MFA comprehensive oral examination and produce an MFA exhibition and public presentation. Graduates will be “equipped with the design skills, research experience, and expertise to further their careers as both practitioners and educators at the highest level,” says the school.
Syracuse University (SU) established some of the nation’s earliest architecture and fine arts programs. Founded in 1870, the school serves approximately 22,322 students enrolled in more than 200 majors and minors, and 200 advanced degree programs across 13 academic units. Programs are offered at SU’s main campus in Syracuse and at locations in New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C.
SU houses the College of Visual and Performing Arts’ (VPA) School of Design and the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Both offer programs for aspiring graphic designers. Options include a BFA in Communications Design in the VPA School of Design and a Bachelor’s in Graphic Design offered in the Newhouse School.
Coursework for the BFA in Communications Design explores “the creative process, communications theory, design history, and project management,” says the school “in addition to illustration, photography, typography, and production processes.” Students in the program will have the opportunity to work on group or solo projects that incorporate advertising, marketing, packaging, publication, web and social media, and best business practices. Study abroad experiences in London, England, are also part of the program.
The Communications Design BFA culminates in VPA’s annual two-day senior portfolio show in New York City, open to design professionals in the tristate area. Graduates of the program work as designers and creative directors at many of the top firms in the country.
The Newhouse School’s Graphic Design program covers print, digital, web and video. Students in the program will learn “how to express ideas visually in every medium, using the latest technology, all while getting a well-rounded liberal arts education that prepares them for creative careers in a variety of digital, print, motion, immersive and emerging fields.
Program highlights include courses such as Introduction to Graphic Design, Typographic Design, and User Interface and User Experience (UI/UX) Design and the Fall Workshop, which “brings creative professionals in from around the world to serve as mentors for student projects.”
Newhouse Graphic Design graduates have landed positions at places such as Amazon, Google, and The Washington Post, and some have even started their own creative agencies.
The University of the Arts (UArts) was formed in 1876 by the merging of two century-old institutions: Philadelphia College of Art and Philadelphia College of the Performing Arts. In 1987, the school was granted university status, making it the largest institution of its kind in the nation. Today, UArts “is the only school in America that makes it possible to work and collaborate across traditional boundaries.”
UArts serves approximately 1,800 students enrolled in more than 40 programs at the University's Avenue of the Arts campus. Twenty-three minors are also available and open to all students. This means, aspiring graphic designers can take sculpting classes, creative writers can take classes in illustration, dancers can minor in ceramics, and industrial designers can study guitar.
Programs are offered through the Schools of Art, Dance, Design, Film, Music, and Theater. The College of Art, Media & Design houses the School of Design, which offers a BFA in Graphic Design and a BFA in Illustration with specialized graphic design courses.
The BFA in Illustration blends creative visual problem solving, digital experiences, drawing, figure modeling, illustration, painting, picture making, digital experiences, and graphic design, as well as self-discovery through mentor-student relationships, and history of pictorial image making. Course highlights include Anatomy & the Human Figure, Figurative Interpretation & Personal Voice, Illustration Markets and Promotion, Illustration with Digital Media, Motion-Based Illustration, New Media Illustration, Object & World Building, Printmaking, and the Illustration Thesis.
Students may also select one option from the following: School of Design Workshop, Illustration Workshop: Personal Viewpoint or the Design Internship.
Other program highlights include shared studio spaces, small class sizes, and training in industry-standard digital software such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and After Effects. Students also receive training in anatomy, integrating typography, experimenting with traditional painting methods, and developing narratives for a well-rounded experience across media.
Graduates of the BFA Illustration Program at UArts have gone on to create illustrations for ESPN, Fortune, Ralph Lauren, Random House, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker and New York Times, and many others.
The BFA in Graphic Design is a cross-disciplinary program that includes courses such as Design for Interaction, Design for Persuasive Visual Communication, Digital Design Lab, Drawing as Seeing and Meaning, Drawing as Thinking, Editorial Systems, and Image and Narrative. Students will also complete Portfolio and Brand Development, Real World Design, School of Design Workshop, and Senior Thesis I-II. A Design Internship is also part of the program and some positions are paid.
Interns have the opportunity to work at professional venues ranging from individual artist studios to large branding firms such as Anthropologie (Urban Outfitters), Cartoon Network, and Sterling Publishing (Barnes & Noble).
Graduates of the UArts Graphic Design Program are prepared for employment in fields ranging from branding and motion graphics to publication design. Students and alumni have worked for 20th Century Fox, Blizzard Entertainment, Disney, DreamWorks, ESPN, Facebook Hallmark, Harper-Collins, Hasbro, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Knopf, Marvel Comics, MTV, NASA, National Geographic, Newsweek, Nickelodeon, NPR, Oprah, PBS, Penguin Group Publishing, Random House, Simon & Schuster, The Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, and Warner Brothers.