What are the top Iowa graphic design schools for 2023?

Top Iowa Graphic Design School Programs - 2023 College Rankings
1Iowa State UniversityAmes
2University of IowaIowa City
3University of Northern IowaCedar Falls

Our 2023 ranking of the top graphic design school programs in Iowa. For an explanation of the ranking criteria, click here.

1. Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa
Iowa State University

The College of Design at Iowa State University (Iowa State or ISU) houses the Department of Graphic Design (GD), which offers the only public BFA in Graphic Design in the State of Iowa. At the graduate level, ISU offers MA and MFA degrees in Graphic Design. In partnership with the Iowa State Virtual Reality Applications Center, the ISU College of Design also offers a dual GD MFA/Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) MS degree. This interdisciplinary program allows students to study HCI, Graphic Design, and other disciplines such as Virtual Reality and Game-Based Learning.

Course examples for the GD MFA/HCI MS include Graphic Design and Behavioral Change, User engagement, Visual Design for HCI, Virtual Worlds and applications, Evaluating Digital Learning Environments, Python Application Development in HCI, Change by Design: Disruptive Innovation, Foundations in Game Based Learning, Computer Graphics and Geometric Modeling, and Emerging Practices in HCI. Dual degree students will also complete Graphic Design Studio, Thesis Preparation, and Graduate Thesis Studio I-II.

Accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), all ISU Graphic Design pathways provide access to internships and other opportunities to gain work experience prior to graduation. BFA students also have access to study abroad experiences in the College of Design’s Rome Program or Graphic Design in Europe.

To qualify for admittance into the BFA Program, students must complete College of Design’s one-year Core Design Program. This program allows students to experiment with interdisciplinary work, while preparing for entry into the BFA. The curriculum for the Graphic Design BFA explores digital media, print, environmental graphics, and motion. Throughout the program, students will have the opportunity to travel to design centers across the U.S. and engage in studios in design applications such as 3D animation, publications, web and e-commerce, branding and logo design, motion graphics, multimedia, and more.

All BFA students will complete Graphic Design I-V and Professional Practices to graduate. Within six months of graduating, 95% of ISU’s BFA graduates are employed or continuing their education.

The MA in Graphic Design is an Experiential Graphic Design (MAxGD) Program that requires 30 credit hours to graduate. The program is designed for students with little to no experience in graphic design. The MAxGD explores areas such as interaction, information design, wayfinding, placemaking, and exhibition design. Course examples include Audience & Perception, Seminar: Design Humanics: Sensory Perception & Ergonomic Factors, and Design & Cultural Semiotics. Students will also complete two Graphic Design Graduate Studios.

The ISU Graphic Design MFA is a terminal degree that requires a minimum of 60 credits to graduate. Students in the program may choose an elective focus area outside of graphic design and they will work closely with faculty to complete the MFA Graduate Thesis. Seminars and studios are also part of the program.

For graduates receiving degrees from August 2020 to May 2021, 100% were employed or continuing their education within six months of graduation.

Founded in 1858, Iowa State University is the nation’s first designated land-grant institution. The school serves approximately 27,855 students enrolled in more than 100 undergraduate majors, and over 200 fields of study leading a graduate or professional degree. Programs at Iowa State University are housed across eight colleges, two schools, and around 150 academic departments. Iowa State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

2. University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa
University of Iowa

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at University of Iowa (U of I or Iowa) houses the School of Art and Art History. Within the School is a Graphic Design Program that features guest speakers, access to The Center for the Book and courses in Tippie College of Business, and participation in the Donate Design Initiative. Since 2006, upper level students have had the opportunity to work in this service-learning design studio, which works on projects and consulting with local and regional non-profit organizations. Past projects include branding strategies, print collateral, identity development, social media marketing, and web development.

Leading to a BFA, the Graphic Design Program at University of Iowa requires 121-141 credit hours of study, including a variety of electives. Course examples include Design Fundamentals, Graphic Design I-VI, Book and Publication Design, 3D Design, Life Drawing, Printmaking, Intermedia, Book Arts, Letterpress, 3D Computer Graphic Art, and Book Design for Publishing.

All Graphic Design students have the opportunity to complete an internship and participate in the Study Abroad Program. Students have traveled to Athens, London, Spain, Ireland, England, Rome, India, Sydney, and the Dominican Republic.  

The Graphic Design Program at University of Iowa culminates with the BFA Exhibition held at a local gallery. Graduates are prepared to pursue careers in Advertising, Publishing, Marketing, Entertainment, the Non-Profit sector, Packaging, Brand Identity Design, and within in-house design departments across all industries. Some of the top hiring employers for U of I graduates include Amazon, PepsiCo, Microsoft, Walt Disney, Procter & Gamble, Nordstrom, American Marketing and Publishing, Uline, Mediacom, Starbucks, Deloitte, UPS, Aelieve Digital Marketing, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Walmart, Target, Epic, General Motors, Wells Fargo, Tesla, and Costco.

Founded in 1847, University of Iowa is the state’s oldest college. The school serves approximately 31,320 students enrolled in more than 200 undergraduate areas of study, and 100+ graduate areas. Programs at U of I are housed across 12 academic colleges. University of Iowa is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

3. University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, Iowa
University of Northern Iowa

University of Northern Iowa (UNI) is home to the College of Humanities, Arts and Sciences, which provides more than 100 Major, Minor, and Certificate Programs across hundreds of disciplines. Within the College is the Department of Art, which incorporates career preparation into all programs.

All first-year UNI Department of Art students will attend a weekly forum covering career opportunities in Art and Design. Upper level students will take required courses that explore portfolio development and resume building. The Department also hosts the Annual Portfolio Night for Graphic Design students, with networking opportunities across the Arts and Education fields.   

The Graphic Design Program at University of Northern Iowa leads to an Art Studio BFA with a Graphic Design Major. In addition to a host of on-campus career preparation activities, program features include courses taught by professors who are experts in the industry; access to state-of-the-art labs; small class sizes; and internship opportunities with local companies and studios.

The Graphic Design Program explores areas such as Interactive Design, Identity Systems Design, Motion Graphics, User Experience Design, and Web Design. Course examples include Visual Inventions, 2D and 3D Concepts, Graphic Design I-II, Identity System Design, Publication Design, Typography, Digital Image Design, Drawing I-II, Motion Graphics, Book Structures, Web and Interactive Design, and User Experience Design.

During the last year of the program, students will work on their final projects and portfolios, which will be presented at the Professional BFA Exhibition.

Graduates of the Graphic Design Program at University of Northern Iowa are Creative Directors, Design Managers, Web Designers, UX/UI Designers, and Motion Graphic Designers. Program alumni have won awards in local, regional, and national competitions, and many go on to launch their own design firms and freelance businesses. Program alumni have also been hired at major companies and studios such as Apple, DreamWorks, Visual Logic Group, Motorola Mobile, IBM, Red Bull Media House, IKEA, Meredith Publishing, and VGM Forbin.

Founded in 1876 as a teacher education school, University of Northern Iowa is one of the state’s three public universities. The school serves approximately 8,950 students enrolled in more than 90 degree programs, with 160+ areas of study. Programs at UNI are housed in the Colleges of Business; Social & Behavioral Sciences; Education; and Humanities, Arts and Sciences. University of Northern Iowa is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).