What are the top illustration schools in Michigan for 2023?

Top Michigan Illustration Schools - 2023 College Rankings
1College for Creative StudiesDetroit
2Grand Valley State UniversityAllendale
3Ferris State UniversityGrand Rapids

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

1. College for Creative Studies, Detroit, Michigan
College for Creative Studies

The College for Creative Studies (CCS) houses the Illustration Department, home to the Illustration Program. BFA and Minor options are available. The Illustration Minor consists of 15 credits chosen from courses in the Illustration BFA Program. Examples include Creative Perspective, Figure Illustration I-II, and Digital Illustration.

The CCS Illustration BFA requires 126-127 credit hours including 78 in studio areas, 42-43 in general studies courses, and six in general elective courses. In addition to major coursework, BFA students will take courses in the Foundation Department during the first year of the program, where they will study Drawing, 2D and 3D Design, and Digital Tools. Students in all CCS majors must also take courses in the Liberal Arts Department. Full-time students will complete at least six academic hours and 24 studio hours each week.

A major component of the CCS Illustration BFA Program is the opportunity to select a Pathway. Each Pathway allows students to create a focused portfolio for studio-based or freelance careers in Illustration. An additional option is the Entrepreneurial Studies Concentration, which is ideal for students who would like to launch their own studios. Pathway options include Comics and Sequential; Publishing; Visual Development; Fashion, Lifestyle, and Licensing; and Gallery Artist.

Another major component of the Illustration BFA Program at College for Creative Studies is the Internship Experience. Upper division students have the opportunity to work some of the top local and global brands, studios, corporations, and museums. Examples include Mattel Inc., Cartoon Network, Converse, Disney Consumer Products, Hasbro, HoMedics, Insomniac Games, Museum of American Illustration, Anthropologie, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Diane von Furstenberg, Fisher Price, Moosejaw, Reader’s Digest, Museum of Fine Art, Grand Rapids Symphony, WJBK Fox 2 News, Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners, the Museum of American Illustration, Spark Communications, and Ball Aerospace.

Graduates of the Illustration BFA Program at CCS go on to establish successful careers companies, studios, and brands such as Adidas, Nike, Converse, Disney, Washington Post, Cartoon Network, Ford, The New York Times, ESPN, and Blizzard Entertainment.

Founded in 1906 as the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts, College for Creative Studies is a private, nonprofit institution that serves more than 1,400 students enrolled in 23 Art and Design programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. CCS is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and it is an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

2. Grand Valley State University, Allendale, Michigan
Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley State University (GVSU) is home to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS), which houses the Department of Visual & Media Arts. An accredited member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), the Visual & Media Arts serves approximately 680 students enrolled in five programs leading to ten different degrees. Students in all programs have access to campus exhibition and independent study programs; experiential learning opportunities such as internships, 4,000+ study abroad programs, and field trips; and state-of-the-art equipment and facilities designed for work in traditional and new media.

The Department of Visual & Media Arts at GVSU also has several paths to study Illustration. For students seeking a focused program in Illustration, the Department has a 126 credit-hour Studio Art BFA with an Emphasis in Illustration. Students who would like to teach and illustrate, the Department has Art Education BA and BS Degree Programs that allow students to Specialize in Illustration through coursework. Both options require 120 credit hours.

Across programs, students have access to courses such as Intermediate Illustration, Graphic Design for Illustrators, Printmaking, Advanced Illustration, Animation, Illustration History, and Painting. All students have the opportunity to complete an internship and a variety of studio electives to enhance the degrees. Studio Art BFA students will complete the Issues in Art Capstone, a Senior Project, and Professional Portfolio to graduate.

Grand Valley State University graduates enjoy a 90% employment rate. Studio Art-Illustration alumni work in a variety of positions in fields such as Magazine Publishing, Book Cover Design, Children’s Books, Advertising, Greeting Card Art and Design, Educational Materials Publishing, Animation, Website Design, Game Art, Fashion Illustration, and Exhibit Design.

Grand Valley State University was established in 1960. With eight locations and centers in Michigan, GVSU serves approximately 21,650 students enrolled in 145 degree programs across seven schools. Grand Valley State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

3. Ferris State University, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Ferris State University

Ferris State University (Ferris State) is home to Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD), which has several paths to study Illustration. Options include BFA Degrees in Illustration, Life Sciences and Pre-Medical Illustration (Life Sci & Pre-Med Illustration), and a 15 credit-hour Illustration Minor. Students in this Program will take Introduction to Illustration, Illustration Techniques, and three Illustration Electives. Examples include Graphic Design for Illustrators, Children’s Book Design, and Publication Illustration. 

BFA Program features include participation in the KCAD Illustration Society; internships during the academic year and summer months; and summer travel/study experiences. All students have access to KCAD galleries, the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA), and state-of-the-art labs, studios, and production facilities.

The Ferris State-KCAD Illustration BFA was established in the early 1960s. The program explores both traditional and emerging media, with 27 required semester hours of supportive studio courses and 39 credit hours of major studio courses. Course examples include 3D Illustration, Narrative Perspective, Rendering, Digital Illustration Painting, Ala Prima Painting, Illustration I-III, Advanced Inking, Observational Field Sketching, Natural Science Illustration, Contemporary Fashion Illustrating, Graphic Design/Illustration, and Illustration Professional Practice. The Ferris State-KCAD Illustration BFA culminates with the development of a professional portfolio of the student’s best work.

Graduates of the Ferris State-KCAD Illustration BFA Program are prepared to launch their own studios or freelance businesses, or pursue salaried positions such as Cartoonist, Storyboard Illustrator, Children’s Book Illustrator, Editorial Illustrator, Mural Designer, Exhibit Designer, Creative Director, Fashion Illustrator, Game Artist, and Storyboard Artist.

The Life Science & Pre-Medical Illustration (Life Sci & Pre-Med Illustration) Program at Derris State University-KCAD combines general education courses with courses that explore medical illustration methods, computer-aided 3D design, medical terminology, drawing, computer animation, traditional media illustration and rendering. Courses for this professional, three-year BFA Program are delivered through Ferris State University, KCAD, Michigan State University, and Grand Rapids Community College.

Course examples include Medical Illustration Methods I-III, Graphic Design for Illustrators, Dialogue & Personality, Medical Illustration Animation, Making: Product, Illustration Digital Methods, Illustration Techniques, and Professional Practices for the Medical Illustrator. The Life Sci & Pre-Med Illustration BFA Program culminates with the Advanced Problems in Biomedical Art (Capstone).

Established in 1884 and  located in Big Rapids, Michigan, Ferris State University serves approximately 10,075 students enrolled in more than 190 programs across seven degree-granting colleges. Ferris State is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Kendall College of Art and Design is one of the seven colleges within Ferris State University. Founded in 1928, and located in Downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, KCAD serves approximately 500 students enrolled in 18 programs leading to an AA, AFA, BA, BFA, MA, MFA, M.Arch, or Graduate Certificate.

As part of Ferris State University, Kendall College of Art and Design is accredited by the HLC. KCAD is also an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).