What are the top illustration schools in Ohio for 2023?

Top Ohio Illustration Schools - 2023 College Rankings
1Columbus College of Art and DesignColumbus
2Cleveland Institute of ArtCleveland
3Art Academy of CincinnatiCincinnati

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

1. Columbus College of Art and Design, Columbus, Ohio
Columbus College of Art and Design

The Illustration BFA Program at Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD) has a unique component that provides the opportunity for students to work on class projects such as Spitball, which matches professional writers with student artists. Students in the program also have the opportunity to and interact with professional writers, storytellers, animators, and comic artists through Cartoon Crossroads Columbus, which features lectures, workshops, professional panels, and more.

Consisting of 120 credit hours, the CCAD Illustration BFA allows students to specialize in a creative area through a Concentration or Minor. Minors are 15 credit hours and Concentrations are nine credit hours. Minor examples include Advertising & Graphic Design, Narrative Practice, Business, Comics & Narrative Practice, Animation 2D or 3D, Copywriting, Design Research, Photography, Film & Video, and Industrial Design. An Illustration Minor is also available for students in other Majors.

Concentration examples include Illustration/Entertainment, Fine Arts/Drawing, Fine Arts/Printmaking, Illustration/Illustrative Design, Animation/Experimental, Design/Modeling, Fine Arts/Glass, Fine Arts/Sculpture, Design/Drawing, Fine Arts/Painting, and Animation/Game. Across Minors, Concentrations, and Major requirements, students will take courses such as Traditional Media Illustration, Digital Design Lab, Character and Environment Design, Historical Art & Design, Motion Illustration, Illustration Markets, and Illustration Self-Promotion.

The Illustration BFA Program at Columbus College of Art and Design culminates with an Illustration Portfolio Project and Illustration Capstone. Graduates have been hired in a wide variety of roles at major advertising agencies, companies, and studios. Examples of recent employers include Disney Consumer Products (DCP), Sony Pictures, DreamWorks Animation, Boeing, Hasbro, Cartoon Network, Bath & Body Works, DC Comics, Ogilvy & Mather, Hallmark, Marvel Comics, Pixar, and Forever 21, American Greetings, The Wall Street Journal, Williams Sonoma, and CBS News.

Columbus College of Art & Design was established in 1879 by five women. The school serves approximately 1,010 undergraduate and graduate students from 36 states and 14 countries. CCAD provides 11 undergraduate majors, 18 minors, and three graduate programs across 10+ departments. Columbus College of Art & Design is accredited by Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). CCAD is also affiliated with the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD).

2. Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland, Ohio
Cleveland Institute of Art

Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) has two paths to study Illustration including BFAs in Illustration and Life Sciences Illustration. The Illustration BFA Program focuses on learning by doing. Students in this program have the opportunity to work on a variety of real-world projects with CIA partners and clients—all before graduation. Students both programs will explore traditional materials and techniques such as acrylics, oils, and inks; collage; and pencils, as well as industry software such as Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop.

Across programs, other features include private, individual studio spaces; access to Integrated Media Environment Facilities, lighting and shooting spaces, a sound recording studio, and fabrication studios; visiting artists; professional writing courses; travel to professional art studios and advertising agencies; networking opportunities with employers, Illustrators, and Designers who are invited to CIA each year; and small-group seminars.

The Illustration BFA Program requires 120 credit hours of study. Course examples include Graphic Novels + Sequential Art, Illustration I-II, Layout Rendering Techniques, Illustration for Publication, Character Design + Development, Community Projects, Picture Book Illustration, Visual Concepts in Illustration, and Illustration: Advanced Illustration Studio Projects. Students will also complete an internship.

The Illustration BFA Program at Cleveland Institute of Art culminates with the BFA Thesis and Exhibition. Graduates of the program are prepared for carers in areas such as Advertising, Book and Magazine Publishing, Entertainment, Animation, Comic Book Publishing, and Gaming,

The Life Sciences Illustration BFA Program at Cleveland Institute of Art is one of the few BFA degrees of its kind in the U.S. Designed for artists who have an interest in both Art and Science, the Program explores topics such as Botanical Sciences, Animation, Zoological Sciences, Illustration, Biological Sciences, and Information Design. The program also covers areas such as Interactive Design, Research Methods, Serious Game Design, Sound Design, and Professional Development.

Course examples for the Program include Gross Anatomy, Principles of Biology I-II, Digital Biomedical Illustration (EP), Cellular + Molecular Illustration, Surgical Illustration & Media, Life Sciences Illustration: Forensic Imaging/Modeling, Life Sciences Illustration: Advanced Problems, Concepts, + Media, Serious Game Design: Theory + Applications, Educational Media Installation, Veterinary Illustration, 3D Animation, Digital Color: Style + Representation in Science, Line: Information Visualization, Anatomy for the Artist, Natural Science + Zoological Illustration (EP), and Sound Design Fundamentals.

A major component of the Life Sciences Illustration BFA Program is the internship and the Applied Portfolio and Professional Strategies course. The internship provides the opportunity to gain valuable real-world experience in this unique field. In the Portfolio and Professional Strategies course, students will gain insight into art practice and leadership in the business environment, as well as the intricacies of copyrights, budgeting, contracts, marketing, and presentations.

In this course, students will also develop applied portfolios in online and offline media, demo reels, and professional packages consisting of business cards, resumes, cover letters, etc.

The Life Sciences Illustration BFA Program at Cleveland Institute of Art culminates with the BFA Thesis and Exhibition. Graduates have been hired for positions such as Illustrator, Biomedical Illustrator, 3D Animation Artist/Designer, Forensics Illustrator, and Art Director.

Chartered in 1882 as the Western Reserve School of Design for Women, Cleveland Institute of Art is an independent, not-for-profit college that serves approximately 655 students enrolled in 13 majors in Fine Arts, Entertainment Arts, Design, and Crafts. Programs at CIA are managed and taught by approximately 50 full-time and 70 adjunct faculty, who are all professional artists and designers. Cleveland Institute of Art is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) and the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

3. Art Academy of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio
Art Academy of Cincinnati

Art Academy of Cincinnati (AAC) has a studio-based Illustration BFA Program that requires 120 credit hours, including 42 hours in the Major and 27 in studio electives. The Program’s trans-disciplinary curriculum provides the opportunity to explore creative areas such as Printmaking, Motion Graphics, Drawing, Installation, Animation, Sound Art, Digital Sculpture, and New Media. Other program features include seminars and workshops; summer internships in New York City and other cultural centers; and two- to six-month study abroad experiences in places such as Londin, Hong Kong, and Berlin. 

All AAC students will complete the First Year Experience (FYE), which helps students develop creative thinking, communication, problem-solving, critical thinking, and collaboration skills. FYE course examples include Digital Literacy, Discovery and Voice, Communication, Artist as Writer Workshop, and Ideation. Following the AAC FYE, students will take major courses such as Storytelling Art for Motion Graphics, Illustration: Process and Media, Comic Book Art, Social Practice in the Arts, Illustration: Narrative, Artist Books, Storyboarding and Compositing, and Illustration: Special Topics.

The Illustration BFA Program at Art Academy of Cincinnati has a set of Professional Practice courses and experiences that help students prepare for life after AAC. All students will take Going Big: Professionalism Workshop, and one of the following: Exhibition Studio; Academy Design Service; Museums, Knowledge, and Power; Internship; or Advanced Creative Writing Seminar: Poetics/Aesthetics.

The Senior Year Experience (SYE) consists of 18 credit hours including the Senior Pathway Studio 1-2, Senior Seminar, and Senior Thesis—the culminating experience for the program.

Graduates of the Illustration BFA Program at Art Academy of Cincinnati work in fields such as Book and Magazine Publishing, Graphic Design, Corporate Branding, Entertainment (Film/Video/TV), Packaging, Advertising, and Game Art.

Founded in 1869, Art Academy of Cincinnati serves 310 students enrolled in seven Majors leading to a BFA, one Graduate Program in Art Education, which leads to an MA, and a Graphic Design Program leading to an AS. Art Academy of Cincinnati is a private independent college of art and design accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). AAC is also a Charter Member of NASAD.