What are the top illustration schools in Ohio for 2021?

Top Ohio Illustration Schools - 2021 College Rankings
1Columbus College of Art and DesignColumbus
2Cleveland Institute of ArtCleveland
3Art Academy of CincinnatiCincinnati

Our 2021 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

Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD) was established in 1879 as Columbus Art School. Famous visitors to the campus during the school’s early years through the 1930s include American artist Georgia O’Keefe, First Lady Lucy Hayes, and Writer Oscar Wilde. One of the oldest private art and design colleges in the United States, CCAD graduated its first class in 1885 and later added programs such as Advertising, Illustration, and Industrial Design. By 1970, CCAD had produced its first class of BFA graduates.

Today, Columbus College of Art and Design serves more than 1,300 students enrolled in dozens of degree programs, concentrations, and minors. Programs for aspiring illustrators include a BFA in Illustration and an Illustration Minor. Students can add any 15 credit Minor to the program and/or any Concentration. Just a few Minor options include Advertising & Graphic Design, Animation 2D or 3D, Comics & Narrative Practice, Copywriting, Film & Video, Photography, and Social Practice.

Concentrations include Animation/Experimental, Animation/Game, Fine Arts/Ceramics, Fine Arts/Drawing, Fine Arts/Glass, Fine Arts/Jewelry, Fine Arts/Painting, Fine Arts/Printmaking, Fine Arts/Sculpture, Illustration/Entertainment Design/Drawing, Illustration/Entertainment Design/Modeling, and Illustration/Illustrative Design.

Illustration students will “master the latest technology, study under industry leaders, and go on to create beautiful works that tell stories through printed books, motion graphics, or fabric patterns,” says the school. Students will also “grow as creatives in a school and city that embrace comics, through class projects such as Spitball, which pairs artists with professional writers, and Cartoon Crossroads Columbus, which brings together cartoon storytellers, comic makers, and animators for professional panels, lectures, and more.”

Course highlights for the 120 credit hour BFA program include Character and Environmental Design, Digital Design Lab, Digital Media Illustration, Digital Sculpting, Illustration Markets, Illustration Self Promotion, Illustrative Figure Drawing, Motion Illustration, and Traditional Media Illustration. During the final year of the program, BFA students will complete the Illustration Portfolio Project and Illustration Capstone.

CCAD BFA graduates have gone on to a variety of position and fields including Advertising Graphics Designer, Apparel Graphics Designer, Book Illustrator, Character and Asset Designer, Designer for Web and Mobile, Editorial Illustrator, Film Effects Creator, Fine Artist, Freelance Illustrator, Greeting Card Designer, Newspaper Graphic Artist, Poster Artist, Product and Toy Designer, and Video Game Designer.

Companies that have hired CCAD graduates include American Greetings, Cartoon Network, CBS News, DC Comics, Disney Consumer Products, DreamWorks, Hallmark, Hasbro, Marvel Comics, Ogilvy & Mather, Pixar, Sony Pictures, The Wall Street Journal, and many others.

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

Founded in 1882, Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) serves around 600 students from across the country and around the world. The school, which has 15 majors in the Craft, Design, Digital Arts, and Fine Arts, offers BFA degrees in Illustration and Life Sciences Illustration. Students in both programs will enter their major as a sophomore and “spend three intense years building skills and mastering techniques,” says the school.

The BFA in Illustration provides the opportunity to experiment with a variety of traditional materials and techniques, including acrylics, collage, inks, pencils, and oils, “while mastering contemporary digital processes using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator,” says the school. Students in the program will learn to create polished illustrations for all current and emerging markets including Advertising, Entertainment, Gaming, Licensing, Publishing, and Social Expression.

Course highlights include Character Design and Development, Community Projects, Graphic Novels and Sequential Art, Illustration: Advanced Illustration Studio Projects, and Illustration for Publication. Students will also complete a BFA Preparation course, Final Project: Illustration Portfolio, and the Illustration Internship.

Other program highlights include interaction with visiting artists, the opportunity to share the final portfolio with employers, illustrators, and designers who are invited each year to CIA, and a rigorous mandatory Business + Professional Practices curriculum that all CIA students complete. This means, in addition to core courses and small-group seminars, students take a professional writing course and travel out into the field to see artists and designers at work in art studios, advertising agencies, and more.

Graduates of the program “will be prepared to enter the industry as a staff artists, freelance illustrators or creative entrepreneurs.”

The Life Sciences Illustration program is one of only a few BFA degrees of its kind in the United States. The program “combines science and art to create visual solutions for the public and researchers, as they prepare students for graduate education beyond.” Students will work on topics in Biological, Botanical, Zoological, and health sciences while becoming proficient in Animation, Illustration, and Information Design. Students will learn how to blend their “artistic talent with a researcher's intellect, displaying strong visual communication skills.”

Course highlights include 3D Bioforms: Intro to Modeling, Anatomy for the Artists, Cellular + Molecular Illustration, Digital Color: Style + Representation in Science, Educational Media Installation, Life Sciences Illustration: Advanced problems, Concepts, and Media, Information Visualization, Life Sciences Illustration: Forensic Imaging/Modeling, Natural Science and Zoological Illustration, Serious Game Design: Theory + Applications Surgical Illustration, and Veterinary Illustration. Students will complete a Portfolio, BFA Thesis and Exhibition, and an Internship.

Other program highlights include CIA’s Engaged Practice, which provides opportunities to learn through experience by working on real-world projects with external partners or clients, or in the public sphere—all before graduation. CIA has professional partnerships with Case Western Reserve University, the Cleveland Botanical Garden, Cleveland Clinic, and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

Life Sciences Illustration graduates have gone on to land positions such as 3D Animation Artist/Designer, Art Director, Biomedical Illustrator, Illustrator, and many others.

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

Founded in 1869, Art Academy of Cincinnati serves around 200 undergraduates and 10 graduate students, making it one of the smallest four-year art colleges in the country. The school says the small student body allows for “individualized attention from faculty,” and the freedom for students to “develop their personal vision,” and “carve out their identity.” Degrees granted include the AS, BFA, and MAT.

Art Academy of Cincinnati offers a BFA in Illustration that consists of a trans-disciplinary curriculum that provides the opportunity for students to “learn the language of visual communication,” while experimenting in areas that “integrate animation, drawing, new media, printmaking, photography, painting, design, sound art, motion graphics, digital sculpture, and installation.”

Course highlights include Academy Design Service, Animation 2D and 3D, Artist as Writer, Artist Books, Comic Book Art, Film, Video, and Audio: Motion Graphics, Going Big: Professionalism Workshop, Illustration: Communication, Composition, Narrative, Process and Media, and Special Topics, Social Practice in the Arts, Storyboarding and Compositing, and Storytelling Art for Motion Graphics.

The BFA in Illustration also requires a “rigorous studio thesis and professional practice experience both inside and outside the classroom.”

Around 75% of Illustration graduates are still employed in fields related to their major, compared to the national average of 27%. Today’s graduates are prepared to compete for work in a variety of industries including Advertising, Book and Magazine Publishing, Corporate Branding, Entertainment (Film/Video/TV), Motion Graphics, Packaging, Retail Merchandising, Social Advocacy, Video Games and more.

Notable illustrators who have graduated from Art Academy of Cincinnati include Charley Harper, Chris Sickels, Fahrudin Omerovic, Jahaziel Minor, Julio Labra, and Will Hillenbrand, among others.