We started publishing regional and national rankings in 2012 in response to myriad emails from aspiring animators and game designers asking us what the best schools were in the US, a given State, or in a particular area of the country.
In 2015 we started publishing rankings of graphic design schools across the US. For 2019 we have added illustration school rankings.
In preparing this year's rankings, we considered hundreds of schools in the US that offered programs geared towards animation, game design, graphic design, or illustration. We consider every school of which we are aware, with the exception of two-year community colleges.
In the end, our goal is to give students access to ample information so they can make an informed decision about the school they choose to attend and the program they pursue.
The criteria we used in making this list consists, in no particular order, of the following:
- Academic reputation
- Admission selectivity
- Depth and breadth of the program
- Value as it relates to tuition and indebtedness
- Geographic location (for animation and game design only)
In 2015 we incorporated school surveys into the information gathering and evaluation process. During the recent school year, we reached out to every school under consideration requesting information about their specific program, as well as their perspective regarding which programs they considered to be the most impressive, both nationally and regionally. In the instance where we could not obtain information directly from a school, we obtained the necessary information from the school's web site or from other reputable publications.
A note on geographic location as a ranking factor: As we researched schools and spoke with working professionals in the industry, it became increasingly more evident that the location of a school matters in the fields of animation and/or game design, perhaps more so than in many other professions. Students who attend school in animation/gaming meccas such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Orlando, and to a slightly lesser extent New York City, Chicago, Boston, Austin, and a few other cities have a distinct advantage over students in other parts of the country in terms of full-time employment, networking opportunities, internships, free-lance gigs, and career specific part-time work. Does that mean you must attend school in one of these cities to work in the animation or gaming industry? Absolutely not. But schools located in these cities do offer real advantages that are less available elsewhere. So keep in mind that we are taking geographic advantages into account in our rankings.
Like any list, ours is not perfect and is open for debate. There is no single opinion that trumps all when it comes to which school is the “best”. Ultimately every student has different needs regarding the type and academic rigor of a program, campus culture, as well as cost, lifestyle, and career focus. Our hope is that this list is a starting point for students to discover the schools that are the best fit for them and that the lists not be used as a deciding factor.
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