Graphic Design is a fascinating field that holds the promise of long and interesting careers for the right person.
Are you that person? If so, you should examine which schools are the best graphic design colleges in the US.
For some, this will mean knowing what degrees from what schools are the most prestigious. Let’s face it, certain degrees from some particular schools hold weight with some companies and potential freelance clients.
Not everyone cares that much about a prestigious degree, but perhaps are wanting an education that is affordable or has an excellent track record of graduates becoming successful in their fields.
Others may want to concentrate on a specific field within the graphic design or may wish for a well-rounded education.
53 Best Graphic Design Colleges In The US
Although there are many very good schools for graphic design, this university stands out as one of the best graphic design colleges in the US. Carnegie Mellon has undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate programs available.
This translates to BFA, MFA, and PhDs in multiple disciplines related to graphic design. Basically, however far you want to go in education for graphic design, you can do it here.
Located in Pennsylvania, the university first opened its doors in 1900 as the Carnegie Technical Schools, founded by steel magnate Andrew Carnegie.
It merged with the renowned Mellon Institute of Industrial Research in 1967, becoming one of the foremost technical disciplines schools in the world.
One of the main strengths of being educated here is the interdisciplinary approach encouraged by the school. Allowing students to tailor an education to be exactly what they want and need.
Top-notch faculty and facilities solidify Carnegie Mellon as being a great place to get a well-rounded, full education in several design fields, including graphic design.
Do prestigious Ivy League schools have graphic design degree programs? Yes, they do!
The University of Pennsylvania is one of the original schools established in 1740 when America was still a group of colonies and the first American institute of higher learning to refer to itself as a university.
Dual degree programs are available in a wide variety of fields, including digital media design and other majors from their School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Science.
So, it’s not just the fancy degree, it really means something to have an education from Penn.
One of the more interesting programs available at Penn is the no-loan policy. Officially labeled Penn’s grant-based Program, it offers financial aid to qualifying students that doesn’t have to be paid back.
It’s not a loan, it more closely resembles a grant. Again, this is only for students who meet the qualifications, both financially and academically.
Along with their work-study programs, this makes Penn a very attractive choice for aspiring graphic designers.
With Masters and Bachelors available in various liberal arts, RISD was founded in 1877 and is linked with nearby Brown University, one of the original Ivy League colleges in the United States.
An immersive approach is taken to learning, with studies in a variety of arts and media disciplines encouraged.
Also ranked as one of the best schools to obtain a film degree, RISD is consistently ranked near the top of the list for art, design, film, painting, photography, ceramics, and graphic design.
Candidates for the degrees also are able to work in summer internships with leading design firms and other companies.
The U is a very well-known school for quite a few reasons beyond NCAA sports. BA in Graphic Design/Multimedia, BFA in Graphic Design/Multimedia, and MFA in Graphic Design/Multimedia are degrees available from the University of Miami.
Its main campuses are in Coral Gables, Florida, where the school first opened in 1925. The U is well respected academically in fields ranging from Law to Medicine, with an amazingly successful Arts program, too.
What makes an Arts program successful is the number of students receiving degrees that go on to meaningful careers in their chosen field.
Boston University requires candidates for MFA and BFA degrees in graphic design to first attend what they call a Foundation Program.
This program is designed to expose graphic designers to a wide range of arts in order to give graphic design students a basis on which to apply what they will be learning to their education and career goals.
Originally affiliated with the United Methodist Church at its beginning in 1869, Boston University is currently nonsectarian and has been for over the last hundred years.
Boston University has been at the forefront of equal education for women, being the first American university to award a Ph.D. to a woman.
That tradition continues to this day, making BU one of the more female-friendly schools for graphic design.
There seems to be something in the water in Florida that makes for good schools in the United State’s largest peninsula.
The University of Florida, established in 1853, promotes an atmosphere of cooperation and collaboration among its students.
This makes an education in the arts from UF very much like the real world of working in the graphic design industry.
Degree programs include BFA in Graphic Design and MFA in Studio Art with a Concentration in Graphic Design.
Undergrad, grad, and post-grad degrees are awarded in a diverse array of disciplines including:
- business administration
- plus, other technical arts.
It is one of the largest single campuses in the entire United States. Degreed graduates have gone on to work in the space program, businesses like Microsoft, and entertainment giant Disney.
UCLA, as it’s better known, is a branch of the University of California in 1919 and is part of the 10 school conglomerate that makes up the entire University of California system.
Located in Los Angeles, it is smack dab in the middle of one of the biggest centers of the design, media, and entertainment industries in the entire world.
Because of how big a deal UCLA is within the film and cinema arts community, some aspiring graphic artists may overlook this fine West Coast school when considering the best graphic design colleges in the US.
With undergrad and graduate degrees available in Design and Media Arts, UCLA graduates are ready to enter into the field of graphic design, whether wanting to work in advertising, video gaming, or many other jobs within the entertainment world.
CalArts is also primarily known as an art school, meaning almost anything to do with visual arts is taught here.
Degree opportunities include BFA in Graphic Design, MFA in Graphic Design, and MFA in Graphic Design with a Motion Graphics Specialization.
The class size is very small, only 15 students a year get accepted into the BFA program, so you would have to show lots of promise to get in.
Once you are, an immersive environment that includes handwork experience help prepare degree holders to have an edge to get into the field they desire.
Long associated with Walt Disney Imagineering, CalArts was incorporated in 1961 and is probably one of the more prestigious degrees in animation arts and sciences.
Originally founded in 1829 as a fully coed campus, RIT has been a leading educator for many technical careers, including graphic design.
Part of the appeal of RIT is the immersive approach to learning as well as real-world work opportunities while in school. These jobs and internships often easily convert to a career after graduation.
The on-site facilities, such as the Vignelli Center for Design Studies, established in 2010, are among the best available for aspiring graphic designers.
A well-designed and operated online program is also available for some subjects.
Located in Manhattan, New York City, since 1947, SVA offers BFA in Graphic Design and MFA in Design.
New York City is another one of the world’s largest hubs of the worldwide graphic design industry, putting students in an excellent to learn from established professionals through its work-study programs.
One of its strengths is that the school has an impressively large number of studios within its doors, enabling students to fine-tune their education to exactly what they want or need.
BFA in Graphic Design and MFA in Graphic Design are on tap at MICA, Maryland Institute College of Art.
Originally known as the Maryland Institute for the Promotion of the Mechanic Arts, the school first opened up in 1826.
It has a fairly unique philosophy towards educating designers, one which the faculty uses to train students to find their own unique voice in graphic design.
Students enjoy an 8 to 1 student-faculty ratio, enabling even more fine-tuning of the education gained here.
Hey, any school that can count David Byrne (Talking Heads) among its alumni has got to be a unique experience.
Also located in New York City, Greenwich Village actually, Parsons has been a design school since 1936.
Part of the appeal of The New School is the job placement service available to almost any student. Internships, part-time, and full-time jobs are there for the taking, you just have to qualify.
This real-world in-school work experience enables graduates to ease their transition from academics to the work field.
Degrees include BFA in Communications Design or an AAS in Graphic Design, among others.
Sometimes, the affordability of the school is a major priority in a prospective student’s search for the best graphic design colleges in the US.
A school like Wayne State College in Nebraska. Nebraska is closer to the geographic center of the United States than to the business centers of the East or West coasts, but the quality of the education is superb.
Part of the Nebraska State University system, Wayne State opened its doors in 1910. Computer graphics is one of the major courses of study in this school.
Degrees in graphic design from small state colleges will also get your foot in the door for fantastic jobs, so if living on a tight budget while a student is in the works, then take a good look at schools similar to Wayne State.
Opened in 1851, the University of Minnesota is set in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Faculty, students, and graduates of the school have been instrumental in many technological advances throughout the years.
Degree programs and course studies include an Undergraduate Degree in Graphic Design, Graduate Degree in Graphic Design, and a Minor in Graphic Design.
The school has many resources available for students to get the best out of their time there, and different departments offer job placement assistance.
Where is the American University? America, of course. Washington D.C. to be specific. America is a great place for on-the-job training to complement classroom education.
Fully 89% of students participate in some form of an internship, with 93% finding employment within six months of graduation. Maybe the other 7% spent a summer in Tibet.
Comprised of 8 schools, American University has over 160 programs that result in bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in numerous fields of study including graphic design.
Another Boston school, Northeastern has degrees available in Graphic and Information Design, either as a BS or a BA. Courses include practices in animation, game, game art, photography, and video arts.
CAMD has a requirement for bachelor’s candidates that one full semester is actually spent working full time for a local company.
That experience can give students an edge upon graduation in that they already have actual work experience to point to and draw on.
ASU, or App, is located in Boone, North Caroline, where it was established in 1899. Originally a teacher’s college, it joined the University of North Carolina public university system in 1971.
The campus sits in the Blue Ridge Mountains at an elevation of 3333 feet, the highest east of the Mississippi River.
Offering undergraduate degrees in graphic design, students are involved in scenarios that mirror what they will meet in the workforce as part of their curriculum.
18. Drake University
Set up as a law school in 1885 in Des Moines, Iowa, Drake is now a full university with BA and BFA degrees in graphic design, as well as graduate and post-grad degrees in other fields.
The education balances classroom theory and actual design work scenarios to prepare students for the work field after graduation.
Des Moines is a major center for insurance and a large number of publishing houses, so there is plenty of opportunities to gain experience in business and industry.
19. Yale University
Yale is one of the biggest and oldest universities in the USA, being established in New Haven, Connecticut in 1701 as one of the original Ivy League colleges.
It offers education and degrees in many fields of study. There are also online and continuing education programs available.
Besides the Bachelor’s degree, it awards in graphic design, there is also a very limited Master of Fine Arts in graphic design.
Only ten candidates a year are accepted into the program, making it one of the most prestigious graphic design degrees available from a major university.
Of course, a prestigious degree doesn’t guarantee a nice job, but those who are awarded this degree are obviously very well educated in their chosen field, a commodity they can use to their great advantage.
Raleigh, North Carolina is a beautiful Southern city, famous for its streets lined with giant oak trees.
The state university located here since 1887 has a large number of different classes in various fields that can lead you to a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in graphic design.
In addition to classroom theory, collaboration with other students studying different fields such as ethnographers, software engineers, psychologists, and computer programmers is enthusiastically encouraged.
This gives students a good footing in how to mix their chosen profession, graphic design, with other professions in the workforce in order to create what the job may demand.
A fashion school? It’s a technology school, actually. In Manhattan, New York City since 1944.
Located in New York City, part of the appeal of FIT is the opportunity to study abroad in England. Another plus for this school is the very aggressive internship program.
Students are actually required to spend a significant amount of their schooling as interns for local companies.
Since the companies are in New York City, there are a lot of opportunities to learn and grow and also to forge relationships for your work future.
Wilkenson College within Chapman University provides a BFA in graphic design. As one of the older institutes of higher learning in the area, Chapman was originally set up as Hesperian College in 1861. Renamed in 1934, it moved to Orange in 1954.
Close enough to LA to be part of that design scene, students can also enjoy the more relaxed attitude of being somewhat removed from the city itself.
Affiliated with the Disciples of Christ Church, it is a private college with a completely open acceptance policy for admissions.
Tallahassee, Florida is home to FSU (since 1851) and gives students a great BFA program for graphic design.
Courses for a graphic design degree include Design, Text and Media, Time-based Media, Interactive Media, Digital and Forms, Photography, and Printmaking.
Digital and forms is an interesting study focus, teaching 3D modeling, CNC (Computer Numerical Control), digitizing physical objects, and creating physical objects from digital designs.
24. Pratt Institute
Enjoying a stellar reputation as a fine arts college, Pratt also has a very fine graphic design department. Degrees in graphic design include a BFA in Communications Design, AAS in Graphic Design/Illustration, and AOS in Graphic Design.
The BFA in Communications Design combines the fields of advertising and illustration, in addition to graphic design.
Founded in New York City in 1887, Pratt Institute is somewhat costly to attend, but the benefits of being in New York City, as well as the amazing faculty and study options, have created a degree program that is one of the best graphic design colleges in the US.
Offering a Bachelor of Fine Arts in graphic design, Iowa State only allows about 76 students each year for that program. Students have to complete a core program, or its equivalent before they can apply.
The full name of the school is Iowa State University of Science and Technology and has been in Ames, Iowa since its inception in 1858.
If you are a resident of the state of Iowa, tuition is very attractively priced. Even out-of-state students enjoy the lower cost of training in this world-class design degree program.
Penn State is a very large university, located in Pennsylvania since 1855, it is so big it has its own township.
Even with that prodigious school size, Penn State’s graphic design degree program boasts small class sizes of only about 20 students per class. This lets students receive a very individually tailored education.
Another draw for prospective students is the state-of-the-art facilities that the different degree programs are taught in.
Online courses, whether for continuing education or as part of a degree program, are also available.
MassArt is another fine school located in Boston. One of the nation’s oldest art schools, it was founded in 1873 by local businessmen and civic leaders to advance education in the various arts and technologies that were important to commerce.
Available degrees include a BFA in Graphic Design and a Certificate in Graphic Design. Special emphasis is placed on learning teamwork and effective communication throughout the design process.
Near Chicago, Illinois is a school that offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees, several certificate programs, and even a Ph.D. in information studies.
Set up in 1848 by Dominican Sisters as a Catholic female academy, it has since morphed into the university it is today.
Long known as a premier fine arts school, it has a graphic design program that offers undergraduate degrees as well as a wide range of minors to accompany the design major.
It does cost a lot to go here, but the small class size of only about 15 or 16 students per class results in a personalized educational experience.
Sarasota Florida is home to this school, originally set up in 1931 as a college for animation art. It is affiliated with the larger Southern College of Lakeland, Florida.
Besides graphic design, you can also learn the business of design, game art, and virtual reality development.
In all of the degree programs it offers, there are a lot of opportunities to collaborate with local businesses to enhance your education.
Try as I might, I never did find any elephants or dancing bears. (A weak joke about the name, sorry.)
Specifically, Texas A&M University-Commerce is part of the humongous Texas A&M University system but is a major college all on its own.
Located near Dallas, Texas, the university first opened its doors to students in 1889. Dallas is one of the largest banking and business centers in the entire US, so there is a lot of opportunities to gain a working knowledge of business and industry.
Graphic Design degrees available are a BFA in Design Communications, which is primarily concerned with print media, a BFA in New Media such as animation and interactive programming or entertainment, or a BFA in Art Direction, the focus here being marketing and business.
Degree programs from SCAD include both undergraduate and graduate. A BFA/BA/Minor in Graphic Design and an MFA/MA in Graphic Design.
A fairly recent school compared to many of the large colleges, SCAD opened in Savannah, Georgia, in 1978 and has since added schools in Hong Kong and Lacoste, France.
It has expensive yearly tuition and offers students a completely modern education experience.
An emphasis on the end-user is stressed in the studies for the degrees, ensuring that graduates are very well prepared for a career in modern graphic design.
Students are eligible to study abroad at the Hong Kong or France locations. This type of experience would be extremely beneficial for any graphic designer.
A non-profit private art school, SAIC is located in downtown Chicago and has been open since 1866.
Graphic design-related degrees can be a BFA in Visual Communication Design, an MFA in Visual Communication Design, or a Certificate in Graphic Design.
Visual communications majors will benefit from the school having one of the largest collections of all sorts of art to be found in any major school.
Besides the arts, a well-rounded college education can be earned here.
What do want to learn in college? At the University of Denver, you have a lot of freedom within the degree programs to design and customize your own learning experience.
It seems to go without saying that Denver is a very forward-thinking business community. The education of the U of Denver mirrors that. Undergraduate degrees, BA or BFA, are offered in Studio Art.
Studio Art can encompass many aspects of graphic design, from photography to 3D computer renderings and video game design.
Set within the city limits of Denver near the business hub of the city, the University of Denver was originally established as a Methodist seminary in 1864.
Non-sectarian since about 1880, DU is one of the premier colleges in the Rocky Mountain region.
MSU is one of the largest universities in the US. It was founded in 1855 and is located in East Lansing, Michigan.
Originally an agricultural school, it now teaches everything from Business to Art to Molecular Engineering.
Academic requirements are held to a high standard and degrees are awarded in many different fields.
Graphic design degrees are available as a BFA in Graphic Design or as either a BA or BFA in Studio Art which includes studying Ceramics, Electronic Art & Intermedia, Graphic Design, Painting, Photography, Printmaking, and Sculpture.
Founded in 1886 by the Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts, MCAD is a small school with only about 700 to 800 students in any given year.
A major factor in the success of MCAD graduates is the strong emphasis placed on internships and networking with local businesses.
Interning is a course requirement in the third year of the program. In the fourth year, a show is put on by the school in order for the students to showcase their talent and ability to prospective employers from all over the country.
My degrees include a BFA in Graphic Design, an MFA in Visual Studies, and Certificates in Graphic Design.
In the center of busy downtown Chicago, Illinois is UIC’s School of Design. It’s competitive to get in, but the education is special, making the degree holders a valuable asset to any company or allowing them to be successful freelancers.
Established in 1982, the school offers undergrad and grad degrees in various disciplines.
VCU was originally MCV, a medical school, and was founded in 1838. In 1917 it merged with a technical school, also in Richmond, Virginia, to become a full college.
Social awareness and a strong code of ethics are the foundations of the VCU system. Many of the programs offered are unique to this school. It also has a wide range of traditional and liberal arts subjects to enroll in.
Degrees offered for graphic design are graduate and undergraduate, though post-grad degrees are available in other fields. For our list, the degrees are BFA in Graphic Design and MFA with a Visual Communications Concentration.
For graduate students only, CAA has a master’s program as an MFA in Graphic Design. Established in 1904 in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
Only about 15 students a year are accepted into the MFA Graphic Design program.
The school has 10 programs, each of them very small, so the campus only has 150 or so students in any year. This makes for a very favorable student-to-teacher ratio.
Experimentation and collaboration are strongly encouraged in the graduate degree program.
Visual communication is the primary focus of this Los Angeles area school. The city’s first independent school of design and art opened in 1918.
Communications Arts Department has three program study options. Graphic design is one of them, offering both BFA in Graphic Design and MFA in Graphic Design.
For either degree, students will work and learn in almost every aspect of visual communication, from simple signs and posters to full websites.
Ansel Adams used to be a guest lecturer and instructor at this small private art college near downtown L.A., in Pasadena, California, founded in 1930.
The cost of tuition is high, and you get a great education for that. Interdisciplinary study is strongly encouraged, with the desired result being complete preparedness for a career.
Undergrad degrees in various subjects are offered, and Graphic Design is one of them.
This school is very interactive with getting their students familiar with the actual workplaces of the industry, which also lends itself well to creating a fantastic relationship with potential employers and graduates.
In Manhattan since 1947. SVA is a for-profit arts and design school that offers an amazing number of degrees for a small school. It began as a school to teach cartoonists and
Undergrad degrees are available in 11 departments, including BFA in Graphic Design and BFA in Advertising.
Grad degrees, 22 different programs, are offered as MA, MPS, and MFA in the same fields as the BFA programs and add such disciplines as Interactive Design, Product Design, and Research.
Continuing education for established professionals is also taught here.
The second-largest university in Ohio, UC has been open and teaching since 1819. Whether wanting to specialize in Graphic Design, Interaction Design, or Motion Design, degree candidates are eligible for a BA in Graphic Arts.
With moderately priced tuition for in-state residents, out-state tuition is rather high. The US is well known for having superior arts and design programs.
Temple was founded in 1884 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Getting into the graduate and undergraduate programs is tough, prospective students have to pass a portfolio. No slacking is allowed either, portfolio reviews continue throughout the degree programs.
The degrees available are BFA in Graphic and Interactive Design and MFA in Graphic and Interactive Design.
In the two main areas of study, almost any design and art subject may be covered, effectively preparing graduates for the realities of the graphic design work.
One of the more affordable schools in the US for graphic design, ATU tuitions are almost the same price for both state and out-state students. Of course, out-of-state students pay more, but at ATU it’s not a lot more.
Founded in 1910 in Russellville, Arkansas, the school has degree programs in multiple fields that result in grad, undergrad, and post-grad degrees. For Graphic design, ATU awards undergraduate BA degrees.
Also known as the State University of New York – Buffalo, or SUNY-Buffalo, this school first opened its doors in 1846 as a medical school, becoming part of the SUNY system in 1962.
For students wanting a broad-based education, a BA is offered in Graphic Design. A more technical study program in Graphic Design results in a BFA.
Flushing, Queens, New York is home to CUNY Queens College, founded in 1937. It is part of the large and very affordable City University of New York system.
Perhaps one of the most affordable of the best graphic design colleges in the US, tuition is crazy low for in-state students, and still quite low compared to other schools for out-of-state students.
The Department of Art teaches graphic design elements, resulting in either a BS in Design or a Minor in Graphic Design accompanying a different degree.
With two campuses in the San Francisco Bay Area, CCA is a relatively small school. At any one time, there are about 1500 undergraduate candidates attending and 500 graduate degree candidates.
Established in 1907, one of the foundations of education here is collaborating with established professionals in the workforce.
A Bachelor of Fine Arts is the Graphic Design degree offered.
A B.A. in Graphic Design and Media is offered by this Jesuit school in Omaha, Nebraska. Founded in 1878, a 96% success rate is the big draw for attending here.
According to Creighton, the success rate is based on graduates either working in the field, volunteering in the field, or enrolled in a graduate or post-grad program somewhere. That’s actually pretty encouraging for aspiring graphic artists.
Talk about success rates, TCU is claiming a 100% long-term placement rate for degree holders.
Degrees available are BA in Design Studies, Minor in Design Studies, and BFA in Graphic Design.
Affiliated with, but not governed by the Disciples of Christ church, TCU was established in 1878 in Fort Worth, Texas. It’s a medium-sized school with a great faculty and facilities.
Out in the West Texas town of El Paso, we fell in love with a great design school.
UTEP was founded in 1914 and has the second-largest Mexican American population of any school in the US.
Fully 80% of the student body is Hispanic, and the school graduates the largest number of Hispanic engineers with M.S. and Ph.D. degrees.
BFA in Studio Art with Graphic Design Concentration is what is offered, with the fundamentals of Graphic Design being stressed.
A huge school, both in terms of campus size and student body population, U of H is surprisingly affordable in housing and tuition.
Houston is a giant city and is full of various industries, making interning and job placement very favorable for degree candidates.
The Graphic Design degree is available if a BFA from the College of the Arts.
High in the Rockies in Boulder, Colorado, it was established in 1876 when Colorado was still a territory.
Many degrees are available with a large focus on science, business, and the arts. BFA is available in Graphic design, and a master’s is an option for other arts.
53. SUNY at Fredonia
BFA in Graphic Design is available here and a strong emphasis is put on an interdisciplinary approach to education.
Founded in 1826, the small town of Fredonia hosts this full spectrum college that offers degrees in many fields, including Architecture, Business, and Law.
These are the best graphic design colleges in the US.
What Is Graphic Design?
What exactly is graphic design? At its most basic, graphic design is a combination of art and modern technology. We see examples of graphic design in so many things in our everyday lives.
From something as basic and simple as the label on a can of our favorite energy drink to an immersive virtual reality video game, graphic designers are involved in what we see.
So, a graphic designer may need to be skilled in using printing technology, photography, videography, various visual arts, and even computing programming languages.
The best graphic design colleges in the US for your particular needs will provide education and experience in those aspects of the field.