Top Ranked Graphic Design School - San Jose, CA

Students interested in studying graphic design in San Jose, CA, have roughly seven schools to choose from. Read about the top local schools' degree programs, tuition, and ranking info to find the right one for you.

School and Ranking Information

There are seven schools within 25 miles of downtown San Jose that have graphic design programs. Based on program variety, rankings, awards, and graduation rates, the top three schools in the area to offer degrees in this field are ranked below.

  • Winner: San Jose State University is the top school because it is the only school among the top three to offer a bachelor's program in graphic design, and it awarded the most degrees in the field among the top schools.
  • Runner-Up #1: Foothill College has one of the highest graduation rates among area schools, and it houses several studios and digital media labs equipped with high-end technologies. It offers certificates and associate's programs.
  • Runner-Up #2: Mission College was ranked third in the region. It boasts an award-winning graphic design department but it has the lowest graduation rate of the top three. This school offers certificate and associate's degree options in the field.

School Comparison Chart

Categories San Jose State University Foothill College Mission College
Rankings 9th Top Public School in the West,
38th Regional University in the West,
graduate fine arts program ranked 82nd in the nation*
Location San Jose, CA Los Altos Hills, CA (12.5 miles from San Jose) Santa Clara, CA (4 miles from San Jose)
School Type 4-year, public 2-year, public 2-year, public
Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2012-2013) $6,852 (in-state); $18,510 (out-of-state)** $1,536 (in-state); $6,351 (out-of-state)** $1,174 (in-state); $6,070 (out-of-state)**
Graphic Design Program Levels Offered Bachelor's degrees Certificates; associate's degrees Certificates; associate's degrees
Graphic Design Certificates and Degrees Awarded (All Levels) in (2011-2012) 15** 4** 13**
Most Popular Graphic Design Program (2011-2012) Bachelor's degree (15 awarded)** Associate's degree (3 awarded)** Associate's degree (8 awarded)**
Graduation Rate (in 150% of normal program time) 46% (for students who started in 2005)** 53% (for students who started in 2008)** 22% (for students who started in 2008)**
Noteworthy Strongest graphic design program in the California State University system*** The Krause Center for Innovation Digital Art Gallery features public exhibitions**** Three full-time graphic design faculty members with extensive experience in the field*****

Sources: *U.S. News & World Report; **NCES College Navigator; ***San Jose State University; ****Foothill College; *****Mission College.

Winner: San Jose State University

  • One of the most diverse graphic design programs in the California State University system
  • Graphic design Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) students complete a 3-credit internship at a local design company
  • Study abroad opportunities throughout the world, including Japan, France, Italy, and Germany

From its modest beginnings in 1857 as a teacher training school, SJSU has grown to enroll over 30,000 students each year, per the NCES. The College of Arts and Humanities administers undergraduate art programs, including two that focus on graphic design. The Department of Design also offers a 37-credit graphic design minor.

With a broad, interdisciplinary curriculum, the Bachelor of Arts in Art with a concentration in design studies program is designed for those with an interest in building a solid portfolio of graphic design pieces. Introductory art and photography topics lay a foundation for design studies. Other core and elective courses include typography, visual communication, and computer graphics, to name a few.

The university also offers a BFA in Graphic Design, which requires two successful portfolio reviews for admission. Foundational courses cover art history and introduce vocational information. Studio courses provide a background in design elements, such as 3-D design, drawing, and photography. In the graphic design curriculum, students delve into typography and new digital media, using field assignments to experiment with form and image, problem-solving, and the use of multimedia to convey messages. Four successful portfolio reviews are required, two in junior year and two in senior year. Students must also complete a capstone project and a professional internship.

Runner-Up #1: Foothill College

  • KCI digital media labs and IDEA Center, with drawing tablets, state-of-the-art computers, digital printers, and other high-end technology
  • Qualified students can participate in a graphic design internship

Established in 1957, Foothill College is a 2-year, public institution that enrolls nearly 16,000 students annually, according to the NCES. The school offers roughly 80 associate's programs and more than 100 certificate options. In addition, the 122-acre campus is home to computer labs and studios, providing students access to the newest graphic and interactive design technologies. Additionally, the Graphic and Interactive Design Program has three full-time faculty members and four part-time teachers.

Students can enroll in the associate's program, which consists of 62 credits within the major. Courses students can take include fundamentals of drawing, website design, typography, and photography, to name a few. The programs also place a strong emphasis on studio-based classes, which offer hands-on training. In addition to the degree program, the school offers a Certificate of Achievement and a Skills Certificate in Graphic and Interactive Design.

Runner-Up #2: Mission College

  • Award-winning Graphic Design, Graphic Arts & Multimedia Department
  • The graphic design program emphasizes creative problem-solving using new computer technologies and traditional training
  • In 2011-2012, 60% of first-time students received some form of financial aid, according to the NCES

Mission College first opened in 1975, and today, it serves over 10,000 students annually. In addition to offering certificate programs and associate's degree options, the school works with California State University to provide ten transferable degree programs. The Graphic Design, Graphic Arts & Multimedia Department has programs in eight areas, including graphic design. Students can earn either an Associate of Science or a certificate in the field.

The curriculum for both programs blends design courses with classes in business and marketing. It also incorporates traditional training methods with computer-generated design techniques. Classes may cover packaging design, Web animation, page layout, and drawing. Students are also required to complete a portfolio.

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