Top Graphic Design School in Washington, DC

Students interested in studying graphic design in Washington, DC, have few schools to choose from. Read about the top local schools' degree programs, tuition and ranking info to find the right one for you.

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School and Ranking Information

There are only about four schools in Washington, DC, with programs in graphic design. The following schools are considered the top three based on school rankings, program offerings and graduation rates:

  • Winner: American University, located in Washington, DC, is the top pick due to its national rankings from U.S. News & World Report. This school also had the highest graduation and retention rates among the top three schools.
  • Runner Up #1: Howard University in Washington, DC, secures second place as a result of its design facilities for students. It also has the lowest tuition and awarded the most graphic design-related degrees among these schools.
  • Runner Up #2: Corcoran College of Art and Design, also found in Washington, DC, is the second runner up for its low student-to-faculty ratio and available student organizations.

School Comparison Chart

Category American University Howard University Corcoran College of Art and Design
Rankings 77th for National Universities (2013),
153rd for Graduate Fine Arts (2012)*
120th for National Universities (2013),
2nd for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (2013),
145th for Graduate Fine Arts (2012)*
Location Washington, DC Washington, DC Washington, DC
School Type 4-year, private not-for-profit 4-year, private not-for-profit 4-year, private not-for-profit
Tuition & Fees (2012-2013) $39,499 (Undergraduate),
$25,612 (Graduate)**
$22,683 (Undergraduate),
$30,323 (Graduate)**
$31,130 (Undergraduate),
$24,810 (Graduate)**
Graphic Design Award Levels Offered Bachelor's and master's*** Bachelor's and master's*** Associate's and bachelor's***
Graphic Design Degrees Awarded (All Levels) in (2012) 14** 23 (art and art studies)** 6**
Most Popular Graphic Design Programs (2011-2012) Bachelor's in Graphic Design (14 degrees awarded) Bachelor's in Art and Art Studies (23 degrees awarded) Bachelor's in Graphic Design (6 degrees awarded)
Undergraduate Graduation Rate (in 150% of normal degree time for students enrolled in Fall 2006) 77%** 63%** 59%**
Noteworthy Katzen Arts Center with 37,000 square-feet of studio space* Design Resource Center* The school is incorporated within a renowned art museum, the Corcoran Gallery of Art*

Sources: *U.S. News & World Report, **NCES College Navigator, ***Schools' websites.

Winner: American University (AU)

  • Fully equipped computer labs are open 24 hours a day
  • State-of-the-art design equipment, including digital pens, printers and tablets
  • Dedicated photography studio
  • #63 for High School Counselor Rankings in 2012 (U.S. News & World Report)
  • 90% retention rate for students who enrolled in Fall 2011 and returned in 2012, as reported by NCES

At American University's College of Arts and Sciences, undergraduates can earn a bachelor's degree or pursue a 21- to 22-credit minor in graphic design. Core coursework includes topics in digital and visual communication design, photography and typography, after which students can specialize in print media or experience design and multimedia.

Students who pursue the concentration in print media receive training in image-making, print production, publication design and visual branding. They can also study package design and participate in a 1- to 6-credit independent study or internship. Requirements for the specialization in experience design include topics in kinetic and sequential graphics, design for mobile devices and emerging media. To fulfill the elective requirements, undergraduates can learn about Web programming or complete an internship.

Additional programs include a combined bachelor's and master's program that requires a post-baccalaureate residency of 18 credit hours.

Runner-Up #1: Howard University

  • Fully equipped design studios
  • Co-curricular activities include the campus-based Society of Artists and Designers
  • Student-faculty ratio of 10:1, as reported by NCES
  • #83 for High School Counselor Rankings in 2012 (U.S. News & World Report)
  • 93% of incoming students received some type of financial aid during 2011-2012, according to NCES

The Department of Art (College of Arts and Sciences) at Howard University offers an undergraduate program in graphic design that helps students acquire skills in visual communication and teaches them how to solve 2-D and 3-D design challenges. Aspiring professionals also learn how to work with digital, print and interactive media. Course topics include those in advertising, magazine and newspaper design, typography, photography and visual journalism. As juniors and seniors, undergraduates also pursue a 3-credit internship and develop a portfolio. Similar coursework can be found in the Master of Fine Arts in Design program.

Runner-Up #2: Corcoran College of Art and Design

  • Students can exhibit in the Corcoran Gallery of Art's main galleries as the capstone to their undergraduate studies
  • Student organizations include chapters of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) and the Society for Environmental Graphic Design (SEGD)
  • Student-faculty ratio of 9:1, as reported by NCES

Though it's unranked by U.S. News and World Report, Corcoran College of Art and Design offers its students unique opportunities through its full integration with the highly regarded Corcoran Gallery of Art. For aspiring graphic designers, the college offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design and an Associate of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. The BFA program requires 120 credits of study in topics such as typography, branding, web design, mobile device design and design software. The program emphasizes the development of a professional portfolio of design projects, both for traditional published design and digital media. Real-world experience is available through internships in the museum- and culture-rich DC area.

The AFA program is an option for students who have difficulty pursuing the full-time BFA. AFA students may enroll part-time for this 60-credit program, which covers design history, foundations and studio work. Part-time students have a total of six years to finish this degree.

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