Top Schools for Design and Applied Arts

Schools that offer programs in design and applied arts may provide instruction in many different topics, including commercial design and photography, advertising, fashion design, visual communications, interior design, drawing and illustration. Individual programs can culminate in an undergraduate or graduate degree or certificate.

School Information

The best schools in this field provide a wide range of offerings for students who are interested in design and applied arts. They offer multiple types of degrees and cover numerous relevant topics in the field, from graphic design to industrial design to media arts.

Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, MD

School Highlight: There are over 1,800 undergraduates and 300 graduate students at this school.

The school offers several degrees, including a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), Master of Fine Arts (MFA), Master of Arts (M.A.) and Master of Professional Studies (M.P.S.). These degrees are offered in several areas of design, including an M.P.S. in the Business of Art and Design, MFA in Graphic Design and M.A. in Social Design. BFAs are available in interactive design and art, environmental design and graphic design. A dual M.B.A./M.A. is also offered, in addition to two graduate certificates, one in graphic design and the other in fine arts.

Parsons New School for Design in New York, NY

School Highlight: Five different schools make up this institution's collegiate repertoire.

The Parsons New School for Design is separated into six distinct schools, including the School of Design Strategies, the School of Art and Design History and Theory, the School of Art, Media and Technology, Pre-College and Continuing Studies, the School of Fashion and the School of Constructed Environments.

Several unique degrees in design and applied arts are offered in the School of Design Strategies, which emphasizes business strategies as well as design studies. A Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in Design and Management is one of the degrees offered. Various bachelor's and master's degree programs are offered in environmental studies, urban design and integrated design.

Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ

School Highlight: The school houses the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

Through the Design School at Arizona State University, students can enroll in undergraduate and/or graduate programs in architecture, interior design, urban design, environmental design, design research, industrial design and landscape architecture. There are also interdisciplinary design programs for PhD students. Through the art department, there are 18 art major degrees available, 13 of them at the undergraduate level and 5 at the master's degree level.

Top Design and Applied Arts Schools

Here are some more schools with excellent offerings in design and the applied arts:

  • California College of the Arts in San Francisco, CA, offers a dual Master of Business Administration (MBA)/MFA in Design Strategy program.
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, offers a B.S. in Design, Innovation and Society (DIS) program.
  • At Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, RI, the Fleet Library is one of the oldest art college libraries.
  • Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY, offers five undergraduate degree programs related to design and applied arts and two at the graduate level.
  • The University of California in Los Angeles offers an M.F.A. in Media Arts and a B.A. in Design Media Arts.
  • Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA, was ranked #2 among graduate fine arts schools in 2016 by U.S. News & World Report, as well as #7 for its graphic design program.

Regardless of a student's interest area within the broad field of design and applied arts, there are top-notch educational programs available from postsecondary institutions.

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