Top Schools for Graphic Design

Graphic design programs can be found at schools across the country, and the top-ranked institutions include both specific art and design schools and broader 4-year universities. Hands-on studio work is an important aspect of any top graphic design program.

School Information

Degree programs in graphic design can be found at both the undergraduate and graduate levels and typically include training in Adobe Illustrator, InDesign and PhotoShop applications. Profiled here are a small graduate art school, an Ivy League university and two art-focused design schools. The first three schools are highly ranked on U.S. News & World Report's most recent list of the best graduate graphic design programs, while the fourth is notable for its low student-faculty ratio.

Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, RI

School Highlight: RISD includes ten fine arts departments in addition to graphic design.

In 2016, U.S. News & World Report designated the Rhode Island School of Design as the best graduate graphic design school in the country. The graphic design major features courses in color, typography, visual systems and exhibition design, as well as independent studio work. There are also opportunities to meet with visiting designers and participate in graphic design internships. In addition to graphic design, students can pursue majors in illustration and architecture, among other disciplines.

Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, MI

School Highlight: This is a graduate art school offering programs in 2-D and 3-D design.

The Cranbrook Academy of Art ranked number 4 on U.S. News & World Report's 2016 list of top graduate graphic design colleges. A graduate art school affiliated with the Cranbrook Educational Community, the academy has separate departments for 2-D and 3-D design. Small studio labs allow students to have closer contact and more in-depth feedback from their instructors. Along with graphic design, Cranbrook offers studio-based programs in architecture, painting, photography and ceramics.

Yale University in New Haven, CT

School Highlight: Small studio classes allow for more instructor interaction.

According to U.S. News & World Report in 2016, this Ivy League institution ranked second in the country for its graduate graphic design program, and first for its graduate fine arts department. Students who are interested in graphic design can pursue a Master of Fine Arts through the university's School of Art. Program features include the opportunity to attend lectures with visiting artists. According to the Princeton Review, Yale University is also known for its great financial aid packages.

School of Visual Arts in New York, NY

School Highlight: The school integrates

The School of Visual Arts in New York, NY offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Graphic Design. Students in the program take lecture-based courses in art history and fulfill extensive hands-on studio requirements. They can also choose from design-related elective courses such as Experimental Book Art, Motion Graphics and Visual Storytelling. Because the student-faculty ratio is only 8:1, students get personalized training from faculty members.

Top Graphic Design Schools

Here are some more schools with strong graphic design programs:

  • California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, CA, offers professional portfolio-building assistance for graduates.
  • At the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the graphic design department features design shows, exhibitions and lectures.
  • Minneapolis College of Art and Design in Minneapolis, MN, offers internship opportunities and professional training for practical graphic design education.
  • Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY, offers an associate's degree program in graphic design.
  • At the California College of the Arts in San Francisco, CA, the Sputnik Program allows students to produce content for professional clients.
  • At the New School's Parsons School of Design in New York, NY, the faculty consists of professional artists, including photographers, sculptors and painters.
  • Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington, DC, emphasizes internship opportunities with high-profile companies and organizations.

Excellent graphic design programs are available through both traditional universities and dedicated art schools around the country. Top schools often offer internships, host well-known visiting artists and include substantive hands-on studio work in their curricula.

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