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Boston Schools of Design with Degree Program Descriptions

There are at least ten schools in the city of Boston that offer degree programs in design. Read an overview of three of these schools that are within two miles of downtown and find out about program requirements to decide which school is right for you.

Boston Design Schools

In the Boston area, students have many schools from which to choose if they are interested in a degree program in design. This article examines undergraduate and graduate design programs at three institutions that are two miles or less from downtown. A table below lists facts about the schools, such as tuition, acceptance rates and percentage of students who graduate on time. There's also a brief paragraph about two other area colleges that offer degrees related to design.

  • The smallest and only public school option on the list is the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, about two miles from the city center. Students can complete a Bachelor of Fine Arts or Master of Fine Arts design program in several specialty areas. The school also offers a Master of Architecture terminal degree program.
  • Students who want to attend a larger school can enroll in design programs at Northeastern University, approximately two miles from Boston's downtown. Undergraduate students can complete bachelor's degree programs that deal with graphic design, game design and interactive media. Graduate students can prepare to become informational designers by completing a master's program in information design and visualization.
  • Another school option that offers multiple undergraduate and graduate programs is Suffolk University, which is in the heart of downtown Boston. Students at this school can earn bachelor's and master's degrees in graphic design and interior design as well as master's degrees in interior architecture.

Comparison of Schools

Various factors influence a student's choice of school. For some, tuition costs are the most important consideration, while others look at the size of the student body. Here is information on several attributes that students may want to consider when making a decision.

Massachusetts College of Art and Design Northeastern University Suffolk University
School Type 4-year; public 4-year; private not-for-profit 4-year; private not-for-profit
Total Enrollment (2017) 2,064* 21,489* 7,201*
Campus Setting Large city Large city Large city
Undergraduate Tuition and Fees (2017-2018) $12,700 in-state; $34,400 out-of-state* $49,497* $37,270*
% of First-Year Students Receiving Some Form of Financial Aid (2016-2017) 98%* 75%* 93%*
Acceptance Rate (2017) 71%* 27%* 84%*
Retention Rate (2016-2017) 87% for full-time students* 97% for full-time students* 77% for full-time students and 71% for part-time students *
Graduation Rate (for students who began in Fall 2011) 73%* 87%* 60%*

Source: *NCES College Navigator

Massachusetts College of Art and Design

Also known as Mass Art, this college was founded in 1873 and is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. The college also has partnerships with local organizations that allow students to showcase their artwork, participate in community leadership training and employment opportunities. The college offers several fine arts programs that can prepare students for a career in a design specialty.

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Architectural Design

This pre-professional degree offers introductory coursework in areas like architectural structures, technical drawing and space planning. Students go on to learn more advanced skills that involve designing buildings, interiors and structures in upper-level coursework. The program also teaches students how to create designs that meet aesthetic, ecological and social needs. To earn this degree, students must complete senior design projects and a portfolio.

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion Design

Fashion design majors receive training in how to design custom clothing, ready-to-wear garments, theatrical costumes and accessories for both men and women. Students learn design skills by taking courses in areas such as fashion illustration, pattern drawing, tailoring and textiles. Past students of the program have created designs for companies such as Levi Strauss, Stride Rite and Radici Spandex. The degree program culminates in two design projects that students complete in their senior year. A certificate program in fashion design is also available for high school graduates.

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communication Design

Students in this major learn both manual design and computer graphic design skills. Training in manual design includes the use of lettering and drawing to create graphics. Students also learn how create book and magazine layouts, package designs and other interactive media designs using computer graphics software. Students also participate in a graphic design portfolio and a project. A certificate program in graphic design is also available on a part-time evening schedule for working adults.

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Industrial Design

This degree program emphasizes study in sketching and rendering, prototype construction and processes used in manufacturing. Students also learn how to apply research to solve design problems and make consumer products user-friendlier. Courses offered include conceptual drawing, ergonomics, industrial design form and solid modeling. Students also participate in a product development lab where they work with local manufacturers. Additional training is also available through an internship. At the end of the program, students must complete a project that focuses on research and product development. The university also offers a post-baccalaureate certificate in industrial design.

Master of Architecture

Courses for this full residency program are available beginning in the summer term and can be completed by selecting one of two tracks. The first track is designed for students whose bachelor's degree is in another field. Students complete eight semesters of training, which include three pre-professional semesters and five professional semesters. Track 2 is geared towards students who have a bachelor's degree in architecture. The program consists of 60 credits and can be completed in five semesters. This track also requires completion of a research and design thesis.

Master of Fine Arts: 3-Dimensional Fine Arts

Students in this program receive advanced training in five areas of study: metals (jewelry and metalsmithing), ceramics, fibers, glass and sculpture. In the beginning of the program, students are taught how to develop creative ideas, utilize form and structure, handle tools and practice safety. As students progress through more advanced coursework, they learn to perfect their skills in critical and conceptual thinking, technical detail and aesthetic vision. The program offers students the opportunity to learn from practicing artists through field trips to studios, galleries and museums.

Northeastern University

Northeastern University is located in the center of Boston and comprises of nine colleges and schools. The graphic design undergraduate programs and master's program in design are offered through the Department of Art and Design.

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Design

This degree program offers the option to study with a concentration in Graphic and Information Design, Interaction Design, or Experience Design. Students in this program learn how to create access and apply human understanding to questions about how we live. They will learn to incorporate visual form, composition, visualization, perception, and communication in order to create systems that will enhance the human experience and convey knowledge and understanding. These are intensive studio programs that combine design theory and history with active studio practice. In the final year of study, students complete a degree research project that examines the concept of designing authorship.

Master of Fine Arts in Information Design and Visualization

This degree program prepares students to work as information designers in settings such as academic institutions, government agencies, design firms and research firms. Students learn how to take raw data and translate information into virtual and physical designs. Topics covered in this program include imaging basics, design mapping, typography and visualization technologies. Students who do not have a degree in a BFA major will be required to complete design coursework during the summer term prior to enrolling in further graduate study.

Suffolk University

As the only 4-year university located right in the heart of downtown Boston, Suffolk University design students have easy access to designer showrooms within walking distance and other resources such as the Boston Design Center located just two miles away. The university's New England School of Art and Design was established in 1923 and offers a bachelor's and master's program in graphic design, as well as a professional program in interior architecture.

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design

Graphic design undergraduates start out by learning foundational skills in concept development and drawing. Students progress to further study in areas such as electronic media, illustration, photography, printing and typography. In the final semester of study, students have the option of completing a graphic design thesis project or an internship.

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design

This degree is accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) as a professional level program. Students in this program complete 88 semester hours of coursework for the major on subjects such as furniture and detailing, interior materials and finishes, contract design and lighting. Students also gain real-world experience by completing an internship.

Master of Arts in Graphic Design

Students with a bachelor's degree in graphic design can complete this degree with 36 course credits. Others may need to earn as many as 73 credits in order to fulfill the requirements. To earn this degree, students complete a thesis research, thesis studio and thesis documentation process. Each process takes one semester to complete. The research phase involves selecting a graphic design problem and researching case studies. For the thesis studio portion, students create an original independent project that focuses on a complex design problem. The final process consists of students presenting their thesis documentation in a written and visual format.

Master of Arts in Interior Architecture

This graduate degree is accredited as a professional program by the CIDA. Based on their background, students receive foundational training in areas such as 2-D and 3-D design, drawing, furniture/architecture history, interior construction codes and Western art. Students also complete interior architecture courses and several studio-based classes in areas such as advanced lighting, digital visualization, environmental graphic design, residential design and sustainable design. At the end of the program, students complete a thesis, thesis documentation and thesis research course.

Other School Options

Students wishing to attend a small private school in downtown Boston can do so at Fisher College. The college is located approximately one mile from downtown and offers a Bachelor of Science in Fashion Merchandising. Another private 4-year school option is Emmanuel College, located about two miles away from downtown. Students at this school can earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design.


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