Graphic Design Degree in Chicago, IL with School Overviews

The Chicago area has several schools that offer graphic design programs. Learn about the degree programs, admission info and program requirements for three of these schools, all within two miles of downtown, and make an informed education decision.

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Chicago Graphic Design Degree Programs

Students wishing to enroll in a graphic design degree program within the Chicago area have several educational options. This article looks at three schools that are no more than 10 minutes from the city center and at the graphic design degree programs they offer. It also includes a table of important data about each school, arranged in a format that makes it easy for prospective students to compare them. Information provided includes school size, tuition, acceptance rates and graduation rates. A little information about other Chicago-area schools with graphic design programs is included at the end of the article.

  • Columbia College - Chicago, a small private not-for-profit school located in downtown Chicago, provides potential designers with a bachelor's degree option. This college, less than a mile from downtown, focuses strictly on arts and media education.
  • Both associate's and bachelor's degree programs in graphic design are available at Robert Morris University Illinois, also less than a mile from the heart of the city.
  • Finally, individuals who are interested in an advanced degree can explore the University of Illinois at Chicago, the only area school offering a master's degree program in the field. It is almost a mile and a half from the city center.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Advertising and Commercial Design
  • Commercial Photography
  • Fashion Design
  • General Visual Communications Design
  • Graphic Design
  • Illustration and Drawing
  • Industrial Design
  • Interior Design and Decorating

Comparison of Schools

The following table provides information about these three schools that prospective students can use to determine which is the best fit for them.

Columbia College - Chicago Robert Morris University Illinois University of Illinois at Chicago
School Type 4-year; private not-for-profit 4-year; private not-for-profit 4-year; public
Total Enrollment (2014) 9,440* 3,205* 27,969*
Campus Setting Large city Large city Large city
Tuition & Fees (2015-2016) $24,344* $25,200* $13,664 in-state; $26,520 out-of-state*
% of First-Year, Full-Time Students Receiving Any Form of Aid (2014) 82%* 98%* 82%*
Acceptance Rate (2014) 89%* 24%* 74%*
Retention Rate (2014) 71% for full-time students; 33% for part-time students* 50% for full-time students* 80% for full-time students; 28% for part-time students*
Graduation Rate (Starting Classes in Fall 2008) 43%* 47%* 60%*

Source: *NCES College Navigator.

Columbia College - Chicago

Over 9,000 students attend this 4-year, private not-for-profit school accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Located in Chicago's South Loop, Columbia College - Chicago (Columbia) offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. Undergraduates can use work from both courses and internships to create professional portfolios designed to impress employers. In addition, the annual Manifest event provides recent graduates with the opportunity to present their works to a larger audience within Chicago.

Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Graphic Design

The Department of Art and Design offers this degree program, which covers the history of the field and technical design skills. Courses such as packaging design, advanced typography, publication design, branding identity and photo communications help train undergraduates for positions in graphic design, while projects allow them to build a professional work portfolio. Faculty advisers provide graphic design scholars with internship opportunities, helping them to gain real work experience.

Robert Morris University Illinois

Robert Morris University provides the Bachelor of Applied Science degree program in graphic design through the Institute of Art & Design. This department offers several associate's, bachelor's and master's degree programs that focus on training graduates to be effective visual communicators. Some of the positions in which graduates might work include graphic designer, design technician, production manager or typesetter.

Associate in Applied Science (AAS) in Graphic Design

This associate's degree program focuses on preparing students for the workforce by helping them to develop a strong foundation in visual communication techniques. The curriculum requires 92 credit hours, including courses in computer illustration, interface design, digital photography and typography. Courses in career management are also required, as are internships.

Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) in Graphic Design

This bachelor's degree program requires 188 credit hours of coursework, covering subjects such as digital imaging, the history of design, motion graphics and multimedia Web design. Students can expect to gain a multidisciplinary education in digital animation, print, video, photography and Web design. In addition, this program trains students to work with the latest design tools and software while completing class projects and participating in design competitions. Internships are highly recommended, and students focus on building a cohesive portfolio throughout the program.

University of Illinois at Chicago

Established in 1982, this 4-year public school provides a variety of degree programs to over 25,000 students. The student-faculty ratio is one to 13. The School of Art and Design at the University of Illinois - Chicago (UIC) is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), and offers both bachelor's and master's degree programs in graphic design.

Bachelor of Design (BD) in Graphic Design

This BD degree program can confer skills in graphic design that may enable students to obtain creative fulfillment and professional security. The study of typography, graphic design and digital media play a prominent role in the curriculum, as do the required graphic design thesis and design colloquium. Throughout their studies, students can develop analytical, technical and organizational skills that can be showcased through a design portfolio. The curriculum requires 134 credit hours, and portfolios aren't required for program acceptance.

Master of Design (MD) in Graphic Design

A laptop with the appropriate software applications installed is necessary to participate in this degree program, and a portfolio is required to gain admittance. Once accepted, students are required to complete at least 64 credit hours to earn this MD degree. Prior to graduating, students also prepare a final project and present it at a public exhibition or show it to faculty members, the public and other students.

Other School Options

Courses and programs for aspiring graphic designers are also available at Oakton Community College located about 22 miles from downtown Chicago in Des Plaines, and at Moraine Valley Community College, located 23 miles away in Palos Hills.

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