Graphic Design Schools

Unleash your creative potential with graphic design schools, your gateway to a dynamic and visually captivating profession.
Graphic design is a creative and versatile field that involves the creation of visual content to communicate ideas, messages, or information. It can be used in virtually any industry – from advertising and publishing to web design – providing endless career possibilities to those who want to make a living by expressing their creativity. In this post, we’ll go into detail about what you can expect when attending a graphic design program and discuss factors you should consider before making your choice.

What Is a Graphic Design School?

At the college and university levels, a graphic design school is rarely a standalone institution. Rather, it is usually a department or academic unit within a larger liberal arts college, art institute, or college of art that offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in graphic design.

Graphic design schools generally develop their curricula to not only teach the fundamentals of art and design but also give students a holistic understanding of how graphic design principles can be applied across a range of industries such as advertising, marketing, publishing, education, and more. Thus, in addition to theory-based courses on topics like color theory or typography, they typically offer practical classes that help students hone their skills with both traditional tools (like drawing pencils) and digital software programs like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator or 3D modeling applications like SketchUp Pro.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Graphic Design School

Choosing a graphic design school is a crucial step in your career as a designer. It’s important to choose a school that aligns with your interests and career goals, but also one that provides a quality education that will prepare you for the workforce. Here are some additional factors to consider when choosing a graphic design school:

Accreditation and Reputation

Accreditation is an important factor to consider when choosing a graphic design school. Accreditation ensures that the school has met rigorous standards of education and that its graduates are prepared to enter the workforce with the necessary skills and knowledge. Look for schools that are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) or other recognized accrediting bodies.

When researching schools, it’s also important to consider a school’s reputation within the design industry. Look for schools that have a strong reputation and a track record of placing graduates in successful careers. You can research a school’s reputation by reading reviews and talking to alumni.

Curriculum and Specializations

When considering a school’s curriculum, it’s important to determine if it aligns with your interests and career goals. Look for schools that offer opportunities for specialization in areas such as branding, advertising, web design, or digital media.

It’s also important to consider the balance between technical and conceptual learning. A good graphic design program should encourage interdisciplinary and collaborative approaches to design. Look for schools that offer courses in business, marketing, and communication, as these are important skills for a successful career in graphic design.

Faculty and Alumni

A strong faculty with real-world experience is essential for a quality education in graphic design. Look for schools with accomplished faculty members who are active in the design industry and have connections to leading design firms. Connecting with alumni can also provide valuable insights into a school’s network and track record of success. Alumni can provide information on job opportunities, internships, and industry events.

Facilities and Resources

The facilities and resources of a school can greatly impact your educational experience. Look for schools with up-to-date technology, ample studio space, and access to resources such as design libraries and workshops.

Schools with strong industry connections may also offer opportunities for internships and partnerships with leading design firms. Look for schools that have a strong career center or job placement program, as this can greatly increase your chances of finding a job after graduation.

Location and Cost

The location of a school can impact your access to internships, job opportunities, and industry events. Consider whether a school is located in a design hub such as New York City or Los Angeles, or in a smaller city or rural area.

Cost is also an important factor to consider when choosing a graphic design school. Look into financial aid options and scholarships to help offset the cost of tuition. It’s important to find a school that provides a quality education, but also one that is affordable and fits within your budget.

The 10 Best Graphic Design Schools in the U.S.

Each year, our experts review and analyze public and private data from hundreds of qualifying art schools to produce a ranking of the best graphic design schools in the U.S.

The top 10 graphic design schools listed here earned exceptional marks in all eight pillars of our ranking methodology: Academic excellence, student selectivity, graduation rate performance (the school’s ability to retain and graduate students), financial aid, faculty resources, early career success, post-graduate success (alumni achievements), and value.

Founded in 1877, the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is a prestigious college and museum located in Providence, RI. RISD boasts a diverse community of over 2,600 students enrolled in 44 full-time bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. With the guidance of a dedicated faculty and the support of a global network of over 31,000 alumni, RISD fosters expansive and innovative thinking among artists, designers, and scholars.

1. Rhode Island School of Design

20 Washington Place, Providence, RI 02903

Parsons School of Design, driven by a century-long commitment to design’s transformative power, stands as a premier design school in the U.S. and a global top-three. Nestled within The New School, Parsons leverages interdisciplinary education, the vibrant New York City campus, and a Paris branch campus. It nurtures creative leaders, fostering real-world learning, critical thinking, and innovation to address contemporary challenges.


2. Parsons School of Design

66 West 12th Street, New York, NY 10011

Pratt Institute, a globally renowned college, offers diverse programs spanning art, design, architecture, liberal arts, sciences, and information studies, encompassing nearly 50 undergraduate and graduate degrees. Beyond its Brooklyn campus, Pratt extends its impact to innovative facilities across New York, including Manhattan and Utica. Pratt’s involvement in climate change research and the Research Yard underscores its commitment to addressing pressing global challenges.

3. Pratt Institute

200 Willoughby Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11205

Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts is an integral part of VCU’s mission to promote knowledge and student achievement. With a focus on engaged learning, the school fosters innovation and inquiry within a student-centric environment. Through research, creative expression, and interdisciplinary cooperation, its departments and programs push the boundaries of knowledge.

4.Virginia Commonwealth University

907 Floyd Ave, Richmond, VA 23284

ArtCenter College of Design pioneers a 21st-century model for art and design education. Guided by their mission to create and influence change, their visionary approach encompasses a conservatory-style education, fostering intercultural and transdisciplinary dialogue. Innovative learning and making spaces empower students on their creative journey.

5. ArtCenter College of Design

1700 Lida Street, Pasadena, CA 91103

Carnegie Mellon University School of Art fosters a community of renowned artists and professionals across various disciplines. Their commitment to critical inquiry and creativity enriches society and culture, spanning multiple schools and associated programs within the College of Fine Arts.

6. Carnegie Mellon University School of Art

5000 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) distinguishes itself by offering a comprehensive array of degree programs and specialized fields of study, positioning students for successful careers in the creative industries. Whether you aspire to be an artist, designer, or creative professional, SCAD’s expansive curriculum and resources provide a platform for your creative journey.

7. Savannah College of Art and Design

516 Drayton St, Savannah, GA 31401

For over seven decades, the School of Visual Arts (SVA) has been at the forefront of nurturing artists, designers, and creative visionaries. Fueled by a faculty of accomplished industry professionals, a vibrant curriculum, and a commitment to critical thinking, SVA continues to drive innovation and promote social responsibility in the realm of arts and design education.

8. School of Visual Arts

209 E 23rd St, New York, NY 10010

Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is a nationally acclaimed institution in art and design education. With a focus on fostering innovative, entrepreneurial, and socially conscious artists, MICA is reshaping the role of creatives as catalysts for social, cultural, and economic progress. As the nation’s oldest degree-granting college of art and design, MICA’s deep community engagement makes it a pivotal contributor to the regional creative economy, producing globally recognized artists and designers.

9. Maryland Institute College of Art

1300 W Mount Royal Ave, Baltimore, Maryland, 21217

Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD), founded in 1886, is a nationally and internationally recognized institution in the heart of the Twin Cities’ vibrant art and design community. MCAD’s innovative approach to education encompasses a wide range of disciplines, offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees as well as continuing education. With a diverse student body and accomplished alumni, including Emmy-winning directors and Guggenheim fellows, MCAD is a hub for creative excellence and professional success.

10. Minneapolis College of Art & Design

2501 Stevens Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55404

Graphic Design Schools FAQ

A bachelor’s degree in graphic design, or a related field such as art, visual communication, motion design, computer science, and animation, typically provides the best foundation for a career as a professional graphic designer. Students who pursue a degree in any of these areas will gain an understanding of the graphic design process, build practical skills, and complete projects that are similar to what they would encounter working for design firms and major companies.
Yes, a degree in graphic design can result in career opportunities beyond what can be expected without one. While it’s true that there are many successful graphic designers who are self-taught and without a degree, it’s also true that many skills are difficult to learn on your own. Pursuing a formal education from a graphic design school can help you develop skills such as critical thinking, conceptual problem solving, teamwork, and technical proficiency. These skills are important not just for graphic designers but for any profession.
It depends on the program, but formal training usually takes about four years. While some students complete graphic design programs in less time by pursuing an associate’s degree (a two-year degree program), most students opt for a bachelor’s degree as it typically provides a better foundation for a career in the field.

Yes, you can become a graphic designer without a degree. Although most companies prefer to hire designers with degrees, it is possible to work your way up in the field without one or pursue a career as a freelance designer. Self-taught graphic designers can be just as capable and experienced as those who have completed graphic design programs, but their experience will often lack the professional structure and guidance that comes with a degree.