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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
3. Pratt Institute
200 Willoughby Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11205
4.Virginia Commonwealth University
907 Floyd Ave, Richmond, VA 23284
5. ArtCenter College of Design
1700 Lida Street, Pasadena, CA 91103
6. Carnegie Mellon University School of Art
5000 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213
7. Savannah College of Art and Design
516 Drayton St, Savannah, GA 31401
8. School of Visual Arts
209 E 23rd St, New York, NY 10010
9. Maryland Institute College of Art
1300 W Mount Royal Ave, Baltimore, Maryland, 21217
10. Minneapolis College of Art & Design
2501 Stevens Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55404
Over 350 colleges and universities across the country offer graphic design programs and courses that prepare students for careers in graphic design and related areas of art, media, and visual communications. To help you find the graphic design school that best fits your needs and academic goals, we’ve compiled a list of the best graphic design schools in each state.
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.
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