With so many graphic design schools to choose from, the process of selecting a college for your bachelor’s degree is difficult to do. First and foremost, a person wants to select from colleges that offer graphic design majors with a proven reputation. A student wants to complete school knowing they’re going to have the knowledge and skill to make it in the competitive world of graphic design. Graphic design is an ever-changing field. The technology continuously grows and changes. Schools that recognize the significance of this can provide the optimal experience for students. Therefore, it’s vital for a student to choose a school that offers cutting-edge tools and technology.
A traditional, on-campus graphic design program offers not only access to the latest technologies, but to the mentorship and networking opportunities that are crucial to professional development. Mentoring from professionals is one aspect of a graphic design program that the best graphic design schools in the world offer in their graphic design program. Bachelor’s Degree Center wants to direct students to the programs that will provide all the opportunity they need to succeed in graphic design.
Methodology: Ranking the Best Bachelor in Graphic Design Programs
To rank the best graphic design degrees, BDC editors sought out traditional, on-campus programs from institutions known for their quality education, strong job market reputation, and excellence in design. From our initial pool, programs were ranked according to five criteria: Cost, Job Placement, Graduation Rate, Salary Potential, and Student Reviews. All programs are fully accredited.
1. Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech’s School of Visual Arts offers a BFA in Graphic Design. Virginia Tech’s Bachelor in Graphic Design requires degree candidates to complete four years of study. VT/SOVA’s BFA in Graphic design requires students to complete a 130-hour internship related to the contents of typical graphic design degrees. Virginia Tech’s Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design degree program offers degree candidates an opportunity to work at FOURDESIGN, and a student-run print/digital design agency.
Virginia Tech was established in 1872 under the Morrill Land Grant Act. The school is also a space-grant and sea-grant university. VT’s college-town campus covers more than 2,500 acres and serves more than 33,000 students studying for the more than 274-degree programs offered by Virginia Tech.
What We Like: The Princeton Review’s recent college rankings recognize Virginia Tech as number one in the best quality of life on campus.
Degree: BFA in Graphic/Visual Communication Design
2. Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon University offers a Bachelor of Design (BDes) degree program with three specializations. CMU’s BFA in Graphic Design allows students to opt for track in industrial design, graphic design, or physical/design environments. Students enrolled in CMU’s Bachelor in Graph Design was developed to provide the space and opportunity to gain the skill and knowledge with one of the graphic design degrees offered. Degree candidates for CMU Design’s Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design must also complete a twelve-unit capstone project.
Carnegie Technical School was established in 1900 by financier Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie Technical School was merged with Mellon Institute in 1967. CMU operates with seven schools/colleges and serves nearly 15,000 students. Carnegie Mellon University has been recognized among the top 25 schools in the country by the Wall Street Journal and US News.
What We Like: Carnegie Mellon University is an international university offering degree programs on six continents.
Degree: Bachelor of Design
3. University of Southern California
The University of Southern California’s Roski School of Art & Design offers a BFA in Design degree program. USC’s Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design generally takes four years to complete but provides a variety of career opportunities for those who hold graphic design degrees. Graduates of USC’s BFA in Graphic Design program find jobs in the fields of publishing, fashion, advertising, entertainment, film design, and advertising, among others. Coursework for the Bachelor in Graphic Design degree offered by USC includes seminars, internships, workshops, plus a senior thesis.
The University of Southern California was founded in 1880. USC is a private institution of higher learning that is also a sea-grant and space-grant university. USC operates two campuses (University Park & Health Sciences), which serves more than 45,000 students.
What We Like: The University of Southern California is home to the most extensive Warner Brothers Archives across the globe.
Degree: BFA in Design
The Department of Design Media Arts offers UCLA’s BA in Design Media Arts, among other graphic design degrees. This Bachelor in Graphic Design degree program’s multidisciplinary approach includes core coursework includes Word & Image, network Media, Game Design, and 3D Modeling, among others. Degree candidates vying for the BFA in Graphic Design degree will also complete a culminating senior project.
The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) was established in 1880 as the result of the Morrill Land Grant Act. UCLA is organized into 17 colleges/schools, which serves a student population that exceeds 45,000. The University of California, Los Angeles, is recognized as the 4th oldest campus within the University of California system.
What We Like: Students enrolled in UCLA’s Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design are typically taught in studios with class sizes that are no larger than 22 students.
Degree: BA in Design Media Arts
5. The Cooper Union
The Cooper Union offers a BFA in Graphic Design degree program that follows an integrated disciplinary approach. Cooper Union’s Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design program offers students the choice of a specialty once students have completed the foundation program for all graphic design degrees. This BFA in Graphic Design degree program requires the completion of 130 credits. Coursework for this Bachelor in Graphic Design degree includes Introduction to Art History, Modern Contest of Topics/Figures, and 2D, 3D, and 4D Design.
Cooper Union was established in 1859 as a private institution of higher learning. Cooper Union is a small private school located in south Midtown near the funky East Village. Cooper Union’s urban campus is home to more than 800 students studying from three schools – the School of Architecture, the School of Art, and the School of Engineering.
What We Like: Initially, Cooper Union offered free coursework to admitted students, and remains committed to making sure the most talented students can attend regardless of income.
Degree: BFA in Graphic Design
6. Rutgers University
The Camden College of Arts and Sciences offers Rutgers University’s BA in Graphic Design degree program. Graduates of Rutger’s Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design program work in the fields of web design, print design, and advertising, to name a few. Rutger’s BFA in Graphic Design degree program’s coursework includes Contemporary Art, Drawing, Painting, and Computer Animation, among others. Rutger’s graphic design degrees (including the Bachelor in Graphic Design) partner with many professionals to provide valuable internships for students in New York City and Philadelphia.
Rutgers University was established in 1766 and is a space-grant, land-grant, and space-grant university. Rutgers operates with several campuses in urban and suburban locations throughout New Jersey. Rutgers is home to nearly 69,000 students.
What We Like: Rutgers University is considered the New Jersey’s state university (by a legislative act) and is one of nine colonial colleges in the nation.
Degree: BA in Graphic Design
7. Auburn University
Auburn University offers a BFA in Graphic Design degree program that is delivered by one of the best schools offering graphic design degrees. AU’s BFA in Graphic Design degree program has received accreditation from NASAD (National Association of Schools of Art & Design). Students studying for their Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design degree become versatile designers through the integrated curriculum. Coursework for Auburn University’s Bachelor in Graphic Design requires the completion of 123 credit hours to graduate, plus a culminating senior project.
Auburn University was established in 1856. Auburn University is a land grant, sea-grant, and space-grant institution of higher education that was initially named the East Alabama Male College. Auburn’s college town campus is home to more than 30,000 students.
What We Like: Auburn University was the first school to receive land-grant status (from the Morrill Land Act) in the state of Alabama.
Degree: BFA in Graphic Design
8. Syracuse University
Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications offers a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree program in Graphic Design. Syracuse’s Bachelor in Graphic Design program prepares degree candidates for careers using the tools of digital media, motion pictures, print media to enhance the professional critical visual skills need to succeed. The Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design from SU includes coursework regarding immersive design, layout, branding, and typography, to name a few. SU’s undergraduate graphic design degrees do not require the submission of a portfolio to gain admission. However, students are encouraged to include a portfolio when applying for SU’s BFA in Graphic Design.
Syracuse University was established in 1870 as a private school. SU maintains a loose affiliation with the United Methodist Church. The schools’ campus is atop of one of the city’s highest hills, covers more than 675 acres, and serves nearly 23,000 students. Syracuse University operates with nine schools/colleges.
What We Like: Syracuse University has offered an international study program since the early 1900s.
Degree: BS in Graphic Design
9. Louisiana State University
Louisiana State University’s College of Art and Design offers a BFA in Graphic Design degree program. LSU’s graphic design degrees are recognized as the most comprehensive in the general region. Louisiana State University’s Bachelor in Graphic Design program has been recognized by Animation Career Review. Degree candidates for the LSU’s BFA in Graphic Design program must complete 120 credit units and a senior project to graduate. LSU’s Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design graduates have their senior projects placed on exhibit. Coursework includes drawing & composition, figure drawing, digital imaging, and digital photography, among others.
Louisiana State University was established in 1860. LSU is the state’s flagship institution of higher learning with designations as a space-grant, land-grant and space-grant university. LSU’s 4,800+-acre campus is home to nearly 32,000 students studying from LSU’s fourteen colleges/schools.
What We Like: Louisiana State University is considered the most comprehensive university across the state of Louisiana.
Degree: BFA in Graphic Design
10. Temple University
Temple University’s Tyler School of Art & Architecture offers a BFA in Graphic & Interactive Design (GAID) degree program that is internationally recognized among the best graphic design degrees offered. Temple’s BFA in Graphic Design requires degree candidates to complete at least 126 credit units, which includes a culminating senior project. Coursework for TU’s Bachelor in Graphic Design program includes Advance Typography, Advertising Design, and Interactive design, to name a few. Students enrolled in the BFA in Graphic Design program have an opportunity to participate in a design workshop in Italy.
Temple University was established in 1884. While it began as a private school, Temple University now operates as a public institution of higher learning. The school is now a public school but was initially a private institution of higher education. TU’s urban campus covers more than 100 acres and serves more than 40,000 students.
What We Like: Temple University operates several satellite facilities through Pennsylvania, and internationally in Japan and Italy.
Degree: BFA in Graphic & Interactive Design
11. Fashion Institute of Technology
The Fashion Institute of Technology offers a BFA in Graphic Design degree program, among other graphic design degrees. FIT’s Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design program prepares students in the design areas of environmental graphics, media design, and advanced typography, to name a few. The Bachelor in Graphic Design program offered by FIT also provides international study opportunities at one of three design college in London. Students must include a portfolio of their work to be reviewed by the faculty members of the Fashion Institute of Technology, upon admission.
The Fashion Institute of Technology was established in 1944 and a member of the State University of New York system. FIT operates with the School of Art & Design, the School of Business/Technology, the School of Liberal Arts, and the School of Graduate Studies.
What We Like: FIT’s campus cover about one and one-half city blocks in Midtown South Manhattan and serves more than 8,500 students.
Degree: BFA in Graphic Design
12. Drexel University
Drexel University’s Westphal College of Media Arts & Design offers a BFA in Graphic Design degree program. Graduates of Drexel’s Graphic Design BFA program work in the design, advertising, publishing, and corporate design areas in business, commerce, and public service. Drexel’s Bachelor in Graphic Design program prepares design students using creative problem-solving projects that enhance classroom work. The Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design degree program provided by Drexel University requires students to complete 183 credit units to graduate. Coursework for these graphic design degrees includes Screenprint, Computer Imaging, and Drawing, among others.
Drexel University was established in 1891. The school’s urban campus serves more than 24,000 students studying for nearly 175-degree programs from nineteen colleges/schools and a distance learning extension.
What We Like: Drexel University is best known for its cooperative education philosophy, where a student can receive up to 18 months of paid relevant work experience.
Degree: BFA in Graphic Design
13. Rhode Island School of Design
The Rhode Island School of Design offers a BFA in Graphic Design degree program. RISD’s Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design program is completed in four years and includes theories, principles, and real-world experiences. Coursework for the Bachelor in Graphic Design program includes Spatial Dynamics, Art Theory, Typography, plus a final year senior project. Portfolios fo the admission to RISD’s graphic design degrees should consist of 12 to 20 work samples.
The Rhode Island School of Design was established in 1877 as a private institution of higher learning. The school’s thirteen-acre campus is home to more than 2,400 students. The school opened the RISD Museum in the same year the school was founded.
What We Like: The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is located adjacent to Brown University’s campus. Both schools share resources and coursework.
Degree: BFA in Graphic Design
14. University of Cincinnati
The College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning at the University of Cincinnati offers a Bachelor of Communication Design. This bachelor in graphic design focuses on how design is used to educate, persuade, and inform. Students learn to us space, interactivity, storytelling, audio, video, drawing, animation, photography, and typography to convey a message. The curriculum is made of design studios that allow students to practice their skills and add to their portfolios.
The College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning is consistently ranked among the top 30 design schools by Businessweek magazine. The school gives students the opportunity to work with faculty and other students while completing real-world projects presented by real clients. The school’s co-op program is one of the best in the nation. It provides opportunities for students to gain experience in their fields while they work.
What We Like: Students participate in co-ops that provide valuable work experience and allow students to practice what they have learned.
Degree: BS in Design
15. Jefferson University
Students looking for graphic design degrees may be interested in the BS in Graphic Design Communication from Thomas Jefferson University. This program teaches students to think like design strategists. Students learn to solve communication and design problems by following the design process. Students collaborate with students from other programs to complete real-world projects and gain experience that will help them after graduation.
The Kanbar College of Design, Engineering, and Commerce provides a multidisciplinary approach to education that makes use of the latest innovative teaching methods. The school encourages students to enhance their creativity and collaborate with others to achieve results. Students gain real-world experience in their field and related fields, which prepares them to be more effective in their future careers. Kanbar combines engineering, design, and business to push students to focus on teamwork and collaboration as they apply their skills to real-world problems.
What We Like: Design students at Thomas Jefferson University frequently win awards at regional, national, and international design competitions.
Degree: BS in Graphic Design Communication
16. Texas State University
The BFA in Communication Design from Texas State University is a good choice for students seeking a BFA in graphic design. The program is considered one of the best of its kind in the Southwest. The school seeks to create an environment where students are stimulated to pursue their own interests withing the fields of graphic design, interactive media, and art direction. Students frequently participate in design competitions and complete internships to gain more experience in the field.
The School of Art and Design at Texas State University encourages students to seek out connections between various disciplines. The school hosts a series of exhibitions in its University Galleries each year so that students can immerse themselves in great art. There is an annual trip to Florence, Italy for art students who wish to study abroad.
What We Like: Students learn in a studio environment, and most classes have 16 students or fewer.
Degree: BFA in Communication Design
17. Virginia Commonwealth University
Virginia Commonwealth University offers a BFA in Graphic Design that includes courses in sequential and motion design, publication and print design, and interaction design. The program prepares students to be able to integrate information with form to create visual communicate that clearly conveys the desired message. Students learn critical thinking and problem-solving skills in addition to learning design skills through the core studio courses.
The VCU School of the Arts is a top-ranking art and design school that is part of a public research university. The school was founded in 1928 and now takes up 16 buildings on the VCU campus. The average studio class has just 17 students, so students are able to get individualized support from their teachers.
What We Like: The VCU School of the Arts ranks #1 in the country among public art programs and #2 for all art programs, public and private.
Degree: BFA in Graphic Design
18. Howard University
Howard University offers a BA or BFA in Design that is a great choice for students seeking a bachelor of arts in graphic design. The program seeks to give students skills and knowledge in various competencies with within the design field, such as interactive design, motion, digital design, print and publication design, and three-dimensional design. Students learn problem-solving skills in addition to gaining mastery of the art and craft of design.
The Howard University Department of Art is dedicated to graduating professional designers and articles who are socially conscious and able to convey their ideas visually through art and design. Graduates are prepared to take on a variety of design challenges in the real world.
What We Like: The Howard University Department of Art offers degrees in fashion design and interior design as well as general design (graphic design/communications).
Degree: BFA in Design
19. Sage Colleges
The BFA in Graphic and Media Design from The Sage Colleges covers four types of design: image design, motion design, interactive design, and graphic design. Students learn typography, design principles, creative development, user experience design, animation, storyboarding, video and audio production, photography, and more. They build their networks and portfolios as well as their design skills. Students often work on design projects for the Albany Symphony Orchestra, the Stratton V.A. Medical Center, and other local organizations.
The Sage Colleges offer multidisciplinary programs that help students think bigger, drawing on information for various disciplines to come up with fresh, new ideas. Students in every major learn leadership, critical thinking, teamwork, and problem-solving skills through the school’s innovative thinking modules (called i.Think). All students must complete an internship as part of their studies.
What We Like: Graphic and Media Design students have the opportunity to participate in internships around the world, and many are offered jobs as a result.
Degree: BFA in Graphic and Media Design
20. Woodbury University
Woodbury University’s School of Media, Culture & Design offers a BFA in Graphic Design. Students who complete the program finish with a strong portfolio that will get noticed by employers. Students can choose to focus their portfolios in motion design, environmental design, publications, advertising, or entertainment. The program provides skills, knowledge, and experience in both print and digital design. Students learn about sequencing, diagrams, color, image, typography, and more.
Woodbury University is a non-profit liberal arts university that is committed to helping its students succeed by enabling student-faculty interaction and providing a practice-based education. Woodbury’s graduates are innovative professionals who responsibly contribute to the global economy and community. The school focuses on establishing partnership that lead to student engagement and enrich the learning experience for its students.
What We Like: Students from Woodbury University have won more than 100 national and international design awards in advertising, branding, package design, poster design, logo and identity design, and entertainment.
Degree: BFA in Graphic Design
21. College for Creative Studies
The College for Creative Studies’ BFA in Communication Design is one of the best graphic design degrees in Michigan. The program covers interaction, motion, and print design starting with the principles of graphic design for print media. Students first learn about color, typography, and image design, then move on to using code to create interactive environments and build online media.
The College for Creative Studies is a world-class school that provides students not only with the knowledge and skills to be successful, but also the experience. Students are taught by experienced faculty members who are experts in their field. Class sizes are kept small to encourage student-faculty interaction. CCS provides opportunities for networking through company visits to campus, recruiting, and other events. Through these events, students are able to practice their interview skills and get feedback on their portfolios.
What We Like: Graduates are qualified for jobs in graphic design, branding, user experience design, motion design, editorial design, web design, advertising design, and more.
Degree: BFA in Communication Design/Graphic Design
22. Pratt Institute
Students looking for a bachelor in graphic design should consider the BFA in Communications Design program at Pratt Institute. The program teaches students to identify opportunities, redefine problems, challenge perceptions, and engage audiences through communication design. The school’s location immerses students in a variety of cultural experiences and inspires them to greatness. Graduates work in independent ventures, branding agencies, cultural institutions, and design studios.
The School of Design at Pratt Institute is dedicated to helping students become good communicators, critical thinkers, and producers of culture. The Pratt Institute has some of the most highly-rated programs in the nation, and its faculty includes renowned designers, artists, and scholars. The school offers interdisciplinary programs that help students make connections that spark new ideas. Pratt is committed to the success of its students and challenges students to express their passion in a meaningful way.
What We Like: The School of Design promotes resourcefulness and adaptability through a multidisciplinary curriculum.
Degree: BFA in Communications Design
23. Kennesaw State University
Kennesaw State University offers a BFA with a concentration in graphic communications. This program prepares students for a variety of careers within the graphic design field. Courses include motion graphics, interactive media design, web design for artists, advertising and packaging, pre-press, publication design, typography, and electronic illustration. The program culminates in a design practicum that allows students to showcase the skills they have learned.
The School of Art and Design at Kennesaw State University offers many unique options for art and design students. The school is dedicated to developing skilled animators, design and studio artists, art historians, and art educators. KSU is one of the largest public universities in the nation and is located in the Atlanta metro area.
What We Like: Graphic communication students complete a portfolio review during their senior year as part of their studies.
Degree: BFA in Graphic Communications
24. Art Center College of Design
The BFA in Graphic Design from ArtCenter College of Design produces graduates who are versatile enough to apply their skills to a variety of print and digital media. The curriculum includes spatial media, transmedia, visual interaction design, environmental graphic design, packaging, branding, and print design. Students learn to apply their design skills to a wide range of communication applications. The program is suited to both generalists and students who wish to focus on a specific design format or medium.
ArtCenter College of Design encourages students to excel in both technique and craft as they learn the principles of design. The school believes design is essential to society and is dedicated to producing leaders in the design community. The faculty members are passionate and bring their own real-world experience into the classroom. ArtCenter graduates make a profound difference on the visual world.
What We Like: ArtCenter graduates are highly sought after by employers in the business world.
Degree: BFA in Graphic Design
25. University of the Arts
The University of the Arts offers a BFA in Graphic Design that prepares students for careers in motion graphics, publication design, branding, and more. Students learn to think both creatively and critically. They learn to experiment and play with ideas to come up with eloquent solutions to design problems. The program is multidisciplinary and encourages students to collaborate with other departments and organizations.
The University of the Arts has been providing a rigorous art and design education for over 140 years. The school encourages students to cross boundaries by making all 30 minors open to all students, regardless of major, so animators can minor in ceramics, industrial designers can study illustration, and creative writers can learn to play the guitar. The University of the Arts is the largest school of its kind in the United States.
What We Like: Students start with a core foundation in their first year, and each year increases in difficulty and complexity.
Degree: BFA in Graphic Design
How Do I Choose a Graphic Design School?
Developing the skills to perform graphic design can be done in any program. However, when a person finds a program from one of the best graphic design schools in the world that offers mentoring from professionals, he or she is gaining insight into the real world of graphic design. Professionals can also teach a person tricks of the trade that can’t be learned from a program — only experience.
Pupils learn a great deal from working alongside individuals in their field of interest. Therefore, a student should also look for a school that offers connections to graphic design internships. Since the ultimate goal of a student is to work in the field, besides graphic design internships, a pupil should look for colleges that offer graphic design majors that have a strong reputation for networking for jobs after graduation.
NASAD accreditation is another aspect to consider. NASAD accreditation is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design, and they’ve been accrediting schools since 1944.
What’s the Difference Between a BFA in Graphic Design and a BS in Graphic Design?
When a person is choosing graphic design as a major, a student chooses between a BFA in graphic design and a BS in graphic design. To understand BA vs BFA in graphic design, a person must know that a BFA is a bachelor’s in fine arts while a BS is a bachelor of science in graphic design.
A BFA in graphic design focuses on the art aspect of the major. Many of the credits in a BFA are related to visual arts. On the other hand, a BS in graphic design focuses on technology, math, and science. Overall, when a person considers a BA vs BFA in graphic design, it’s important to understand that a BFA provides a student with a more well-rounded education, so his or her options after graduation aren’t as limited. Ultimately, the decision, though, should revolve around whether a student is more interested in art or science.
What Do You Learn in a Graphic Design Program?
Students who choose a graphic design major will learn about contemporary technology. They take courses especially related to photo editing since this is one of the requirements of graphic designer education. Pupils who choose a graphic design major will take classes to help them understand color and its significance. Students who choose graphic design will take graphic design degree courses to study video. In graphic design degree courses like these, students learn to analyze a video thoroughly.
Graphic designer education requirements also usually entail a student taking a course in photography. As one of the graphic design degree requirements, a student learns the basic elements of photography to create beautiful pictures by changing lighting and angles. Often, design degree requirements include a student taking a course in graphic design and how it relates to marketing.
The graphic design degree requirements vary based on whether a student is in a BFA or a BS. In a BS program, the graphic degree requirements make it so a student must take numerous courses in science and math while the graphic design major requirements for a BFA deem it so a student takes more classes related to art.
Despite much of the program being focused on graphic design, graphic design degree requirements will also include general credits. These are graphic design major requirements because they help to create a well-rounded individual.
What Does a Graphic Designer Do?
A graphic designer job description includes a person informing and inspiring buyers through graphics and print. The graphic designer job description may include altering images or using a variety of mediums to create them. Therefore, graphic designer requirements skills may go beyond basic photo editing duties. With the proper graphic designer qualifications, a person can help businesses meet part of their promotional and commercial needs. The graphic designer requirements skills allow a person to create displays, logos, and help with branding in other ways.
Although many graphic designers are self-employed, a person in this field can find jobs in advertising, marketing, and public relations. It’s not as common, but newspapers and book publishers may require graphic designers.
Self-employed graphic designers are freelancers. So what is a freelance graphic designer? To answer what is a freelance graphic designer, a person must understand that these individuals find contract positions and may work as a graphic designer from their own home or studio. They may need to take on several clients to have full-time work. Often, they find work on freelance graphic designer websites that have job boards. On the other hand, they may decide to create one of their own freelance graphic designer websites with a portfolio to advertise their own work.