GDUSA 2017 Top Graphic Design Schools

In the GDUSA February 2017 magazine, which kicked off our 54th year of publishing, we released our annual Students To Watch selections. Now we’ve compiled a list of our favorite institutions that excel in preparing students to work successfully and effectively in a professional graphic design setting. The list is based on a mix of objective and subjective factors, including our own decades long relationships with designers, students, recruiters, educators. The names are alphabetical. The reach is national. The theme is timely: design education is more important than ever as the lines between studio and classroom, office and  academy, university and society, continue to blur. And as designers play an increasingly influential role in shaping commerce and culture.


With more than 18,000 students, Academy of Art University is the largest accredited private art and design university in the nation. Founded in 1929, the school and San Francisco have grown up together and served as mutual sources of inspiration and talent. Academy of Art University offers accredited AA, BA, BFA, B. Arch, MA, MFA and M. Arch degree programs in numerous areas of study, as well as continuing art education and pre-college programs for high school students. Flexible online degree programs are available in most areas of study, including graphic design. What makes the School of Graphic Design special is its emphasis on portfolio development. From the very first class, students are encouraged to create an exceptional portfolio that demonstrates skills in traditional drawing and painting as well as a well-rounded education in typography, print and editorial design, branding, information design, web design and packaging.

For more than 80 years, Art Center College of Design has remained focused on the core educational mission of developing creative leaders and innovators in art and design. The institution is leading the way with cross-disciplinary programs and studios that prepare students within and outside their chosen fields. Art Center College has an international reputation for its rigorous, transdisciplinary curriculum, faculty of professionals, strong ties to industry and a commitment to socially responsible design. The school has roughly 2,000 students, undergraduate and graduate.

The Graphic Design Program at Auburn University prepares students to practice visual communication in a competitive global environment. Auburn’s nationally regarded BFA is NASAD accredited and concentrates on interactive design and mobile design, user experience design, strategic branding, typography, publication design, packaging, illustration and image making, and fine arts. Students receive hands-on design instruction in a professional studio environment with a strong sense of community among students and faculty. Courses emphasize a systemic approach to design by incorporating cross-disciplinary collaborations and train students to become versatile designers and art directors. The program hosts exhibitions, design symposiums, and guest lectures by industry leaders, and the internship program provides real-world experience and opportunities to network. Students build a strong portfolio of work as a result of their overall experience and education. The Program is housed among other prestigious design disciplines within the beautiful traditional campus setting.

Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized institution of higher education and research, and the fourth-largest independent university in the U.S. The College of Fine Arts offers professional training in the arts in conservatory-style environments for undergraduate and graduate students complemented by a liberal arts curriculum for undergraduate students. The Graphic Design program is traditionally-based with a modern orientation, and is supported by a stellar faculty. As working professionals, faculty provide honest real world insight, countless avenues for creative inspiration, and insider knowledge of design studios, thoroughly preparing students for post-collegiate life. Graphic design students learn photography from the darkroom to critical evaluation of the print, study typography as an element of design, and learn to relate 3-D graphics to architectural and package design. Students also participate in interdisciplinary projects across the campus, collaborating with students from other schools and allowing them to apply design problem solving in contemporary practice.

California College of the Arts (CCA) educates students to shape culture and society through the practice and critical study of art, architecture, design, and writing. Founded in 1907, the college currently offers 22 undergraduate and 13 graduate programs to its nearly 2000 students. Graphic design students at CCA learn how to engage the mind and the senses by translating ideas into provocative forms and powerful experiences. They identify problems and find solutions that move people to think, feel, and act.

California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) is a highly regarded private art college near Los Angeles. The program in Graphic Design offers both a BFA and MFA degree, with courses in web and interface design; motion graphics; print and publication design; branding, identity, and type design; as well as in design history and education. The curriculum emphasizes both practical and conceptual skills. Throughout its history, the graphic design program has been home to prestigious design educators and has produced influential graduates, garnering a reputation for boundary-pushing visual experimentation and academic rigor. Students create a body of work that is not simply a string of assignments, but which is uniquely theirs, preparing them to carve an independent path into design practice.

Carnegie Mellon’s School of Design is one of the oldest and most respected programs, with a rich history in Product Design, Communication Design, Interaction and Service Design. It is one of the only leading programs to offer design degrees at the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral levels within a multi-disciplinary, multi-cultural research university. The School of Design houses approximately 250 students within a historic building on campus in Pittsburgh, one of America’s most livable cities. School officials state: “The demand for our graduates is increasing, and each year during Confluence, our career fair, many students receive offers of employment prior to graduation.”

Located in the heart of Detroit, the College for Creative Studies (CCS) educates artists and designers to be leaders in the creative professions. A private, fully accredited college, CCS enrolls more than 1,400 students pursuing BFA and MFA degrees. The College also offers non-credit courses through its Continuing and Precollege Studies programs and opportunities for youth through its Community Arts Partnerships programs. The Communication Design (formerly Graphic Design) program strengthens students’ design and research skills and develops their ability to use a variety of media in creating engaging communications. The program focuses on design planning/strategy, branding systems, interaction design, motion graphics design, publication design, environmental design, advertising design and experience design.

The mission of The Cooper Union’s School of Art is to educate artists in the broadest sense, both as creative practitioners engaged with a wide range of disciplines in the visual arts and as enlightened citizens of the world who are prepared to question and transform society. The program is structured around an integrated curriculum that fosters connections between disciplines, as well as between traditional and new media. The Foundation Program consists of a series of prerequisite courses taken during the first year. Upon completion, disciplines offered are graphic design, drawing, film and video, painting, photography, printmaking and sculpture. Students may choose to focus their work in one or more areas of specialization and are encouraged to follow an integrated approach. The graphic design curriculum includes courses on typography, web design, game design, information design, motion graphics and more. Cooper Union has a long and proud history, and is located in New York City.

Cranbrook Academy of Art is the nation’s leading graduate-only program in architecture, design and fine art including, of course, graphic design. Each year, just 75 students are invited to study and live on the landmark Saarinen-designed campus, which features private studios, state-of-the art workshops, a renowned Art Museum, and 300 acres of forests, lakes, and streams, all a short drive from the city of Detroit. The focus at Cranbrook is on studio practice in one of ten disciplines: Architecture, 2D and 3D Design, Ceramics, Fiber, Metalsmithing, Painting, Photography, Print Media, and Sculpture. The program is anchored by celebrated Artists- and Designers-in-Residence, one for each discipline, all of whom live and practice on campus alongside our students.

Drexel’s Westphal College prepares students who are passionate about design, media and performing arts to succeed in these competitive creative fields. The school offers 17 undergraduate and 7 graduate majors, including top-ranked programs in Game Design, Fashion Design, Interior Design, Product Design, and Graphic Design. And the award-winning facilities are technology-infused. The program values a studio approach that incorporates six months of required co-op work experience for all undergraduates. Drexel is a Top 100 University located in the heart of Philadelphia. The Graphic Design program prepares students to inform, persuade, educate, and entertain through the creative use of word and image. Students learn to conceptualize, design, and produce visual communication in a wide variety of media, including packaging, websites, interactive media, motion graphics, books, magazines, posters, ads, information systems, exhibition design and more. Students use this work to develop an expansive portfolio, an invaluable tool as they seek and secure future employment.

The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising’s (FIDM) Graphic Design program prepares students for careers as graphic artists and designers. Students learn how to interpret, define and solve client problems while creating a distinct voice of communication to the target audience. Using a combination of technical skills and creative thinking, these comprehensive programs teach students about concept, design, typography and motion graphics and how these elements are combined and used in graphic design for the fashion and entertainment industries. FIDM has campuses and locations in Los Angeles, Orange County (Irvine), San Diego and San Francisco.

The objective of the Full Sail University’s Graphic Design BS degree program is to provide a comprehensive understanding of the field of design – from print publishing to interface design and more. Students sharpen their eye for aesthetics through projects, critiques, and the study of popular culture. In addition to technical proficiency and creative development, their education will help them to hone real-world skills such as media integration, advertising, and branding. Ongoing portfolio courses provide students with opportunities to build tangible projects that showcase their talents, and integrated career development modules help strengthen their professional skills. The Media Design MFA degree program provides an in-depth look at design and the role it plays in bridging the gap between the creative studio and the boardroom. Students study the concepts that drive successful design campaigns – including research, client communications, and team dynamics. Coursework focused on psychological and motivational theories also deepen their understanding of consumers and trends.

Howard University in Washington DC is a leading research university guided by an extraordinary cadre of faculty, students immersed in cutting-edge scholarship and innovation. The Department of Art is committed to graduating socially conscious professional artists/designers and scholars. The primary goal of the Department is to present a multifaceted educational program that distinguishes itself by offering a professional degree program enriched by academic support from University-wide departments. Emphasis is placed upon instruction from a multicultural perspective and recognition of the dynamic reciprocity of art and life. The Department of Art is an accredited institutional member of NASAD and offers a BA degree in Art History; BFA degree in Ceramics, Design, Electronic Studio, Fashion Design, Interior Design, Painting, Photography, Printmaking, and Sculpture; and MFA degree. The Design Program aims to develop a range of knowledge, skills and competencies in visual communication through experiences in 2D, 3D, print, digital, motion, and interactive design.

The Kansas City Art Institute, located in Kansas City MO, is a private, independent four-year college of art and design awarding the BFA degree with majors in animation, art history, ceramics, fiber, filmmaking, graphic design, illustration, interactive arts, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture and studio art with an emphasis on creative writing. KCAI also offers a post-baccalaureate program in art education, as well as certificate programs. KCAI hosts a free public lecture series; free exhibitions at its H&R Block Artspace gallery; and evening, weekend and summer classes for children and adults. Founded in 1885, KCAI is Kansas City’s oldest arts organization. Contact:

MICA has become a leader in the education of artists and designers by fostering a community of talented, creative individuals committed to redefining the boundaries of art and design. The College’s innovative curriculum, state-of-the-art campus and world-class faculty provide the education, community, experiences and resources needed to prepare the artists and designers who will lead in the 21st century. Located in Baltimore, MICA offers a BFA and MFA in Graphic Design, an MA in Social Design, MPS degrees in Business of Art and Design and UX Design, a dual MBA/MA in Design Leadership and a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Graphic Design.

MIAD is Wisconsin’s only four-year, private college of visual art and design, offering BFA degrees in Illustration, Communication Design, Industrial Design, Interior Architecture + Design and Studio Art (New Studio Practice). Throughout MIAD’s Communication Design program – closely tied to its award-winning Illustration program – students have the opportunity to intern at leading advertising and design firms, in corporate settings, and more. Upon graduation, MIAD alumni fill important positions, sharing their voice in major, multi-national corporations, and marketing and communication firms.

The nationally renowned Northwestern University School of Professional Studies has an extensive offering of online master’s degrees and certificate programs, and this now includes an online Master of Science in Information Design and Strategy (IDS). As digital output increasingly becomes the backbone of most business strategy, there is an acute need for professionals with a better big-picture understanding of information management, design and technology. The IDS program teaches students how to translate information and data into meaningful visual forms, narratives and interfaces. This interdisciplinary program prepares students to step into a cross-functional or leadership role by developing a deep and holistic understanding of today’s sophisticated digital media. The program is particularly useful for people in creative fields who want a stronger grounding in business strategy, so that they can expand their career opportunities and make a larger impact on their organizations. The strong theoretical framework of the program and its focus on fundamental concepts makes the degree applicable to many diverse fields and types of organizations — business, the arts, government, healthcare, and education, to name a few — regardless of changes in technology. The IDS program was developed in consultation with industry leaders; it is a part-time and completely online degree.

Established in 1918, Otis is the first independent professional school of art in Los Angeles. The City of Angels is a cultural capital, making it a stimulating place to study art and design. When students graduate, they join the professional communities of entertainment, art, design and fashion. Alumni and faculty are leaders in these communities and support recent graduates. technological proficiency, and innovative outcomes. The goal is to develop critical thinking and visual communication tools for careers in a changing and competitive workplace. During senior year students explore conceptual, theoretical, and experimental projects through individual proposals. They meet in cross-disciplinary teams led by faculty advisors and guest critics. Graduates value structure, surface and form, but also consider the engagements and interactions of design with clients, audiences, and the culture at large.

Based in New York but active around the world, Parsons School of Design at The New School offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the full spectrum of design disciplines. Parsons’ five schools, which encompass 27 rigorous undergraduate, associates and graduate degree programs, offer options for both focused training and interdisciplinary study. The School of Art, Media, and Technology embodies the frisson between art and design, with programs in Communication Design, Design and Technology, Fine Arts, Graphic Design, Illustration and Photography. The AAS in Graphics Design can be completed on campus, online or in combination and goes beyond basic technical knowledge to provide a complete design education. The program investigates up-to-the-minute tools and trends of the trade, including web design, while providing a solid foundation in traditional practices and concepts.

PCAD a fully accredited art college in Lancaster PA, believes graphic design provides a means to communicate powerfully and effectively through images and typography. In the graphic design program, students focus on demanding conceptual and technical courses, enhanced by gradual involvement with clients. Benefiting from a curriculum informed by PCA&D’s over-arching education philosophy “Communications as Currency,” students experience how the creative process involves collaborating with other designers, photographers, digital artists, and illustrators to meet the needs of a client. All faculty are freelance or full-time designers who bring professional jobs to the classroom as competitive assignments. Selected designs enhance students’ portfolios with professional work before they graduate. The required senior internship is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate skills to potential employers. The senior year culminates with the final portfolio and senior exhibition, honing presentation skills. PCA&D’s graphic design BFA program is structured to prepare students to work successfully in this highly competitive field.

The mission of the Graphic Design Communication program at Philadelphia University’s Kanbar College is to cultivate design strategists with an innovative spirit and superior critical thinking skills applicable to a diversity of human needs. Consistent with Philadelphia University’s overall mission to provide professional training with a rigorous Liberal Arts and Business core, the Graphic Design Communication curriculum, which culminates in a BS degree, fosters an appreciation for design as a cultural craft with a relevant historical background and a rapidly evolving future that includes multiple disciplines. The program is conceptually based, embraces design thinking and strategic planning as we view design as a powerful strategic tool to help solve problems in society and business, and features real-world assignments with projects and active hands-on learning. The curriculum emphasizes traditional design skills and focuses on the ability to create and develop visual and verbal responses to complex visual communication problems across a variety of media. Students’ work regularly has been recognized by the likes of the Adobe Design Achievement Awards, AIGA, Graphis, GDUSA, HOW, SPD, The One Show and UCDA.

Portfolio Center in Atlanta GA is a graduate-level design and advertising school whose mission is to prepare students for creative practice and leadership. Thanks to a small, intimate environment, the school is able to break the boundaries of traditional instruction. The education is hands-on and interactive. Believing in the importance of good design, design that is useful and beautiful, students learn to render content with real meaning and to create innovative solutions that actually contribute to the culture. Students use new and emerging media as well as traditional media to communicate. Says Design Coach Hank Richardson: “Because great communication begins with sound reasoning, we train students to think.” Portfolio Center offers both full time and part time intensive programs; students graduate with a Diploma in Art Direction, Copywriting, Design (including Web Design and Illustration), Digital Photography and Video, Social Media, and Account Planning. Portfolio Center recently joined Miami Ad School’s global network of 15 schools.

Founded in 1887, Pratt Institute is a global leader in higher education dedicated to preparing undergraduate and graduate students for successful careers in art, design, architecture, information, and liberal arts and sciences. Located in a cultural hub, with historic campuses in Brooklyn and Manhattan, Pratt is a living lab of craft and creativity with an esteemed faculty of accomplished professionals and scholars. The Institute has Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs in communications design, which are part of Pratt’s School of Design. The Undergraduate Communications Design department offers concentrations in illustration, advertising art direction, and graphic design, and teaches students to craft the strongest and most impactful communications possible by being creative problem solvers and elegant image-makers. Pratt’s Graduate Communications Design department educates graphic and package designers, and offers MFA in communications design and MS in package design degree programs. Both programs provide students with the opportunity to develop and refine their design process, design voice, and creative skills, preparing them for leadership positions in their field.

PrattMWP students spend their years immersed in, not one, but two strikingly different environments with lively art cultures. Students who select this route complete the first two years of their program on the Utica campus in upstate New York, and are then guaranteed a seamless relocation to Pratt’s main Brooklyn campus at the beginning of their junior year. The PrattMWP campus allows students to achieve the prestige and benefits of a Pratt art education at a location that develops their confidence, individual voice and insights. PrattMWP shares its campus with the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, which offers collections, exhibits, classes and events that attract artists and art enthusiasts worldwide. Majors are offered in Fine Arts, Communications Design, Art Education, and Photography. It is the perfect choice for students who prefer to transition to the big city with advanced skills and a tight group of friends. Communications Design students have recently been recognized by GDUSA, PRINT, Creative Quarterly, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, United States Mint, and the British Journal of Aesthetics.

Long one of America’s leading and best-known art and design schools, approximately 2,450 students from around the world are enrolled in full-time bachelor’s or master’s degree programs in a choice of 19 majors. Students value RISD’s accomplished faculty of artists and designers, the breadth of its specialized facilities and its hands-on approach to studio-based learning. Required courses in the liberal arts enrich the studio experience, equipping graduates to make meaningful contributions to their communities. Through their creative thinking and problem solving in a broad range of fields, RISD’s 26,000 alumni exemplify the vital role artists and designers play in fueling global innovation. Founded in 1877, RISD and the RISD Museum help make Providence RI among the most culturally active and creative cities in the region.

For 85 years, Ringling College of Art and Design has cultivated the creative spirit in students from around the globe. The private, not-for-profit fully accredited college offers the BFA degree in eleven disciplines and the BA in two. The College’s rigorous curriculum employs the studio model of teaching and immediately engages students through a comprehensive, first-year program that is both specific to the major of study and focused on the liberal arts. The Ringling College teaching model ultimately shapes students into highly employable and globally aware artists and designers.

Graphic designers create to communicate. They are visual problem-solvers who use a wide variety of methods and media to inform, direct, promote, entertain, motivate, engage, and educate. RIT’s BFA graphic design program prepares students to integrate design principles and methodologies with messages and images to connect with targeted audiences. Students are introduced to a full range of topics including web and interaction design, user experience design, information design, branding, advertising, editorial design, packaging design, and professional practices — complemented by history, theory, conceptual exploration, human interaction, and integration of technology. Access to the Vignelli Center for Design Studies, Cary Graphic Design Archive and Cary Library enable students to further enhance learning and inquiry. Internships, co-ops, and freelance experiences are encouraged, as are interdisciplinary and collaborative projects.

Offering more degree programs and specializations than any other art and design university, SCAD is uniquely qualified to prepare talented students for professional, creative careers. This includes more than 100 academic degree programs in 42 majors across locations in Atlanta and Savannah GA, Hong Kong and Lacoste in France, and online via SCAD eLearning. SCAD enrolls approximately 13,000 undergraduate and graduate students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries. Career preparation is woven into every fiber of the university, resulting in a superior alumni placement rate. In a study of Spring 2015 SCAD graduates, 98 percent were employed, pursuing further education, or both within 10 months of graduation. Graphic design students gain the agility and interdisciplinary perspective needed to make contextually appropriate design decisions in an ever-shifting global landscape. The university’s graphic design curriculum is rooted in creative processes, problem-solving methodologies and visualization concepts designed to connect brands to their users. Students learn to build visual systems across print and multimedia platforms through a variety of approaches – augmented reality, branded spaces, interactivity, environmental and wayfinding systems, typeface design and more. At all levels of study, coursework parallels the latest evolutions of professional practice and entrepreneurship, and emphasis is placed on originality, sustainable processes, contextual relevance and economic feasibility.

SAA is a nationally recognized graphic design college in Ohio. At SAA, students are encouraged to explore their uniqueness and train to become hybrid designers who are able to apply the principles of design and creativity to both print and web projects. The two-year program offers individualized attention from faculty experienced in the design industry who can adjust the curriculum to stay current with market trends and technology advancements. Courses focus on creativity, typography, graphic design, photography, web and app design, illustration, video and motion design, marketing, and presentation skills. SAA has a consistently high job placement rate and a strong reputation among employers for educating designers who are creative and prepared for the demands of the advertising industry. Each student completes an internship in their second year and develops an amazing portfolio. SAA graduates are able to use their design skills and their love for art to achieve rewarding and successful careers.

A leader in educating artists, designers, and scholars since 1866, SAIC offers nationally accredited undergraduate, graduate, and post-baccalaureate programs to students from around the globe. An historically significant accredited independent school of art and design, located in one of the greatest American cities, its accolades are many, including recognition by Columbia University’s National Arts Journalism survey, as “the most influential art college in the United States.” SAIC has an educational philosophy built upon an interdisciplinary approach to art and design, giving students opportunities to develop their creative and critical abilities, while working with renowned faculty who include many of the leading practitioners in their fields.

School of Visual Arts has been a leader in the education of artists, designers and creative professionals for more than six decades. With a faculty of distinguished working professionals, dynamic curriculum and an emphasis on critical thinking, SVA is a catalyst for innovation and social responsibility. Comprised of more than 6,000 students at its Manhattan campus, SVA also represents one of the most influential artistic communities in the world. SVA’s BFA Design program focuses on teaching visual communication problem solving, extending students’ practices beyond conventional graphic design with coursework in 3D design, interactive design and motion graphics. The College’s MFA Design program, founded in 1998, aims to provide students with the tools, inspiration and experience that prepares them for careers in which they succeed as individual and collaborative authors and entrepreneurs.

Founded in 1997, Sessions College for Professional Design is a fully online school of visual arts offering degree and certificate programs. Associate degree majors include Graphic Design, Web Design, Digital Media, Illustration, Advertising Design, and Digital Photography. The mission is to prepare art and design professionals for successful careers by providing the highest quality of online arts education; students gain a thorough training in the technical, creative, and critical thinking skills required for a fast-changing industry. In the Graphic Design Associate degree program, first year students gain proficiency in the traditional elements of art and design. Software and coding classes build skills in contemporary design tools and technologies for digital imaging, illustration, layout, and web publishing. Second year classes explore a range of media including layout projects, print production, packaging, and branding and marketing concepts.

Shillington’s innovative and intensive approach to design education means students can achieve amazing results in a seriously short amount of time — only three months full-time or nine months part-time. No experience required. The course dives straight in with design principles, colour theory and typography basics, but lectures are kept short and sweet. Since Shillington believes students learn to design by designing, the course saves plenty of time to learn the Adobe Creative Suite and put new skills to the test. Inspiring creative briefs, group projects and lots of experimentation keep students on their toes. Before long, students are thinking like designers and building their own impressive portfolios.

The Multimedia, Photography & Design (MPD) department at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications embraces emerging and traditional forms of visual storytelling. Its design program emphasizes strategy, problem solving and human-centered design to create smart, compelling, innovative solutions in print and pixels, including motion, UI/UX, augmented reality, virtual reality, brand identity, product packaging, typography and publication design. MPD values cross-media partnerships, workshops and collaboration, which expose students to a variety of people and environments while diversifying their skills, exploring new tools and becoming the designers they are meant to be. MPD encourages its students to let their passions drive their focus and academic path, and it is proud to support and foster the individuality of its students and their unique voices and vision. Graduates of the design program have gone on to work at places such as IDEO, National Geographic Magazine, IBM, Viacom, Icon Worldwide, Code and Theory as well as their own businesses.

The Texas State University Communication Design Program is one of the largest public programs in the country and one of the best in the Southwest. The goal is to create a stimulating learning environment where students can pursue their specific interests within four areas of professional study: graphic design, art direction, interactive media, and illustration. In addition to the general course work, Communication Design students are encouraged to participate in design competitions, serve as interns to a professional practice, join student organizations, and attend visiting professional lectures and exhibitions. Students have received recognition in prestigious design journals by having their work published in CMYK, Graphis, GDUSA and GDUSA. They have also received recognition in national, regional, and local competitions such as: The One Show, AAF, National DSVC Student Show, Creative Summit, Art Director’s Club of Houston, Austin Addy Awards, and San Antonio Addy Awards.
As part of the DAAP, the Myron E. Ullman School of Design Communications Design Program empowers students with a core of knowledge that provides a solid educational base. The core of the curriculum is a series of sequential design studios and a world-class professional practice (co-op) program helping students develop critical and visual thinking along with essential design processes. Students also have opportunities to further develop in specific areas of interest (including graphic design, interaction design and motion design). DAAP students are prepared to be skilled professionals who can apply work in local and global markets while respecting the diversity of the human community. The School of Design is innovative in teaching and in transforming the design disciplines by infusing learning with the newest design thinking methods and technologies. Through inspired interdisciplinary projects and solid corporate partnerships, the School of Design is devoted to furthering its role as a leading design institution.

Founded in 1876, UArts is one of the nation’s only universities dedicated solely to educating students in the visual and performing arts, design and writing. It is a leader in educating creative individuals through an innovative and flexible, yet rigorous and well-rounded curriculum. With more than 1,800 enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs on its campus in the heart of Philadelphia’s Avenue of the Arts, students collaborate across disciplines and benefit from being in such a vibrant city. Graphic Design at UArts is on the leading edge, delving into new technologies, as well as re-inventing how handmade images and messages uniquely speak to the electronically engaged world. The program emphasizes unique invention, and its students explore both new technologies and old-world craft.

The UCLA Department of Design Media Arts (DMA) offers a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to media creation that fosters individual exploration and innovative thinking. Within the context of the department, design is a process and way of thinking, and media arts foreground experimental media creation. The results emerge in and on books, galleries, game consoles, installations, films, magazines, performances, public spaces, televisions, and websites. They “strive to create socially and culturally relevant objects, experiences, and spaces.”

The MFA in Graphic Design at Vermont College of Fine Arts is a trailblazing low-residency program built around students’ particular interests, values, and goals. Students join the faculty in continuously rethinking graphic design by considering the role of design in the larger culture, the relationships between designers and their work, and the nature of education in design. Both the two-year and three-year track offerings combine two on-campus residencies per year, with six-month semesters of faculty mentorship and independent study. Students, faculty, and guest designers take part in a weeklong residency on the historic campus in Montpelier VT to begin each semester. They then return home and work from an individually crafted study plan with a faculty advisor for the remainder of each semester. Graduates emerge with new research methods, critical expertise, and a body of design work that is personal and relevant to the next stage in their design careers and creative lives.

Woodbury University’s School of Media, Culture & Design offers many challenging degree paths designed to cultivate the next generation of creative professionals. Cross-disciplinarity is a core attribute of the school. Of course, cross-fertilization of ideas happens naturally among students in the school’s many majors but Woodbury also provides more structured mechanisms to spur collaborative brainstorming and conceptual innovation. For example, classes between majors are intentionally paired to bring multiple perspectives to bear on the same design problem. Advanced seminars that transcend any one major allow students to work together. The Graphic Design program is highly ranked and the BFA degree is included in the University’s accreditation by NASAD. It is a professional degree, which translates to a top education resulting in strong, competitive student portfolios. Woodbury students consistently win international and national design awards, and have achieved recognition in entertainment design, web design, advertising design, package design, photography, identity design and environmental graphics. Small class size allows individual attention from the professional faculty. The program has gained a reputation for graduating designers ready to take their place in the profession. In addition, the Los Angeles location offers students numerous internship and networking opportunities.

This highly selective MFA program with the School of Art accepts up to ten students each year, and up to seven students for a preliminary year program. The degree program focuses on the development of a cohesive, investigative body of work, also known as the student’s thesis. It is is conceived as a loose framework within which each student’s visual method is deployed across many diverse projects during his or her two-year course of study. While every thesis project is unique, there are several common features: a focus on methodology, the application of a visual method to studio work, and the organization of the work in a thoughtfully argued written document and catalogue raisonné, also known as the “Thesis Book.” Students applying to the preliminary-year program typically have relevant experience in a field of study outside design and demonstrate evidence of visual acuity.


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