Our inaugural list of the Top 10 Graphic Design School Programs in the South. For an explanation of our ranking criteria, click here.
1. Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota, Florida (Top 1% of schools considered)
Established in 1931 by circus baron, real estate developer, and noted art collector John Ringling, Ringling College of Art and Design opened just 75 students enrolled in 111 courses. Today, the school sits on a 35-acre campus that houses nearly 1,300 students enrolled in BA and BFA degree programs in 11 majors. Programs for aspiring graphic designers include a BFA in Graphic Design, which has been in existence 1980.
In existence since 1980, the graphic design teaches students to “create design solutions in print, motion, and interactive media with projects of all varieties.” Students gain real-world experience through internships with major firms and through “The Collaboratory,” which pairs teams of Ringling students with local businesses. Students also have the opportunity to work at RCADs in-house design firm on projects with external clients and for Ringling College events.
RCAD design graduates have landed positions at Google, Leo Burnett, Microsoft, Trader Joe's, Wieden + Kennedy, LinkedIn, Yahoo, American Greetings, and more.
2. Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia (Top 2% of schools considered)
Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is home to more than 11,000 students enrolled in 40-plus majors and more than 70 minors and certificate programs. Founded in 1978, SCAD has campuses in Savannah, Atlanta, and Hong Kong. The school also has a residential study-abroad location in Lacoste, France.
SCAD offers a variety of degree programs for aspiring graphic designers through the School of Digital Media. Offerings include BA, BFA, MA, and MFA degrees in Graphic Design. A Minor in Graphic Design is also on the menu. All programs are offered at the Savannah and Atlanta campuses and online. Students that wish to study abroad can earn a BFA, MA or MFA in Graphic Design at SCAD’s Hong Kong location. All design students have the opportunity to study abroad in Lacoste as well.
3. North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina (Top 2% of schools considered)
North Carolina State University (NC State) was established in 1887. The school is home to 33,989 students enrolled in more than 300 undergraduate and graduate degree programs across 12 colleges and 65 departments. The College of Design’s Department of Art and Design offers several programs for aspiring graphic designers. Programs include a BA in Graphic Design and a Master of Graphic Design. The master’s program allows students to enroll in a three-credit elective at nearby Duke University or UNC/Chapel Hill under NC State tuition.
4. Memphis College of Art, Memphis, Tennessee (Top 3% of schools considered)
Established in 1936, Memphis College of Art (MCA) is home to 400-450 students from 25 states and five foreign countries. The school offers more than a dozen art and design programs for students seeking bachelors and master’s degrees. Programs for aspiring graphic designers include a BFA in Design Arts with a Concentration Graphic Design and an MFA in Studio Arts. The MFA offers the opportunity to create an individually tailored program of interdisciplinary study, which may include Graphic Design.
5. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina (Top 4% of schools considered)
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the nation’s first public university. Chartered in 1789, the school is home to more than 29,000 students enrolled in more than 250 academic programs through 14 schools and the College of Arts and Sciences. The School of Media and Journalism, which is home to 785 students, offers a variety of unique bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees for aspiring graphic designers. Options include a BA in Journalism & Mass Communication with a Specialization Editing & Graphic Design, and a JD/MA dual degree with a Specialization in Visual Communication/Editing/Multimedia.
In addition to unique degree options for graphic designers, the School of Media and Journalism manages six study abroad exchanges in Paris, London, Brisbane, Hong Kong, Buenos Aires, and Pamplona.
6. Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana (Top 4% of schools considered)
Louisiana State University (LSU) welcomed its first class on January 2, 1860. The school is home to more than 29,000 students enrolled in more than 200 programs across 11 colleges and schools. The College of Art and Design at LSU offers several programs for aspiring animators including BFA and MFA degrees in Graphic Design. According to LSU, the programs prepare students for a career in graphic design “through experiences in the development of work in typography, print and editorial design, information design, digital imaging, packaging, environmental design, identity design, and branding.”
7. University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia (Top 5% of schools considered)
The University of Georgia (UGA) was chartered in 1785 and it is home to more than 34,000 students enrolled in 170 programs through 17 colleges and schools. The Franklin College of Arts and Sciences is home to the Lamar Dodd School of Art. The School offers 15 undergraduate areas of study and 10 graduate areas of study. Programs for aspiring graphic designers include a BFA with a Concentration in Graphic Design. The program features 39 credit hours of graphic design study as well as studio electives in the areas of drawing, painting, printmaking, and photography. All students have the opportunity to study abroad in places such as Cortona—a small town in Tuscany, Italy, Ghana, Africa or Costa Rica, Central America.
8. University of Memphis, Memphis, Tennessee (Top 5% of schools considered)
The University of Memphis was founded in 1909. It is home to more than 20,000 students enrolled in 350-plus areas of study at all degree levels. The school houses 13 colleges and schools from Communication and Fine Arts to Law. Programs for aspiring graphic designers are offered through the College of Communication and Fine Arts (CCFA), Department of Art.
Offerings include BFA and MFA degrees in Art with a Concentration in Graphic Design. For inspiration, all students have access to Center for Sustainable Design (CSD), the Art Museum of the University of Memphis (AMUM), and The Martha and Robert Fogelman Galleries of Contemporary Art.
9. University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida (Top 6% of schools considered)
Founded in 1853, the University of Florida is one of the top five largest universities in the U.S. and the state’s largest and oldest university. It is home to nearly 50,000 students enrolled in more than 300 academic programs across 16 colleges and dozens of schools. The College of the Arts is home to the School of Art + Art History. The School offers several programs for aspiring graphic designers including a BFA in Graphic Design and an MFA in Studio Art with a Concentration in Graphic Design.
The BFA program emphasizes “concept development and application, work with clients, and professional development, including the establishment of a working portfolio.” Alumni work at a variety of companies in the U.S. and abroad, and some have started their own design studios. Just a few major employers of UF graphic design graduates include Microsoft, Starbucks, Macy’s, Facebook, Walt Disney Imagineering, Sapient, and Shutterfly.
The MFA program focuses on “areas of design such as history, theory, criticism, and pedagogy, which are difficult to explore from within the profession.” Graduates of the program work at companies such as R/GA and schools such as Auburn University, Bahçeşehir University, Roger Williams University, University of Houston-Downtown, and more.
10. Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida (Top 6% of schools considered)
Established in 1979, Full Sail University is home to more than 15,000 students from 50 states and 73 countries. The school offers 78 degree programs including a BS in Graphic Design. The program features four areas of focus including Print & 2D, Motion Graphics, Interactive Design, and Portfolio Development. The BS program may be completed on-campus or online and all students have access to more than 110 studios and labs as well as 880,000+ square feet of med