|1||Savannah College of Art and Design||Georgia||Top 1%|
|2||North Carolina State University at Raleigh||North Carolina||2%|
|3||Ringling College of Art and Design||Florida||2%|
|5||Clemson University||South Carolina||4%|
|6||Appalachian State University||North Carolina||4%|
|7||University of Georgia||Georgia||5%|
|8||University of Tennessee||Tennessee||6%|
|9||Louisiana State University||Louisiana||6%|
|10||East Carolina University||North Carolina||7%|
Our 2019 ranking of the Top 10 Graphic Design School Programs in the South. We considered 156 southern colleges with graphic design programs for this year's rankings. For an explanation of our ranking criteria, click here.
We define the South as Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas.
1. Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia (top 1% of colleges considered)
Founded in 1978, Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is home to more than 14,000 students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries. The school offers more than 40 majors and 75 minors, as well as certificate and online programs. With campuses in Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Lacoste, France, SCAD has plenty of opportunities to study at domestic and international locations and it offers more graphic design programs than just about any other school on our list. Options include BA, BFA, MA, and MFA degrees in Graphic Design and a Design Management MA. A Minor and a Certificate are also available.
All programs highlight Product Packaging, Entrepreneurship, Mobile Technology, Interface Design and User Experience. Students have the opportunity to declare a double major in the areas of Advertising, Branded Entertainment, Illustration, Motion Media Design, Sequential Art and more, and access to Minors such as Mobile and Interactive Design and Advertising Copywriting. Students may complement their degree with Certificates in Digital Publishing or Interactive Design as well.
The BA degree is offered in Atlanta, Savannah and online and the BFA, MA, MFA, and Minor programs are offered in Atlanta, Hong Kong, Savannah, and online. The Certificate program is offered in Atlanta, Savannah and online.
2. North Carolina State University at Raleigh, Raleigh, North Carolina (top 2% of colleges considered)
Founded in 1887, North Carolina State University at Raleigh (NC State) is home to around 35,480 students enrolled in 300 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Known as “the school of 100+ startups and spinoffs,” NC State houses 12 colleges and 65 departments. The College of Design is home to the Graphic Design program which offers two degree paths—a Bachelor of Graphic Design and a Master of Graphic Design.
The College has recently established a PhD in Design/Information Design Concentration as well. The undergraduate and graduate degrees are NASAD (National Association of Schools of Art and Design) accredited and the PhD program is set to receive NASAD approval after graduating its first class.
Per the College of Design, students in the undergraduate program study comparative ideas about, and methods for, creating visual communication. Sequenced core studios, typography courses, and image-making courses “progressively introduce and develop skills, processes, and sensitivities across a range of media.” Graduate students will “closely examine the cultural and technological situatedness of graphic design and its products, and to seek understanding of the people who use and interact with the things that graphic designers make.”
3. Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota, Florida (top 2% of colleges considered)
Ringling College of Art and Design (RCAD) was established in 1931 by circus baron, art collector, and real estate developer John Ringling. The school opened with 111 courses and just 75 students. Today, RCAD sits on a 35-acre campus and it is home to approximately 1,561 degree-seeking students from 43 states, DC, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Military Bases, and 58 countries.
RCAD offers a BFA in Graphic Design that prepares students to design “show-stopping solutions for print and interactive media.” Launched in 1980, the program allows students to collaborate with other artists such as copywriters, printers, photographers, illustrators, and developers to “make their ideas a reality.”
Graduates of the RCAD Graphic Design program have been hired by companies such as Google, Facebook, Adult Swim, CBS Interactive, ESPN, Apple iTunes, Leo Burnett, Microsoft, Yahoo!, American Greetings, IGN Entertainment, Wieden + Kennedy, Walt Disney Company, Birchbox, Inc. and many others.
4. Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama (top 3% of colleges considered)
Established in 1856 as the East Alabama Male College, Auburn University is now home to a co-ed population of 29,776 students enrolled in more than 140 degree options across 13 colleges and schools. The College of Architecture, Design and Construction is home to in the School of Industrial + Graphic Design. Program offerings for aspiring graphic designers include a BFA in Graphic Design (BFA GDES).
The program emphasizes Fine Arts, Exhibitions, Identity Development, Logos, Visual/Digital Interface, Packaging, and Magazine Design. In addition, the school says, “students have excellent opportunities for internship and cooperative education experiences as a result of well established relationships with regional, national and international companies and firms.” Career opportunities range from “the development of strategies to implement large-scale communications campaigns, to the design of effective communication products such as magazines, logo and identity development, interactive media, web design, packaging, exhibitions, illustration, and environmental graphics.”
Auburn GDES is the only Graphic Design Program in Alabama to receive National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) accreditation.
5. Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina (top 4% of colleges considered)
Founded in 1889, Clemson University serves more than 23,000 students enrolled in more than 270 undergraduate majors, minors, and graduate programs through seven schools. The College of Business, Department of Graphic Communications offers a BS in Graphic Communications that the school says is “dedicated to hands-on learning experiences.” Students in the program are “placed in positions in a variety of printing, packaging, publishing, imaging and related industries in management, marketing, sales, customer service, creative, technical and scientific positions.” The school says that placement rates are “consistently high” with “competitive salaries.”
In addition to engaging in hands-on learning experiences, Graphic Communications students will take courses such as Digital Imaging and eMedia, Packaging Science, Ink and Substrates, Package and Specialty Printing, Commercial Printing, Technical Writing, Current Developments and Trends in Graphic Communications, and Marketing. Graduates of the program are prepared to enter the schools MS in Graphic Communications or seek positions in printing management, production planning and supervision, commercial and technical sales, and many others.
The MS in Graphic Communications includes 33 credit hours of graduate courses for the non-thesis option or 30 hours with a thesis. Within the total requirements, at least 17 hours will be in GC technical/managerial courses; seven will be research related; six credits will be from outside the Graphic Communications Department; and at least one-half will be at or above the 8000 level.
Graduates of the program are placed in positions in a variety of printing, packaging, publishing, imaging and related industries in management, marketing, sales, customer service, creative, technical, scientific and academic positions.
6. Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina (top 4% of colleges considered)
Appalachian State University was founded in 1899. The school serves approximately 19,108 students enrolled in more than 150 degree programs through the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Fine and Applied Arts, Reich College of Education, Walker College of Business, Hayes School of Music, Beaver College of Health Sciences and Cratis D. Williams School of Graduate Studies. Appalachian also offers a doctorate of education. The College of Fine and Applied Arts is home to the Department of Art, which offers a BFA in Graphic Design.
The program consists of 66 semester hours in Art Studio and related areas and 12 semester hours in Art History/Criticism and allows students to take a mix of both prescribed and elected courses in art, concentrating on individual strengths and interests. Sample courses for the program include Typography, Digital Imaging, Calligraphy, Interaction Design, Idea Lab, Motion Graphics, Sign, Symbol, Image, Design Methods, and Graphic Design Professional Practice.
Per the school, graduates of the BFA program “will be prepared to successfully contend for the rigorous and highly competitive careers in graphic design as well as for admittance into graduate level programs.”
7. University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia (top 5% of colleges considered)
Established in 1785, University of Georgia (UGA) is home to more than 37,600 students enrolled in 170 majors and academic programs across 17 schools and colleges. The Lamar Dodd School of Art offers a BFA in Art with Concentrations in Graphic Design, Printmaking & Book Arts, and ArtX: Expanded Forms. An Interdisciplinary Art & Design A.B. (BA), a Minor in Studio Art, and MFA degrees in ArtX and Printmaking are also on the menu.
Per the school, “all BFA degrees include the Studio Art Core, comprised of a year-long survey of art history, introductory-level studio foundations, secondary-level ideation and methodologies, and upper-level interdisciplinary thematic studio and professional practice courses. Students pursuing the BFA degree enter the School of Art as Intended Art majors. In most studio programs, students are required to present an exhibition or final portfolio that serves as a capstone experience before graduation, demonstrating their achievement in developing a mature and cohesive body of work.”
All art and design students have access to a large study abroad program that offers experiences on all seven continents and UGA campuses in Costa Rica, Central America, Cortona, Italy, and Oxford, England.
8. University of Tennessee – Knoxville, Tennessee (top 6% of colleges considered)
Founded in 1794 as Blount College, the University of Tennessee – Knoxville serves nearly 29,000 students enrolled in more than 900 programs of study through 11 colleges. The College of Arts and Sciences houses the School of Art, which offers a BFA in Graphic Design. The program, which will make its way to the College of Architecture + Design in Fall 2019, will highlight an enhanced curriculum that encourages “cross-disciplinary studies and collaborations within the university as well as the community, helping students to meet the challenges of an evolving design practice,” says the school.
Sample courses for the program include Advanced Graphic Design, Graphic Design Production, Typography, Computer Enhanced Graphic Design, Graphic Design Seminar and Graphic Design Professional Seminar. Graduates of the program are prepared to seek positions in graphic design-related fields such as advertising, art direction, three-dimensional design, publication designs, electronic media, and more.
9. Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana (top 6% of colleges considered)
Louisiana State University (LSU) was founded in 1853 under the name Louisiana State Seminary of Learning and Military Academy. The school serves around 29,300 students enrolled in more than 235 programs through more than a dozen colleges and schools. The College of Art and Design houses the School of Art which offers two programs for aspiring graphic designers. Options include a BFA in Studio Art with a Concentration in Graphic Design and an MFA in Graphic Design.
The 120 credit hour BFA program helps students develop skills in typography, print and editorial design, information design, digital imaging and motion graphics, packaging, environmental design, identity design, and branding. Course highlights include Graphic Abstraction, Two-Dimensional Design, Three-Dimensional Design, Digital Art, Prepress Production Techniques, Interactive Multimedia Design, Digital Imaging Techniques, and Applied Typography.
Per the school, the 60 credit hour, three-year MFA program includes “research and discourse of both modernist and postmodernist methods, strategies, and analysis of the practice of design and their implementation to contemporary graphic design.” Students in the program will take 27 graduate studio hours, 12 art history hours, 12 studio art/general elective hours, and a three hour teaching seminar.
Courses are supplemented by workshops and lectures by national and international visiting artists, scholars, and design professionals. The final year of study is “dedicated principally to the master’s thesis—submitted as a thesis report and exhibition, for which it is anticipated that students will make original and comprehensive student-directed research investigations in graphic communications.” The thesis is worth six credit hours.
10. East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina (top 7% of colleges considered)
East Carolina University (ECU) was founded in 1907 as a teacher training school. Today, the school serves more than 29,000, making it the third largest university in North Carolina. East Carolina University offers more than 200 undergraduate, graduate and minor programs through 12 colleges and schools. The College of Fine Arts & Communication houses the School of Art and Design (SoAD), which has several programs for aspiring graphic designers. Options include a BFA in Art with a Concentration in Graphic Design, a BFA in Art Education with a Concentration in Graphic Design, and an MFA in Art with a Concentration in Graphic Design.
Per the school, BFA programs include “a strong grounding in the traditions of typography” and address “issues of business, communication, social science, and art. Most classes center around the examination and discussion of student work so a consistent output of graphic design is essential. This limits the graphic design students to those who want to work. The work includes thinking, reading, and talking as well as the production of designed objects.”
Sample courses for the undergraduate programs include Graphic Design Studio, Graphic Design Survey, and Advanced Graphic Design. Students in the program will have opportunities to produce projects for actual clients, internships and study abroad opportunities are also part of the program.
The MFA in Art with a Concentration in Graphic Design is a 60 credit hour program that includes coursework in Graphic Design, Art History, Supporting Art Areas (art electives) and coursework outside of the SoAD. Graduates of the program are prepared to seek employment in “academia as a professor of graphic design, undertake high-level graphic design practice, or a variety of other options.”