Our 2015 list of the Top 25 Private Graphic Design School Programs in the US. For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.
1. Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island (Top 1% of schools considered)
Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) was founded during the 19th-century Industrial Revolution, when the textiles and jewelry manufacturing industries were beginning to take off in Providence. Since 1877, this private, not-for-profit, four-year art school has taught art and design to thousands of students and it has educated the general public “about the intrinsic value of the arts to society.” Today, the school is home to 2,014 undergraduate students and 435 graduate students from across the U.S. and 57 other countries. This co-educational art school offers 32 degree programs, with graphic design leading the pack. Degree offerings include a BFA in Graphic Design and a two- or three-year MFA in Graphic Design.
2. Parsons School of Design at The New School, New York, New York (Top 1% of schools considered)
Founded in 1896, Parsons School of Design at The New School is made up of five schools including the School of Art and Design History and Theory, the School of Art, Media, and Technology, the School of Constructed Environments, the School of Design Strategies, and the School of Fashion. More than 5,000 students are enrolled in 27 undergraduate, graduate, and associate degree programs across the five schools. The School of Art, Media, and Technology offers several degree programs for aspiring graphic designers. Offerings include a BFA in Communication Design, an AAS in Graphic Design, and a Certificate in Graphic & Digital Design.
3. Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, Maryland (Top 1% of schools considered)
Founded in 1826, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is the oldest degree-granting college of art in the U.S. It is home to 1,863 students enrolled in 80 BFA, MA, MFA, and MPS degree programs. Programs for aspiring graphic designers include a BFA in Graphic Design (54 credits in the major), a BFA Studio Concentration - Graphic Design (18 credits in the concentration), and a BFA in Graphic Design + Humanistic Studies (54 + 48 credits in the major).
4. Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut (Top 2% of schools considered)
Yale University is the third oldest university in the United States. Founded in 1701, this Ivy League institution is home to nearly 12,500 students from the U.S. and 117 other countries and it houses more than a dozen schools from the School of Art to the School of Public Health.
The School of Art is home to Yale’s Graphic Design MFA program. Each year, the program admits up to ten students into the two-year graphic design program, and up to seven students are admitted into the preliminary-year program.
5. School of Visual Arts, New York, New York (Top 2% of schools considered)
School of Visual Arts (SVA) was founded in 1947 as “Cartoonists and Illustrators School.” The school is home to more than 4,300 students enrolled in more than 30 programs. Offerings for aspiring graphic designers include a BFA in Graphic Design. The program includes 72 credits in studio art courses and access to SVA’s popular Digital Imaging Center (DIC).
6. Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan (Top 2% of schools considered)
The Academy of Art was officially sanctioned in 1932, and later became Cranbrook Academy of Art. The school houses 10 departments led by an Artist or Designer-in-Residence and it is home to around 150 students. The 2D Department is the graduate graphic design department of Cranbrook Academy of Art. It offers an MFA in Graphic Design, which places strong emphasis on studio work time and group critique.
7. Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York (Top 2% of schools considered)
Pratt institute was founded in 1887 and it is home to 4,556 students enrolled in 22 undergraduate degree programs, 26 graduate degree programs, and a variety of Certificate and Minor programs. Programs are offered across five schools and The Center for Continuing and Professional Studies. The School of Art and the School of Design offer several programs for aspiring graphic designers. School of Art students can earn an AAS in Graphic Design/Illustration or an AOS in Graphic Design. School of Design students can earn a BFA in Communications Design (ComD), which integrates Graphic Design, Advertising, and Illustration.
8. California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, California (Top 3% of schools considered)
California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) is home to 1,489 students enrolled in more than 70 programs at all degree levels. Established in 1961, CalArts is the nation's first postsecondary institution to offer graduate and undergraduate degrees in both the visual and performing arts. The Institute offers several programs for aspiring graphic designers through the School of Art. Offerings include a BFA in Graphic Design, an MFA in Graphic Design, and an MFA in Graphic Design with a Specialization in Motion Graphics.
9. Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota, Florida (Top 3% of schools considered)
Ringling College of Art and Design (RCAD) was established in 1931 by circus baron, noted art collector, and real estate developer John Ringling. When it opened, the school offered 111 courses to just 75 students. Today, RCAD sits on a 35-acre campus and it is home to 1,300 students enrolled in BA and BFA degree programs in 11 majors. Programs for aspiring graphic designers include a BFA in Graphic Design.
According to the school, graphic design students “learn to create design solutions in print, motion, and interactive media with projects of all varieties, and they gain real-world experience through internships with major firms and through “The Collaboratory,” which pairs teams of Ringling students with local businesses. Students will have the opportunity to work at RCADs in-house design firm on projects with external clients and for Ringling College events as well.
RCAD design graduates have landed positions at Google, Leo Burnett, Microsoft, Trader Joe's, Wieden + Kennedy, LinkedIn, Yahoo, American Greetings, and more.
10. Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia (Top 3% 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, the school has campuses in Savannah, Atlanta, and Hong Kong and it 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.
11. Minneapolis College of Art & Design, Minneapolis, Minnesota (Top 4% of schools considered)
Minneapolis College of Art & Design (MCAD) dates back to 1886 when the Society of Fine Arts established the Minneapolis School of Fine Arts in a rented apartment in downtown Minneapolis. Today, the school sits on a 10-acre campus, just south of downtown Minneapolis. Home to nearly 800 students from 29 states and 13 countries, MCAD offers a variety of programs for aspiring artists and designers. Programs for aspiring graphic designers include a BFA in Graphic Design and an MFA in Visual Studies. The visual studies curriculum prepares students for a career in Graphic Design and a Certificate in Graphic Design is also on the menu.
12. School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois (Top 4% of schools considered)
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) was founded in 1866 as the Chicago Academy of Design. It is home to 3,519 students enrolled in more than 25 programs including several programs for aspiring graphic designers. Options are available through SAIC’s Visual Communication Design Department and include BFA and MFA degrees in Visual Communication Design. The Department also offers a Certificate in Graphic Design that takes two years to complete.
13. Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, California (Top 4% of schools considered)
The Art Center College of Design was established in 1930. It is home to 1,829 students enrolled in more than a dozen undergraduate and graduate programs from Advertising to Transportation Design. Undergraduate options for aspiring graphic designers include a BFA in Graphic Design. Graduate options include an MFA in Graphic Design.
14. Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, California (Top 4% of schools considered)
Otis College of Art and Design (OTIS) was established in 1918 by founder and publisher of the Los Angeles Times—General Harrison Gray Otis. The school is home to 1,100 students and it offers more than a dozen art and design programs from Advertising Design to Sculpture. The Communications Art Department offers several programs for aspiring graphic designers including BFA and MFA degrees in Graphic Design.
15. California College of the Arts, San Francisco and Oakland, California (Top 5% of schools considered)
Founded in 1907, California College of the Arts (CCA) is home to nearly 2,000 students enrolled in 21 undergraduate and 13 graduate degree programs. One of the schools largest programs is the Graphic Design program, which leads to a BFA degree. Level four or higher students have the opportunity to participate in CCA’s extensive Graphic Design internship program, which allows students to engage with working designers at design firms, publishing houses, museums, nonprofits, and technology companies.
16. Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston, Massachusetts (Top 5% of schools considered)
Founded in 1873, Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) began as a training institution for aspiring drawing teachers, architects, artists, and designers. Today, MassArt offers more than 20 undergraduate art programs, nearly a dozen graduate programs, and several certificate programs to a population of around 2,000 students. The Graphic Design Department offers two programs for aspiring graphic designers. Options include a BFA in Graphic Design and a Graphic Design Certificate.
17. Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Top 5% of schools considered)
Founded in 1900, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) is home nearly 13,000 students enrolled in more than 100 programs across seven colleges. The School of Design offers a Bachelor of Design degree (BDes) with a Specialization in Communication (Graphic) Design. The degree is equivalent in rank to a BFA. BDes students have the opportunity to pursue a more interdisciplinary focus that combines two of the following three areas: Product (Industrial) Design, Communication (Graphic) Design, and Design of Physical and Digital Environments.
18. The University of the Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Top 6% of schools considered)
Founded in 1876, The University of the Arts (UArts) is home to around 1,900 students enrolled in 26 undergraduate and 23 graduate programs across two colleges and one division. The College of Art, Media and Design houses the School of Design, which offers a BFA in Graphic Design. The program, which has been existence for more than 40 years, has alumni that work for companies such as the Philadelphia Art Museum, MTV, and Sony Music, to name a few.
19. Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, Missouri (Top 6% of schools considered)
Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI) was established in 1885. It is home to more than 700 students enrolled in 13 BFA degree programs in areas from Animation to Sculpture. Programs for aspiring graphic designers include a BFA with an Emphasis in Graphic Design. Offered through the Graphic Design Department, the BFA program “stresses collaborative work within a studio environment.”
20. Maine College of Art, Portland, Maine (Top 6% of schools considered)
Maine College of Art (MECA) was founded in 1882 as part of the Portland Society of Art. It is one of “37 private, non-profit, degree-granting professional art colleges in the country, and one of only 18 such colleges not affiliated with a larger academic or arts institution,” according to the school. MECA is home to 350 students enrolled in more than 17 undergraduate art and design programs, an MFA program, and an MAT program. Programs for aspiring graphic designers include a BFA in Graphic Design. The program features studio visits to NYC and Boston, as well as the opportunity to complete an internship with companies such as Martha Stewart Publishing (NYC), L.L. Bean, American Eagle Outfitters, Portland Museum of Art and more.
21. Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York (Top 6% of schools considered)
Syracuse University (SU) was founded in 1870. It is home to approximately 21,492 students enrolled in more than 400 programs across 12 colleges and schools and a graduate school. The S.I. Newhouse School Of Public Communications houses the Graphic Design Program, which emphasizes “design, image, interactivity, motion graphics, and communications.” The Program, which leads to a BS, prepares students to work in both print and multimedia environments.
22. Memphis College of Art, Memphis, Tennessee (Top 7% 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 undergraduate and graduate degrees. Programs for aspiring graphic designers include a BFA in Design Arts with a Concentration Graphic Design. Students may also opt for the MFA in Studio Arts, which provides the opportunity to create an individually tailored program of interdisciplinary study.
23. Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah (Top 7% of schools considered)
Brigham Young University (BYU) was founded in 1875 by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). The school is home to 26,674 undergraduate students enrolled in 100+ programs across more than a dozen colleges and departments. The Department of Design offers several programs for aspiring graphic designers. Options include BA and BFA degrees in Design with a Graphic Design Emphasis. The BA requires completion of 45 credit hours in Graphic Design (GD) and the BFA requires 73 GD credit hours.
24. Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Top 7% of schools considered)
Founded 1974, Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) is the successor to the Layton School of Art, which was founded in 1920. MIAD is home to around 740 students enrolled in 11 major specializations and 15 minors. Aspiring graphic designers typically choose the BFA in Communication Design (CD). The program highlights internship opportunities at advertising and design firms in Milwaukee and around the nation, as well as access to MIAD’s Visual Resources Studio. MIAD CD graduates hold titles such as Art Director, Creative Director, Designer and many others.
25. Baylor University, Waco, Texas (Top 8% of schools considered)
Baylor University was chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas. It is home to more than 16,000 students enrolled in 250-plus degree programs across nine undergraduate colleges and schools, a seminary, a graduate school, and a nursing school. The College of Arts and Humanities houses the Department of Art, which offers seven degree programs. Programs for aspiring graphic designers include a BFA in Graphic Design.