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Best Overall Design Programs
These are programs with high name recognition, consistently high rankings, and notable faculty and alumni.
Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) — Providence, Rhode Island
RISD is essentially the Harvard of art schools in terms of name recognition and famous alumni (including, but not limited to, the founders of Airbnb, animator/comedian Seth MacFarlane, actor James Franco, and fashion designers Nicole Miller and Jill Stuart). Alumni have also received a number of MacArthur “genius” grants. If you attend RISD, you can expect well-funded programs and faculty in the very top of their disciplines.
It’s unsurprising, then, that RISD was consistently at the top of school rankings for graphic design. It’s one of the most competitive schools on this list and has a strongly established, well-known graphic design program.
Students apply to RISD overall and do not select a major until midway through their first year of study. Graphic Design is one of the largest undergraduate departments at RISD, with about 165 students. Students graduate with a BFA degree.
Parsons School of Design (The New School) — Manhattan, New York
Parsons is another school with a lot of name recognition and top-notch faculty, and they consistently appear at the top of best-program rankings. In 2017 the school was named the second-best design school in the United States by QS World University Rankings, and the third-best in the world, largely in recognition of its interdisciplinary focus on the nuts-and-bolts technical and the design-functional.
The school's four-year BFA program in Communication Design (a graphic design equivalent) has placed alumni at Google, Facebook, and New York Magazine, and has also produced a healthy crop of entrepreneurs and freelancers.
The Pratt Institute — Brooklyn, New York
The Pratt Institute is another prestigious program located on a historic campus in Brooklyn, NY. They are invested in a philosophy of “poetic pragmatism,” in which artistic vision is married with practical skills. Many faculty are working professionals in their fields who teach part-time.
The Pratt Institute offers a BFA in Communications Design—an interdisciplinary program focusing on advertising, illustration, and graphic design (you choose to focus on one of the three areas). Alumni praise the program for preparing them for careers in their fields and for its innovative and boundary-pushing focus.
Highly Regarded Programs
These programs are well-resourced and well-known in the industry. Many offer their own unique spin on graphic design or have a special focus not found at many other institutions.
ArtCenter College of Design — Pasadena, California
The ArtCenter’s undergraduate program in graphic design gives extensive training in both old and new media, creating well-rounded practitioners with skills spanning all areas of graphic design as a discipline. The ArtCenter encourages an experimental and socially conscious approach.
The school also offers a great return-on-investment, with alumni making higher salaries than graduates from peer institutions. Graduates end up in a variety of industries and fields; alumni currently work for many diverse companies, such as Nike and NASA.
Carnegie Mellon School of Design — Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
You might be surprised to see a big research university known for its engineering program on a graphic design list. But don’t be! Carnegie Mellon has an innovative approach to the study and craft of graphic design; alumni praise the program’s integration of the artistic points of design with advanced technologies.
Instead of a BFA, the Carnegie Mellon school of design offers a BDes, or Bachelor of Design. It also offers an interdisciplinary degree in design combined with another course of study of a student’s choice, which should be very appealing to students with multiple interests.
Finally, it's a great choice if you want an art-school education but a big research university experience. Overall, Carnegie Mellon provides a cutting-edge, strong foundation for design careers.
School of Visual Arts — Manhattan, New York
The School of Visual Arts offers a BFA in Graphic Design, with the option to specialize in graphic design in fields like package design, website design, book jacket design, and so on.
Alumni have praised the school’s amazing networking opportunities—SVA has a robust internship program, holds professional-level exhibitions of student work, and sends compilations of graduating student work to industry giants every year in the Senior Library. SVA is a good choice if your primary concern is being commercially marketable and networking; it might not be the school for you if you're interested in the practice of design on an artistic and/or theoretical level.
Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) — Savannah, Georgia
Savannah College of Art and Design is unusually large for an art school, with over 11,000 students enrolled. You can get a BA in Visual Communication (with a focus on graphic design) or a BFA in Graphic Design, so your options are flexible. Professors have significant industry experience, and you’ll have a chance to study abroad at SCAD’s global campuses in Hong Kong or Lacoste, France. Overall, SCAD is a solid design school that offers lots of opportunities for motivated students.
Virginia Commonwealth University — Richmond, Virginia
This is another great choice if you want the art-school chops with the big university experience: VCU is a large public university with more than 30,000 students. VCU offers a BFA in Graphic Design—but you have to complete the “Art Foundation” sequence before you can apply into the major.
Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) — Baltimore, Maryland
MICA has a modern, urban campus in Baltimore and offers a craft-focused BFA in Graphic Design that aims to develop both your creativity and your skill with technology. MICA also offers liberal arts minors like Gender Studies and Critical Theory.
Additionally, it has a unique interdisciplinary BFA program in humanistic studies, allowing you to combine your graphic design education with an interdisciplinary focus on the liberal arts and humanities.
California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) — Valencia, Santa Clarita, California
If you dream of attending an art school founded by Walt Disney, CalArts is for you. Disney envisioned CalArts as a place where students from all artistic disciplines could develop in a collaborative, workshop-centered environment.
The BFA Graphic Design program is fairly small, with only about 12-20 new students each year. Many alumni go on to work for film, television, and major tech companies. If Hollywood’s calling you, CalArts could be a great choice!
This section includes some big-name art schools whose graphic design programs aren’t quite as well established as their other programs as well as some up-and-coming graphic design programs that are just now gaining steam.
Otis College of Art and Design — Los Angeles, CA
The BFA program in graphic design at Otis is located in the Communication Design department, which also houses programs in illustration and advertising design. Otis primarily prepares its graduates to work in the professional sphere; past graphic design graduates have worked for Apple, Anthropologie, Conde Nast, Disney, Interscope Records, Mattel, Sony, and Target. It’s a good choice for students who’d like to do design work for major companies and are interested in some of the more commercial aspects of graphic design.
University of Cincinnati College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning — Cincinnati, Ohio
If you’re looking to combine the experience of attending a large NCAA division-1 school with a high-quality design program and want to have a chance to take courses in many different disciplines, the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning might be a good fit for you!
Unlike many other programs, which offer a BFA, the University of Cincinnati offers a BS in Communication Design as their graphic design degree. Many students go on to work in the healthcare industry, for governments, or for NGOs. So if you’re interested in design in those fields, this school is an excellent choice.
California College of the Arts (CCA) — Oakland, CA
CCA offers a BFA in Graphic Design that prepares students to work in multiple design disciplines. It also has a robust internship program for fourth-year students that guarantees you’ll graduate with hands-on, real-world professional experience.
Additionally, CCA has a focus on social justice-oriented and socially conscious design practice.Essentially, students get a little bit of everything: a wide skill set, professional experience, and social consciousness.
Yale University School of Art — New Haven, Connecticut
If you want an Ivy League education as well as excellent preparation to work as a graphic designer, Yale is the dream school for you! Students major in art with a specialization in graphic design and receive a BA degree. Interested students should be aware that they will need to apply for admission to the major in their sophomore year.
As with many other programs at Yale, the graphic design program is very focused on the craft and theory of design as opposed to its more practical and commercial applications. Therefore, this program is best for students whose interests are academic and artistic as opposed to technical and/or commercial.
College for Creative Studies — Detroit, Michigan
The College for Creative Studies offers a BFA in Graphic Design. They have a unique focus on “experience design,” or immersive, multimedia design experiences. If this interests you, CCS is the place to go, as programs focused on experience design are few and far between.
CCS also has an institution-wide focus on community engagement. Graphic design alumni have worked for Dreamworks, Google, Nike, Disney, Fox, Microsoft, and universities and libraries. Many have founded their own design firms, too.
School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) — Chicago, IL
School of the Art Institute is the school associated with Chicago’s notable Art Institute museum. SAIC offers a BFA in Visual Communication Design, with a focus on both physical and virtual design mediums. The department facilitates student freelance work and internships to ensure that students graduate with real professional experience.
The department also hosts an annual lecture series of visiting designers doing innovative work in the field. And, of course, the campus is located in the heart of downtown Chicago, a city home to many cultural and art institutions.
At these schools, name recognition is on the lower side, but you’ll get a solid educational foundation from which to launch your graphic design career.
Ringling College of Art and Design — Sarasota, FL
Ringling doesn’t have quite the name recognition of many schools further up on this list, but it does have a solid, well-rounded program. The school offers a BFA in Graphic Design that aims to turn students into “visual storytellers.” Students have the opportunity to study abroad in Europe during their time at Ringling. In addition, alumni have won prestigious industry awards and work for Instagram, LinkedIn, Yahoo, Birchbox, Trader Joe’s, and leading design firms.
University of the Arts (UArts) — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The BFA program in Graphic Design at UArts trains students in both old and new media. Students have the chance to work on real-world, practical projects based in the wider Philadelphia area as part of their coursework. The department also hosts an annual Spring Workshop with renowned guest faculty on design topics. This is another program whose focus is more on the practical and commercial than the artistic and theoretical.
Academy of Art University — San Francisco, CA
Academy of Art University’s BFA in Graphic Design is focused on the “intersection between art and commerce.” There’s also a focus on professional preparedness and creative and marketing competencies. Overall, this school is more about giving you actionable workforce skills and connections than developing your refined artistic sensibilities as a designer.
Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) — Rochester, NY
The Graphic Design BFA at RIT is broad in skills education and interdisciplinary in scope. Students have unique opportunities to collaborate with other departments and disciplines on projects, particularly in technical and engineering departments. Students are also encouraged to consider “the social, ethical, and environmental impact of design.” RIT is a good option for students who are interested in the intersection between tech and design.
From Prep-Scholar Blog
BEST OVERALL PHOTOGRAPHY PROGRAMS
1. California Institute of the Arts
This highly progressive program educates students to become independent artists where courses are built to challenge the conventional notions of artistic practice, in addition to the bringing the position of representation in contemporary culture to question. Since nothing is ever stable in photography’s relation to the rest of the art world, the program encourages debate and experimentation. The college offers both BFA and MFA programs.
2. Rochester Institute of Technology
Unlike most undergraduate photography programs that offer a more general photo education, RIT offers a variety of different photography majors in specific areas of study. This includes advertising photography, fine art photography, photojournalism and even biomedical photographic communications
3. School of the Art Institute of Chicago
The SAIC program offers both graduate and undergraduate courses, along with a faculty filled with distinguished and practicing artists. In its senior seminar class for undergrads, students focus on professional development—an area that many other schools lack—and are paired with graduate students for collaborations.
4. Rhode Island School of Design
The RISD BFA program explores the social, cultural and historical aspects in regards to the cultural continuum of photography. A big portion of the program is learning how to “read an image,” and by junior year students are taught digital printing, web projects and video, finishing the program with exhibits at on-campus galleries. “Within this exploration, photography is examined both as language and as craft,” reads the college’s site.
5. University of New Mexico
This program offers an interdisciplinary approach to photography including video, film, sound, performance and installation. While “self-discipline is crucial, and standards of achievement are high,” according to the college’s site, facilities include digital classrooms, computer labs and state-of-the-art darkrooms for film processing and silver-based printing. Advanced students also have access to lighting equipment, medium format and view cameras, and DSLRs. In both BFA and MFA programs emphasis is placed on the student’s personal growth through aesthetic and intellectual development
6. School of Visual Art
With cutting-edge facilities that are open until 4 a.m., SVA is known as the best choice for students looking to earn a BFA in photography in New York City. Not to mention, students in their senior year are paired with mentors that are invited from NYC’s abundant art scene, while some of their recent graduates are currently represented by Julie Saul, Yossi Milo, Yancey Richardson and Daniel Cooney.
7.Yale School of Fine Art
This highly selective MFA program admits only nine students per year, while students are subject to a critique panel for a final review each term. This program also focuses on a broad definition of photography as a lens based medium.
8. University of California (Los Angeles)
Photography history and narrative studies are strongly emphasized in the UCLA undergraduate photo program, along with a focus on installation and video art in conjunction with photography.
9. California College of the Arts
For undergraduates, this program is broken down into three parts: the framing of students’ artistic worldview, instruction and critique from real-world visionaries and developing a photography career. Students are encouraged to participate in internships with Bay Area photography studios, art galleries and magazines.
10. Columbia College (IL)
The Columbia College undergraduate photography program is one of the largest and most competitive in the nation. But with facilities that include a digital imaging lab with more than 200 workstations, darkrooms along with over 150 enlarging stations, highly sophisticated scanning equipment and more, it’s easy to see why.
11. Arizona State University
Despite its frat-bro reputation, the BFA photography program at ASU is considered one of the finest institutions in the country, and its graduate photography program has been ranked in the top twenty in the country by U.S. News and World Report since 2002.
12. Maryland Institute College of Art
MICA’s BFA photography program explores a variety of disciplines from black and white digital printing, to non-traditional processes and studio lighting techniques. But it’s highly competitive, as each spring seniors compete for the Meyer Photography Traveling Scholarship which gives a senior photography major the opportunity to travel in the United States or abroad for a photographic project.
13. University of Arizona
The UVA bachelors program allows students to pursue a K-12 teacher certification along with their photography degree, offering courses in traditional black and white darkroom techniques, digital and other image-forming technologies, color processes, large-scale photography, video and performance.
14. Massachusetts College of Art and Design
In this BFA program, students explore the photography medium as a fine art with an emphasis on personal vision, technical excellence and experimentation. Beginning with black and white film—which is similar to most other schools—focus later shifts to extended projects and portfolio development. There are also electives available for specific themes such as landscape, documentary, portraiture and more.
15. Virginia Commonwealth University
Students in this program are taught technical and artistic skills to begin their careers as professional artists, multimedia specialists and editorial or commercial photographers. With a fairly wide range of concentration areas, this program places a great deal of emphasis on individual artistic expression. The university offers BFA and MFA degrees, while the graduate program was ranked 4th among public programs for photography and film by U.S. News & World Report.
From Resource Magazine Online
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