What Are The Best Schools To Study Graphic Design?

Setting yourself up for a successful career as a graphic designer can start as early as the school or college you pick to attend. These are some of the most highly regarded schools in the industry.

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If you are a young student considering to study graphic design after highschool, you may already be sick of hearing your parents or friends ask “what school are you going to?”. This question can stir up some anxiety especially when most of the schools in the United States put more focus on degrees such as marketing, business, human resources, science, and engineering. There are a lot of points to consider before choosing the school that is best for you to study graphic design. Items such as the location, curriculum, and of course the price, are all important factors that will help you decide which school is best for you to study graphic design. 

These are the schools that I repeatedly see students graduate from to get top tier opportunities within the graphic design industry.

School Location Est. Cost/yr
Rhode Island School of Design Providence, RI $75,000
The Cooper Union New York, NY $55,000
Pratt Institute Brooklyn, NY $65,000
School of Visual Arts New York, NY $60,000
Savannah School of Art and Design Atlanta, GA $50,000
California Institute of the Arts Santa Clarita, CA $65,000
ArtCenter College of Design Pasadena, CA $60,000

After spending some time as a professional graphic designer I have met new friends and coworkers through various jobs that have all graduated from these schools. This is not the end-all be-all list, but these are definitely the most popular and notable schools for graphic designers. I do want to make sure I mention that if you are not able to go to any of these schools because of reasons like financial situation or location restrictions, DO NOT WORRY. I myself did not go to any of the schools listed above and am doing just fine as a professional graphic designer. If you have any questions at all, consider joining our creative community on Slack where you can get answers to questions just like this from other designs and creatives currently in the industry. Just click here to join.

What Is A Design School?

Simply put, a design school is a school, college, or university with a focus on visual arts and contains a design curriculum that is maintained and updated regularly to coincide with the professional industry and contemporary culture. Woof, sorry about that long definition. While there are many schools that contain design programs, the differentiating factor for the purposes of this article is that the schools listed are primarily focused on performing and visual arts. This DOES NOT make schools that are not visual arts focused any less valuable. For example, I went to a state university that had a visual and performing arts school within it. This season on the podcast I interviewed Jaquelyn DeJesu Center who also did not go to a design ‘focused’ school and successfully launched her own brand called Shhhowercap. You can listen to her full episode below to learn more.

What Makes A Design School Good?

Now that we can agree on what a design school is, what makes one good? When I think about what makes a design school good, there are a few qualities that come to mind but obviously the most important is that you learn. A good design school provides you with multiple areas of interest for you to test and taste what you like and dislike. Design school should be the time where you begin to understand what you enjoy doing and want to continue that after you leave. 

Another important aspect I think makes a design school ‘good’, is that you come out of it, graduating or not, with a set of tools you can use to get hired or get work as a professional in the creative industry.

The final thing that I believe makes a design school ‘good’, is that it provides opportunities to expand your professional network beyond the students and teachers you interact with. It can be super helpful to be well connected in the creative industry. Whether that helps you get a job or to simply ask for feedback, is up to you. I know that I personally reach out to my network often for advice and guidance as I myself navigate the professional field.

To recap, a ‘good’ design school provides... 

  1. Opportunities for you to learn something new while trying out multiple areas of the discipline.
  2. Knowledge and tools to get hired or gain work as a professional in the creative industry.
  3. Opportunities to expand your professional network.

If you can keep these 3 points in mind when choosing a school then you will definitely be on the right track to picking the school that is perfect for you.

The Best Schools to Study Graphic Design

Rhode Island School of Design - RISD

Rhode Island School of Design is located in Providence, Rhode Island and can be regarded as one of the powerhouse schools when it comes to studying graphic design. To be accepted into the program, students must complete a home test which includes the infamous bike drawing. Students are asked to interpret a bicycle in an interesting perspective along with other guidelines and the results are outstanding. Also not to mention a lot of notable creatives have graduated from RISD including some of my guests from season 2 and 3 of the podcast.

Estimated Cost per year: $75,000

Carly Ayres

Jon Key

Kevin Lyons

The Cooper Union

The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, also known as Cooper Union is a private college located in the East Village of Manhattan, New York City. The school was founded on the belief that education should be as free as air and for a while it was. The school eventually had to abandon this policy as it was unsustainable in today’s economic environment.

Standout Designers that also graduated from Cooper Union

Estimated Cost Per Year: $55,000

Pratt Institute

Pratt Institute is a private university with its main campus located in Brooklyn and satellite campuses all over Manhattan. Pratt’s School of Design offers education in communications design, fashion design, interior design, and industrial design. A lot of coworkers and design friends that I have worked with have gone to this school and all mentioned they enjoyed it with the occasional meltdown from class.

Standout Designers and Artists that also graduated from Pratt Institute

Estimated Cost Per Year: $65,000

Parsons School of Design

Known as Parson is a private school located in the Greenwich Village of lower manhattan in New York City. The school of design offers a variety of programs for communications design, design and technology, integrated design, product design and more. Since I started working in the city I have noticed Parsons taking steps to really improve their program offerings and continue to elevate the school. I have also worked with a lot of other designers that have gone to this school.

Designer and Creative Director, Magnus Atom went to Parsons and was also a guest on the first season of Wellfed. You can listen to his episode below.

Standout Designers that also graduated from Parsons

Estimated Cost Per Year: $60,000

School Of Visual Arts - SVA

School of Visual Arts, or SVA for short is an art and design school in Manhattan. I have come to know SVA for its heavy hitter faculty lineup of industry professionals. Designers like Paula Scher and Natasha Jen for starters and many others teach there. This is the school I would have picked if I had the resources at the time. I have also met designers that have comes from the school who have gone on to start their own design studios such as Justin Colt of The Collected Works.

Design staff of SVA

Estimated Cost Per Year: $55,000

Savannah School of Art and Design - SCAD

Savannah School of Art and Design is obviously located in Savannah, Georgia but also they have locations in Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Lacoste. The opportunity to travel internationally during your time at school is so valuable because you can experience different cultures and how design evolves to serve the different geographies. In my previous jobs I have met a ton of super talented motion graphics designers that went to SCAD and their work was amazing. A lot of the designers were talented in so many different facets of design and not just one area. SCAD is definitely a school to consider if possible.

Estimated Cost Per Year: $50,000

California Institute of the Arts - CalArts

California Institute of the Arts or CalArts as some refer to it as is a private art university in Santa Clarita, California. It was actually founded in 1961 as one of the first higher education schools created specifically for visual and performing arts students. CalArts is a small school, enrolling only around 1,000 students each year. Studying design in California sure does sound like a wonderful combination. Imagine the all nights and portfolio meltdowns you’ll have while it’s summer all year round.

Estimated Cost Per Year: $65,000

ArtCenter College of Design

ArtCenter College of Design is a private non-profit college located in Pasadena, California. The school focuses on all areas of Design such as advertising, illustration, environmental design, graphic design, and even transportation design. ArtCenter is also one of the few schools that offers a degree in interaction design. Something I found super interesting about this school was that the famous photographer, Ansel Adams, was a guest instructor there in the late 1930s! It would have been amazing to listen to his lectures about photography as it is very much intertwined with graphic design. One more side note, Mike Shinoda and Joe Hahn of Linkin Park also went to ArtCenter!!11!111!!1!1 

Estimated Cost Per Year: $60,000

Standout Designers and Alumni that also graduated from ArtCenter

Which Design School Is The Best For You?

Picking the best design school to study graphic design will all come down to your specific situation. However you should absolutely consider the schools I listed above. They are widely recognized within the industry and can lead to some amazing professional opportunities. If you have any questions at all you can always DM me on Twitter or Instagram @wellfedpodcast. Also if you found this article helpful, consider signing up below and join our email supper party. Every week I send out our best content just like this, straight to your inbox. No spam guaranteed!

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