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Q&A - Graphic Design Colleges & Universities

What are the top brick-and-mortar and online colleges and universities for graphic design?

Many factors go into ranking the top colleges for graphic design. Ratings are based on differing criteria including affordability, location, competition and the percentage of graduates who are currently working in their chosen field. A combination of these factors, along with your personal preferences, will guide you toward the decision of which accredited graphic design college is best for you.

U.S. News and World Report provides annual rankings of the best colleges for graphic design. The Rhode Island School of Design, Yale University, Maryland Institute College of Art, Carnegie Mellon University and Virginia Commonwealth University are currently the top 5 brick-and-mortar colleges for graphic design.

Of the above graphic design universities, the National Center for Education Statistics indicates that Maryland Institute College of Art, Carnegie Mellon University and Virginia Commonwealth University can each also serve as an online graphic design college.

The International Academy of Design and Technology-Online and The Art Institute of Pittsburgh-Online Division, are exclusively graphic design colleges. The NCES lists thousands of other schools that offer an online bachelors degree in graphic deisgn, as well as masters level programs.

What extracurricular activities should I pursue when I am studying graphic design in college?

There are many fun opportunities to help you gain experience in graphic design and to build your design portfolio in preparation for the job market. The best way to know if graphic design is a good fit for you is to do it! Below are some ways that you can enhance your coursework while getting valuable hands on experience in your field.

Practice your design skills by volunteering to edit photos and layout for your college newspaper or website. Offer to help with events such as theater productions, sporting events or formal dances that can use visual appeal from colorful signage, flyers or invitations. Another option is to search your campus directory for a Graphic Design Student Association, or consider starting a chapter yourself. Any clubs that focus on art, design or both will provide opportunities to plan projects with like-minded students.

While most online graphic design college programs will not offer the benefit of extracurricular activities, do not let that deter you. A great resource for any student of a college for graphic design is The American Institute for Graphic Arts (AIGA). AIGA is the largest professional membership organization for graphic designers in the U.S. and is a great place to network and find opportunities in your area. The website also has a variety of fun networking activities and design contests to allow you to compete for prizes and recognition in your field. Consider applying for graphic design internships to help you develop practical design skills in a working environment.

What volunteer opportunities will I have at my brick-and-mortar or online graphic design university?

Volunteering your time is a great way to give back to the community and to enhance your coursework in graphic design. Most onsite and online graphic design colleges have a campus volunteer office or staff member, which can be a great first step to finding out how you can help out. In addition, whether you are attending an onsite or online graphic design university, you can take advantage of the opportunities below to gain experience while giving back.

Grassroots.org offers opportunities to provide volunteer graphic design and web design services to nonprofit organizations that may not have the means to hirean in-house designer. Opportunities range from creating custom websites for organizations to developing their logos and marketing materials.

If you are located in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, New York City, Chicago or Washington, D.C., the Taproot Foundation is a nonprofit organization that makes business talent available to organizations in those cities that are working to improve society. Volunteers may work with an organization to create a new visual identity, print collateral piece or website layout.

There are many neighborhood groups and nonprofit organizations that can use your help producing materials. United We Serve is a great online resource to help you find volunteer opportunities in your community.