Top 20 Best Visual Communications Degree Programs

Pin It

Badge - Graphic Design Degree HubAs the world moves further into technology-based communication, it is important for professionals to understand the approaches and techniques by which content is designed and displayed. A degree in Visual Communications can provide you with the skills to do just that. Students participating in this degree will learn how to work with the technology used in both digital and print publication, while also studying theories and practices of visual communication. Courses in this degree will range from traditional typography to digital design. A degree in Visual Communications can lead to careers as communication manager; graphics design manager, marketer, and design artists and illustrators, among others. Those who have career interests in communicating visually can find a starting place in the following list of colleges and universities.

Ranking Methodology

Points were awarded as follows. In the event of a tie, the institution with the lower tuition cost is ranked higher. See the note about data sources at the end of this article.

  • 3 Points for 66% or better on Graduation, Retention, or Percent Receiving Aid
  • 2 Points for 50%-65% on Graduation, Retention, or Percent Receiving Aid
  • 1 Point for 49% and below on Graduation, Retention, or Percent Receiving Aid
  • 2 Points for a related major appearing in a major ranking

#20. University of Washington School of Art

Seattle, WA

Visual Communication Design

university-of-washington-school-of-art

The Visual Communication Design program focuses squarely on visual problem-solving information theory, and organizational skills. Applicants attend a full-day Design Entrance Workshop. During the session, faculty present an orientation to all design majors. Then the participants split into small groups to work on a number of short design problems. Applicants are notified whether they are accepted into the program within 10 days after completing the Workshop.

Click for More Information

Retention Rate 91%
Graduation Rate 83%
Percent Receiving Grant or Scholarship Aid 36%
Tuition Out of State: $31,971; In State: $12,397
Rankings N/A
Points Awarded 7

The University of Washington was founded in 1861 and is a multi-campus university in Seattle, Bothell, and Tacoma. It is also a leading academic medical center. Its 16 colleges and schools confer over 12,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees each year.

#19. Purdue University

West Lafayette, IN

Visual Communications Design (Graphic Design)

19-Purdue-University

Students enrolled in the Visual Communications Design program will develop the skills they need to plan communication strategies and develop effective visual products. The curriculum was written to prepare students for a rapidly evolving field that is influenced by advances in computer technology.

Click for More Information

Retention Rate 90%
Graduation Rate 69%
Percent Receiving Grant or Scholarship Aid 44%
Tuition $28,794; In State: $9,992
Rankings N/A
Points Awarded 7

Purdue University is ranked as of the top 25 public universities in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report. It ranks 65th among all universities. The university offers more than 200 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in its 10 colleges and schools.

#18. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Blacksburg, VA

Visual Communication Design

18-Virginia-Polytech

In order to be accepted to the Visual Communication Design program, applicants must first complete introductory courses in Painting, Graphic Design, and Sculpture. They must also pass a competitive portfolio review. Students who do well in this program are highly creative individually and have the skills to work well as part of a team.

Retention Rate 92%
Graduation Rate 83%
Percent Receiving Grant or Scholarship Aid 44%
Tuition $27,211; In State: $11,455
Rankings N/A

Points Awarded 7

Virginia Tech is a public land-grant university that offers 225 undergraduate and graduate programs to its 31,000 students. Virginia Tech is one of the 150 Best Value Colleges on The Princeton Review’s 2014 list.

#17. The University of Kansas

Lawrence, KS

Visual Communications Design (Graphic Design)

17-University-of-Kansas

Admission to the Visual Communication in Graphic Design degree program is based on applications and portfolios of work submitted. Students must complete a total of 124 credit hours to graduate, 69 of which are in design courses. There is an option to complete an internship or study abroad.

Click for More Information

Retention Rate 79%
Graduation Rate 64%
Percent Receiving Grant or Scholarship Aid 60%
Tuition $24,873; In State: $10,107
Rankings N/A
Points Awarded 7

In the 150 years since it was established, the University of Kansas has established itself as a major teaching and public research institution. Its student body is made up of 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in 345-degree programs in 200 fields. The University’s 13 schools are spread out over five campuses (Lawrence, Kansas City, Overland Park, Wichita, and Salina).

#16. University of Notre Dame

Notre Dame, IN

Visual Communication Design

16-Notre-Dame

The Visual Communication Design program at Notre Dame blends technology and the visual arts to communicate ideas. A designer is able to take a message and translate it into a visual form by doing more than simply choosing words and pictures. The color, symbols, type, movement, and images all play a role in getting the idea across.

Click for More Information

Retention Rate 97%
Graduation Rate 95%
Percent Receiving Grant or Scholarship Aid 58%
Tuition $44,605
Rankings N/A
Points Awarded 8

The University of Notre Dame was founded in 1842 and is known for its Gothic architecture, park like landscape, and breathtaking views. The school also regularly ranks in the top 25 in the U.S. News & World Report list of the best colleges in the nation.

#15. University of Dayton

Dayton, OH

Bachelor of Arts (BA) Degree in Visual Arts

15-University-of-Dayton

The BA in Visual Arts program exposes students to a broad liberal arts education as well as courses from all areas from the Department of Visual Arts. Students develop an appreciation of traditional processes and new technologies as well as their critical thinking skills. The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredit this program.

Click for More Information

Retention Rate 88%
Graduation Rate 78%
Percent Receiving Grant or Scholarship Aid 97%
Tuition $35,800
Rankings N/A
Points Awarded 9

The University of Dayton is a private Catholic university. Founded in 1850 by the Society of Mary, is one of three Marianist universities in the country. The University has a student body of 8,000 undergraduates and 3,000 graduate students who are enrolled in more than 70 academic programs.

#14. University of Delaware

Newark, DE

BFA Visual Communication

14-University-of-Delaware

This program engages students by allowing them to learn by doing. Class sizes are kept small so that students can work closely with their professors to explore their creativity, develop skills, and learn how to design in multiple media. Internships, study abroad programs, and field trips help students to find the right career path.

Click for More Information

Retention Rate 92%
Graduation Rate 82%
Percent Receiving Grant or Scholarship Aid 70%
Tuition $29,932; In State: $12,112
Rankings N/A
Points Awarded 9

The University of Delaware has a well-deserved reputation for excellence. The school is classified as a research university with very high research activity; less than three percent of colleges and universities in the U.S. are awarded this designation.

#13. Savannah College of Art and Design

Savannah, GA

Bachelor of Arts in Visual Communication with Graphic Design Concentration

13-Savannah-College-of-Art-and-Design

Students pursuing their Bachelor of Arts in Visual Communication complete foundation courses in drawing, design and color. This part of the program will help to prepare them for their Graphic Design Concentration, which includes classes in typography, vector and raster graphics, production design, digital page and web graphics, and business practices for graphic design.

Click for More Information

Retention Rate 80%
Graduation Rate 65%
Percent Receiving Grant or Scholarship Aid 96%
Tuition $33,750
Rankings N/A
Points Awarded 10

The Savannah College of Art and Design is a private university that was founded in 1978. Its first students were welcomed the following year, and the College now has over 10,000 students enrolled in its eight schools. The Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accredits the College. It is also ranked as a top school by Graphic Design USA.

#12. Full Sail University

Winter Park, FL

BS Media Communications

12-Full-Sail-University

The BS Media Communications degree program is available online and on campus. Students start their coursework with an introduction to digital media and the basics of communication. They also learn about new media technology and theories of aesthetics and communication, as well as the types of workflow processes involved in creative project management.

Click for More Information

Retention Rate 56%
Graduation Rate 79%
Percent Receiving Grant or Scholarship Aid 84%
Tuition $22,088
Rankings GD USA #5
Points Awarded 10

Full Sail University is known for its innovative teaching style and career-focused curricula. All of its 44 degree programs include business and life skills, as well as creativity and art. Full Sail currently has an enrollment of over 15,000 students.

#11. University of California

Los Angeles, CA

BA in Design Media Arts

11-University-of-California

Students who choose the BA in Design Media Arts receive a solid education in form, space, color, motion, interactivity, and typography. The program also includes courses in visual communication, video, game design, narrative, and network media. Class sizes are small and are taught in a studio setting of no more than 22 students, which allows participants to get to know each other.

Click for More Information

Retention Rate 92%
Graduation Rate 81%
Percent Receiving Grant or Scholarship Aid 73%
Tuition Out of State: $36,773; In State: $13,895
Rankings US News/Graphic Design #5
Points Awarded 11

The University of California is one of the most respected schools in the world. It also receives more applications than any other university in the U.S. Seventy-two thousand freshman applications were received for the fall semester of 2012. The previous year, only 13% of applicants were admitted to the School of Arts and Architecture; the average GPA for those accepted is 4.25, with an SAT score in the 1760-2140 range.

#10. University of South Carolina

Columbia, SC

Visual Communication

10-University-of-South-CarolinaImage Source

The Visual Communications degree is offered through the School of Journalism and Mass Communications and is a good fit for students who are prepared to take a number of core courses and then apply those skills through several media-related electives. During the final year, students prepare a portfolio that is evaluated by a professor in preparation for their job search. All students are encouraged to complete an internship before graduation.

Click for More Information

Retention Rate 87%
Graduation Rate 72%
Percent Receiving Grant or Scholarship Aid 87%
Tuition $28,528; In State: $10,816
Rankings US News/Multimedia #8
Points Awarded 11

The University of South Carolina has been offering degree programs for more than 200 years. It currently has 324 majors available and an enrollment of over 31,000 students.

#9. Auburn University

Auburn University, AL

Visual Journalism

9-Auburn-University

This degree program gives students the tools they need to report news and feature stories through media other than words. They will be able to get ideas across using photography, slideshows, and digital tools. The curriculum includes courses in editing and design, multimedia journalism, news writing, and reporting. Students choose from electives to focus on their particular interests; possible options include sports reporting, international PR, and introduction to filmmaking.

Click for More Information

Retention Rate 90%
Graduation Rate 68%
Percent Receiving Grant or Scholarship Aid 71%
Tuition $26,364; In State: $9,852
Rankings GD USA #2
Points Awarded 11

Auburn University has been listed as one of the top 50 public universities in the country for more than 20 consecutive years and holds the No. 36 ranking on the list of best public universities on the 2011 edition of U.S. News & World Report.

#8. School of Art Institute of Chicago

Chicago, IL

Type of Degree(S) Offered:

Visual Communication Design

8-School-of-Art-Institute-Chicago

The undergraduate degree program is designed to foster an interest in general and specialized areas of interest. Students can choose to focus on physical media (print, environments or objects) or virtual media (time-based and interactive media). Applicants to the program are required to pass a portfolio review before being able to enroll in intermediate courses in the department.

Click for More Information

Retention Rate 79%
Graduation Rate 54%
Percent Receiving Grant or Scholarship Aid 99%
Tuition $43,126
RankingsUS News/Graphic Design #11; GD USA #3; Business Insider #18
Points Awarded 12

The School of Art Institute of Chicago is a private, non-profit corporation that has been accredited since 1936 by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. It is a member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.

#7. Pratt Institute-Main

New York, NY

Communications Design B.F.A.

Communications Design students at the Pratt Institute develop the skills they need to express their ideas through a variety of media. This program will also prepare them to start their own businesses, if they want to strike out on their own after graduation. Each student will be able to produce a portfolio that will showcase their work to prospective employers before they leave the program.

Click for More Information

Retention Rate 82%
Graduation Rate 64%
Percent Receiving Grant or Scholarship Aid 82%
Tuition $40,585
Rankings US News/Graphic Design #12; US News/Multimedia #3
Points Awarded 12

The Pratt Institute is a private school that is known for its high-quality programs in interior design, architecture, and industrial design. U.S. News & World Report has included Pratt on its list of the top 20 colleges in the Regional Universities North category.

#6. California College of the Arts

San Francisco, CA

Graphic Design with Visual Communication

6-California-College-of-the-Arts

Students enrolled in this program take Core Studio courses in basic drawing, 2D, 3D, & 4D, as well as classes in graphic design tools, typography, and media history. They also complete a senior thesis and an internship as requirements for graduation.

Click for More Information

Retention Rate 76%
Graduation Rate 45%
Percent Receiving Grant or Scholarship Aid 82%
Tuition $40,334
Rankings US News/Graphic Design #11; GD USA #3; Business Insider #18
Points Awarded 13

The California College of the Arts is a private, non-profit school offering 21 undergraduate and 12 graduate degree programs in fine arts, design, architecture, and writing. Founded in 1907, it is accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), and Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA).

#5. University of Cincinnati (College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning)

Cincinnati OH

Bachelor of Science in Graphic Communication Design

McMicken

During the first three years of the Graphic Design program, students take a broad range of courses, including typography, foundational drawing and design, photo design, and kinetic communication. Students choose an area of focus in their third year of study, and there are three concentrations: Print-based design, Interaction design, and Time-based design.

Click for More Information

Retention Rate 86%
Graduation Rate 55%
Percent Receiving Grant or Scholarship Aid Tuition Out of State: $25,816; In State: $10,784
Rankings US News/Graphic Design #5; US News/Multimedia #14; Business Insider #3
Points Awarded 13

The University of Cincinnati was founded in 1819. It offers 308 programs of study and has an enrollment of over 42,000 students. With a low 15 to 1 student/faculty ratio, students get the personalized attention they need.

#4. Carnegie Mellon University School of Design

Pittsburgh, PA

Communication Design

4-Carneigie-Mellon

Carnegie Mellon University has developed programs which allow student to pursue concentrations in three areas: Product (Industrial) Design, Communication (Graphic) Design) and Environments, which is design for digital and physical environments. Students in this program can customize their degree by specializing in one area or combining two areas of specialization to create a unique interdisciplinary degree that reflects their interests and career goals.

Click for More Information

Retention Rate 95%
Graduation Rate 87%
Percent Receiving Grant or Scholarship Aid 61%
Tuition $47,642
Rankings US News/Graphic Design #4; US News/Multimedia #1; Business Insider #4
Points Awarded 14

Carnegie Mellon University was founded in 1900 and is a global research university. It is ranked No. 24 in the World by the Times Higher Education of London (2013-2014) and No. 17 among United States universities. Its 12,000 students are enrolled in degree programs the University’s seven colleges and schools.

#3. Maryland Institute College of Art

Baltimore MD

Graphic Design and Humanistic Studies

3-Maryland-Institute

The Graphic Design and Humanistic Studies degree program includes courses in painting, drawing, typography, graphic design, and photo imaging. All students complete a senior thesis as one of the requirements to graduate.

Click for More Information

Retention Rate 85%
Graduation Rate 71%
Percent Receiving Grant or Scholarship Aid 97%
Tuition $39,400
Rankings US News/Graphic Design #3; US News/Multimedia #13; GD USA #7
Points Awarded 15

The Maryland Institute College of Art was founded in 1826 and is the oldest continuously degree-granting college of art in the U.S. It has been ranked as having the #3 Graphic Design program by U.S. News & World Report. The University has also been named as one of the top two studio arts programs in the nation by Parade magazine.

#2. The New School – Parsons

New York, NY

Communications Design

2-Parsons

Along with studio classes, students in the Communications Design program take courses in art and design history and related theory to develop research, writing, and critical thinking skills. Professors can create classes that support hands-on learning for students, who may find themselves working with organizations, which may include Apple, the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, and Time Warner.

Click for More Information

Retention Rate 83%
Graduation Rate 64%
Percent Receiving Grant or Scholarship Aid 89%
Tuition $40,426
Rankings US News/Graphic Design #10; US News/Multimedia #8; GD USA #9; Business Insider #5
Points Awarded 16

The New School is known for welcoming innovative minds. Founded in 1919, it is still on the cutting edge and its 10,000 degree-seeking students in its 130 undergraduate and graduate programs appreciate the school’s collaborative, project-based approach to learning.

#1. School of Visual Arts—New York City

New York, NY

BFA

The School of Visual Arts is a good choice for designers who want to become professional artists. Through this degree program, students learn how to understand line, color, tone, balance, scale, texture, symmetry, tension, contrast, pattern and perspective. All students must complete a senior project as one of the requirements to graduate.

Click for More Information

Retention Rate 83%
Graduation Rate 69%
Percent Receiving Grant or Scholarship Aid 49%
Tuition $39,200
Rankings US News/Graphic Design #9; US News/Multimedia #10; GD USA #18; Business Insider #12
Points Awarded 16

The School of Visual Arts has been helping students reach their educational goals for more than 60 years. The school’s faculty is made up of distinguished working professionals, which means the 6,000 students enrolled in its degree programs get the benefit of learning from instructors with current real-world experience.

Conclusion

With so many messages coming at consumers on a consistent basis, there will be many ways for graduates from Visual Communications programs to use their knowledge in the workplace. To prepare for these challenging positions, students will need to choose their educational program with care. Any school on this list of the best Visual Communications degree programs would make an excellent choice for someone who wants to prepare for a rewarding career in this field.

A Word About the Ranking Data

Data for graduation rate, retention rate, and percentage receiving aid were taken from College Navigator and are general to undergraduates at the institution. In order for an institution to appear in our ranking, it had to report all three data values.

Pin It