Top 20 Best Visual Communications Degree Programs 2019

Best Programs-GDDHWherever we look, today’s culture is awash in images, from billboards along the highway to the sides of tractor-trailers in the lane beside us, to the magazines in our hands–even to the tee-shirts we’re wearing. “A picture is worth a thousand words,” as the old saying goes. And the artists who create the pictures are valuable, also. In the 21st century, artists utilize the newest technology to develop, design and bring to market the images that surround us. With a degree in Visual Communication, you can be the person who brings those images to life.

A BA or BFA in Visual Communications will arm you with the skills needed for a career as an illustrator, design artist, art director, graphics design manager, communication manager, or animator–and for many other fields of work as well. Visual communications degrees can be high-paying. In 2015, for instance, the median annual salary for an animator was $63,970 (The Bureau of Labor Statistics). According to payscale.com, the wages range widely by job title: creative director, $94,535; senior graphic designer, $62,108; art director; $61,567; and communications manager, $55,607.
The schools reviewed below offer high-quality education in a rewarding field. The schools have been ranked using the charts shown.

Graduation Rate:

  • 81 – 100% – 5 points
  • 61 – 80% – 4 points
  • 41 – 60% – 3 points
  • 21 – 40% – 2 points
  • 1 – 20% – 1 points

Student to Faculty Ratio:

  • 11 and under – 5 points
  • 15 and under – 4 points
  • 19 and under – 3 points
  • 22 and under – 2 points
  • 27 and under – 1 point

Annual Tuition Rate:

  • Under 15K – 5 points
  • Under 25K – 4 points
  • Under 35K – 3 points
  • Under 45K – 2 points
  • Under 60K – 1 point

Regional Accreditation: 5 points

Major Rankings: 2 points each listing


#20 – University of North Texas

Denton, Texas

BFA in Communication Design

The University of North Texas’ mascot is the Eagle.

Regional Accreditation: Yes

Annual Tuition: $20,812

Graduation Rate: 51.5%

Student to Faculty Ratio: 26 to 1

Major Rankings: N/A

Points: 13

Website

The University of North Texas offers a bachelor of fine arts in Communication Design with two tracks, Graphic Design and User Experience. Both tracks require transcripts and submission of a portfolio, as well as an in-person review. You may apply for one track or both, but you will be selected for only one. Details of the materials needed for the review process are online. The degree program for the BFA in communication design is a three-and-a-half year sequence of studio coursework. Departments in the College of Visual Arts and Design at the University of North Texas include Studio Art, Design, and Art Education and Art History.

#19 – Auburn University

Auburn, Alabama

BA in Media Studies: Visual Media

Auburn University is worth a second look.

Regional Accreditation: Yes

Annual Tuition: $30,524

Graduation Rate: 71.1%

Student to Faculty Ratio: 19 to 1

Major Rankings: Top School by GD USA 2018

Points: 14

Website

Auburn University has a bachelor of arts in media studies: visual media that arms you with the needed background of art history and the philosophical underpinnings of art, along with the technical skills you’ll utilize to produce art and to communicate digitally. Applicants to the program are required to have a minimum 2.3 GPA, 30 hours of degree-applicable coursework, and to submit a personal essay of which the details are online. Students wishing to transfer to Auburn University for their BA in media studies: visual media must take 24 hours of course credits in media studies: visual design classes at AU.

#18 – Loyola University Chicago

Chicago, Illinois

BFA in Visual Communications

Loyola University Chicago was founded by the Society of Jesus in 1870.

Regional Accreditation: Yes

Annual Tuition: $44,048

Graduation Rate: 73.4%

Student to Faculty Ratio: 14 to 1

Major Rankings: N/A

Points: 15

Website

Loyola University of Chicago boasts a bachelor of fine arts in visual communication that does not require a portfolio review for admission. Students wishing to earn this degree must have in their pre-major body of courses the following 12 credit hours: FNAR 113 Drawing 1; FNAR Two-dimensional Design; FNAR 170 Three-dimensional Design; and FNAR 190 Color Theory. The BFA in visual communication from Loyola University of Chicago requires a capstone project from graduating seniors, FNAR 398, for which students will produce a final, new work, blending their academic and professional experiences.

#17 – Seton Hall University

South Orange, New Jersey

BA in Broadcast and Visual Media

Seton Hall University is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church.

Regional Accreditation: Yes

Annual Tuition: $42,170

Graduation Rate: 66.4%

Student to Faculty Ratio: 14 to 1

Major Rankings: N/A

Points: 15

Website

Founded as a Catholic university in 1856, Seton Hall University prides itself on its “small, supportive, and nurturing environment.” The College of Communication and the Arts offers a bachelor of arts in broadcast and visual media with student access to live, co-curricular, on-air experiences through affiliation with WSOU 89.9 FM and Pirate TV. Graduates from Seton Hall University go on to work for major networks and broadcasting corporations across the globe. The BA in broadcast and visual media degree program has two tracks, media and student broadcast production. Courses include visual theory, TV production, film, and screenwriting.

#16 – University of Texas Austin

Austin, Texas

BFA in Design

The University of Texas at Austin is the flagship institution of the University of Texas System.

Regional Accreditation: Yes

Annual Tuition: $37,580

Graduation Rate: 80.6%

Student to Faculty Ratio: 18 to 1

Major Rankings: N/A

Points: 15

Website

The University of Texas Austin offers a bachelor of fine arts in design through its School of Design and Creative Technologies. The department’s website makes the case for design that it “should always be about solving a problem and creating new processes, products, and services for people.” When students declare the BFA in design as a major, they must first decide BFA or BA? The BA has more elements of liberal arts as opposed to the studio-intensive, pre-professional BFA. External transfer applications to the University of Texas Austin must show a 3.0 minimum GPA, and a portfolio must be sent online, through SlideRoom.

#15 – University of South Carolina

Columbia, South Carolina

BA in Journalism and Mass Communication, Major in Visual Communication

The University of South Carolina does competition as the Gamecocks.

Regional Accreditation: Yes

Annual Tuition: $33,298

Graduation Rate: 73%

Student to Faculty Ratio: 17 to 1

Major Rankings: N/A

Points: 15

Website

The University of South Carolina’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication boasts a bachelor of arts in journalism and mass communication, major in visual communication. The opportunity to work with top-notch businesses in Columbia’s surrounding community is a significant draw of this program, with challenging and valuable internships in such places as ad agencies, nonprofits and news organizations, film crews, and public relations firms. Students earning the University of South Carolina’s BA in journalism and mass communication, major in visual communication, must complete an 18-hour minor or a 12-hour cognate in a field outside the School of JMC.

#14 – Northern Arizona University

Flagstaff, Arizona

BFA in Visual Communication

Northern Arizona University receives accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

Regional Accreditation: Yes

Annual Tuition: $25,828

Graduation Rate: 69.5%

Student to Faculty Ratio: 19 to 1

Major Rankings: N/A

Points: 15

Website

Northern Arizona University’s bachelor of fine arts in visual communication has two emphases, motion design, and graphics design. In motion design, part of the emphasis is on using concepts and processes to develop and complete motion graphics as well as to understand and use characteristics and capabilities of various animation methods and technologies. Graphic design places weight on the following: understanding tools and their technology; the history, theory, and criticism of design from a variety of perspectives; and comprehension of basic business practices. Northern Arizona University’s BFA in visual communication offers experiential, summer workshops in Flagstaff, to produce video, audio, and photography projects.

#13 – City University of New York College of Technology

New York, New York

BFA in Communication Design

The CUNY College of Technology has an acceptance rate of 77%.

Regional Accreditation: Yes

Annual Tuition: $14,790

Graduation Rate: 27.9%

Student to Faculty Ratio: 18 to 1

Major Rankings: N/A

Points: 15

Website

Students enrolled in the bachelor of fine arts in communication design offered by CUNY College of Technology will take classes in three categories: studio, strategy, and skills. The department of communication design focuses on two educational outcomes: One aim is to prepare students to work as designers in a professional context or to pursue design on a graduate level; the second intent is for students to create a portfolio that captures their conceptual and visual problem-solving abilities. A requirement of the major stipulates that students must take at least one upper-level liberal arts course or two sequential foreign language courses to matriculate from CUNY College of Technology.

#12 – Washington University in St Louis

St Louis, Missouri

BFA in Communication Design

Washington University in St Louis has the school mascot of the Bear.

Regional Accreditation: Yes

Annual Tuition: $53,399

Graduation Rate: 94.8%

Student to Faculty Ratio: 8 to 1

Major Rankings: N/A

Points: 16

Website

Washington University in St. Louis has a bachelor of fine arts in communication design, which the department website terms as “a collaborative program at the intersection of graphic design, illustration, and interaction design.” Sample major courses you are eligible to take your junior year include the following: design for social impact; illustration concepts and media/visual journalism; interaction design: user-centered applications; content to cover: the design of books; and art practice. As a senior at Washington University in St. Louis, you will create a capstone project for your BFA in visual communication that results in a digital experience, screen-based presentation, illustrated book, zine, or graphic novel/mini-comic.

#11 – University of Notre Dame

Notre Dame, Indiana

BFA in Visual Communication Design

The University of Notre Dame is one of the more prominent Catholic institutions of higher learning in the US.

Regional Accreditation: Yes

Annual Tuition: $53,391

Graduation Rate: 95.7%

Student to Faculty Ratio: 10 to 1

Major Rankings: N/A

Points: 16

Website

The University of Notre Dame bachelor of fine arts in Visual Communication Design is a 66 credit hour degree completion program. Admission to the program requires a 3.25 GPA in these core courses: Drawing 1; Figure Drawing; 2-D Foundations; 3-D Foundations; Photography 2; and two other studio courses of the student’s choosing. For those desiring to spend a year studying design in London or Rome, academic advisors can help with scheduling and options. Design firm internships are also available. If you’re interested in the University of Notre Dame’s BFA in visual communication design, you’re invited to visit the Design Center at West Lake Hall.

#10 – Loyola University New Orleans

New Orleans, Louisiana

BA in Mass Communication – Visual Communication

Loyola University New Orleans is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church.

Regional Accreditation: Yes

Annual Tuition: $39,942

Graduation Rate: 61.9%

Student to Faculty Ratio: 11 to 1

Major Rankings: N/A

Points: 16

Website

Loyola University New Orleans has a bachelor of arts in Mass Communication – Visual Communication that offers excitement with its Brand Lab, a student-run agency giving real-world experience in public relations, photography and videography, design, social media, advertising, and event and strategic planning. The Brand Lab works with for-profit organizations to solve their communication needs. “Loyno” is located in the heart of the city in the historic Uptown neighborhood. At Loyola University New Orleans, the BA in Mass Communication – Visual Communication provides “a comprehensive view of the theory, the ethics and the social consequences of our complex national and global communications systems.”

#9 – Belmont University

Nashville, Tennessee

BFA in Design Communications

Belmont University is a nondenominational Christian college.

Regional Accreditation: Yes

Annual Tuition: $34,310

Graduation Rate: 69.7%

Student to Faculty Ratio: 13 to 1

Major Rankings: N/A

Points: 16

Website

Belmont University, located on 84 beautiful acres only two miles from downtown Nashville, boasts a bachelor of fine arts in Design Communications. The program has four emphasis tracks: studio; illustration; web development; and design administration. Basic software applications are taught and reinforced in Introduction to Digital Imaging and Principles of Web Design. A minimum of one 3-hour internship is a required part of the BFA in design communication, and opportunities to intern abound in nearby music corporations, museums, design groups, and other industries and organizations. Belmont University is a private, 4-year university offering a student-centered, Christian community.

#8 – Ohio State University

Columbus, Ohio

BS in Visual Communication Design

Ohio State University is one of the largest institutions of higher learning (by enrollment) in the country.

Regional Accreditation: Yes

Annual Tuition: $30,742

Graduation Rate: 83.5%

Student to Faculty Ratio: 19 to 1

Major Rankings: N/A

Points: 16

Website

Ohio State University has a bachelor of science in Visual Communication Design that approaches the challenges of the visual design of information with informed research and appropriate digital tools. The curriculum includes courses such as photography, design fundamentals, introduction to industrial design, and design media for interior design. Students enrolled in Ohio State University’s BS in Visual Communication Design degree program are encouraged to engage in internships with companies and organizations near the Columbus area or in many other cities around the country. There are also active Study Abroad opportunities as well as Honors and Scholars programs.

#7 – Purdue University

West Lafayette, Indiana

BFA in Visual Communications Design

Purdue University has the unique mascot of the Boilermaker.

Regional Accreditation: Yes

Annual Tuition: $28,794

Graduation Rate: 73%

Student to Faculty Ratio: 13 to 1

Major Rankings: N/A

Points: 16

Website

The website for Purdue University’s bachelor of fine arts in Visual Communications Design blazons its motto in thick, eye-catching type: “Think Broadly. Lead Boldly.” The degree program understands that the field of visual design is evolving rapidly, and the aim is to “develop students as problem seekers and solvers with the capability to plan communication strategies and form effective visual products.” The BFA in Visual Communications Design offered by Purdue University includes these areas of study: typography, graphic design, new media, web design, packaging, poster, and color design. Students must pass a selective portfolio review in sophomore year to advance to upper-level work.

#6 – Syracuse University

Syracuse, New York

Bachelor of Science in Graphic Design

Syracuse University has an acceptance rate of 48%.

Regional Accreditation: Yes

Annual Tuition: $51,853

Graduation Rate: 80.3%

Student to Faculty Ratio: 15 to 1

Major Rankings: Top School by GD USA 2018

Points: 17

Website

Syracuse University offers a bachelor of science in graphic design that prepares students for careers in photography, video, and design, with an emphasis on human-centered design. Courses include branding, user interface (UI)/user experience (UX), immersive design (alternate reality/virtual reality), motion graphics, typographic design, and publication design.
Syracuse University’s BS in graphic design allows students to work in a studio environment on behalf of real-world clients. More than half a dozen design and communication industry partnerships provide enhanced access to opportunities for education and networking.

#5 – Iowa State University

Ames, Iowa

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design

Iowa State University is the largest institution of higher learning in the Buckeye State.

Regional Accreditation: Yes

Annual Tuition: $23,392

Graduation Rate: 44%

Student to Faculty Ratio: 19 to 1

Major Rankings: Niche.com Top School for Graphic Design 2019

Points: 17

Website

Iowa State University features a bachelor of fine arts in graphic design that can be completed in 123.5 credits. No more than 65 credit hours may be transferred in to the program from a two-year school. A 2.0 minimum GPA is required for transfer students. Iowa State University includes coursework in typography and design in context in the BFA in graphic design degree program. Fourth-year students may wish to spend a semester in Rome, enjoying design classes in the heart of the Eternal City. Also available is the Graphic Design tour in Europe, a three-week study in several countries.

#4 – North Carolina State University

Raleigh, North Carolina

Bachelor of Graphic Design

North Carolina State University was established in 1887.

Annual Tuition: $28,444

Graduation Rate: 75.2%

Student to Faculty Ratio: 13 to 1

Major Rankings: Niche.com Top School for Graphic Design 2019

Points: 18

Website

North Carolina State University’s bachelor of graphic design has the option of a semester or a summer at the NC State Prague Institute. The 120 credit degree covers topics such as image tinkering and publishing design systems. The North Carolina State University bachelor of graphic design is set apart by “the triads” a set of three co-requisite courses that are taken each term of the sophomore year and the first term of the junior year. The “Study Abroad” program for summer 2019 is titled, “Greece: Design and Social Innovation.” Design resources include Design Library, Materials Lab, Experience Design Lab, IT Lab, and Academic Advisor and Career Services.

#3 – Pratt Institute

Brooklyn, New York

BFA in Communications Design

Pratt Institute of Art has a high graduation rate.

Regional Accreditation: Yes

Annual Tuition: $51,870

Graduation Rate: 63.1%

Student to Faculty Ratio: 9 to 1

Major Rankings: Top School by GD USA 2018, Niche.com Top School for Graphic Design 2019, #6 on Business Insider’s Top 25 Design Schools in the World,

Points: 19

Website

Pratt Institute is located in New York City–in Brooklyn, to be more precise–so it isn’t surprising to find these words on their website: “Because it’s more than what you’ll do–it’s where you’ll do it.” Pratt’s bachelor of fine arts in communications design offers the resources of what is arguably the greatest city in the world. Each week the department hosts a visiting artist and designer lecture series. Guest critics are also invited to open critique sessions. The school supports programs for international exchange and studying abroad. Pratt Institute’s BFA in communications design boasts three tracks: illustration, graphic design, and advertising art direction.

#2 – University of Cincinnati

Cincinnati, Ohio

BS in Communication Design

The University of Cincinnati has a low student to faculty ratio.

Regional Accreditation: Yes

Annual Tuition: $27,334

Graduation Rate: 62%

Student to Faculty Ratio: 16 to 1

Major Rankings: Top School by GD USA 2018, #3 on Business Insider’s Top 25 Design Schools in the World

Points: 19

Website

The University of Cincinnati has a bachelor of science in communication design degree that gives students educational and growth opportunities in graphic design, interaction design, and motion design. The program covers a range of skills including drawing, photography, video/animation, storytelling, and audio. The University of Cincinnati takes advantage of its metropolitan, culturally abundant environment with its Co-op Program to afford on-the-job experiences to their BS in communication design students. Organized travel semesters, foreign study semesters, and student exchange programs to England, Germany, and Denmark are also available.

#1 – Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Carnegie Mellon University caps this list of the top visual communications degrees available in 2019.

Bachelor of Design

Regional Accreditation: Yes

Annual Tuition: $55,465

Graduation Rate: 88.3%

Student to Faculty Ratio: 13 to 1

Major Rankings: #5 on US News and World Report Top Graphic Design Programs, Top School by GD USA 2018, #4 on Business Insider’s Top 25 Design Schools in the World

Points: 21

Website

Carnegie Mellon University’s bachelor of design tops our list of Visual Communication Bachelor’s for 2019. The program allows students to pick a pathway between the three focuses offered of products, communications, and environment, attuning the degree to the student’s personal goals. The Carnegie Mellon University Bachelor of Design includes coursework in persuasion, cultures, and how people work. This program operates in 7.5 week terms. Study abroad opportunities, and Confluence, a yearly design conference hosted by the school are experiences available for students in this program.

By GDDH Staff
April 2019

Leave a Reply

FIND YOUR DEGREE
Sponsored Schools