Listed below are some of the top design degrees in California (N-Z). California is home to around 26,000 graphic designers, the highest population of employed graphic designers in the United States. The state also boasts the highest number of accredited colleges and universities in the United States, offering some of the best graphic design programs in the world. In the Golden State you can find a design program to fit your goals, from associate’s to master’s degrees, in a variety of settings, including urban and suburban. Some programs are found within a more traditional university, while others are in art schools.
Otis College of Art and Design
Communication Arts Department
Established in 1918 as the first independent professional school of art in southern California, Otis College of Art and Design offers degrees in 11 undergraduate majors, 17 minors and four graduate areas of study. The school is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Situated in the Westchester neighborhood of Los Angeles, the college is one of the most culturally diverse private schools of art and design in the country. Its Communication Arts Department offers degrees in Graphic Design, Illustration and Advertising Design.
Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Graphic Design
Otis College of Art and Design’s four-year major in Graphic Design begins with the Foundation year, in which all first year students gain core skills and a solid knowledge base. Beginning in the second year, along with liberal arts and sciences classes, students further their design skills and pursue related interests. Beyond classroom lectures and hands-on work, students interact with and affect their world through community involvement projects and opportunities for internships or even study abroad. The program challenges students to combine meaning with visual imagery and typography.
Faculty teach typical graphic design skills, including branding, letterpress, logo development, poster creation, book and magazine layout, package design, interactive and app design and website development. Students are encouraged to achieve the highest level of design excellence through critiques, reviews and workshops, and strong craft and presentation skills are emphasized.
Master of Fine Arts Degree in Graphic Design
The limited-residency Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design selects conscientious candidates who value design and its role in society, and who are seeking to enhance their current professional practice. MFA students choose one of three themes: social responsibility of the designer in society, typography and type design, or advancing the discipline through theory and innovation.
Learning takes place in both academic and studio environments, with instruction provided by nationally and internationally acclaimed designers and artists who teach as core faculty, visiting lecturers and visiting artists. Participants in the MFA in Graphic Design at Otis College of Art and Design will conduct research, read relevant literature, complete studio projects and prepare a final project.
The program begins at the start of each summer session and runs for three consecutive summers with two part-time spring semesters, which can be completed off-site. In total, the MFA program is two years and two months in duration.
Otis College of Art and Design
9045 Lincoln Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90045
Platt College, located in the coastal city of San Diego, is a post-secondary vocational education school for digital media arts. The school provides a career-focused education that aims to help students become marketable. Students take just one class at a time in classes of 30 or less students, with instructors able to provide individualized attention and assistance. The institution is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) and approved by the Bureau of Private Post-secondary and Education (an office of the State of California, Department of Commerce) and the U.S. Department of Education.
Associate of Applied Science Degree: Graphic Design
Pursuit of an Associate of Applied Science degree in Graphic Design at Platt College covers the technical knowledge and creative process principles of graphic design. In addition to coursework in the chosen professional specialization, general education classes in subjects such as math, the social sciences and English are required to provide graduates with life skills to accompany the work and technical skills. The goal of the program is to provide students with the foundation of knowledge and hands-on practical experience necessary for an entry-level position in the commercial communication arts field or digital publishing. By the end of the three terms required for an Associate of Applied Science degree, students will possess a comprehensive understanding of digital design studio operation as well as traditional skills, including layout, typography and composition.
Bachelor of Science Degree in Media Arts
For the Bachelor of Science degree in Media Arts, students must complete all course requirements for the Associate of Applied Science: Graphic Design, the requisite general education classes and three additional terms of more specialized study. The program culminates with the Independent Portfolio Project. The degree prepares students for a career in digital media and design fields, equipping them with a broad range of design and technology skills.
Students focus on one of four available areas of study: Web Design, 3D Animation, Digital Video Production and Visual Effects & Compositing. Web Design teaches the gamut of web development and design, from coding and scripting to incorporating graphics, audio and animation to implementing web commerce. 3D Animation teaches character design and development, modeling, texturing, rendering and animation. A wide range of pre-production, production, post-production and sound design techniques are taught in the Digital Video Production concentration. Students will become proficient in industry standard programs after completion of the Visual Effects & Compositing area of study.
6250 El Cajon Boulevard
San Diego, CA 92115
San Francisco State University
Department of Design and Industry
The Department of Design and Industry, housed within San Francisco State University’s College of Liberal & Creative Arts, provides for the study of design, manufacturing and technology in a well rounded, interdisciplinary education. The large public university prides itself on the diversity of its campus and its contributions not only to the surrounding city but to the entire world. The global approach towards design prepares students to make valuable contributions to their creative fields while practicing social and environmental responsibility. The school is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
Bachelor of Science Degree in Visual Communication Design
The Bachelor of Science in Visual Communication Design (BSVCD) program is for students interested in print graphics, information design, web design, interaction design and motion graphics. The BSVCD integrates graphic design and digital media topics with technology skills, addressing advanced concepts in a changing technological landscape. Students learn to apply their design skills to a broad range of problems, and they are prepared to collaborate with other design disciplines involving technology, user experience and creative problem solving. Students learn the software programs and technical skills necessary for success in the design trades, in both print and digital media. They also are introduced to design thinking, problem solving and conceptual frameworks, using a variety of design methodologies.
1600 Holloway Avenue
San Francisco. CA 94132
UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture
Department of Design | Media Arts
Within the 419-acre, public University of California, Los Angeles’ School of the Arts and Architecture, the Department of Design Media Arts offers a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to media creation that encourages experimentation and innovation within the context of history and theory. The department offers students an education led by internationally renowned faculty and augmented by lecture series, workshops and other events. Cutting-edge technology supports the curriculum, with several state-of-the-art instructional labs, video and audio facilities, a fabrication lab, electronics lab and print lab. UCLA ranks among the world’s top universities, and is 23rd in the 2014 U.S. News & World Report rankings.
Bachelor of Arts Degree in Design Media Arts
The Bachelor of Arts in Design Media Arts program teaches design as a process and a way of thinking, and the program emphasizes creative production and emerging technologies grounded in an understanding of history, theory and core skills. The curriculum features a solid foundation in form, color, space, motion, typography and interactivity, followed by studies in video, visual communication, network media, game design and narrative. The program culminates with the Senior Projects class, which allows each student to work on a project that reflects his or her own interests within the areas of interactivity and games, video and animation, and visual communication and image.
Admission to the School of the Arts and Architecture is highly competitive, with only 15 percent of applicants accepted for the Fall of 2013. Though situated within a large university, the department is relatively small, with only about 50 degrees awarded in Design Media Arts each year. Most classes within the program are taught in a studio format with a maximum of 22 students.
Broad Art Center
240 Charles E. Young Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90095
School of Media, Culture & Design
Woodbury University’s School of Media, Culture & Design is located on a 22-acre residential campus in Burbank, widely considered to be the media capital of the world. The school offers specialized learning environments with cutting-edge digital technology, small class sizes and one-on-one mentoring. Cross-disciplinarity is at the core of the school’s learning philosophy, which is actively encouraged through means such as classes between majors.
Woodbury University is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) and its Graphic Design program is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Graphic Design
Participants in the Bachelor of Fine Arts program for Graphic Design learn the art of visual communication through the study of design, aesthetics and media through a sequenced curriculum that develops the expertise required to enter multiple areas of the professional design world. The first year is comprised of design foundation courses. In their senior year, students choose to concentrate on one of the following areas of study: Entertainment Design, Motion Design, Advertising Design, Publication Design and Environmental Graphics.
Students benefit from the school’s proximity to Los Angeles, attending lectures and exhibitions. In addition to classroom lectures from the professional faculty, learning is achieved through application of design skills to real-world community problems. Career experiences and internships are a required component of the degree program.
Woodbury University – Burbank
7500 Glenoaks Boulevard
Burbank, CA 91504
Graphic design as a field of study and a career offers a variety of choices for students interested in the visual and communication arts. As illustrated by the diversity of programs listed above, there are a range of options available for Design Degrees in California (N-Z).