What Are the Best Art and Design Schools?

Read about three top schools in the art and design field. Check the fine arts program rankings for these schools, and explore the degree programs they offer. Get info on what to look for in a good art and design school. Schools offering Art degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Are Some Characteristics of the Best Art and Design Schools?

Top art and design schools may offer excellent studio and lab facilities, such as design and photography labs. You may want to choose schools with access to working artists and opportunities to experience art through exhibitions. Schools that offer extensive art museums that sponsor exhibitions can offer endless opportunities for connecting with the art world. Additionally, colleges that offer access to large art libraries may be beneficial to you.

What Are Three of the Best Art and Design Schools?

Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, MI

Cranbrook Academy of Art is a graduate art college that offers multiple Master of Fine Arts (MFA) concentrations. The academy was tied in rank as sixth overall in fine arts and was fourth for graphic design by U.S. News & World Report in its most recent 2016 evaluation. At this school, you have access to an artists-in-residence program, as well as several visiting artists. The Cranbrook Art Museum sponsors an annual graduate degree exhibition, along with a student-run Forum Gallery.

Students have assigned studio spaces and access to the Central Media Lab with workstations, plotters, color output devices, printers and cutters. Facilities also include model and wood shops, as well as labs serving other departments. Degree titles include:

  • MFA in 2D Design
  • MFA in 3D Design
  • MFA in Painting
  • MFA in Photography
  • MFA in Print Media
  • MFA in Sculpture
  • MFA in Fiber
  • MFA in Ceramics
  • MFA in Architecture
  • MFA in Metalsmithing

Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore

MICA tied for ninth for graduate fine arts programs and for third in graphic design by U.S. News & World Report in 2016. You could major in graphics design, one of many undergraduate options. MICA also offers a post-baccalaureate graphic design certificate and three master's programs in design, as well as a graduate program in design leadership combined with a Johns Hopkins University MBA.

The Graduate Studio Center includes studios with state-of-the-art digital and photo labs. MICA's Department of Exhibitions supports exhibitions annually involving students, faculty, visitors and alumni. These are representative art and design degrees:

  • Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Graphic Design
  • BFA in Book Arts
  • BFA in Game Arts
  • BFA in Environmental Design
  • BFA in Interaction Design and Art
  • MFA in Graphic Design
  • MFA in Illustration Practice
  • MFA in Community Arts
  • Master of Business Administration/Master of Arts in Design Leadership
  • Master of Professional Studies in the Business of Art and Design

Yale University in New Haven, CT

In 2016, U.S. News & World Report ranked this ivy-league school first for fine arts overall and second in graphic design. Yale University offers you the Yale University Art Gallery, Yale Center for British Art and Yale Arts Library. Within the School of Art, you have access to the Digital Technology Office, Digital Media Center for the Arts, Photography Lab and Printshop. Artwork can be view for current MFA students or through gallery exhibitions. Additionally, you have the opportunity to complete summer art programs, currently available in Norfolk and New Haven. Degrees offered include:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Art
  • MFA in Graphic Design
  • MFA in Painting and Printmaking
  • MFA in Photography
  • MFA in Sculpture

Ten of the Best Schools with Art and Design Programs

College/University Institution Type LocationEstimated Graduate In-State Tuition*
Rhode Island School of Design Private, not-for-profit, 4 year Providence, RI$51,000
School of the Art Institute of Chicago Private, not-for-profit, 4 year Chicago, IL$51,000
University of California-Los Angeles Public, 4 year Los Angeles, CA$13,000
Virginia Commonwealth University Public, 4 year Richmond, VA$14,500
California Institute of the Arts Private, not-for-profit, 4 year Valencia, CA$49,000
Carnegie Mellon University Private, not-for-profit, 4 year Pittsburgh, PA$44,000
Alfred University Private, not-for-profit, 4 year Alfred, NY$37,000
California College of the Arts Private, not-for-profit, 4 year San Francisco, CA$52,000
Temple University Public, 4 year Philadelphia, PA$17,000
Washington University in St. Louis Private, not-for-profit, 4 year St. Louis, MO$53,000

*Source: NCES, U.S. Department of Education

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