Last Updated on December 28, 2022
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Top 10 Graphic Design Schools For Success
Tips for Online Students » Top 10 Graphic Design Schools For Success
Not all programs or majors have their own dedicated schools. While you don’t necessarily need to study at a design school to earn a graphic design degree, it can help you focus your education and learn from industry experts.
There are a number of graphic design schools out there that will give you all the tools you need to succeed as a graphic designer. Instead of studying graphic design at a university, consider the added benefits of studying at a specialized school.
Here, we’ll go over the best graphic design schools to consider and cover how you should select the right school for you. Keep reading if you want to learn more.
What is Graphic Design?
Graphic design is a creative profession where designers make visual content that serves a specific purpose. They can rely on different elements like images, media, and text to communicate their message.
Additionally, graphic designers might work on different visual projects, from creating visual ads, magazine layouts, website graphics, books, logos, exhibitions, and more.
Graphic designers use things like layout, typography, and imagery to get a message across. Part of their work is also to think about how a viewer would see their work, so they focus on creating a design that is not only visually appealing but also optimized to the user’s experience.
There are a lot of other elements that go into graphic design and many rules that govern it, such as emotion, symmetry, patterns, and a lot more. When looking at a design or an image, it may seem simple and straightforward, but there was a lot of thought from a graphic designer that went into it.
What is Graphic Design School?
In order to become a graphic designer, you’ll need to have a strong portfolio to start attracting clients. But, if you’re just getting started, how can you accomplish that?
One way to do this is to begin your graphic design career with a degree program. In school, you’ll learn all the ins-and-outs of graphic design, and you’ll work on projects that you can add to your portfolio later on. Not only that, but you’ll also build your network with industry connections while you study.
A graphic design school is a school that is specifically specialized in training designers. In other words, you won’t find a multitude of programs, like medicine or computer sciences, but rather focused courses that are related to visual arts and communication.
The advantage of this is that most students and staff in a graphic design school will also be graphic designers or some sort of visual artists. This will help you expand your network from the get-go. Not only that, but by going to a graphic design school you’ll likely have access to a greater variety of specialized courses and other resources to help you become a successful graphic designer.
How to Choose a Graphic Design School
Choosing a school really comes down to your personal preferences. Some students may be more concerned about the cost of tuition, while others will only focus on getting into a school with a good reputation.
Whatever your preference is, make sure you’re taking a good look into the graphic design program before determining where you’re going to study. You should look at the curriculum, staff, and professors, and see if they’re a fit for your career goals.
When considering whether to go to a graphic design school or a college or university, you might want to look at the logistics such as location, costs, and social aspects. While attending a specialized graphic design school is ideal, it might not be a good fit for everyone, especially if you want to study other subjects unrelated to visual arts as a minor.
Best Graphic Design Schools
There are a lot of graphic design schools in the US and around the world, but we’ve taken the legwork out of researching them for you by compiling a list of the best graphic design schools. Here are ten schools we recommend.
1. Parsons School of Design (The New School)
Location: Manhattan, New York
Program: Communication Design
Parsons is one of the most well-recognized names in graphic design schools and is ranked as one of the best schools in the US for arts and design. Parsons offers a four-year BFA in Communication Design and its alumni have landed jobs at companies like Facebook, New York Magazine, and Google.
2. Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)
Location: Providence, Rhode Island
Program: Graphic Design
RISD is considered to be one of the most recognizable art schools and counts some celebrities among its alumni, such as James Franco, Seth McFarlane, and the founders of Airbnb. However, they also offer both a BFA and MFA in graphic design. RISD is highly competitive and its graphic design program is well-known and one of the largest undergraduate departments at the school.
3. The Pratt Institute
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Program: Communications Design
The Pratt Institute is known for its belief in “poetic pragmatism,” which means that they believe artistic vision should accompany practical skills. Therefore, a lot of programs are interdisciplinary. For example, in the Communications Design programs, students can choose from three areas, such as advertising, graphic design, or illustration.
4. School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Program: Visual Communication Design
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago is associated with the Art Institute Museum in Chicago. The BFA in Visual Communication Design program focuses on virtual and physical designs. In this school, you’ll participate in both internships and freelance work, and attend lectures from visiting designers.
5. Glasgow School of Art
Location: Glasgow, Scotland
Program: Communication Design
If you’re interested in studying in Europe, then the Glasgow School of Art is one of the best options you can choose. There is a range of courses and programs you can take related to graphic and visual arts. Within the BA in Communication Design, you can choose from three different specialties: illustration, photography, or graphic design.
6. Politecnico di Milano
Location: Milan, Italy
Program: Communication Design
The Politecnico di Milano is spread out over seven campuses around Milan and is one of the best colleges in Italy. It’s worth noting that programs at this school are three years long rather than four like most in the US. However, you may need to learn a new language since all courses are taught in Italian. Additionally, since it’s a technical school you’ll graduate with a degree in science rather than fine arts.
7. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Program: Bachelor of Science in Art and Design
You might think of MIT as a school that’s strictly for engineers or more technical programs, but they also have a fantastic arts program as well. Still, being MIT, their arts program combines arts with hands-on technical skills, so if you’re interested in a more technical approach to communication or graphic design, this can be a good program for you.
8. ArtCenter College of Design
Location: Pasadena, California
Program: Graphic Design
Focusing on both new and old media, the ArtCenter College of Design provides students with the skills they’ll need in multiple areas of graphic design. The school encourages its students to take a socially conscious and experimental approach to learning.
9. California Institute of the Arts (CalArts)
Location: Valencia, Santa Clarita, California
Program: Graphic Design
If you’re a Disney fanatic, you might want to check out CalArts as it’s an art school founded by Walt Disney himself. He dreamed of creating a school where students could learn and develop their artistic skills in collaboration with others. There’s a small BFA in Graphic Design program and many students have graduated and landed careers in film and television.
10. Royal College of Art
Location: London, England
Program: Visual Communication
The Royal College of Art in London is widely considered to be one of the best design schools in the world and only offers postgraduate programs. There’s a great visual communication program that has graphic design as one of its focuses. The course is two years and students take part in workshops with professionals in their field. This program is ideal if you’re already a designer or have some experience and you’re looking to take your career to the next level.
10+ Best Free Graphic Design Courses Online
Below we’ve shared the top 10 reputable online graphic design course providers and their recommended courses to start teaching yourself graphic design.
- Skillshare (Two-week free trial then $10/month)
- Coursera (more in-depth)
- Shaw Academy
- Creative Live
- Graphic Design School
- Interaction Design Foundation
Free Software to Learn Graphic Design
If you’re learning graphic design, you should know that Adobe provides the industry-standard graphic design software for creative professionals and that they offer free trials as well as some generous student discounts allowing you to save up to 65%.
Adobe offers a subscription service called ‘Creative Cloud’ which gives you access to several powerful design applications including Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and more. See the full Adobe software list here.
- Download a free Photoshop trial for PC, Mac, or iPad now
- Download a free trial of Illustrator for PC, Mac or iPad now
View Adobe Free Trials & Discounts
Free Graphic Design Classes on Skillshare
Skillshare offers prospective students lots of short but in-depth courses centered around graphic design. Many of these are available for free or, with a paid subscription, you can access them all. To help beginners, we wanted to highlight a few beneficial and free-courses.
The best part about Skillshare is that you can get Skillshare Premium free for 2 weeks!
1. Graphic Design Basics: Core Principles for Visual Design
Lectures: 9 | Length: 36 minutes | By: Ellen Lupton
Whether you’re new to graphic design or an old pro, everyone has to start somewhere. Generally, that means starting with the basics which is the focus of the Graphic Design Basics: Core Principles for Visual Design. This 36-minute class will walk you through 5 basic principles of graphic design.
Another class taught by Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips will show you how to use those basic principles in projects that range from creative design, marketing, and even photography. Through the course, you’ll learn:
- How to identify and define the 5 basic principles of design
- How to critique your own work looking for balance and effectiveness
- How you can apply each concept to your future projects
2. Creating Brand Systems: An Overview of Combining Logos and Type
Lectures: 7 | Length: 18 minutes | By: Mike Ski + Jessie Jay
Taught by Mike Ski and Jesse Jay, designers from True Hand, the Creating Brand Systems course asks students to consider how a great logo or brand system comes to be. Through the six video courses, Ski and Jay describe the collaborative process they used to create the logo for Kensington Quarters, an eatery in Philadelphia.
A shorter class than most, the Creating Brand Systems course is designed with designers, illustrators, enthusiasts, and creatives in mind. Those looking for a high-quality walkthrough of what it takes to create a dynamic logo that can be used across many different channels and applications will want to check this course out.
3. Typography That Works: Typographic Composition and Fonts
Lectures: 10| Length: 36 minutes | By: Ellen Lupton
When you’re starting as a graphic designer, you may spend a lot of time perfecting the logo that portrays your brand to prospective clients, but what about the typography on your website or business card? What is that telling your clients about not only your business but about you as well?
Also taught by Ellen Lupton, curator of contemporary design at Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, this course teaches you the difference between good typography (which can be very beneficial for you or your client) and bad typography (which can have adverse effects). In this course you’ll learn:
- Sans + Structure – Learn what gives the sans serif typeface its special character
- Serif + Details – Exploit the details of the full-bodied serif type family
- Slab + Customization – Learn what to do with slab faces, described as heavy furniture by the syllabus
Free Graphic Design Courses on Coursera
While not every course on their site is free, Coursera offers online courses from some top universities such as Stanford and Yale. At first glance, the site pushes you towards paying for classes but there is the option to “audit” the class.
This means that while you can take the class, none of your work will be marked and you won’t be able to earn a certificate at the end of the course. To take the classes for free, follow this guide here and get started right away. Here are some free courses you may want to consider:
1. Learn Graphic Design Online by David Underwood
Lectures: 4 modules |Length: approx. 27 hours | By: David Underwood
Taught by David Underwood, this Graphic Design course is structured to provide you with the tools to generate professional looking reports, resumes, presentations, and PowerPoints using techniques and practices that have been refined through years of practical use.
Through 4 modules of this course, you’ll learn –
Module 1: How to make your work look inspired and fresh.
Module 2: Discuss the importance of working with a grid, recognizing negative space, and applying suitable margins. You will also look at the element palette, font, color, images, and graphic components such as borders, bars, and backdrops.
Module 3: You will learn how applying simple design “tricks” can give your project an air of confident professionalism.
Module 4: Finally, learn how to respond to criticism and use it to make your project go from good to great.
For a more in-depth course (6months) see their Graphic Design Specialisation course and their Coursera Plus membership that provides access to 3000 courses. Enroll Now
2. Fundamentals of Graphic Design
Length: 4 weeks, approx. 15 hours | By: Michael Worthington
Led by Michael Worthington, a member of the faculty at the California Institute of Arts, the course will teach you how to implement visual, rhythm, and pattern in the design. You’ll also learn techniques of image-making, how to create your own series of images as well as how to use scale, direction, texture, weight, and space in your project.
The Fundamentals of Graphic Design course does this by breaking down the topics into four one-week segments that cover a different topic each week:
Week 1 – Fundamentals of Image-Making – The lesson shows how an image functions to convey connotative and denotative messages in the first class.
Week 2 – Fundamentals of Typography – This week’s class looks at typographical terminology and the basic rules for typography creation.
Week 3 – Fundamentals of Shape and Color – Graphic designers use shapes and colors as the fundamental building blocks of their work. In this week’s class, you will take a closer look at how they do this.
Week 4 – Fundamentals of Composition – How graphic designers use visual contrasts, cropping, direction and hierarchy with complex compositions and single images is the focus of this week’s lesson.Enroll Now
3. Introduction to Typography
Length: 4 weeks, 8 hours | By: Anther Kiley
Anther Kiley, an LA-based graphic designer, teaches anyone who already has a basic working knowledge of and access to Adobe InDesign how to get the most out of the program’s features and tools.
The Introduction to Typography course goes in-depth into the different areas of typography and is broken down into 4 weekly lesson plans:
Week 1 – Talking type – In this week’s lesson, the course looks at typefaces, as physical artifacts as well as works of design.
Week 2 – Typefaces and their Stories – Exploring how a typeface can express connotative meaning, otherwise known as how they can tell stories, is the lesson’s focus this week.
Week 3 – Putting Type to Work – Learning to engage visual principles and the conventions of typesetting is the focus of this week’s class. A look at how the spaces between letters, lines, and blocks of type can be manipulated to refine their appearance is included as well.
Week 4 – Making Meaningful Type – In the course’s final week, the class will look at how typography can dramatically shape the meaning of written language. Enroll Now
BONUS: Coursera Plus – Get the ‘Graphic Design Specialization’ Course and 3000+ more courses
You can learn graphic design online with Coursera and you can get it for free for 7 days as a trial. Or for $49/month OR for $499 a year, join Coursera Plus, where the true value is.
With Coursera Plus, you can access the Graphic Design Specialization and 3,000+ other courses in various domains including business, computer science, health, personal development, humanities, and more.
- See our related post: Best 9 Coursera Courses for Creatives
Coursera Plus will save you money if you are planning on taking multiple courses over the year.
A ‘specialization’ such as this 5 part graphic design course takes an average of three months to complete, so that would save you approximately $130 over three months or $520 over the year. Learn About Coursera Plus
Free Graphic Designing Tutorials on Domestika
Domestika is a relatively new player in the graphic design course market but they are growing quickly due to their professional teachers & high quality production.
Domestika has a whole blog post highlighting their 73+ free graphic design classes with special mention to their 10 free graphic design classes post as well as their 10 online classes for improving your illustrations.
We’ve also compiled our own top design course lists including:
- Top 10 Branding & Logo Design classes on Domestika
- Top 12 Most Popular Courses on Domestika
- Top 10 Illustration Classes on Domestika
- Top 10 UX/UI (Web Design) Courses on Domestika
Domestika Coupon Code – Save 10%
Get an exclusive 10% off with the discount coupon promo code: “JACOB_6-JUST”.View Domestika Design Classes
Free Graphic Design Courses on Udemy
Founded in 2009, Udemy is an online learning platform created to help people learn new skills. Many of the courses on Udemy can be perfect for someone looking to learn graphic design. We decided to highlight a few of these that we think you may find helpful, plus our list of the Top 10 Udemy courses.
1. Introduction to Graphic Design
Update 2022: This course is no longer free and is available for $116.
Lectures: 27 lectures | Length: 2 hours 24 minutes| By: Anthony Isaac
This Introduction to Graphic Design class is the perfect way to learn graphic designing online. Also, it is your way into the graphic design world with practical real-world examples. You don’t need any special software or hardware to take the course. As stated by the overview, the only thing required is “an open mind and thirst for knowledge”. You will use the web-based Canva to create designs.
Designed to be a practical application course, the Introduction to Graphic Design helps provide beginners with information about the graphic design field what is and isn’t considered a design, and the process that goes into designs. If you’ve ever had an interest in graphic design, but aren’t sure if you’re ready to take a practical class, this is a good first step.
This course is suitable for beginners or professionals. There are 27 lectures and over an hour of free content. You’ll learn all about Canva & many different graphic design skills that will prove useful in real-world projects like Logo Design or Business Card Design. Enroll Now
2. Learn Adobe Photoshop from Scratch
Update 2022: This course is no longer free and is available for $17.
Lectures: 37 lectures | Length: 8 hours 2 minutes| By: Eduonix Learning Solutions + Eduonix-Tech.
Created by Eduonix Learning Solutions, this program provides students with eight hours of on-demand video. It doesn’t have any specific requirements to take the class other than already having Photoshop installed on your computer. It’s a comprehensive course that introduces beginners and experienced users alike to professional Photoshop principles.
The course is structured to provide you with hands-on software training while sharing tips and tricks that pros use. It does this by using task-based lectures and discussions about the Photoshop tools. Techniques and effects are taught through detailed process lectures. The Learn Adobe Photoshop from Scratch is a great class for anyone looking to get the most out of Adobe Photoshop.Enroll Now
3. Professional Logo Design in Adobe Illustrator (Free)
Lectures: 45 lectures | Length: 2 hours 22 minutes| By: Rawson Uddin
In Professional Logo Design in Adobe Illustrator, created by Rawson Uddin, students are given lifetime access to over seven hours of on-demand video courses, and a certificate of completion at the end of the course. The only recommended requirement is to have a basic knowledge of Adobe Illustrator as the course is an advanced lesson.
Throughout the course, you will learn about a plethora of topics that can help you design your own logo or maybe even start a logo design business on the side. These topics include:
- How to choose the right typeface
- Using simple shapes in a design
- Designing with negative space
- Choosing colors for the logo
- Adding other effects to your logo design
As part of course, you can download a working file to practice with as you go through the course. All in all, the Professional Logo Design in Adobe Illustrator provides a robust class for those looking to start designing logos.Enroll Now
Alison Free Online Graphic Design Courses
Any list we create would be incomplete without Alison Online on it. Taking the Visual and Graphic Design (2 modules of 1.5 to 3 hours) course on the site will earn you a test-based certificate upon completion, which can be great for anyone already studying graphic design.
If you’ve been working in graphic design for some time, you may not see the value in the completion certificate. However, if you are just starting as a graphic designer a certification in a subject can help establish credibility when trying to secure a new job or freelance project.
Founded by Mike Feerick, Alison Online offers completely free classes, but they are uncredited. This means that your current or prospective employers may not recognize the certificate of completion or diploma. Self-described as a “new world of free certified learning” Alison Online offers not only classes in graphic design but also in so many different subjects, that it’s worth checking out regardless.Visit Alison Online
Canva Graphic Design School
Canva has grown to include a design school for those who may not have that much experience with graphic design to learn the basics and helpful hints.
The Design School area of their website provides students with several resources that can benefit beginners, those with a little bit of experience, or anyone working in graphic design for quite some time. There is a great starter course for anyone looking to learn the basics of design.
The Design School from Canva is broken down into different modules for easy learning.Visit Design School
Shaw Academy – Adobe Certified Online Graphic Design Course
Shaw Academy has several graphic design courses available including a thorough Graphic Design course, a budget graphic design course, and courses on Photoshop, Illustrator and Web Design. The course is free for 4 weeks and then goes to $70/m, including access to all other courses in their catalog.
*Attn* – Some consumers have notified us that it is difficult to cancel the subscription after 4 weeks but I have contacted Shaw Academy and they have told us that they are upgrading their system at present to keep up with the increased demand.Start Free Course
Piktochart – Free Fundamentals of Visual Storytelling
Lessons: 7 lessons | Length: 1 hour 30 minutes| By: Sarah Kim
While this course focuses mainly on visual storytelling, Piktochart is a useful online application that can help you create beautiful infographics, reports, presentation slides, posters, flyers, and much more.Whether you want to create striking visuals to make your communication more efficient or reach out to the audience to grow brand awareness, this simple and complete course by Sarah Kim will definitely help.
This free course is divided into 7 lessons. An experienced instructor will show you how to use Piktochart to create and deliver a delightful visual presentation. Through the course, you’ll learn:
- How to design the content structure and create a typography poster
- How to create a color scheme in Piktochart
- How to choose and use the right icons
- How to visualize data in Piktochart
- How to choose photos and modify layout orientation
Envato-tuts+ – Adobe Illustrator for Beginners
Lessons: 20 lessons | Length: 3 hours 30 mins (approx.)| By: Daniel Walter Scott
Learning the basics and building a strong foundation are important for graphic designing. Adobe Illustrator is a popular software and this course revolved around it. The free Adobe Illustrator tutorial is perfect for beginners to quickly learn the basics of graphic designing. Even if you don’t know anything about the software and have absolutely zero knowledge in the design field, this super easy tutorial can help you develop some design and illustration skills. From the very basics like installation and setting up the software to learning about effects, patterns, shapes, logos, and other tools, you can master it all step by step.
As the modules are properly divided in the free course, you can skip to a set of videos in case you want to learn something specific. By the time you finish the course, you will be able to delightfully create patterns, drawings, logos, illustrations, and much more with ease. You will also learn to export your work for both web and print, and there are multiple exercises in the course as well.
Top 3 Premium Graphic Design Courses on Udemy
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1. The Complete Graphic Design Theory for Beginners Course (approx. 8.5hrs)
Lectures: 73 lectures | Length: 8 hours 28 minutes| By: Lindsay Marsh + Jeremy Deighan
As the name of the course suggests, The Complete Graphic Design Theory for Beginners Course tackles basic color and layout principles, visual disciplines, and typography lessons. Led by brand experience experts Lindsay Marsh and Jeremy Deighan, this Udemy offering packs 10 downloadable resources, full lifetime access, and a certificate of completion. Prepare to upgrade your approach to design and become a more critical storyteller after finishing this course. View Course
2. Graphic Design Masterclass: Learn Graphic Design in Projects (approx. 4hrs)
Length: 45 lectures, 3 hours 55 minutes| By: Chad Neuman, Ph.D.
There’s a lot to unpack in design, and Good Creative Academy founder, Chad Neuman, understands this. Join his Graphic Design Masterclass and immediately learn how to apply graphic design strategies, create stunning gig posters, and develop captivating online ads. With four hours of on-demand video and easy access to mobile and TV, you’re sure to become a wiser designer at the end of this Udemy favorite.
This is a fairly short but succinct course that covers the essentials.
- Produce effective designs in Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign.
- Apply color theory and typography practices
- Design an online ad, infographic, poster and postcard.
3. The Brand Design Masterclass – The Brand Design Process (approx. 9hr)
Length: 56 lectures, 8 hours 30 minutes| By: Lindsay Marsh
The brand design process isn’t quick or easy. Take the cue from Lindsay Marsh, Udemy’s instructor for this Brand Design Masterclass course. Like her first course on this list, the brand expert is shedding valuable insight into the complex world of design and all it entails to succeed in the industry. But unlike her first offering, she explains sketching, brand voice, portfolio creation, and more tips and tricks.View Course