The 10 Best Graphic Design Schools in the World

Illustration of a man and a woman making designs on a large computer monitor

Over the years, graphic design has become one of the most sought-after courses in the world. And it’s not because humankind rediscovered their love for the arts overnight. Rather, more and more companies have realised the importance of great design and how it impacts their brands. As in the words of the late visionary Steve Jobs: ‘Design is not just how it looks like and how it feels. Design is how it works.’

So, if you’re leaving school and want to take that next step towards building a career in this booming industry, make sure you get that competitive edge by studying in one of the world’s best graphic design schools.

10. Pratt Institute

Location: New York City, USA

Degree type: BFA

If there’s one thing that the Pratt Institute is known for, it’s their belief in ‘poetic pragmatism’ or the idea that art and practicality can and should be combined. Not only do they champion the importance of creativity, but they also believe that it’s an indispensable aspect of today’s modern career landscape.

For this very reason, most of Pratt’s undergraduate programmes are designed to be interdisciplinary. For example, when majoring in Communications Design, students can choose from three specific areas to focus on: advertising, illustration and graphic design.

9. School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Location: Chicago, USA

Degree type: BFA

Home to some of the world’s most famous artists, it’s no surprise the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is still widely considered a top choice among design students. Having a stunning alumni list, including bestselling author David Sedaris, celebrated artist Georgia O’Keeffe and entrepreneurial genius Walt Disney, also doesn’t hurt.

SAIC’s design programme is consistently ranked as one of the best in the US, too. By putting special emphasis on developing students’ critical and analytical skills, the school is regarded as having one of the most effective curricula in producing employable graduates.

8. Glasgow School of Art

Location: Glasgow, Scotland

Degree type: BA

As one of Europe’s leading art schools, the Glasgow School of Art has rightfully earned a place on this list. The school offers a range of programmes in the visual creative disciplines, all of which endorse studio-based learning and research to encourage collaboration and creative thinking.

Their Communication Design programme offers three distinct specialisms (illustration, photography and graphic design), and students are encouraged to undertake industrial placements and external assignments throughout their degree in order to develop their professional skills.

7. Aalto University

Location: Espoo, Finland

Degree type: BA

Since its establishment in 2010, Aalto University was able to rise from the ranks due to its unusual but effective ways of teaching. They’re especially known for their design programme, which combines elements of philosophy, art and innovation. Not only do professors discuss the visual aspects of design, but they also talk about the cultural and political context in which designs are formed.

Aalto University is especially appealing to EU/EEA citizens who get to study there for free.

6. Politecnico di Milano

Location: Milan, Italy

Degree type: BSc

With seven campuses located in and around the city centre, Politecnico di Milano is undoubtedly one of most renowned colleges in Italy.

Their communication design programme is similar to a lot of graphic design programmes in the US. However, the courses at Politecnico di Milano take three years to finish instead of four. Also, since it’s a technical school, graduates are awarded a bachelor’s degree in science and not fine arts.

All courses for communication design at Politecnico di Milano are taught in Italian, so, if you really want to spend your college years here, better start learning that second language as soon as you can!

5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Location: Cambridge, USA

Degree type: BFA

While the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is known for producing the brightest engineering minds, it’s also considered to have one of the best art programmes not only in the US but also the entire world. Combining their technical excellence with art, they’ve developed a design programme that’s perfect for those who are both scientifically and artistically gifted.

As one of the premium technological schools in the US, the acceptance rate at MIT is incredibly low at 6.3% (for Class of 2023 students), and admission also comes at a steep price. The good news is that if you’re naturally talented, you can always go by their merit-based scholarships which are completely need-blind; in other words, your financial standing should have no bearing on whether you’re admitted or not.

4. Rhode Island School of Design

 Location: Providence, USA

 Degree type: BFA

Year after year, the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) has consistently been part of this list (and many others) for good reason. Established in 1877, it’s one of the oldest and most prestigious design schools in the US that can truly boast of a long and proud history rooted in the arts.

Apart from its notable alumni, including actors James Franco and Seth McFarlane, RISD is famous for its fine arts programme. With approximately 165 students enrolled in the course, RISD’s graphic design programme is also one of their most popular and biggest undergraduate departments. Students who are fortunate enough to be accepted into this school can enjoy unlimited trips to their extensive art museum and year-long rotating exhibits.

With an admissions rate of only 24%, you must be prepared to bring your A-game as competition is fierce.

3. Parsons School of Design

Location: New York City, USA

Degree type: BFA

Project Runway might have introduced the Parsons School of Design to the rest of the world, but this respected institution has been teaching and guiding students long before television sets even existed.

With over 100 years of experience, the Parsons School of Design prides itself on being one of the first to apply practice-based collaborative learning. Known for their Communication Design programme, Parsons has produced some of the most iconic designers in the world, including advertising legend Paul Rand and Harper’s Bazaar art director Bea Feitler.

2. University of the Arts London

Location: London, UK

Degree type: BFA

Home to 18,000 students from over 130 counties, and with 6 different colleges to choose from, it’s no wonder why the University of the Arts London (UAL) is one of the most popular art schools in the world.

Like the Pratt Institute, the UAL is known for focusing on the functional aspects of art while taking pride in their strategic partnerships which help ensure the employability of their graduates. However, despite their emphasis on the practical applications of art, many of its alumni members have been nominated and even won the esteemed Turner Prize, where only the best and the brightest British artists are recognised.

1. Royal College of Art

Location: London, UK

Degree type: MA

Topping this year’s list of the best design schools in the world is the Royal College of Art (RCA), which exclusively offers postgraduate programmes, so it’s really meant for people who want to take their careers to the next level. RCA prides itself on having a strong visual communication programme, which includes graphic design as a focus.

The entire course takes two years to finish, where students will be involved in hands-on workshops and working with professional designers.

If you’re a more seasoned graphic designer who’s looking to build your network and gain more experience, this is a great choice for you.

Getting into these prestigious schools is tough, but don’t let this list intimidate you or get in the way of your dreams. After all, when all is said and done, your success in any career path, regardless where you study, will be entirely up to you.

Are you considering a career in graphic design? Which school do you think will fit your personality the most? Let us know in the comments section below!


This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 3 September 2018 and was written in collaboration with staff writer Melina Theodorou.