Top 10 Best Graphic Design Schools in the World

Close-up of hand holding a blue colouring pencil over a colour swatch wavebreakmedia/


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.

To save you time, and with the help of Quacquarelli Symonds, we’ve narrowed the list down for you. Here are the 10 best graphic design schools.

10. Stanford University

Stanford Universityjejim/

Location: San Francisco, USA

Degree type: BA

Annual tuition fees: $49,896 (£38,683)

Not only is Stanford one of the hardest universities to get into, it also consistently ranks as one of the top art and design schools in the world. Nestled within Silicon Valley’s innovative companies, Stanford is known for its outstanding alumni that includes some of today’s most influential minds.

While thy don’t have an undergraduate programme that’s specifically dedicated to graphic design, their art history programme includes courses on exploring art by using digital tools. They also offer creative design classes, exclusive to Stanford students.

9. Aalto University

Aalto UniversityAalto University

Location: Helsinki, Finland

Degree type: BA

Annual tuition fees: €15,000 ($17,538 / £13,596)

In the last eight years since it was established, 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. However, bachelor studies in graphic design are only taught in Finnish, so if you want to study here, better hit those foreign language books now!

8. School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Interior of the School of the Arts Institute Chicago (SAIC)JGMA

Location: Chicago, USA

Degree type: BFA

Annual tuition fees: $46,560 (£36,096)

Home to some of the world’s most famous artists, it’s no surprise why 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’Keefe 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, they’re regarded as having one of the most effective curricula in producing employable graduates.

7. Pratt Institute

Pratt Institute Gold Myrtle HallInhabitat

Location: New York City, USA

Degree type: BFA

Annual tuition fees: $47,986 (£37,203)

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.

6. University of the Arts London

University of the Arts LondonI Wei Huang/

Location: London, UK

Degree type: BFA

Annual tuition fees: £9,250 ($11,932) / £17,920 ($23,116) for international students

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.

Similar to 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.

5. Politecnico di Milano

Politecnico di MilanoSimona Balconi/

Location: Milan, Italy

Degree type: BSc

Annual tuition fees: €3,886 ($4,543 / £3,552)

With seven campuses located in and around the city centre, Politecnico di Milano is undoubtedly one of most recognisable colleges in Italy. Since it’s supported by the state, it also has one of the most reasonable tuition fees for a world-renowned university.

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

Sadly, all courses for communication design at Politecnico di Milano are taught in Italian. So, if you really want to spend your college years here, best learn that second language as soon as you can!

4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyDiego Grandi/

Location: Cambridge, USA

Degree type: BFA

Annual tuition fees: $49,580 (£38,438)

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 in 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 8.3% 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; meaning, your financial standing should have no bearing on whether you’re admitted or not.

3. Rhode Island School of Design

Rhode Island School of DesignJose L Vilchez/

Location: Providence, USA

Degree type: BFA

Annual tuition fees: $48,210 (£37,376)

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 27%, if you want to study here, you must be prepared to bring your A-game as competition is very fierce.

2. Parsons School of Design (The New School)

The New SchoolParsons School of Design

Location: New York City, USA

Degree type: BFA

Annual tuition fees: $46,820 (£36,297)

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.

1. Royal College of Art

Royal College of ArtRoyal College of Art

Location: London, UK

Degree type: MA

Annual tuition fees: £12,350 ($15,930) / £32,800 ($42,308) for non-EU students

Topping this year’s list of the best art schools in the world is the Royal College of Art which exclusively offers postgraduate programnes, 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 of 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.


Currency conversions are based on rates supplied by on 28 August 2018.