2023 Best Master’s Degree Programs in Graphic Design
Click here to find out more about the ranking methodology that we used to compile this list.
Congratulations! If you represent a college or university that is included in this list, please collect your seal below.
Deciding which college to attend can be a daunting task. For many, it will be the most important decision that they make in their lives. To make an informed decision, you have to consider a lot of variables, such as cost of attendance, financial aid, student-teacher ratio, academics, student life, and more. These factors will either positively or negatively impact the quality of education that you receive.
Do you want to acquire a master’s in graphic design but don’t know what institution you should attend? Well, if you are as ambitious as I was in my late teens, then you want to attend a top school, instead of an average or mediocre one. Fortunately, we have already done the legwork for you. To help you find the right school for your interests and goals, we’ve compiled a list of 2022’s best master’s in graphic design programs.
What institution did we omit from this list? Leave your suggestions in the comment section below.
- Yale University, New Haven, CT
Offered through Yale’s School of Art, learners in this MFA degree program will have to finish 42 credits to earn their degree. Requisite classes may consist of advanced graphic design: series and systems; typography: expression, structure, and sequence; and diving into the wreck: rethinking critical practices.
All learners in this degree program will also have to finish a “Thesis Book.” Each graduate learner will have a designated workspace in the design studio loft. Learners also have access to bookbinding materials and workshops and to printing and digital workspaces.
- Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI
In RISD’s holistic MFA in graphic design, learners may select between a two-year path or a three-year path. The two-year choice is for people who already have a bachelor’s degree. The three-year option is for people with degrees in liberal arts, the sciences, or fine arts. Learners in the three-year path can expect classes such as: graduate form, graduate typography, and history of graphic design.
Learners will be expected to finish a thesis before earning their degree. Not only that, but all graduate learners in this degree program will also participate in the RISD Graduate Thesis Exhibition.
- North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC
NCSU’s master of graphic design is a two-year master’s degree program for learners who want to dig deeper into the research-based side of graphic design. The graduate experience will consist of a 3-credit seminar each semester, a 9-credit studio each semester, a 3-credit elective, and a final project research course. Studio concepts will vary by semester and often include speakers and field trips. If learners do not already have a bachelor’s degree in graphic design, they will want to look into NCSU’s three-year master’s degree program.
- California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA
Learners who already have a bachelor’s degree in graphic design will be good to go for CalArt’s two- and three-year MFA degree program. However, learners have no prior bachelor’s level experience will want to look into the three-year degree program. Depending on the chosen degree program, required classes may consist of typographics, visual literacy, graphic design theory, and historical survey of graphic design.
Learners can select from an array of electives as well, including type design, web design, typography, motion graphics, design theory, and design history. All graduate learners must finish a thesis project and review to obtain their degrees.
- Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD
Led by an administrator who has a strong background in education and professional work, this degree program is holistic and hands-on. Rather than sit through lectures, learners will work in the studio to design, and research across media. Graduates can expect to follow this curriculum:
- MAGD Studio 1
- MAGD Studio 2
- MAGD Workshop
- Type Intensive
- Transmedia Type Lab
- Design Theory and Practice
In the spring, all MAGD learners design and exhibit a self-directed design project and a professional portfolio.
- Boston University, Boston, MA
This two-year, 60-credit MFA degree program includes both modernist and postmodernist design theory. The MFA arts in graphic design degree program at BU is one of the nation’s best.
Required classes may consist of:
- Graduate Graphic Design
- Graduate Typography
- Thesis Preparation
- Thesis Development
- History of Graphic Design
Graduate learners will also take 16 credits of electives. All learners must finish a thesis and present it in an exhibition to earn their degree.
- Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA
All learners in CMU’s prominent two-year master of design program will participate in stimulating seminars, studios, and design labs. Graduate learners will also be required to finish a thesis before earning their degree. Required classes and studios may consist of:
- Seminar: Interaction and Service Design Concepts
- Studio: Research-Based Design for Interactions
- Studio: Designing for Interactions
- Seminar: Transition Design
- Interaction Design Lab
Graduate learners will also be able to select from an array of exciting electives. If you’re a non-creative looking to dive into this new and creative world, Carnegie Mellon also has a one-year master of arts in design program.
- Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, GA
SCAD has an MFA in graphic design and visual experience. Graduate learners in this degree program must finish at least 90 hours of study to graduate. Required classes may consist of:
- Integrated Design Media
- Ideation Models and Process
- Typographic Communication
- Design History and Context of Media
- Visual Design for Interactive Contexts
- Experience Design for Physical Spaces
The school also offers a 45-hour MA in graphic design program.
- Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI
The Design Department at Cranbrook Academy is led by Elliott Earls, the author in residence. If accepted into this degree program, you will be mentored by Earls as you work to craft your course of study. Learners in this degree program are sure to have an experience unlike any other degree program in the country or even the world.
- Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, CA
This two-year MFA graduate graphic design degree program is comprised of four full semesters, a summer session for a studio-based independent study, and an internship. Graduate learners must also finish a thesis. Graduates complete 72 units, which may consist of:
- Project Writing
- Graduate Studio
- Graduate Seminar
- Graduate Typography
- Design Research/Strategy
The Art Center College of Design also has a three-year graphic design degree program for students who need supplementary design skills to earn their degree.
- Otis College of Art & Design, Los Angeles, CA
Otis offers four master of fine arts (MFA) degrees, including programs in fine arts, graphic design, public practice, and writing. The MFA in graphic design degree program is made up of four semesters. Required classes and seminars may consist of:
- Seminar Studio I
- Theory and Criticism
- Seminar Round Table
- Directed Study: Mentorship
- Contemporary Graphic Design Issues
All graduate learners must finish a final studio project as well as several electives to earn their degree.
- Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
The MFA program in design/visual communications at VCU focuses on the philosophical, communicative, and aesthetic relationships of visual problem-solving. Curriculum requirements may consist of:
- Visual Communications Seminar
- Visual Communications Workshop
- Research Methods in Visual Communications
- Research Documentation and Exhibition Design
- Directed Thesis Research in Visual Communication
All graduate learners must finish 60 credit hours to earn their degrees. To be admitted to this degree program, a learner must have completed 36 undergraduate credit hours in studio art
- California College of the Arts, San Francisco, CA
The school’s prominent MFA in design includes three concentrations: graphic design, industrial design, and interaction design. This cooperative environment enables learners to connect, design, and innovate. The two-year curriculum includes mixed reality experiences, conceptual cartography, business of design, and design research. All graduate learners must finish a thesis before graduation. This MFA program is best suited for learners who have a background in graphic design. But, if you don’t have a related degree or professional experience, you can opt for the college’s three-year MFA degree program, which includes a foundation year focused on prototyping, design process, tools, and technology.
- Academy of Art University, San Francisco, CA
The MA in graphic design and digital media degree program requires graduate learners to complete 36 units to earn their degree. Required classes may include:
- Type Forms
- Visual Literacy
- Visual Thinking
- Principles of UX
- Making Ideas Visible
- The Nature of Identity
- History of Graphic Design
Prospective learners may also wish to look into the Academy’s 63-unit master of fine arts (MFA in graphic design. Graduates pursuing an MFA must finish a final thesis project.
- University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL
Offered through the university’s College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts, this master of graphic design degree program is unlike any other. What makes this degree program so unique is its international component. All Chicago-based learners will participate in the Basel School of Design summer workshops situated in Basel, Switzerland! Other degree requirements may include:
- Combined Studio
- Research Seminar I
- Documentation Studio
- Advanced Graphic Design
- Master’s Research Project + Exhibition
All learners must finish a minimum of 64 semester hours, including at least 16 hours of graduate-level electives.