Prepped with an armload of pamphlets and a folder full of bookmarks, you are ready to start shifting through the information overload to find the top graphic design schools. This will be no easy task. After looking at the obvious, universal factors such as cost and location you need to begin focusing on the parts of the school and its graphic design program that matter most to you.

Go into your bookmarks and bring up the pages of every school you are investigating. Wander through the main sites a little bit, enjoying the sights, then go to the pages specifically describing graphic design programs. The school and department’s website is often the best place to begin evaluating a school. Look at how well designed the site is, how easy it is to use and navigate and find information. Then look to see if they have the portfolios of their students, professors and alumni online. They should; it is a sign that the school is proud of the people associated with it and the work they produce. If there is no portfolios section this is probably not a top school, and you should move on.

Next, check out the graphic design curriculum. Most top graphic design schools have the requirements for entering a program and obtaining a degree spelled out online. Top graphic design schools will be prepared to educate students completely unfamiliar with the art world in what they need for success in a graphic design job. Art history, the basics of drawing and photography and other introductory courses should be mandatory. Then assess how extensive the instruction is in the areas that specifically interest you. Look for a broad range of topics, as graphic design work relies heavily on the designer having a working understanding of a variety of inspirational sources.

While you are at the site, check out the criteria for other areas the school specializes in. A diverse curriculum and student population is highly desirable if you are going into a program as broad as graphic design. Everyone needs graphic designers, from the students in fine arts who need someone to lay out the design of their portfolio website, to the music students who need posters designed for their band’s gigs and CD covers. These experiences make for good practice and form connections that can be used long after you graduate.

Once you start visiting or communicating with your list of top graphic design schools find out how closely the alumni of the graphic design department are still tied to the school, and in what way. Alumni who liked their school and have found success are likely to keep ties with the school open, which can be a good source of internships and jobs in graphic design after graduation. You can find this out by talking with the staff and faculty, both in person and over the phone, or by email. Here is another chance to assess if this is really a top graphic design school; knowledgeable, quick to respond staff and faculty is a good sign. Top graphic design schools value their students, and know that their reputation is based on how well their alumni do. If they respect you from the start, then they will continue to respect you once you are a formal student.

Did you know:

According to US News and World Reports the following are the top 2010 National Schools offering Art majors

1.      Yale University – New Haven, CT
2.      University of Chicago – Chicago, IL
3.      Northwestern University – Evanston, IL
4.      Brown University – Providence, RI
5.      Rice University – Houston, TX


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