Many students think they have to look at the college rankings from such famous sources as the US News and World Report in order to learn about the top graphic design schools. It is more important to know what the best graphic design school is for you, which can’t necessarily be determined by empty figures such as faculty-to-student ratio or the prestige level of a program. Learning some of the things that you want from a potential graphic design degree program will be very helpful in your search for your next educational experience.
What Do the Schools Offer?
The first thing you will want from a potential design program is to see their curriculum. You will want to ensure that there are core courses that build a foundation base of knowledge that will help you build on the advanced concepts of graphic design. You will also want to examine the school’s liberal arts offerings and see how, and if, they relate to your design studies. Lastly, try to discern the orientation of the curriculum. Is it bent towards portfolio creation? Artistic voice? Whatever it is, choose a program whose orientation meshes with your goals and priorities.
What Do the Students and Faculty Offer?
See what the students in your prospective design program are creating for their courses. While you should keep in mind that the work featured on a school’s website is the best of the best when it comes to student work, examine it to see the techniques that you yourself may use in a course, the level of artistry demonstrated, and other aspects of the school’s values and theory orientations.
When it comes to a school’s faculty, research the amount of active instructors that have a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree, how many teach full time, and how many actually work as graphic designers. If possible, look for the online portfolio of the instructors that will be teaching your classes. Look to see if their work is in touch with what is currently being done in graphic design. This is important as you do not want to get critiques or even be mentored by someone who is not in touch with today’s design aesthetic.
What Financial Aid Does the School Offer?
If you’re lucky enough to have financial resources to easily pay for your design studies, then you will not need this last section. But everyone else will wonder if their first choice design program can give them the financial support they need to attend. Cost conscious applicants may be tempted to only look at the inexpensive programs. However, a potential benefit of looking at more expensive design schools is that they often have more money to give to needy students. Talk to the financial aid officers at your potential school to learn about all of your options. You can also look at outside sources for scholarship and grant opportunities.
The best design degree program for you is the one that best meets your need for nuanced instruction, an innovative curriculum that highlights the best of what is happening in graphic design, and students and faculty that are active and engaged throughout the educational process. Rankings can only tell you so much. Personal reflection, research and a few chats with admissions officers, students, faculty and alumni can better tell you if a certain design institution is right for you.