Graphic Design Colleges in Chicago

Best Graphic Design Colleges in Chicago


Chicago, a city renowned for its architectural marvels and cultural richness, is also a vibrant hub for graphic design education. Nestled among the skyscrapers and bustling streets, institutions like the University of Illinois at Chicago, the Illinois Institute of Technology, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago stand as pillars of creativity, offering cutting-edge graphic design programs that are as diverse and dynamic as the city itself. These graphic design colleges in Chicago not only teach the principles of good design but also embody them, fostering environments where students can unleash their creativity and transform their visions into impactful visual narratives.

Graphic Design Colleges in Chicago

University of Illinois at Chicago

The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) offers a vibrant and comprehensive Bachelor of Design in Graphic Design program that stands out for its commitment to making ideas visible and vocalizing thought through design. UIC’s program is a nuanced visual language that combines the art of typography with the skillful rendering of signs, symbols, and images, allowing students to influence behavior, stage a dialectic, facilitate connection, and provoke a response.

Students of graphic design at UIC learn the formal principles of design and acquire the skills necessary to engage these principles in practice. They are taught to look with a faculty of vision and to see with a faculty of the mind, developing discernment to excise the trivial from the significant. The curriculum promotes analytical competence in research, writing, design history, and image theory, and is designed to deepen process-oriented skills which are applied to typographic forms and systems, form-making and image, publication design, and digital media design.

The program highlights the importance of visual communication in the service of a greater good, preparing students to communicate visually and compellingly. UIC’s graphic design students are expected to become adept at soliciting engagement and influencing behavior through their designs. The program is open to first-year, transfer, international, readmission, and second bachelor’s degree applicants, offering a diverse and inclusive environment for all aspiring designers.

In essence, UIC’s Bachelor of Design in Graphic Design program is not just an academic pursuit; it is a journey towards becoming a visual communicator who can engage with the world through compelling design. It prepares students for a future where they can use their skills to make substantive contributions to the profession and improve our world.

Illinois Institute of Technology

The Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) is a bastion of design education, renowned for its Institute of Design (ID), which was founded by László Moholy-Nagy as The New Bauhaus in 1937. The ID at IIT is celebrated for pioneering human-centered and systems design, and it offers a range of graduate programs, including the Master of Design (M.Des.), which is a two-year degree for individuals aiming to become strategic designers.

The M.Des. program at IIT is STEM-designated and focuses on collaborative projects that build offerings and service systems addressing complex business, civic, and social challenges. Students explore different options by the means of rigorous practice and critique, identifying ways and means that enhance design and provide value, promote action, and support sustainable change. The program is designed for a diverse cohort of students from around the world, including those with no formal design training, making it inclusive and comprehensive.

IIT’s ID also offers the Master of Design Methods (M.D.M.) program, which is tailored for experienced professionals seeking twenty-first-century innovation skills. This program is often considered a creative alternative to an MBA and includes a part-time option that allows students to immediately apply what they learn in class to their professional settings.

Furthermore, the ID provides a dual Master of Design/MBA degree program, allowing students to combine design credits with business credits from the Stuart School of Business. This unique blend equips graduates with a powerful combination of design thinking and business acumen, preparing them for leadership roles across various sectors.

The curriculum at IIT’s ID is organized across three stages of study: Entry, Core, and Concentration, with a foundation sequence providing prerequisite skills and experience for students without formal design training. This structure ensures that students are well-prepared for the demands of the design industry, ready to make a significant impact in the private, public, or nonprofit sector upon graduation.

In summary, the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Institute of Design stands as a leader in design education, offering advanced programs that prepare students to become innovators and strategic thinkers capable of addressing the complex challenges of our time. Its rich history, inclusive approach, and focus on sustainable change make it a premier destination for aspiring designers looking to make a difference in the world.

School of the Art Institute of Chicago

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is a prestigious institution that offers a rich and immersive experience in graphic design through its Department of Visual Communication Design. SAIC’s program is renowned for its interdisciplinary approach, encouraging students to actively engage their world and define their role as contributing designers. The curriculum is designed to develop students’ critical and analytical skills, personal voice, and visual language, preparing them to work at the intersection of art, design, and mass culture.

SAIC’s diverse course offerings span both physical and virtual design areas, including artists’ books design, book design, environmental graphics, exhibition design, typography design, information design, interface design, identity design, illustration, letterpress printing and bookbinding, motion graphics design, digital printing, packaging design, poster design, publication design, symbol design, and website design. This comprehensive range of subjects ensures that students are well-equipped to tackle the challenges of contemporary graphic design.

The program is supported by a large faculty of recognized practicing designers, writers, and theorists who teach a broad offering of courses in design principles, issues, theory, methodologies, processes, technology, and practice. Students at SAIC are not just learning about design; they are becoming designers, authors, critics, and citizens, expanding their conceptual, critical, and organizational abilities in the process.

SAIC’s commitment to excellence in graphic design education is further highlighted by its Exploratory Languages lecture series, which features leading designers and design educators from across the country. This initiative provides students with exposure to a variety of perspectives and practices in the field, enriching their educational experience.

Graduates of SAIC’s graphic design program are consistently represented in national design competitions and publications, while alumni are designing, exhibiting, and teaching at leading studios and institutions across the country and beyond. The program’s emphasis on social responsibility and inquiry ensures that SAIC’s student designers are well-prepared to make meaningful contributions to society through their work.

Columbia College Chicago

Columbia College Chicago is a distinguished institution that offers a vibrant and diverse Graphic Design program. The college provides two main paths for students pursuing a career in visual communication: the Bachelor of Arts (BA) and the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA). The BA program offers a foundation in design and allows students to choose a concentration in one discipline and minor or double major, while the BFA is a more rigorous, professionally focused degree that requires students to learn multiple disciplines with fewer opportunities to choose electives.

The curriculum at Columbia College Chicago is designed to give students the tools and experience they need to launch a successful career in visual communication. Students develop advanced skills in typography, layout, information design, packaging design, and other applications through hands-on courses. They also learn the software and technology necessary to deliver dynamic visual communications.

Students are encouraged to focus on graphic design within a broader program of foundational studies in art and design. They gain a strong business foundation, preparing them to join a design firm, an agency, an in-house corporate design team, or launch their own freelance business. The program emphasizes research and client management, ensuring that students are well-equipped to meet the demands of the industry.

Columbia College Chicago’s Graphic Design programs also offer concentrations in Web Design or Publication Design. The Web Design concentration teaches advanced methods for creating interactive digital content, including HTML, CSS, backend technologies, and content management systems. The Publication Design concentration introduces students to the processes and methods of publication design, focusing on creating systems using unifying elements like typography, images, and illustrations.

In the classroom, students start with courses focused on the history and theory of design. They learn how to ask questions and frame their thinking around design through the Design Thinking course. An Introduction to Visual Culture course provides the vocabulary and context needed to critique work. Students choose from courses that cover design programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign, and they learn fabrication techniques like papermaking and laser cutting.

Faculty at the Columbia College Chicago helps the students in developing a professional portfolio as creating a professional portfolio is part of the requirements of the degree program, which allows the students to showcase their ability to create clear and dynamic visual communication solutions. This portfolio is a critical component of their professional development, serving as a testament to their skills and creativity.

In summary, Columbia College Chicago’s Graphic Design program is a comprehensive and flexible path for aspiring designers, offering a blend of technical skill development, theoretical understanding, and practical application that prepares students for the multifaceted world of visual communication.

Graphic Design Colleges in Chicago

DePaul University

DePaul University in Chicago offers an exceptional Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Graphic Design program through its College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM). This program is designed to prepare students to communicate to diverse audiences through a wide range of interdisciplinary design practices. The curriculum integrates contemporary media and technologies, including web and interaction design, branding, illustration, motion graphics, typography, package design, and programming.

Students at DePaul are immersed in both the history and theory of graphic design, acquiring the skills necessary to research, develop concepts and prototypes, and create professional portfolios. The program encourages collaboration and provides internships and research opportunities with a range of studios and non-profits in Chicago, allowing students to gain real-world experience.

The BFA in Graphic Design at DePaul is known for its comprehensive approach, which covers visual, production, and interactive design; art direction; book, publication, and web design; advertising; motion graphics; photography; and title design for film, TV, and games. This breadth of study ensures that graduates are versatile and well-prepared for a variety of careers in the graphic design field.

DePaul’s CDM faculty includes working professionals who bring their industry expertise into the classroom, offering students firsthand insights into the graphic design profession. The university’s cutting-edge facilities include a graphic design lab for print-based and introductory learning, Mac and PC computer facilities, an interactive design lab, and gallery and critique spaces for displaying student work.

The BFA program at DePaul is not just about learning design; it’s about influencing the world through design. Students are taught to be well-rounded, with access to multidisciplinary resources and the space to use them. The program emphasizes the importance of asking for guidance and learning from professors who are devoted to ensuring student success.

In summary, DePaul University’s BFA in Graphic Design is a program that fosters creativity, technical skill, and professional development, preparing students to become influential designers and communicators in an ever-evolving global landscape.

Northeastern Illinois University

Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design that is an applied arts program focusing on the development of visual solutions to communication problems. This program provides students with guided hands-on experience in creating visual messages in both print and electronic media, utilizing a variety of techniques including type, color, photography, animation, and more.

The BFA in Graphic Design at NEIU begins with a strong foundation in design principles and introduces students to digital technologies, progressing into more specialized courses as the program advances. Particular emphasis is placed on the development of typographic skills, and students are familiarized with a range of topics such as branding/identity design, packaging design, systems design, and environmental design through studio and special topics courses.

UX/UI design, mobile applications, and website design are taught alongside publication and print design, as well as historic print processes that form the base for the contemporary design practice. The program is enriched through mentorship by professionals in related fields like photography, digital arts, and printmaking. The courses provided in these fields help students in developing image-making and print production skills, and also providing them with base level coding and web development skills, and opening doors for them to experimental areas of design, which skillfully merge elements of branding, web design, and development.

NEIU’s Graphic Design program is steeped in the design community of Chicago, which is both welcoming and intimate, as well as diverse and international. The location of the campus provides new Graphic Design majors easy access to various design studios and advertising agencies and marketing firms in the nearby area and the golden opportunity to establish relationships with local design associations such as the American Institute of Graphic Arts and Society of Typographic Arts.

The program benefits from a convenient location in the city, commuter and residential options, small class sizes with a low student-to-faculty ratio, program affordability, and the diverse backgrounds and research interests of faculty. An internship requirement integrated into the degree gives students firsthand experience in the field, preparing them for multiple areas in the industry, entrepreneurship opportunities, and further study in graduate school.

In summary, NEIU’s BFA in Graphic Design is a professional degree that prepares students for a wide range of careers in the graphic design industry, offering a comprehensive education that combines practical skills with a deep understanding of the role of design in society.

Roosevelt University

Roosevelt University in Chicago offers a Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design that is designed to equip students with the skills to create visual concepts and communicate ideas using cutting-edge software. The program emphasizes project-based learning, allowing students to gain hands-on experience in print, digital imaging, interactive/web design, video, and sound production. Students dive into design history and theory and build their professional portfolios through a curriculum that includes courses in print & digital design, interactive and web design, video and sound production, visual identity and branding, and packaging design.

The graphic design major at Roosevelt University is structured to address the competitive demands of the industry today. Students work their way through hands-on design courses, gaining exposure in the arts community and seeing their final projects exhibited in one of the state’s largest downtown galleries. The downtown Chicago location of Roosevelt’s main campus places students in the heart of the city, where they can discover design through projects and internships with cultural institutions and real-world clients.

The program’s comprehensive approach combines a broad-based general education with extensive design education, qualifying graduates to work across multiple media and disciplines. Through the integration of the practice of project simulations, internships, and client-based experiences, students are able to gain skills that are currently in demand with industry standards. The curriculum includes a required internship and portfolio course, DES 380 INTERNSHIP AND PORTFOLIO, and concludes with a required capstone project, DES 368 DESIGN CAPSTONE.

Roosevelt University’s graphic design program is not just about learning to design; it’s about designing your dream career. With a degree from Roosevelt, students are prepared for a competitive design industry, ready to create visual concepts that communicate powerful ideas.

Ending Notes

As we draw the curtain on our exploration of Chicago’s graphic design colleges, we are reminded of the city’s legacy as a crucible of creativity and innovation. These institutions, each with their own unique strengths and approaches, contribute to a vibrant educational landscape where the next generation of graphic designers is being shaped. From the comprehensive programs at the University of Illinois at Chicago to the pioneering spirit of the Illinois Institute of Technology, and the artistic excellence of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, students are offered an unparalleled opportunity to hone their craft.

In the Windy City, where the skyline is a testament to architectural genius, students of graphic design learn to build their own edifices of visual communication. They are taught to be not just designers, but visionaries capable of influencing culture and industry alike. As they step out from these hallowed halls, armed with knowledge, experience, and a portfolio of their best work, they are ready to take on the world—one design at a time.

The journey through Chicago’s graphic design colleges is more than an academic pursuit; it is a passage through a world of visual storytelling, where each student’s narrative is interwoven with the city’s rich tapestry of art and design. And as they embark on their professional paths, they carry with them the spirit of Chicago—a spirit of resilience, diversity, and boundless creativity. Bold as the city itself, these emerging designers are set to redefine the boundaries of what is visually possible, leaving an indelible mark on the canvas of our visual culture. 

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