Graphic Design Colleges in Tennessee

Best Graphic Design Colleges in Tennessee


In the heart of the American South, Tennessee emerges as a canvas for creativity and innovation in the field of graphic design. With its rich musical heritage and burgeoning arts scene, the Volunteer State offers a diverse array of colleges that are not just teaching students how to create, but how to think and communicate visually in an ever-evolving digital world.

From the bustling streets of Nashville to the historic charm of Memphis, Tennessee’s graphic design programs stand at the intersection of tradition and technology, crafting the next generation of designers ready to leave their mark on the visual landscape. Join us as we explore the top graphic design colleges in Tennessee, where artistic passion meets academic excellence in the pursuit of visual mastery.

Graphic Design Colleges in Tennessee

Lipscomb University

Lipscomb University, nestled in the creative hub of Nashville, Tennessee, offers a Graphic Design program that is as vibrant and dynamic as the city itself. The program is housed within the College of Arts and Sciences and is designed to transform students into design visionaries, ready to inspire change and lead in the industry. With a strong emphasis on theory, professionalism, and staying current with emerging technology, Lipscomb’s curriculum is tailored to develop not just the skills but also the ethical grounding of its students.

The program prides itself on its 95% job placement rate and 100% graduate school acceptance rate, which speaks volumes about the quality and effectiveness of the education provided. Students are taught to be well-rounded professionals, grounded in a Christian, service-minded worldview, which is a distinctive feature of the university. The rigorous education includes capstone projects and entrance portfolios that prepare students for the competitive job market.

Lipscomb’s Graphic Design students have the opportunity to take on high-profile internships at renowned places like the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, Redpepper creative agency, Frist Art Museum, Native magazine, and more. These experiences are invaluable, providing real-world exposure and a chance to apply classroom knowledge in professional settings.

The program also encourages students to broaden their horizons through study abroad programs, allowing them to gain international experience and cross-cultural communication skills that are essential in our global economy. With a top-tier university education from Lipscomb, graduates are in high demand, whether they choose to launch their careers or begin graduate school.

Lipscomb University’s Graphic Design program is not just about creating aesthetically pleasing designs; it’s about shaping individuals who can use their creativity to make a positive impact in the world. The program’s focus on hand, eye, mind, and heart ensures that students are fully equipped to live out their purpose as designers who can truly inspire change.

Carson-Newman University

Carson-Newman University, located in the scenic foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains in Jefferson City, Tennessee, offers a nurturing and stimulating environment for students pursuing a career in graphic design. The university’s Art Department is an institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), ensuring that the programs meet or exceed national standards in art education.

The graphic design emphasis at Carson-Newman is part of a broader Art program that encourages students to cultivate their individual voices and master problem-solving skills. The curriculum is innovative, with intensive hands-on experience, including numerous service-learning opportunities. Students have access to contemporary facilities, including 23 private student studios awarded based on an Annual Portfolio Review. These studios, along with performance-based scholarships, highlight the university’s commitment to fostering artistic talent.

Students in the graphic design program are challenged to explore the complexities of typography, visual relationships, and composition in real-world contexts. The program emphasizes the development of a strong foundation in basic techniques and theory at lower levels of study, progressing to considerable freedom of personal expression at higher levels. This approach ensures that graduates are well-prepared to enter the professional world with a robust portfolio that reflects their skills and creativity.

Carson-Newman’s Art Department also hosts student and faculty art exhibitions throughout the year, providing students with opportunities to showcase their work and gain exposure. The Gamma Ray Art Club acts as a social organization which helps art majors and other students interested in the visual arts, by various hosting public events where students can sell their artworks.

With a focus on close mentoring and guidance by faculty throughout the entire course of the program, students at Carson-Newman receive the individual attention needed to thrive in their talents. Graduates of the program are equipped to pursue careers as product designers, advertising or public relations designers, publications designers, illustrators, commercial artists, art gallery dealers/curators, arts administrators, muralists, art educators, art therapists, commercial or fine art photographers, graphic designers, and creative directors. The experiences and skills gained from Carson-Newman’s graphic design program continue to enrich the lives of its alumni, inspiring them to push boundaries in the creative industries.

University of Tennessee

The University of Tennessee in Knoxville, offers a BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design) that is housed within the College of Architecture and Design. This calculated move from the School of Art to the College of Architecture and Design in Fall 2019 has been instrumental in creating a more integrated and collaborative environment for the students. The is a four-year program that immerses students in creative and intellectual thinking, diverse problem-solving, and innovative investigations, preparing them to enter the design field as well-equipped professionals upon graduation.

The curriculum is carefully planned to build skills needed for both singular and interdisciplinary projects, with an emphasis on concept development, strategic thinking, and collaboration. Starting with a Design-Centered Foundations program, students begin their education looking at the world through the lens of design from day one. Small faculty to student ratios in a studio setting foster a dynamic and creative learning environment.

A pivotal moment in the program is the Portfolio Review, which occurs at the end of the first year and is the benchmark for gaining access to upper-division courses and ultimately earning a BFA degree in Graphic Design. Once past the portfolio review, students work in a collaborative design studio, building a tight-knit community and enjoying amenities like a small library, light table, and lighting equipment, with permanent access to the studio space.

The program culminates in a senior project, which includes the creation of a website, and is celebrated at the annual Senior Show. This event is a significant milestone for students, marking the transition from academic study to professional practice. The faculty, a mix of engaged educators and industry professionals, play a crucial role in guiding students through their academic journey. Alumni of the program have gone on to compete on a national stage and gain employment at prestigious companies across the country, carrying the Volunteer Spirit from coast to coast.

The University of Tennessee’s Graphic Design program stands out for its commitment to fostering innovators, collaborators, entrepreneurs, and makers who are poised to transform the world through design. With a focus on human-centered processes and ethical implications, the program ensures that graduates are not just designers, but thoughtful contributors to society and the natural environment.

Graphic Design Colleges in Tennessee

Nossi College of Art

Nossi College of Art, situated in the bustling city of Nashville, Tennessee, is a creative incubator for aspiring graphic designers. The college’s Graphic Design Degree Program is a comprehensive journey into the world of visual communication, where students are encouraged to push the boundaries of their creativity and embrace the ever-evolving landscape of design.

At Nossi, the Graphic Design curriculum is a blend of design fundamentals, print production, digital technologies, coding, and business/marketing classes, all aimed at producing highly-technical and versatile graduates. The program is led by Mark Mabry MFA Ed.D, the Graphic Design Department Chair, who emphasizes the importance of fun, risk-taking, collaboration, and experimentation as key ingredients in unlocking personal potential.

Students at Nossi can expect most of their classes to be graphic design-specific and taught by professional graphic artists. This direct exposure to industry professionals ensures that the education they receive is not only current but also relevant to the demands of the job market. The college’s project-based All Access program allows students to work with real clients, providing them with invaluable hands-on experience while completing their studies.

The senior year at Nossi is particularly significant, as students take their internship class and begin to network with professionals such as production artists, web designers, art directors, and more. This period is crucial for establishing connections that can lead to future employment opportunities. The culmination of the program is the Senior Exhibition, where students present their best work to local graphic design industry professionals, family, and friends.

Nossi College of Art’s approach to graphic design education is holistic, combining technical skills with an understanding of the broader business and marketing context in which design operates. Career opportunities for graduates are vast, ranging from graphic designer/artist, UI/UX designer, production artist, web designer, art director, package designer, motion graphics designer, typographer, app developer, creative director, brand identity developer, digital publisher, senior design manager, to marketing director.

With a degree from Nossi, students are well-prepared to enter the workforce as innovative designers who can adapt to the changing needs of the industry. The college’s commitment to fostering a creative and supportive learning environment ensures that its graduates are not just skilled technicians but also visionary artists ready to make a significant impact in the world of graphic design.

Southern Adventist University

Southern Adventist University, located in the picturesque setting of Collegedale, Tennessee, offers a Graphic Design program that is as much about innovation as it is about inspiration. The School of Visual Art and Design at Southern Adventist University is committed to providing an education that blends creative expression with practical application, all within a Seventh-day Adventist Christian educational environment.

The program is designed to speak the visual language that is so prevalent in our society, aiming to inspire, persuade, and provoke through design. Students at Southern are not just learning to create aesthetically pleasing works; they are being taught to communicate with purpose. The curriculum provides the tools and opportunities for students to cultivate their unique skills, abilities, and style, ensuring they emerge with real-world experience and a professional portfolio.

Graphic design at Southern Adventist University is recognized as a rapidly growing and ever-evolving industry. The program prepares students to be passionate about design, committed to adapting to new technology and industry trends, and driven to create quality work that thrives in the competitive field. The faculty understand that designers are not always behind computers; they also value the creation of things by hand, such as drawing, printmaking, paper quilling, hand lettering, collage, and more. This appreciation for the tactile aspects of design allows students to bridge the analog and digital worlds effectively.

Students in the program build a skill set that includes visual problem-solving, research, design thinking, UX and UI design, paired with the logical and systematic reasoning necessary for front-end coding. This comprehensive approach ensures that graduates are well-equipped for a variety of roles in the design industry. The program also emphasizes the importance of problem-solving and making communication accessible for target audiences, which is crucial in a world where design is omnipresent—from ads to apps, posters to packaging, websites to wall graphics.

Southern Adventist University’s Graphic Design program stands out for its commitment to preparing individuals who are not only technically proficient but also capable of using their skills to make a positive impact on the world around them. With a focus on creating for a different audience than a fine artist might, the program ensures that its graduates are ready to solve problems and communicate effectively in the professional world of design.

Milligan University

Milligan University, situated in the beautiful mountains of Northeast Tennessee, offers a Graphic Design program that is as comprehensive as it is creative. The program, housed within the School of Arts & Humanities, is designed to blend creativity and artistic abilities with industry-leading software, preparing students for a wide range of applications in the job market. The curriculum at Milligan is distinctive for its critical analyses, theoretical issues, and practical skills, all approached from a distinctly Christian worldview.

Students at Milligan are encouraged to develop their visual communication and problem-solving skills, which are essential in many sectors of the job market. The program’s feature work includes student presentations in gallery settings, showcasing portfolios brimming with pieces created for internships, work experiences, course assignments, community organizations, businesses, and the Milligan campus itself. This exposure to real-world scenarios is invaluable, as students are sought after for internships and special projects even before graduation.

The graphic design major at Milligan learns the elements of design and how they apply to various media, the fundamental skills, theories, principles, and technologies necessary in the creation of design work, and how to formulate a personal creative process and aesthetic direction for work that communicates visually. An understanding of the ethical responsibilities of a graphic designer, with a specific emphasis on Christian faith, is also a key component of the education provided.

Scholarships are available for students based on talent, academic achievement, and need, reflecting Milligan’s commitment to supporting its students. The faculty, who are professionals in their field, ensure that the education is not only current but also relevant to the evolving needs of the industry.

Graduates of Milligan’s Graphic Design program are prepared to work in various industries and apply their visual communication skills to the inevitable changes in media that lie ahead. With a degree from Milligan, students are well-equipped to enter the workforce as innovative designers who can adapt to the changing needs of the industry and make a significant impact in the world of graphic design.


As we draw the curtain on our journey through the graphic design colleges of Tennessee, we are left with a profound appreciation for the state’s dedication to nurturing the creative spirits that will shape the future of visual communication. Each institution we’ve explored offers a unique blend of academic rigor, practical experience, and a commitment to fostering the individual talents of its students.

From the vibrant cityscapes of Nashville to the serene mountains of Northeast Tennessee, these colleges are not just educational facilities; they are crucibles of creativity where the next generation of designers is being forged. The students who walk their halls are being equipped with more than just the skills to create; they are being empowered with the vision to innovate, the courage to challenge norms, and the heart to design with purpose.

As these aspiring designers graduate and step out into the world, they carry with them the legacy of Tennessee’s rich artistic heritage and the forward-thinking ethos of their alma maters. They are the new pioneers of graphic design, ready to tell the stories of our times through the universal language of art and design. And as they do so, they will not only reflect the world as it is but also illuminate the world as it could be.

In the end, it is the impact of their work—the brands they refresh, the messages they clarify, the communities they unite—that will stand as the true testament to the quality of graphic design education in Tennessee. So here’s to the dreamers, the makers, the thinkers, and the creators who are about to leave their mark. The stage is set, the tools are at hand, and the canvas of possibility stretches out before them, as wide and as welcoming as the Tennessee sky.

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