Graphic Design Colleges in North Carolina

6 Best Graphic Design Colleges in North Carolina


North Carolina, a state renowned for its rich history, diverse culture, and natural beauty, is also a hub of educational excellence. Among its many esteemed institutions are colleges that specialize in graphic design, nurturing the creative spirits of students who aspire to transform the visual landscape of our world. These graphic design colleges in North Carolina, set against the backdrop of North Carolina’s picturesque settings from the Appalachian Mountains to the Outer Banks, offer programs that blend traditional artistry with cutting-edge technology, crafting the next generation of design professionals.

Whether it’s the comprehensive programs at North Carolina State University or the innovative curricula at Appalachian State University, students are sure to find a path that ignites their passion and hone their skills in the art of visual communication.

Graphic Design Colleges in North Carolina

North Carolina State University

North Carolina State University’s College of Design offers a distinguished Bachelor of Graphic & Experience Design (BGXD) program, which is consistently recognized as one of the top NASAD accredited design programs in the country. The program is a harmonious blend of traditional graphic design practices and modern user experience and user interface design (UX/UI), creating a comprehensive educational experience that prepares students for the multifaceted design industry.

The BGXD program at NC State is designed to produce designers who are not only visually articulate but also adept at employing human-centered research methods to ensure their designs meet user needs and desires. Students are trained to visualize, prototype, and produce digital products, websites, apps, identity systems, wayfinding, and packaging. They are also encouraged to develop strategies and systems for making experiences more accessible to users.

Collaboration is a cornerstone of the program, with students often working alongside experts from various fields such as ethnographers, data scientists, software engineers, psychologists, and computer programmers. This interdisciplinary approach is further enriched by the exploration of emerging technologies like data visualization, virtual reality, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence.

The curriculum is project-based, allowing students to acquire strong formal and conceptual skills framed by a human-centered approach. From the outset, students establish a comprehensive design foundation through sequenced core studios paired with specialized courses in typography, design systems, design history, and design theory. As they progress, students delve into advanced studios that enable in-depth exploration of special topics such as branding, accessible design, and artificial intelligence.

Real-world experience is a key component of the BGXD program, with students interacting with organizations through sponsored studio projects and internships. This hands-on approach ensures that graduates are well-equipped to enter the workforce as designers in software companies, leading design firms, and beyond. Alumni of the program have gone on to work for prestigious companies such as IBM, Red Hat, SAS, Lenovo, Citrix, IQVIA, Pentagram, IDEO, Willowtree, and R/GA.

In essence, North Carolina State University’s BGXD program is a testament to the university’s commitment to producing skilled professionals who are capable of designing meaningful and impactful user experiences. The program’s blend of theory and practice, along with its focus on collaboration and technology, makes it an ideal choice for students looking to make a significant mark in the world of graphic and experience design.

Appalachian State University

Appalachian State University’s Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design is a definitive professional degree that equips students for the multifaceted field of visual communication design. The program, lauded for its emphasis on conceptual approaches, research, and production methods, is a beacon for those aspiring to excel in various media forms. Faculty members, who are both experienced and professionally active designers, guide students through a curriculum that stresses conceptual thinking, typographic expression, formal and technical processes, and proficiency in creative problem-solving and visual criticism.

The university’s facilities and labs are fully equipped, providing students with opportunities to design interactive, screen-based experiences, print publications, identity programs, type design, packaging, signage/information systems, and environmental graphics. This hands-on approach ensures that graduates are well-prepared to contend for the rigorous and highly competitive careers in graphic design, as well as for admission to prestigious graduate schools.

Appalachian State University’s commitment to after-graduation success is evident, with most students starting jobs right after completing their degree. The program’s alumni have continued their education at renowned institutions like Pratt Institute, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and Virginia Commonwealth University. Moreover, the program’s engagement outside the classroom, through affiliations like the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) and the National Association of Art Educators (NAEA), fosters a professional network and community for students.

The Graphic Design program at Appalachian State University is not just about learning design; it’s about becoming a part of a community that values design’s power to impact lives. It’s a place where students can start as aspiring designers and leave as professionals ready to make their mark on the world.

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNC Charlotte) offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) in Graphic Design that is a testament to the university’s commitment to producing industry-ready professionals. This NASAD accredited program is a deep dive into the world of visual communication, preparing students for careers in design, advertising, marketing, and beyond.

The B.F.A. program requires 78 credit hours of courses within the department, many of which are sequential to ensure a structured and comprehensive learning experience. Students are encouraged to start with three studio art courses and one art history course during their first semester, integrating general education courses as they progress. This approach allows for a timely graduation and a well-rounded educational journey.

UNC Charlotte’s graphic design program is known for its in-depth study, with two-thirds of the required coursework focused on the major. The curriculum covers a wide range of topics, including digital and print design, typography and layout, UX/UI and web design, design methods and research, branding and advertising, animation, and motion design. This comprehensive education ensures that students are well-versed in both the creative and technical aspects of graphic design.

Admission to the program is competitive, requiring a digital portfolio review. The department accepts new students into the Graphic Design major for Fall semesters only, emphasizing the importance of planning and preparation for prospective students.

At UNC Charlotte, graphic design students are not just trained to be proficient in design software and techniques; they are also taught to think critically about design’s role in society. The program fosters a culture of innovation, where students are encouraged to explore new ideas and push the boundaries of traditional design thinking. Graduates of the program are equipped with the skills and knowledge to make a significant impact in the fast-paced and ever-changing world of visual communication.

Sandhills Community College

Sandhills Community College, located in the serene Pinehurst area of North Carolina, offers a dynamic and engaging Graphic Design program that caters to both aspiring designers and professionals looking to enhance their skills. The program is designed to provide a comprehensive education in graphic design, covering a wide range of subjects from photographic imaging to digital illustration.

Students enrolled in the Graphic Design program at Sandhills Community College can expect to gain hands-on experience in various aspects of design, including basic camera operations, photographic production, digital imaging, correction, and output. The course offerings are diverse, allowing students to explore subject composition, depth of field, shutter control, light control, color, and photo-finishing.

The college’s commitment to practical learning is evident in its curriculum, which includes courses like Photographic Imaging I, where students learn to produce traditional and digital photographic prints with acceptable technical and compositional quality. Additionally, the college offers an Associate in Fine Arts in Visual Arts program, perfect for students aiming to transfer into a Bachelor in Fine Arts (BFA) in Visual Arts program at a four-year institution. This program provides hands-on instruction in basic digital software, Adobe Photoshop, and Lightroom, and prepares students with a diverse portfolio of original art in various mediums.

Sandhills Community College also emphasizes the importance of showcasing student work. Participants in the Visual Arts program have the opportunity to display their original work in SCC’s annual Art Show, which is a testament to the college’s nurturing environment for creative expression.

For those interested in furthering their education in graphic design, the college offers transfer opportunities to North Carolina and out-of-state senior institutions. Graduates can pursue careers in art education, museum education, graphic design, gaming, animation, painting, and printmaking, among others.

In summary, Sandhills Community College provides a rich educational experience for those passionate about graphic design, offering a blend of technical instruction and creative exploration that prepares students for a variety of professional pathways in the visual arts.

Graphic Design Colleges in North Carolina

Catawba Valley Community College

Catawba Valley Community College (CVCC) in Hickory, North Carolina, offers a comprehensive Graphic Design program that is designed to equip students with the knowledge and skills necessary for employment in the graphic design profession. The program focuses on designing, advertising, illustration, and digital and multimedia content for printed and electronic materials.

The CVCC Graphic Design program provides a creative learning environment featuring over 60 Mac computers located in three student labs. The open concept floor plan includes collaborative workspace and a student lounge to facilitate a creative environment. Students are trained in the development of concept and design for promotional materials such as newspaper and magazine advertisements, posters, folders, letterheads, corporate symbols, brochures, booklets, preparation of art for print, lettering, typography, photography, and for electronic media.

Graduates of the CVCC Graphic Design program should qualify for employment opportunities with graphic design studios, advertising agencies, printing companies, department stores, a wide variety of manufacturing industries, newspapers, and businesses with in-house graphics operations. The program also offers a direct transfer pathway into Montreat College’s Visual Communication and Experience Design (VisComm) bachelor’s degree program through a special articulation agreement.

The curriculum is rich and varied, providing opportunities for students to think critically and creatively about strategies and concepts in the design process. The program uses industry-standard research methods, and student projects foster unique and solid student solutions. Students are exposed to in-depth studies on the elements and principles of design, and receive training in typography, drawing fundamentals, illustration, and the ideation process. Using analog and digital lab environments, students are exposed to the latest technology trends for web design, UX Design, and multimedia design.

In summary, Catawba Valley Community College’s Graphic Design program is a gateway to a career in the creative industry, offering a blend of technical instruction and conceptual development that prepares students for a variety of professional pathways in the visual arts.

University of North Carolina Asheville

The University of North Carolina Asheville (UNC Asheville) offers a unique approach to graphic design through its interdisciplinary New Media program. This Bachelor of Arts degree integrates traditional design principles with cutting-edge digital media, providing students with a broad skill set that spans various creative and technological disciplines.

At UNC Asheville, the New Media program is not confined to conventional graphic design; it encompasses a wide array of digital arts, including animation, video, motion graphics, interactive art and design, physical computing, virtual and augmented reality, 3D printing, laser cutting, web media, sonic art, and installations. This expansive curriculum ensures that students are well-versed in both the artistic and technical aspects of new media, preparing them for the multifaceted challenges of the contemporary design landscape.

The program’s philosophy is rooted in the belief that design is a powerful tool for communication and expression. Students are encouraged to explore their creative visions while developing a critical understanding of the role of media in society. The curriculum emphasizes hands-on learning, and students have access to state-of-the-art facilities and equipment to bring their innovative ideas to life.

UNC Asheville’s New Media program also fosters a collaborative environment, where students work closely with faculty and peers on projects that often cross the boundaries between art, science, and technology. This interdisciplinary approach is exemplified by the STEAM Studio (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math), which embodies the university’s liberal arts mission by merging diverse fields to create collaborative works of art and technology.

Graduates of the program leave with a comprehensive portfolio that showcases a range of skills from graphic design to digital fabrication, positioning them for success in various careers such as web design, animation, game design, and beyond. UNC Asheville’s commitment to a liberal arts education enriches the student experience, ensuring that graduates are not only skilled designers but also thoughtful and engaged citizens.

Ending Notes

As we draw the curtain on our exploration of graphic design colleges in North Carolina, it’s clear that the state is a fertile ground for creativity and innovation. These institutions are not just teaching students how to create; they are instilling in them the power to communicate, to challenge, and to change the world through design. With a blend of technical prowess and artistic vision, graduates from North Carolina’s graphic design programs are stepping out, portfolios in hand, ready to leave their mark on the design world.

From the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Atlantic coast, the future of graphic design shines bright, fueled by the talent and ambition nurtured within these schools. As students embark on their professional journeys, they carry with them the lessons, experiences, and inspirations drawn from North Carolina’s rich educational landscape, poised to become the visionary designers of tomorrow.

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