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13 Best Graphic Design Schools In Pennsylvania for 2021

Looking to become a graphic designer? If you’re interested in studying graphic design, there’s lot of great places to do so, in person and online, in Pennsylvania, one of America’s oldest states. Pennsylvania is rich in history and culture, with the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed, in just a small area of Philadelphia alone. The state also boasts some incredible cultural sites, including  Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, The Andy Warhol Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Art and more. It’s also home to the beautiful Appalachian Mountain and twelve State and National Parks. Pennsylvania has over half a million students throughout the state, with 120,000 in Philadelphia alone, so it’s definitely a great place to study.

There’s some great places to study graphic design in Pennsylvania—so we’re going to take you through 11 of the best graphic design colleges in Pennsylvania to help you make the right choice, whilst also offering some alluring alternatives.

Though, did you also know that you don’t actually need a degree to be a graphic designer? There are some excellent graphic design short courses and bootcamps out there that mean you can become a graphic designer without investing the huge amount of time and money it takes to gain a degree. The best of these courses is Shillington‘s innovative graphic design course that gets you fully prepared to work as a graphic designer in a seriously short amount of time.

1. The University of the Arts

Location: Philadelphia
Course Duration: 4 years

Founded over 150 years ago back in 1870, Philadelphia’s University of the Arts is divided into two schools: The College of Media, Art and Design and The College of Performing Arts. Of course the former is the one we are interested in as amongst its many undergraduate offerings, including Photography, Illustration, Painting, is Graphic Design. The University of the Arts offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design that, according to their website, teaches you skills that will prepare you for a career in the design industry—a great way to learn graphic design. UArts students benefit from small classes and hands-on experiences in a relaxed open studio environment. One of the other bonuses of studying graphic design at a dedicated arts university is the opportunity to work with students in other disciplines, and some of the cultural institutions in the city.

The University of the Arts’ Graphic Design BFA is a 120 credit program that takes four years full-time.

2. College of Arts and Architecture, Penn State University

Location: University Park
Course Duration: 4 years

The largest university in the state and one of the best graphic design schools in Pennsylvania, Penn State is a campus university based in the centre of the state. The College of Arts and Architecture was founded in 1963 on Penn State’s main University Park campus. Within the College, the Department of Graphic Design offers a Bachelors of Design (B.Des.) in Graphic Design which aims to push the boundaries of design and create visual stories. Centering on branding, storytelling, visualizing information, user-centered design and experience design, Penn State’s Graphic Design offering is a great way to learn to connect people through ideas and products. After the freshman year, all Penn State Graphic Design students have 24/7 access to their own desk in a dedicated studio. There’s plenty of opportunities to collaborate with fellow students on the course as well.

To be accepted on to Penn State’s Graphic Design B.Des., potential students must submit a portfolio of their work for review after completing some foundational modules. The course is made up of 121 credits and lasts for four years.

3. Moore College of Art & Design

Location: Philadelphia
Course Duration: 4 years

Moore College of Art & Design is a private art school founded in Philadelphia in 1848 as the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, the USA’s first art school specifically for women. Still exclusively for female students, Moore College now offers a variety of creative degrees and amongst its nine Bachelor of Fine Arts offerings is a Graphic Design course. A varied course, Moore College Graphic Design students will learn both web and print design, including eco-friendly printing options, as well as packaging, branding, advertorial composition and motion graphics. A smaller school, Moore College has around 500 undergraduate students across its different degree programs and its alumni includes a Pulitzer Prize winner. All this makes it one of the top graphic design colleges in Pennsylvania.

Moore College’s Graphic Design BFA is a 120 credit program, and will take four years to complete.

4. Carnegie Mellon School of Design

Location: Pittsburgh 

Course Duration: 4 years

Founded in the city of Pittsburgh in 1900, Carnegie Mellon University is a private research university with just shy of 15,000 students. Their School of Design, one of five schools that make up the College of Fine Arts, was founded the same year as the university. The School of Design is different from other colleges on this list as it offers a Bachelors of Design in Communications Design—which the school itself openly calls graphic design. There’s also the opportunity to combine Communications Design with either Products and Environments design. Carnegie Mellon’s degree promises not only the tools, culture and practice of design but also the ability to see and think about design.

Applications to Carnegie Mellon require potential students to upload a video, essay and portfolio.

5. Hussian College

Location: Philadelphia
Course Duration: 4 years

Hussian College is a private art school in Central Philadelphia that offers a single degree option, a Bachelor of Fine Arts, with three different concentrations Digital Media, Visual Communications and, most importantly for us, Graphic Design. Founded by the eponymous John Hussian in 1946, the college initially catered to veterans returning from World War Two to study fine art. The focus of the college then shifted to commercial art before becoming the design college we know it as today. Hussian College’s Graphic Design BFA aims to develop rounded graphic designers, who work on a multitude of projects during their degree including corporate identity and interface design. During the final year of the BFA, there are also opportunities for industry internships and portfolio development.

The BFA in Graphic Design at Hussian College lasts for four years and, like others, is a 120 credit program.

6. Edinboro University

Location: Edinboro, Erie County
Course Duration: 4 years

If you’re looking for graphic design colleges in Pennsylvania, it’s worth looking outside some of the major cities. Edinboro University is a great example of this—it’s located in Western Pennsylvania, not far from the shores of the Great Lake Erie. Founded in 1857, Edinboro University is a college of around 4,600 students. Edinboro offers students a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic and Interactive Design. One of the benefits that Edinboro boasts is the BeeHive, an on-campus professional design studio. The BeeHive allows Edinboro students to work on collaborative group projects for real world clients. The graphic design college also offers opportunities to travel abroad—students have previously visited design studios in several European cities including London, Paris and Rome.

Unlike others, Edinboro University does not require a portfolio submission for its course. Their BFA in Graphic Design takes four years to complete.

7. Weitzman School of Design

Location: Philadelphia
Course Duration: 4 years

The Weitzman School of Design is the design school of the prestigious Ivy League University of Pennsylvania, the oldest university in the USA. Weitzman itself was founded over a 100 years in 1914 and now has around 700 undergraduate and postgraduate students. Weitzman School offers a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree program in Design in which students on the course can select specific requirements related to Graphic Design, including Graphic Design with Creative Technologies, Designing for Mobile, Web and Public Media, Contemporary Theories in Design and more. Students on Weitzman’s Design BA program are able to pick and choose their own modules, so they can tailor it to how they want their design career to unfold. Weitzman also offers students the chance to study for a six-credit Minor, as well as the 16-credit Major.

Slightly different from the other programs on this list, Weitzman’s BA Major program in Design is a 16-credit module that takes four years to complete.

8. Pennsylvania College of Art & Design

Location: Lancaster
Course Duration: 4 years

A small college of just 300 students, Lancaster’s Pennsylvania College of Art & Design is one of the best graphic design schools in Pennsylvania. Alongside certificate and minor programs, Pennsylvania College of Art & Design offers six full degrees including a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. This degree program balances both conceptual and technical courses taught by both full-time and freelance designers—who bring their jobs into the classrooms as competitive assignments. The final year of the program also includes required industry placement, a great opportunity to flex the skills you’ve acquired on the course. The BFA course culminates with a portfolio of the work the student has produced and the chance to display it at the senior exhibition.

Like most of the graphic design schools in Pennsylvania, the College of Art & Design’s Graphic Design program lasts for four years.

9. Westphal College of Media Arts & Design

Location: Market Street, Philadelphia
Course Duration: 4 years

The Westphal College of Media Arts & Design is one of the colleges of Drexel University, a private research university founded in Philadelphia in 1891. Westphal College offers seventeen different undergraduate courses, one of which is a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Graphic Design. Westphal’s undergraduate program teaches its students the essential design software, including the Adobe Creative Suite, as well as a huge range of design skills through a collaborative, project-based curriculum. Students will learn typography, web design, brand identity and more, whilst also touching on other disciplines such as illustration and photography. Westphal Graphic Design students also have access to the college’s Hybrid Making Lab. Interesting addition, famous graphic designer and ambigram artist, John Langdon, who created the ambigram for the cover of Dan Brown’s bestselling novel Angels and Demons, taught at Westphal until his retirement in 2015.

Like others, Westphal College’s BSc in Graphic Design takes four years to complete. Applicants must submit a portfolio of previous creative work when enrolling.

10. Susquehanna University

Location: Selinsgrove
Course Duration: 4 years

Named after the Susquehanna Valley where its located, Susquehanna University is a campus university founded in 1851. Like many of the other graphic design schools in Pennsylvania, Susquehanna offers a variety of degrees—from International Relations to Music Composition and, of course, Graphic Design. Part of the College of Art and Design, this Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design is a definitive route into the design industry. Graphic Design graduates leave Susquehanna with skills in editorial and publication design, UX and UI design and brand development, as well as all the knowledge needed to work in the industry. Students at Susquehanna develop skills in both print and interactive design.

Susquehanna students will be ready to head out into the industry after a four year BFA program.

11. Tyler School of Art & Architecture

Location: Philadelphia
Course Duration: 4 Years

Founded in 1935, The Tyler School of Art & Architecture is part of Philadelphia’s Temple University, itself founded in 1884. A college of around 1550 students, Tyler School is home to its own Graphic and Interactive Design (GAID) Department. Within this department, it offers Bachelors of Fine Arts in Graphic and Interactive Design both with and without Entrepreneurial studies. The latter is a good option for students who want to go on to found their own design studios or freelance within the design industry. The interactive design element of Tyler’s offering means that it differs slightly from the other courses on this list, students are able to experiment with emerging technologies such as augmented and virtual reality. Tyler School also often has visiting lecturers, which gives its students another view of the design industry. Previous visiting lecturers have included Paula Scher, Louise Fili and Stefan Sagmeister.

Both the undergraduate BFAs that Tyler offers, Graphic and Interactive Design and its Entrepreneurial option, are four years long. Like at Westphal, applicants must submit a creative portfolio.

12. Pennsylvania College of Technology

Location: Williamsport
Course Duration: 4 years

Pennsylvania College of Technology or Penn College is one of the best graphic design schools in Pennsylvania. The college, which is autonomous from but affiliated with Penn State University (#2 on our list!), was founded just over 100 years in 1914. As part of Penn College’s School of Business, Arts and Sciences, they offer a Bachelor of Science in Graphic Design. Penn College’s Graphic Design course tackles the fundamentals of design before moving into more specific elements of design such as Environmental Graphic Design and Package Design before heading into designing a portfolio and a senior project. Penn College Graphic Design students also have to tackle Perspectives modules, which help shape their world view and design skills, and Foundations modules, which covers social skills needed to succeed in life and work.

Penn College’s Graphic Design BSc is another 120 credit course that takes four years full-time to complete.

13. Wilmington University

Location: New Castle, Wilmington
Course Duration: 4 years

Just down the Delaware River from Philadelphia in Wilmington, Wilmington University is a private university founded in 1968. Wilmington U offers a Bachelor of Science in Graphic Design—which can be taken entirely online through the school’s College of Experiential Learning. This is definitely something that can’t be taken for granted in this day and age. Wilmington Graphic Design students are taught how to use industry-leading tools to create innovative user experiences, as well as essential skills such as branding, packaging, spatial design, publication design and typeface design. Wilmington also offers the opportunity to take modules that count towards a graduate-level certificate in Technology Project Management.

Like the other degree programs in this list, the Wilmington University BSc in Graphic Design takes four years in total to complete its 120 credit course.

These may be some of the top graphic design schools in Philadelphia but what if we told you that there was a cheaper, faster way of becoming a graphic designer? One that fully prepares you for a job in the design industry? Well, look no further…

14. Shillington

Location: Online, New York, London, Manchester, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane
Course Duration: 3 months or 9 months

Shillington’s graphic design course covers everything you need—from design theory to design programs. Whether on campus or online, you’ll learn from experienced, practicing designers before immediately applying your skills in a studio environment. And, this all happens in just three months full-time or nine months part-time. There’s six campuses around the world—in New York, London, Manchester, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane—so you can choose your nearest campus or even study abroad. Or, if you’d rather study online, there’s three different time zones to choose from so you can study whenever works best for you.

Learn more about the Shillington graphic design course today or come along to one of our Info Sessions (either online or in person!) to learn about the course and chat to some teachers and graduates.

Resources

Oliver Stevenson
November 24, 2021

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