The fusion of art and technology brings color to contemporary business. Grad School Hub's 10 Best Online Master's Degrees in Graphic Design can help students design their future.
If there are two things that modern start-ups have in common, it's creativity and computers. The contemporary market needs professionals with artistic spirits and tech-savvy brains. Grad School Hub's 10 Best Online Master's Degrees in Graphic Design equip individuals to tell visual stories to bring companies to life.
The following programs focus on a variety of design areas, including communication design, emerging media, interactive media, and user experience design. They feature courses, studios, and seminars that explore topics such as art history, content creation, human-computer interaction, illustration, and typography. Some of the programs listed offer students opportunities to travel, engage in hands-on labs and studios, conduct design research, and complete graphic design internships. All programs listed are delivered fully or partially through online learning.
A master's degree in design can prepare students for a wide range of careers relating to artistic design and computer technologies. Graduates may go on to careers as graphic design teachers, social media managers, video game designers, and beyond. Broadly speaking, graphic designers create visual stories using computer software or by hand. Their duties may include creating print and digital media layouts or branding materials.
According to the most recent report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, graphic designers earned a median 2018 pay of $50,370 annually or $24.21 hourly. Employment is growing at a projected rate of four percent, which is slower than the average for all occupations. The programs listed allow students to develop their creative vision and compile professional portfolios that can set them apart in the contemporary job market.
The staff of Grad School Hub has compiled the following 10 Best Online Masters' Degrees in Graphic Design for the 2019-20 academic school year based on public data released from educational, commercial, and government databases. Data contributed from sources such as the National Center for Education Statistics, and the U.S. Department of Labor plays a significant role in how graduate degree programs are ranked because institutional transparency is essential for deciding which career path is right for you. Based on this data, GSH organizes information into five weighted categories, which are:
- Alumni Feedback: 20%
- Continued Enrollment: 20%
- Degree Selectivity: 10%
- Graduate Expenses: 25%
- Projected Annual Salary: 25%
A more comprehensive evaluation of how each category is determined and scored is accessible through our Ranking Methodology page.
Here are the 10 Best Online Masters' Degrees in Graphic Design for 2020 – 2021!
#10 – Maryland Institute College of Art
Master of Professional Studies in UX Design
The Maryland Institute College of Art offers a Master of Professional Studies in UX Design. The online degree program is ideal for individuals with a design background who are interested in coding or human-computer interaction. It focuses on practical professional skills, and it fuses computer science with graphic design principles. The 30-credit curriculum consists of nine online modules and one in-person residency. It covers interface design, project management, prototyping, and usability. Students tune in to weekly live classes delivered through web-conferencing software. Students can also expect to work with industry professionals on real-world projects. Designed for working professionals, the degree can be completed on a part-time basis in 15 months. Graduates leave the program with a design portfolio. The program builds skills applicable to careers in education, defense, gaming, and healthcare.
MICA opened in 1826 as the Maryland Institute for the Promotion of the Mechanic Arts and is one of the oldest art schools in the country. The college is a member of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design, a consortium of 36 of the foremost art schools in the nation. The school's galleries notably held the first public United States showing of work by Henri Matisse. MICA alumni include artist Jeff Koons, Broad City star Abbi Jacobson, and virtual reality designer Zach Richter.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $48,630
#9 – Savannah College of Art and Design
Master of Arts in Graphic Design and Visual Experience
Savannah College of Art and Design offers a Master of Arts in Graphic Design and Visual Experience. The MA program can be completed entirely online. Courses are offered asynchronously, meaning students can access course material on their own schedule. Students do, however, have set deadlines and participate in online discussions and work critiques. Graphic design students may also study abroad at any of the college's international locations, such as in a quarter-long immersion in Provence, France. The curriculum includes courses in Design Research, Analysis and Discourse; Ideation Models and Process; and Typographic Voice and Visual Narrative. The degree requires 45 total credit hours of study.
SCAD is a private art school with the main campus in downtown Savannah, Georgia. It was founded in 1978 to offer artistic programs not yet offered in the southeastern United States. The university's main Savannah campus is recognized for its architectural preservation through building restoration. SCAD also operates locations in Atlanta, France, Hong Kong, and online. Its main-campus graphic design programs are housed in Adler Hall, a former Home Appliances and Furniture outlet on the Savannah River. The university runs three museums, which include the SCAF Museum of Art in Savannah and the Lacoste History Center in France.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $37,130
#8 – Kutztown University of Pennsylvania
Master of Fine Arts in Communication Design
The Kutztown University of Pennsylvania offers a Master of Fine Arts in Communication Design. The low-residency degree program requires students to spend three weeks on campus each academic year. Students are encouraged to work one-on-one with faculty members and to tailor their program to their personal design interests. Students may explore advertising design, education, graphic design, illustration, and interactive design. The core studio curriculum includes graduate seminars in Contemporary Topics in Design, Design Pioneers, Emerging Media, and Unconventional Type. The curriculum culminates in a capstone research project. The degree requires 60 credits of study. It is designed to be completed in three years, including summer semesters.
Kutztown is a public university and one of the 14 members of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. It was established in 1866 as a teacher-training school. It is located in the small rural borough of Kutztown, Pennsylvania, half an hour from Philadelphia and two hours from New York City. The university's Sharadin Arts Building houses the College of Visual and Performing Arts, which offers fine arts degrees in communication design. The Sharadin building also houses the Marlin and Regina Miller Gallery, which displays student artwork. U.S. News & World Report ranks Kutztown No. 44 among public schools in the northern United States.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $10,802 in-state; $22,626 out-of-state
#7 – Kent State University
Master of Science in User Experience Design
Kent State University offers a Master of Science in User Experience Design. Kent State designed its MSUED to be earned entirely online. The curriculum consists of 12 courses or a total of 36 credits. Students take two courses in sequence each semester, and each course spans seven weeks. Core courses include Content Strategy, Information Architecture, Principles of Interaction, and Usability. Elective offerings include Human Factors and Usability in Health Informatics and Knowledge Organization Structures, Systems and Services. Students can choose to culminate their program by completing an internship, professional portfolio, project, research paper, or thesis.
Kent State is a public research university and a member of the University System of Ohio. It was established in 1910 as a teacher-training school. Today, the university has a main campus in the suburban college town of Kent, Ohio. It also operates several regional campuses throughout Northeast Ohio, and additional locations in New York City, China, India, Italy, and Switzerland. In the Vietnam War era, the university was known internationally for the liberal activism of its students. U.S. News & World Report ranks Kent State No. 104 among public institutions of higher education nationwide.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $10,312 in-state; $19,014 out-of-state
#6 – Radford University
Master of Fine Arts in Design Thinking
Radford University offers a Master of Fine Arts in Design Thinking. The terminal degree program is designed to be completed entirely online. Courses are offered asynchronously, meaning students can learn on their own schedules. The 60-credit curriculum includes a variety of studio- and research-based courses. Course examples include Collaboration Studio, Environment Behavior, and International Art History. Students can expect to participate in interdisciplinary design team activities. The curriculum culminates in a research project or thesis. The degree program can be completed in two years of full-time study or four part-time years.
Radford University is a public university. It was founded in 1910 as an industrial school for women. The school later became a teacher's college, then merged with the Virginia Polytechnic Institute, and finally gained independent university status. The university is located in Radford, a town in the Virginia Highlands between the Allegheny and Blue Ridge mountains. U.S. News & World Report ranks the university No. 50 for best value, No. 46 overall, and No. 18 among public schools in its Southern university rankings.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $11,210 in-state; $23,29 out-of-state
#5 – Samford University
Master of Science in Design Studies
Samford University provides a Master of Science in Design Studies. The degree program is offered through the Department of Interior Architecture within the university's School of the Arts, and it is delivered entirely online. The program has an emphasis on critical analysis and design research. It is suitable for design professionals interested in specialized research in their field, and for individuals seeking academic careers in design education. The program begins with a summer on-campus orientation over a long weekend, where students join cohort groups. The 33-credit curriculum includes courses relating to architecture, design theory, interior design, design education, and research methods. The curriculum culminates in a master's research thesis. The degree is designed to be completed in 24 months.
Samford University is a private Christian university. Founded in 1841 as Howard College, it is in the top 100 oldest higher education institutions in the United States. It is associated with the Alabama Baptist State Convention. The university's campus has relocated to several Alabama towns over the years, but it is currently located in Homewood. In 2016, The Economist ranked Samford the top college in the state for best value. Among universities in the South, U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford seventh in innovation and fourth overall.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $31,650
#4 – Ball State University
Master's in Emerging Media Design & Development
Ball State University offers a master's degree in Emerging Media Design & Development. It is a low-residency program, meaning it can be completed primarily online, with one five-day on-campus session each semester. The degree program was designed for working professionals wishing to lead visual storytelling teams. The 36-credit curriculum focuses on skills in the areas of cross-platform storytelling, design thinking, and human-computer interaction. It includes 18 credits of coursework and 18 credits devoted to applied research and creative projects. Course examples include Nonlinear and Interactive Storytelling and Transmedia Storytelling and Publishing. Students can engage in lab experiences with real-world business partners, which can be completed in their own place of work. Students can culminate in their program through a creative project or research thesis.
Ball State is a public research university in Muncie, Indiana. It also operates satellite facilities in the Indiana towns of Fishers and Indianapolis. It was founded in 1918 by five local industrialists and philanthropists, the Ball brothers. It was originally a teacher-training school. Today, the university consists of eight academic colleges. The Carnegie Foundation classifies it as a doctoral university with a high level of research activity. The Muncie campus features Brutalist and Collegiate Gothic architecture and Indiana limestone. It includes the Bracken Library, which houses the university's Digital Media Repository, and the David Letterman Communication and Media Building. U.S. News & World Report ranks BSU among the top 100 public universities in the nation.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $9,896 in-state; $26,468 out-of-state
#3 – Syracuse University
Master of Fine Arts in Illustration
Syracuse University offers a Master of Fine Arts in Illustration through its College of Visual and Performing Arts. The degree program takes a more traditional approach to art than technologically focused design programs. Students can complete coursework online and take in-person summer travel courses. Students can study at the university's locations in Syracuse, New York City, Los Angeles, and Italy. The MFA program is open to professional artists, recent college graduates, and individuals with minimal art education. The flexible curriculum consists of 60 total credits, and it includes art history courses, studio courses, free electives, and graduate seminars. Course examples include Drawing on Location, Licensing from Studio to Market, and Printmaking for Illustration. The curriculum culminates in a cohesive series of themed artworks accompanied by a written thesis and final presentation. The degree program spans three years.
Syracuse is a private research university with the main campus in Syracuse, New York. Its origins trace back to a Methodist Episcopal seminary founded in 1831, but the university was not independently established until 1870. Although it maintains its relationship with the United Methodist Church, Syracuse is a nonsectarian institution. It is home to the SU Art Galleries, which includes contemporary and traditional art spaces and galleries as well as a design research center. The university's art collections include works by such artists as Edward Hopper, Pablo Picasso, and Rembrandt. U.S. News & World Report ranks SU No. 53 overall, No. 51 for best value, and No. 33 in best MFA programs nationally.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $51,853
#2 – Quinnipiac University
Master of Science in Interactive Media and Communications
Quinnipiac University offers an online Master of Science in Interactive Media and Communications. The 30-credit curriculum explores areas such as audio, video, and graphics; social media analytics; and user interface design. It includes two required courses: Foundations in Graduate Studies and Writing for Interactive Media. Students can customize the remainder of their program by choosing from electives such as Content Creation, Data Visualization, Motion Across Media, and Visual Storytelling. Students also have the option to complete an independent study or internship for elective credit. The curriculum culminates in the creation of a project-based capstone portfolio.
Quinnipiac s a private university with two campuses in Hamden and one in North Haven. The university's main Mount Carmel campus is home to the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute and Ireland's Great Hunger Museum, which holds one of the world's largest art collections commemorating the Great Irish Famine. It also includes the Ed McMahon Mass Communications Center, which provides modern technology and hands-on training in all aspects of multimedia production. U.S. News & World Report ranks Quinnipiac No. 13 overall in the northern United States, and third in innovation.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $47,960
#1 – Liberty University
Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design
Liberty University offers Grad School Hub's top-ranked graduate program in graphic design. The university's Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design is designed to be completed entirely online. The 60-credit curriculum covers techniques in areas such as digital illustration, digital imaging, and typography. Course examples include History of Graphic Design, Interactive Design, and Publication Design. All students must complete a 180-hour internship under the supervision of a graphic design professional. Students can also expect to engage in a 90-hour practicum, where they will compile their professional portfolio. An oral examination is also required. The program includes access to Adobe products, including the Creative Cloud Suite. Students typically complete the degree in two years.
Liberty is a private, non-profit, evangelical Christian university. It was established in 1971 by two Baptist pastors and has since grown into one of the largest Christian schools in the world. It is also the largest private non-profit university in the United States. The Liberty campus is located in suburban Lynchburg, Virginia, but most students are enrolled in an entirely online capacity. The university's academic programs are rooted in Christian teachings, and the university plays an active role in right-wing politics. Niche ranks Liberty the second-best online college in America in its 2020 rankings.