Top Graphic Design Schools in Arizona for Aspiring Designers

Searching for the best graphic design schools in Arizona? This guide offers a detailed look at top programs including their courses, hands-on experiences, and unique opportunities. Whether you need flexible online learning, practical studio classes, or a comprehensive degree program, find out which school is the perfect fit for launching your graphic design career.

  • Shillington Education offers a flexible online graphic design course with live classes, emphasizing practical skills and industry-focused education suitable for balancing with other commitments.
  • Arizona State University’s graphic design program at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts offers a comprehensive education with a focus on strategic communication, collaborative professional projects, and access to state-of-the-art facilities and renowned faculty.
  • Northern Arizona University’s Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Communication provides an interdisciplinary approach, real-world problem-solving opportunities, and access to cutting-edge software and technology, making it well-suited for aspiring designers.

Choosing the right graphic design school is more than just a step in your education; it’s a pivotal decision that influences your entire career trajectory. As graphic designers, we use our creativity and technical skills to visually communicate messages and tell compelling stories. The strategic use of imagery and layout not only supports marketing and communication efforts but also brings ideas to life.

Most graphic designers hold bachelor’s degrees in graphic design or related fields. This foundational education is crucial for gaining the necessary skills and knowledge. In this guide, we will explore some of the top graphic design schools in Arizona, delving into their unique programs and opportunities to help you make an informed choice.

Shillington Education

Shillington Education offers a unique approach to graphic design education, particularly appealing for students in Arizona who seek flexibility without compromising on quality. Their online graphic design course features:

  • Live classes, allowing students to engage directly with instructors and peers in real-time
  • Development of technical skills
  • Ability to work collaboratively
  • Project management skills

This format ensures that students develop not only technical skills but also the ability to work collaboratively and manage projects effectively.

The curriculum at Shillington is industry-focused, emphasizing practical skills that are immediately applicable in professional settings. By choosing Shillington, students benefit from:

  • A school that understands the demands of the graphic design industry
  • Tailored education to meet those needs
  • The ability to balance education with other commitments
  • Top-notch training

This makes Shillington an excellent choice for those looking to pursue graphic design.

Phoenix College

Phoenix College offers an Associate in Applied Science (AAS) in Graphic Design, making it a prime choice for students aiming to enter the workforce quickly with a solid educational background. The program requires between 61 and 68 credits and encompasses a variety of courses designed to give students a comprehensive understanding of graphic design. Key courses include Digital Photographic Imaging, Digital Color, and 2D Media Design, ensuring that students develop a well-rounded skill set.

One of the standout features of Phoenix College’s program is its emphasis on practical application. Students engage in creating graphic designs for various print and digital media, which not only enhances their technical skills but also prepares them for real-world scenarios. Achieving a grade of C or better in all courses is mandatory, ensuring that students meet a high academic standard throughout their education.

Additionally, the program covers essential areas such as photography and digital imaging, providing a broad spectrum of skills that are highly valuable in the graphic design industry. Whether you’re just starting your educational journey or looking to specialize further, Phoenix College offers a robust program that can set the stage for a successful career in graphic design.

Arizona State University

Arizona State University (ASU) is renowned for its comprehensive graphic design program offered through the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. This 4-year program emphasizes both traditional and contemporary design education, ensuring that students develop a strong foundation in design principles while staying current with industry trends. The curriculum includes lower-division studio and lecture courses that build essential skills in design principles.

ASU’s Bachelor of Science in Design program in graphic design is distinguished by its strategic communication focus. This focus is honed through a rigorous design process involving:

  • research
  • analysis
  • conceptualization
  • planning
  • realization

Upper-division studio courses provide opportunities for students to work on collaborative professional projects, which is invaluable for gaining practical experience. The program also encourages sustainable and culturally sensitive transdisciplinary work, preparing students to tackle complex design challenges in a global context.

ASU provides excellent academic support and unique opportunities for students to customize their college experience. This includes:

  • Access to undergraduate research
  • Internships
  • State-of-the-art facilities
  • The chance to work with world-class faculty and scientists

These elements make ASU a top choice for students seeking a well-rounded and forward-thinking graphic design education.

Mesa Community College

Mesa Community College provides students with the option to pursue either a Certificate of Completion (CCL) or an Associate in Applied Science (AAS) in graphic design. The program’s coursework is extensive, covering:

  • digital photographic imaging
  • drawing
  • color theory
  • web design

This comprehensive curriculum ensures that students develop a broad range of skills necessary for various graphic design tasks.

In addition to foundational courses, the AAS program includes studies in:

  • Typography
  • Packaging
  • Motion and interactive graphics
  • Branding across both print and digital media

This diverse skill set prepares students to design complex projects that meet specific project specifications, fostering critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration skills. With a requirement to earn a grade of C or better in all courses, Mesa Community College ensures that its graduates are well-prepared for the professional world.

Eastern Arizona College

Eastern Arizona College offers both certificate and associate’s degree programs in graphic design, providing a solid foundation for students entering the field. The curriculum covers essential topics such as:

  • color
  • design
  • drawing
  • digital tools
  • website development

This comprehensive approach ensures that students gain the necessary skills to excel in various graphic design roles.

Online students in this program are trained using the latest industry software, enabling them to stay current with technological advancements. The program requirements ensure flexibility, allowing students to work on diverse projects, including:

  • Websites
  • Brochures
  • Packaging
  • Advertising

This ensures that students are well-prepared for the demands of the industry.

Northern Arizona University

Northern Arizona University (NAU) offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Visual Communication, which allows students to specialize in either graphic design or motion design. The program builds a strong foundation in the elements, principles, and processes of design, integrating concepts from art history, communication theory, and drawing. This interdisciplinary approach ensures that students gain a holistic understanding of visual communication.

NAU’s Visual Communications program offers:

  • Real-world problem-solving through increasingly complex design projects
  • Access to cutting-edge software and technological applications
  • Preparation to adapt to emerging technologies in the field
  • Small, studio-based courses
  • One-on-one faculty mentoring
  • A supportive learning environment

Additionally, students in the Visual Communications program learn to develop excellent relationships with clients and work collaboratively on projects. With access to facilities like the VisualDESIGNLab or Advanced Media Lab, NAU provides an environment that nurtures creativity and practical skills, making it an excellent choice for aspiring graphic designers.

University of Arizona – School of Art

The University of Arizona’s School of Art offers a Bachelor of Arts in Design Arts & Practices, focusing on creative thinking and making from an interdisciplinary perspective. The program includes project-based courses aimed at developing problem-solving skills and creative visual strategies. Students can choose from four design emphasis areas:

  • Print
  • Screen
  • Object
  • Spatial

This allows them to tailor their education to their interests and career goals.

The design program offers four design disciplines as areas of emphasis:

  1. Print design: visual design for publications, posters, comics, books, and more
  2. Screen design: studies on digital works such as websites, games, apps, and animations
  3. Object design: 3D works, including portable products, furnishings, and systems
  4. Spatial design: human scale environments, interiors, exhibition design, and urban spaces

Students complete a capstone project tackling real-world challenges such as climate change and social justice, ensuring they graduate with practical experience and a strong portfolio. This comprehensive program prepares students to become versatile and innovative designers.

Grand Canyon University

Grand Canyon University offers a Bachelor’s degree in Advertising & Graphic Design, which requires a total of 120 credits for graduation. The program emphasizes a hands-on approach to learning, with studio classes where students work on active client projects. This practical experience is invaluable for developing real-world skills and building a professional portfolio.

The curriculum focuses on:

  • Creative concept development
  • Image creation and manipulation
  • Design thinking
  • Digital photography
  • Web design
  • Advertising copywriting

Students learn various production methods and work with emerging technologies, gaining proficiency in both digital and print design skills. The requirement to have a working laptop with Adobe Creative Cloud ensures that students are well-equipped to handle industry-standard software throughout their studies.

Glendale Community College

Glendale Community College offers an Associate in Applied Science (AAS) in Digital Media Arts, catering to students interested in graphic design, imaging, photography, animation, and media production. The program requires between 66 and 74 credits and includes courses in 2D Media Design, Digital Photographic Imaging, and Animation and Interactivity.

Students in the program are encouraged to develop the following skills:

  • Critical thinking
  • Written communication
  • Teamwork
  • Personal work methods

The program emphasizes the development of a student’s personal design method, production workflow, and conceptual aesthetic, providing a broad understanding of media design and its societal role as a communication tool.

Career Opportunities for Graduates

Graduates of graphic design programs in Arizona have a wealth of career opportunities available to them. Potential career paths include roles such as:

  • Graphic designers
  • Art directors
  • Web designers
  • Production artists
  • Commercial and industrial designers
  • Freelance artist-designers
  • Animators
  • Brand identity designers

These diverse options reflect the broad applicability of graphic design skills across various industries, including industrial design.

Internships play a crucial role in preparing students for these careers. They help students develop soft skills such as communication, teamwork, and leadership. Networking opportunities during internships can lead to job offers and career advancement, while mentorship from supervisors helps students recognize and improve on their weaknesses. Overall, internships provide valuable hands-on experience that is essential for launching a successful career in graphic design.

Global Learning Experiences

Global learning experiences, such as study abroad programs, offer graphic design students the opportunity to gain a global perspective and build essential communication skills. ASU, for example, offers more than 300 Global Education programs in over 65 different countries, including study abroad, internships, research, and service learning. These programs expose students to new artistic and business tools, keeping them updated on industry trends.

Studying abroad helps graphic design students in the following ways:

  • Understand and adapt to diverse cultural design trends
  • Foster cross-cultural communication skills that are invaluable in today’s interconnected world
  • Build a global portfolio by working on international design projects
  • Enhance their employability and broaden their professional horizons.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Financial aid and scholarships are crucial for many students pursuing graphic design education. The Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP) offers in-state tuition rates for graduate students from specified states attending design programs in Arizona, making education more affordable. Notably, WRGP does not require applicants to demonstrate financial need, broadening access to reduced tuition rates.

Additionally, financial need for scholarships is typically determined through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Filling out the FAFSA is a critical step for students seeking financial support, as it opens up various federal, state, and institutional aid options. These financial resources help students focus on their education without the burden of excessive financial stress.

First-Year Experience Programs

First-year experience programs are designed to help students transition smoothly into their academic journey and develop professional artistic practices. At the School of Art, for instance, the First Year Experience program includes:

  • 8-week thematic workshop-structured art courses
  • Experiential initiation into professional artistic practice
  • Creative methodology
  • Studio work ethic

These courses provide an excellent foundation for students to start their artistic journey.

Phoenix College also requires degree and transfer-seeking students to complete a First Year Experience Course (FYE) within their first two semesters, with courses like FYE101 and FYE103. These programs are crucial for helping students acclimate to college life and build a solid foundation for their future studies.

Portfolio Development and Reviews

A well-crafted graphic design portfolio is essential for showcasing skills and creativity to potential employers. It represents a graphic designer’s skills, personal design process, and unique artistic style. A strong portfolio can be the key to securing internships, first jobs, and freelance opportunities. Choosing an online platform to host your portfolio is the first step; options like Behance, Squarespace, and Wix are popular choices. A good portfolio should contain about 10 strong projects that highlight your best work and personal style. Each project should include a brief description of the design process and choices.

Graphic design programs often include a capstone, internship, or portfolio project to reflect professional competency. For example, the AAS degree in Graphic Design at Mesa Community College requires students to create a collection of works that demonstrate their professional capabilities. These projects provide practical experience, allowing students to apply their skills in real-world scenarios and develop a robust portfolio.

Reviewing and editing your portfolio with feedback from peers and mentors is essential before sharing it with potential employers. This iterative process ensures that your portfolio is polished and professional, making a strong impression on hiring managers and clients alike. A well-maintained portfolio is a critical tool for launching and sustaining a successful career in graphic design.

Clubs and Professional Associations

Joining clubs and professional associations provides graphic design students with valuable networking opportunities, industry insights, and a sense of community among like-minded peers. Some relevant organizations include:

  • American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS)
  • American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA)
  • Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) student chapter

These groups promote excellence in their respective fields through education, advocacy, and fellowship.

At the University of Arizona, students can join creative clubs like Art ClayWorks and the Photography Club, which allow them to explore different aspects of art and design beyond graphic design. Participation in these clubs can significantly enhance the educational experience by providing practical experience, mentorship, and opportunities to collaborate on projects. Students are encouraged to join these organizations to broaden their horizons and build a supportive network that will benefit them throughout their careers.