Top Graphic Design Schools in DC: Your Ultimate Guide

Searching for the best graphic design schools in DC? This guide covers the top programs in Washington, DC, providing the key information you need to make an informed choice. Explore what each school has to offer.

  • American University offers a comprehensive BA in Graphic and Visual Communication Design, featuring state-of-the-art facilities and opportunities for hands-on experience and community engagement.
  • George Washington University’s BFA in Graphic Design emphasizes real-world projects and culminates in a thesis exhibition, equipping students with practical skills and professional portfolios.
  • Various training options, both onsite and online, in DC, like those from Noble Desktop and General Assembly, provide aspiring graphic designers with flexible and immersive learning experiences to build their portfolios and skills.

American University Graphic Design Program

The BA in Graphic and Visual Communication Design at American University is an extensive program, encompassing numerous fields such as:

  • Publication and editorial design
  • Corporate identity
  • Packaging
  • Web design
  • Motion graphics
  • Branding

This varied curriculum provides students with a thorough grasp of the graphic design field, including graphic design history, through our graphic design class, preparing them for a range of career opportunities.

The program boasts state-of-the-art facilities, including:

  • Two dedicated computer labs equipped with high-end Macintosh computers and professional design software for web, print, and motion graphics design
  • Labs accessible 24/7 to design majors via a secure ID card swipe system, providing students with the flexibility to work on their projects at any time
  • Access to Wacom digital pens, tablets, scanners, color laser printers, and photo-quality inkjet printers

Students at American University can enjoy the following benefits:

  • Rent digital SLR cameras and tripods for free
  • Access to a fully equipped photographic studio with high-end lighting equipment
  • Opportunities to engage with the AU and DC design community through the Design Club
  • Participate in critiques
  • Showcase their work in the annual Spring Design Show

American University’s commitment to providing a comprehensive graphic design education, coupled with its excellent facilities and community engagement opportunities, makes it an ideal choice for aspiring graphic designers looking to:

  • Immerse themselves in the field
  • Gain hands-on experience
  • Learn from experienced faculty
  • Network with industry professionals
  • Develop a strong portfolio

George Washington University Graphic Design Courses

The BFA in Graphic Design at George Washington University prioritizes persuasive visual problem-solving and the creation of brand strategies across various media, such as print, web, motion, and mobile devices. The program aims to furnish students with the necessary skills to tackle actual design challenges efficiently.

Students in the program participate in real-world projects through initiatives like World Studio’s Design Ignites Change and Design Lab, which provide valuable hands-on experience. These projects not only enhance students’ practical skills but also allow them to make meaningful contributions to the community through design.

The program culminates in a school-wide thesis exhibition called NEXT, where students showcase their final projects to the public. This exhibition serves as a platform for students to demonstrate their design capabilities and receive feedback from industry professionals and peers.

Course topics in the BFA program include:

  • Branding
  • Mobile apps
  • Web design
  • Interaction design
  • Information design
  • Motion graphics

By the end of the program, students develop professional presentation skills and a refined portfolio, preparing them for successful careers as professional graphic designers in the graphic design field.

Georgetown University Digital Art and Design

Offering a distinctive fusion of liberal arts and technology, Georgetown University’s digital art and design programs deliver inventive learning experiences. With options for in-person and online learning, the program caters to the varied needs and schedules of students.

Located in Washington, DC, Georgetown provides students with numerous opportunities for professional and academic connections. The Introduction to Graphic Design course (ARTS-1602) includes exciting projects like logo design competitions and creating designs for automobile skins, giving students practical experience from the start.

Art majors and minors can continue their creative practice through Directed Study courses after completing the introductory course. The curriculum also includes critical studies in higher education, studio-based design, and learning analytics, ensuring a well-rounded education for all students.

The Learning, Design, and Technology program can be completed in 18 months to 2 years, with both full-time and part-time options available. Georgetown also covers equipment maintenance and some classroom supplies for Graphic Arts courses, though students still need to purchase their own art supplies.

Howard University Fine Arts Department

The Graphic Design Program at Howard University concentrates on cultivating an extensive array of knowledge, skills, and competencies in visual communication. Incorporating both theoretical study and hands-on application of techniques, this comprehensive approach prepares students to address and solve design problems at multiple levels.

The program covers visual and technologically-mediated communication, providing students with the skills needed to create solutions in:

  • Two-dimensional
  • Three-dimensional
  • Printed
  • Digital
  • Motion
  • Interactive forms

By reacquainting students with foundational principles central to design, the program cultivates competency in problem-solving, proficiency in conceptual skills, and mastery of craftsmanship.

Howard University’s commitment to excellence in visual communication and problem-solving makes it a compelling choice for students seeking a comprehensive graphic design education.

Corcoran School of the Arts and Design

Offering a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design, The Corcoran School of the Arts and Design’s curriculum spans across various facets of design, including branding and mobile apps. The curriculum’s focus on concept ideation, visual communication strategies, and design development equips students to manage a variety of design challenges.

First-year BFA students take Corcoran Foundations courses to develop fundamental skills in visual communication. These courses lay the groundwork for more advanced studies and help students build a strong foundation in design principles. The program also includes a two-semester thesis project that culminates in the school-wide NEXT exhibition, providing students with a platform to showcase their work.

Real-world experience is a key component of the Corcoran program. Students gain valuable hands-on experience through projects like Design Ignites Change and Design Lab. The school’s location in Washington, DC, offers dynamic inspirations and opportunities, enhancing the overall learning experience.

The Corcoran School of the Arts and Design’s comprehensive curriculum, real-world projects, and opportunities for community engagement make it an excellent choice for aspiring graphic designers.

Onsite Training Options in DC

Onsite training options in DC provide several advantages for graphic design students, including direct access to necessary resources, immediate feedback from instructors, and hands-on experience. These benefits can significantly enhance the learning experience and help students develop their skills more effectively.

Organizations like Venture for America offer workshops focused on UX design principles to their fellows, providing valuable insights and practical experience. Noble Desktop offers a Graphic Design Portfolio Bootcamp, where students:

  • create new designs for their portfolios
  • broaden their knowledge of design principles and tools
  • receive supplemental class workbooks
  • have access to class recordings
  • receive a digital certificate of completion.

Onsite training options in DC offer a rich, immersive learning environment that can help aspiring graphic designers develop their skills and build a strong foundation for their careers.

Online Classes for Graphic Design in DC

Online graphic design classes in DC offer the following benefits:

  • Convenience of virtual attendance
  • Real-time instruction
  • Ability to ask timely questions
  • Use of personal hardware and tools

These advantages make online classes an attractive option for many students and enhance the learning experience.

Platforms like Noble Desktop and General Assembly offer live online graphic design courses that include hands-on projects and instructor feedback in digital design. With the increasing demand for skilled designers, graphic design training is essential for those looking to excel in the industry. General Assembly also offers a Visual Design Short Course, available both online and periodically in-person at their Washington, DC classroom.

Free online resources, such as YouTube and Coursera, provide additional opportunities for learning graphic design. These platforms offer a wide range of video lessons and tutorials, allowing students to study at their own pace and convenience.

Essential Skills for Aspiring Graphic Designers

To thrive in the field, aspiring graphic designers must acquire key skills. Proficiency in graphic design software is a must, with Adobe tools like Illustrator for sharp logos and vector art, Photoshop for image manipulation, and InDesign for page layouts. Knowledge of Figma and Sketch is also necessary for UI/UX design. A successful graphic designer should be well-versed in these tools.

Typography skills involve pairing fonts, adjusting kerning and leading, and ensuring readability. A solid understanding of color theory helps designers create harmonious and visually appealing compositions. Basic web development skills, including HTML and CSS, can further enhance a designer’s ability to create feasible website designs by utilizing their technical skills.

Good communication skills are vital for graphic designers, as they need to effectively convey their ideas and collaborate with clients and team members. A principled approach to creative work, including ideation stages of generation, selection, and development, is also important for producing high-quality designs.

Building a Graphic Design Portfolio

Creating a robust graphic design portfolio is crucial in attracting potential employers and demonstrating your abilities. Georgetown University’s digital art and design programs motivate students to create an ePortfolio to underscore their skills. Noble Desktop’s Graphic Design Portfolio Bootcamp assists students in crafting new designs for their professional portfolios.

Showcasing your design projects through case studies can effectively demonstrate the breadth of your work. Explaining the problem-solving aspects of each case study highlights your ability to address and solve design challenges. Communicating your thought process behind each project provides insight into how you approach and solve design problems.

Keeping your portfolio lean and relevant to your interests ensures that it remains focused and impactful. Persistently sharing your portfolio and viewing it as a work in progress can help you stay motivated and improve over time.

Career Opportunities in Graphic Design

Multiple career opportunities are available in the new career graphic design field, such as:

  • UI/UX design
  • Web design
  • Advertising
  • Political consulting

UI Designers oversee designing the visible format of a program, including the control and output elements, framing structure, and interactive elements. In contrast, Web designers are responsible for determining the look and functionality of websites.

Graphic designers partner with political consultants to advertise candidates, political campaigns, and government programs. A wide range of visual advertising media is created by them, including:

  • billboards
  • subway signs
  • magazine ads
  • T-shirts
  • stickers
  • TV and streaming video commercials
  • web ads

Their creative output spans across various platforms and mediums.

Salary ranges for graphic designers in Washington, DC vary depending on experience and the specific design field. Here are some examples:

  • UI Designers can earn between $70,000 and $82,000, with potential to increase to $90,000 or more.
  • Web Designers can earn between $60,500 and $90,500 per year.
  • Visual Artists average $95,000 per year.