Best Graphic Design Schools in Iowa: Top Programs and Courses

Looking for the best graphic design schools in Iowa? This article highlights the top programs, courses, and what makes each school unique. Learn about the standout features of Iowa’s graphic design programs to help you make the best choice for your education and career.

  • Iowa is home to top graphic design programs at universities such as Iowa State University and St. Ambrose University, offering rigorous and well-rounded education accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).
  • Different institutions provide unique insights and opportunities; for example, Clarke University emphasizes professional training with a diverse curriculum, while Upper Iowa University offers a portfolio-driven approach with the flexibility of online study options.
  • Graphic design programs in Iowa equip students with essential skills and real-world experience through comprehensive coursework, state-of-the-art facilities, internships, and study abroad opportunities, preparing graduates for various creative career paths.

Top Graphic Design Programs in Iowa

Iowa is home to a variety of exemplary graphic design programs, each characterized by its unique strengths and offerings. Iowa State University leads the pack by offering a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Graphic Design. This program, accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), ensures a rigorous and comprehensive education in the field. The curriculum is designed to integrate cultural, ethical, and historical considerations, preparing students for professional practice and a successful career in graphic design.

Another worthy consideration is St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa. Their graphic design program offers:

  • Exploration and growth as an artist
  • Development of skills and confidence
  • Faculty guidance and diverse degree requirements
  • A well-rounded education
  • Preparation for various creative fields

This program equips students with the tools necessary to excel in their careers.

These exceptional programs only scratch the surface. Iowa’s commitment to art and design education is evident in the quality of its institutions, making it a prime destination for those looking to pursue a graphic design degree.

University-Specific Insights

Iowa’s graphic design programs span a range of universities, each offering unique insights and opportunities. Some of the top graphic design programs in Iowa include:

  • Clarke University
  • Upper Iowa University
  • Iowa State University
  • St. Ambrose University
  • Hawkeye Community College

Each of these universities provides distinct advantages, from professional training and faculty support to hands-on learning and transfer options.

Exploring each institution’s offerings can help prospective students find the perfect match for their educational and career goals. We’ll now examine in detail what these universities provide.

Clarke University

Clarke University’s graphic design program focuses on professional training, blending traditional studio techniques with modern digital production and editing software. Students engage in a broad array of courses including:

  • Animation
  • Typography
  • Digital media illustration
  • Drawing
  • Photography

This ensures a well-rounded education. The program emphasizes a process-oriented approach to help students develop life-long skills, as highlighted by Professor Eric Wold.

The faculty at Clarke University are dedicated to nurturing student potential, providing personalized attention through a one-on-one student-to-professor ratio. Students create their digital portfolio, participate in various activities, and gain hands-on experience through required internships, preparing them for successful careers in graphic design and digital media.

Upper Iowa University

Upper Iowa University offers an undergraduate degree in Graphic Design, emphasizing a portfolio-driven approach that fosters unique design solutions and integrates key marketing principles. Essential courses include:

  • Introduction to Graphic Design
  • Digital Photography
  • Interaction Design
  • Digital Video and Editing
  • Digital Illustration

Pursuing an art minor can be a great way to enhance your educational experience and broaden your creative horizons. With a variety of courses available, students can explore different mediums and techniques, while also gaining valuable insights into the world of art. Whether you’re a budding artist or simply have a passion for creativity, an art minor can provide a unique and enriching addition to your academic journey.

The program prepares graduates for various career paths, including in-house, agency, or freelance graphic design roles. Additionally, Upper Iowa University offers the flexibility of completing the graphic design program online, accommodating diverse student needs and schedules.

Iowa State University

Iowa State University’s graphic design program leads to a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design, requiring a total of 124 credits. The faculty emphasize the integration of cultural, ethical, and historical considerations in preparation for professional practice. Admission to the professional program is competitive and depends on a portfolio review process conducted by a faculty committee.

With a strong focus on student learning outcomes, Iowa State University ensures that graphic design students receive a comprehensive education that prepares them for the demands of the professional world.

St. Ambrose University

St. Ambrose University supports its graphic design students through dedicated faculty guidance and diverse degree requirements. Graduates have found employment at prestigious organizations such as Jeff Koons Studio New York, Augustana College, Genesis Health, and North Scott Community Schools, demonstrating the program’s effectiveness in preparing students for successful careers.

Hawkeye Community College

Hawkeye Community College offers hands-on learning opportunities and has established transfer relationships with several universities, including the University of Northern Iowa, Iowa State University, University of Iowa, and others. This flexibility allows students to begin their education at Hawkeye and seamlessly continue their studies at a four-year institution.

Key Courses and Skills in Graphic Design Programs

Key skills and knowledge essential for success in the field are the focus of Iowa’s graphic design programs. Students learn to use industry-standard software such as Adobe Creative Cloud, which is crucial for modern design work. Manual drawing skills are also emphasized, ensuring that students are proficient in both traditional and digital design techniques.

Courses cover a wide range of topics, from animation and branding to web design and art history. At institutions like Hawkeye Community College, students gain practical experience by designing and publishing ads, brochures, logos, and other print materials, as well as creating responsive and interactive websites.

In addition, graphic design courses develop essential skills such as:

  • Creative and critical thinking
  • Visual communication
  • Attention to detail
  • Time management

The interdisciplinary approach combines 2D, 3D, and 4D thinking, preparing students to tackle complex design challenges across various media.

Career Opportunities for Graphic Design Graduates

Multiple career opportunities are unlocked by earning a degree in graphic design. After graduation, individuals have the option to pursue a variety of roles such as art directors, web designers, and more. Some specific positions include:

  • Art director
  • Creative director
  • Film & video editor
  • Industrial/product designer
  • Marketing manager
  • Multimedia artist/animator
  • Photographer
  • Web designer

These career paths offer diverse opportunities for graduates to explore their interests and talents. The demand for graphic designers spans across industries, from creating marketing materials and logos to designing web pages and packaging.

User experience (UX) design is another promising career path for graphic design graduates, including those who become a graphic designer. UX designers focus on enhancing user satisfaction by improving the usability, accessibility, and pleasure provided in the interaction with a product. Visual designers, who focus on the aesthetics of digital platforms, and multimedia artists, who create animations and visual effects, are also popular career choices.

Brand identity development and print design are additional avenues where graphic design major degree holders can excel. The versatility of a graphic design education, especially through graphic design degree programs, ensures that graduates are well-equipped to navigate the diverse and dynamic job market.

Facilities and Equipment

State-of-the-art facilities and equipment are accessible to graphic design students in Iowa. Starting in fall 2020, Iowa State University requires all students to own or procure a laptop or device suitable for their field. This ensures that students are prepared to use essential design software such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign.

The recommended system specifications for design students include sufficient processing power and storage capacity to handle complex design tasks. Waiting until the second year to purchase a more powerful computer can ensure that students have the necessary tools and resources during their final year of study.

Internships and Real-World Experience

In Iowa’s graphic design programs, internships and real-world experiences are vital components. Iowa State University integrates internships, capstone projects, professional practice, and portfolio classes to ensure career readiness. The College of Design hosts an annual Design Career Fair, attracting over 125 firms recruiting for design majors.

Clarke University also prioritizes hands-on experience, requiring 100% of graphic design students to complete an internship. These internships are available at:

  • Local businesses
  • Marketing and design agencies
  • Software companies
  • Museums

These internships provide valuable opportunities to apply classroom knowledge in real-world settings.

Study Abroad and Extracurricular Activities

The educational experience for graphic design students is enhanced through study abroad and extracurricular activities. Iowa State University offers three types of international programs: the Rome Program, short-term faculty-led programs, and reciprocal student exchange programs. These opportunities allow students to gain global perspectives and develop their design skills in diverse cultural contexts.

Clarke University also provides unique study abroad opportunities, such as visiting museums in Florence, studying Japanese art in Nagasaki, or painting landscapes in Wales. Extracurricular activities include museum visits, picnics, and exhibiting work on campus and downtown, enriching the overall student experience.

Admission Requirements and Application Process

There’s a variance in admission requirements and application processes across Iowa’s graphic design programs. Here are some key details about Iowa State University’s graphic design program:

  • Niche grade: A
  • Acceptance rate: 90%
  • Welcoming atmosphere and comprehensive student orientation
  • Applicants must complete foundational courses and a portfolio review as part of the application process.

Other institutions, such as Mount Mercy University and Buena Vista University, have lower acceptance rates but offer personalized attention and strong faculty support. Prospective students should carefully review each university’s specific admission criteria and deadlines to ensure a smooth application process.

Faculty and Student Testimonials

Valuable insights into Iowa’s graphic design programs are provided by faculty and student testimonials. Testimonials from faculty emphasize the dedication to fostering creativity and preparing students for successful careers. Students highlight the comprehensive design education and the development of problem-solving skills through hands-on projects.

Engaging with current students and alumni can offer prospective students a glimpse into the supportive and enriching environment of Iowa’s graphic design schools, helping them make informed decisions about their education and future careers.