Top Graphic Design Schools in Kansas: Best Programs & Courses

Looking for the best graphic design schools in Kansas? This guide covers top institutions, detailing their graphic design programs and unique features to help you make an informed choice.

  • Kansas boasts several reputable graphic design schools, including Wichita State University, University of Kansas, Fort Hays State University, and Kansas State University, each offering unique programs and diverse learning experiences.
  • Institutions like Wichita State University and Johnson County Community College emphasize hands-on learning and real-world project experience, preparing students for successful careers in graphic design.
  • Graduates from Kansas graphic design programs, particularly those from the Kansas City Art Institute, have achieved notable success, securing positions at major companies such as TikTok, IBM, Facebook, and Airbnb.

We delve into the premier graphic design schools in Kansas in this guide, shining a spotlight on their programs, courses, and distinct features to aid prospective students in their decision-making process. The schools discussed include:

  • Wichita State University
  • University of Kansas
  • Fort Hays State University
  • Kansas State University
  • Pittsburg State University
  • and more.

These institutions stand out for various reasons, such as Fort Hays State University’s partnership with Leo Burnett Chicago for portfolio reviews and internships, and the University of Kansas’s hands-on, studio-based courses. Each school offers a distinctive approach to graphic design education, ensuring that students can find a program that aligns with their career goals and interests.

Wichita State University Graphic Design Program

The Graphic Design BFA Program at Wichita State University is tailored to provide an all-encompassing education in visual communication. The program features coursework in branding, packaging, illustration, app design, and motion graphics, preparing students for diverse career paths in advertising, design studios, and in-house creative teams. Graphic Design students at Wichita State University gain hands-on experience with industry-standard tools like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign, which are essential for creating professional-quality graphics.

The program’s curriculum is meticulously crafted to cover various aspects of graphic design, including typography and print, ensuring that students develop a well-rounded skill set through our graphic design courses. The emphasis on practical skills, combined with theoretical knowledge, helps students become proficient in creating visually compelling designs that effectively communicate a message. Whether it’s through branding projects or interactive app design, students are encouraged to explore their creativity and push the boundaries of visual communication.

The program further allows graphic design major students the opportunity to work on real-world projects, thus equipping them with valuable experience that they can proudly display in their portfolios. This practical approach not only enhances their learning experience but also increases their employability, making them well-prepared to enter the professional world as competent graphic designers.

Johnson County Community College: Hands-On Learning

Emphasizing hands-on learning, Johnson County Community College (JCCC) ensures its Graphic Design program imparts practical experience in tandem with theoretical knowledge to its students. The program includes a variety of courses such as ‘Introduction to Graphic Design’, which explores different aspects of the field and helps students decide on graphic design as a career. Other courses like ‘Advanced Design Practice’ allow students to work with art directors on professional projects, providing valuable portfolio opportunities.

Courses in the program include:

  • Production Methods: digital file preparation, prepress production, and creating files for various media
  • Electronic Production: creating files for various media
  • Advanced Typography: typographic solutions for designs like posters, brochures, packaging, and graphic campaigns

The program’s unique structure, with longer class times, allows for more instruction, hands-on learning, and individual work with professors, giving students ample opportunity to develop their skills and produce high-quality work.

Moreover, the ‘Professional Preparation’ course prepares students’ portfolios, resumes, and self-promotion materials, including digital portfolio archives. This comprehensive approach ensures that JCCC graduates are well-prepared for the professional world, with the skills and experience needed to succeed in various graphic design careers.

Student Involvement Opportunities

Various clubs, organizations, and extracurricular activities are open to graphic design students at Johnson County Community College, fostering their professional growth and peer engagement. These clubs cater to the diverse interests of graphic design students, providing platforms to showcase their skills and collaborate on projects.

Extracurricular activities at JCCC include working on real-world projects, which allow students to apply their skills in practical settings and build a strong portfolio. Additionally, these activities offer networking opportunities with faculty and industry professionals, further preparing students for successful careers in graphic design.

Networking and Professional Growth

The graphic design program at JCCC seamlessly incorporates networking and professional growth. Advisory boards, consisting of industry professionals, play a crucial role in providing students with networking opportunities, mentorship, and industry insights. These boards offer guidance and connections to industry leaders, helping students build valuable professional networks.

Professional organizations like KC Ad Club and AIGA are instrumental in offering networking opportunities, workshops, and seminars for students. Membership in these organizations helps students stay updated with industry trends and best practices, enhancing their career readiness and ensuring they are well-prepared to enter the professional world, including working with marketing firms.

Kansas City Art Institute: Creativity and Collaboration

The Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI) emphasizes building robust portfolios through collaborations with companies and community projects while promoting internships for acquiring professional experience in a wide array of design fields. Graphic Design students at KCAI collaborate on projects with Kansas City companies and not-for-profits for real-world experience, which is invaluable in building a professional portfolio.

The program encourages both digital and analog design practices, including bookmaking and professional photography. Areas of design that KCAI focuses on include print, interactive, motion, and environment design, typography, collaboration, communication, research and theory, problem-solving, branding, information, entertainment, education, and advocacy. This holistic approach ensures that students are well-versed in various design disciplines and can adapt to different professional environments.

Furthermore, the faculty at KCAI strongly encourage students to complete internships during their studies, providing them with real-world experience and professional connections. The Professional Practice Center at KCAI helps students prepare for their careers by providing guidance and resources, ensuring they are well-equipped to enter the competitive field of graphic design.

Washburn Tech: Certification and Career Readiness

Washburn Tech offers a Graphics Technology certification program, crafted to equip students for entry-level jobs or to propel them towards further education. The program requires completing 48 credit hours to earn a certification, which equips students with essential skills in Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign. This certification provides a solid foundation for students to either enter the workforce or pursue further education in graphic design.

The Graphics Technology program also includes hands-on activities and client projects, ensuring that students gain practical experience. Washburn Tech’s focus on career readiness means that graduates are well-prepared for entry-level positions in agencies, internal design departments, and electronic publishing houses.

Technical Certification Programs

Washburn Tech provides certifications in key software tools, including Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign, as part of their Graphics Technology program. These certifications equip students with essential skills that are highly valued in the graphic design industry, ensuring they are well-prepared for their careers.

Pathways to Higher Education

Students who complete Washburn Tech’s Graphics Technology certificate can transition to an associate degree in Design Technology at Washburn University by completing an additional 27 credit hours. This pathway allows students to build upon their certification and gain more advanced knowledge and skills in graphic design.

Upon earning an associate degree in Design Technology, students are prepared to pursue a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Technology Administration at Washburn University. This educational pathway provides a comprehensive approach to career advancement, ensuring that students have the qualifications needed to succeed in higher-level positions within the graphic design industry.

Career Paths for Graphic Designers in Kansas

A plethora of career paths, ranging from UX design to motion graphics and brand identity design, awaits graduates from Kansas’s graphic design programs. The graphic design program at Wichita State University, for example, prepares students for work in advertising agencies, design studios, and in-house creative teams for major brands.

Kansas City Art Institute graduates have gone on to work at major companies such as TikTok, IBM, Facebook, and Airbnb, showcasing the high caliber of talent nurtured at the institution. Additionally, KCAI alumni are employed at well-known firms like Pentagram, Fossil, and Hallmark Cards, further highlighting the diverse opportunities available to graduates.

Graphic designers from Kansas can also find roles at boutique agencies across the U.S., including Radius, Hyperakt, and Design Army. These career paths demonstrate the versatility and demand for a graphic designer, making it an exciting and promising field for graduates.

Internships and Real-World Experience

In Kansas, graphic design education crucially incorporates internships and real-world experience. Many graphic design students at Wichita State University secure internships at local companies with a global reach, providing them with invaluable experience and professional connections. JCCC’s ‘Graphic Design Internship’ offers students a minimum of 180 hours of on-the-job experience under instructional supervision.

The Kansas City Art Institute’s Professional Practice Center offers the following resources and opportunities to prepare students for careers:

  • Guidance and mentorship
  • Internship opportunities
  • Hands-on experience
  • Industry insights

KCAI also encourages students to complete internships during their studies to further enhance their skills and knowledge.

Students gain real-world experience by working on projects with Kansas City companies and non-profit organizations, enhancing their practical skills and expanding their professional networks. These opportunities ensure that graduates are well-prepared for their careers, with the experience needed to succeed in the competitive graphic design industry.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Financial aid and scholarships, accessible to incoming freshmen and transfer students in Kansas, make graphic design education more affordable and attainable. Scholarships are often based on admission materials and portfolio submissions, ensuring that talented students are recognized and supported financially.

Additionally, a fund assists Visual Art students in financial need with procuring supplies and materials, reviewed each Fall semester. Visual Art students with a minimum 3.0 KU GPA are also eligible for the semester-long Study Abroad Scholarship, providing further opportunities for educational enrichment in the field of fine arts.

Facilities and Resources

State-of-the-art facilities and resources, available at graphic design schools in Kansas, bolster students in their creative pursuits. At the Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI), each student has their own desk/studio space within an open studio environment, fostering a collaborative and inspiring atmosphere. The analog studio at KCAI includes:

  • Bookmaking materials
  • A letterpress studio
  • Professional photography equipment
  • Typewriters
  • Stencils
  • A spray booth
  • A light table

These resources provide a comprehensive range of tools for diverse design projects.

The Department of Design in Chalmers Hall at Wichita State University offers the following resources for students:

  • Studio spaces
  • Photography area
  • Computer labs
  • Digital fabrication labs

Additionally, both KCAI and Wichita State University provide access to Adobe Creative Suite, including Adobe InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator, ensuring that students have the software needed to create professional-quality designs. These resources play a crucial role in helping students develop their technical skills and bring their creative visions to life.

Alumni Success Stories

Graduates from Kansas graphic design schools have carved successful career paths, working for major corporations, boutique agencies, or as independent artists, showcasing their remarkable achievements. Notable employers of Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI) alumni include:

  • TikTok
  • IBM
  • Facebook
  • Apple
  • Airbnb

These examples showcase the diverse opportunities available to graduates. Whitney Manney, a 2012 KCAI Fiber graduate, is a notable textile designer whose label, Whitney Manney, has been featured in Peacock’s sitcom Bel Air.

Other successful alumni include Roberto Lugo, a 2012 KCAI Ceramics graduate, who is now a fine artist and professor at Tyler School of Art, integrating hip-hop, history, and politics into his ceramics. Paul Briggs, a 1996 KCAI Illustration graduate, has worked for Disney, Warner Bros, and Nickelodeon, and was the Story Supervisor for Frozen and Big Hero 6. These success stories highlight the potential for graduates from Kansas’s graphic design programs, led by award winning faculty, to excel in various fields and make significant contributions to the industry.