Top Graphic Design Schools in Washington: Your Guide to the Best Programs

Looking for the best graphic design schools in Washington? This guide highlights the top programs in the state, focusing on their distinct advantages, curriculum strengths, and career opportunities. Find out which schools offer the best preparation for a bright future in graphic design.

  • Washington State offers a variety of reputable graphic design programs, ranging from rigorous university degrees to accessible community college courses, catering to different student needs and career goals.
  • Top programs, such as those at the University of Washington and Western Washington University, emphasize a combination of traditional design principles and modern technological skills, preparing students for various career opportunities in the design industry.
  • Many of these programs include hands-on experience through internships, real-world projects, and access to industry-standard tools, ensuring that graduates are well-prepared for immediate employment and higher earning potential in the graphic design field.

Washington State offers a unique combination of bustling urban centers, serene countryside, and captivating coastal beauty, making it an ideal destination for students pursuing graphic design. With a rich cultural scene and a thriving creative industry, the state provides a fertile ground for budding designers to hone their skills and thrive in their careers.

This guide presents an in-depth look at the top graphic design schools in Washington, each embodying a unique fusion of traditional artistry and modern design principles. From the University of Washington’s rigorous program to community colleges that provide hands-on experience, this guide will help you navigate through the best institutions that can shape your future in graphic design. We will investigate the exceptional schools that distinguish themselves in this vibrant state.

University of Washington – Seattle Campus

The University of Washington’s Seattle Campus is a beacon of excellence in the realm of graphic design education. Nestled in the heart of Seattle, a city renowned for its dynamic cultural scene and technological advancements, the university offers a program that is both rigorous and forward-thinking. The Seattle Campus is not just a place to learn; it is an environment where students can immerse themselves in the pulse of the industry, with access to cutting-edge facilities and a vibrant community of creative minds.

The University of Washington’s graphic design program aims to furnish students with a solid grounding in design principles, complemented by state-of-the-art technological skills. Graduates from this program are known to earn significantly more than the average design graduate, a testament to the quality of education and the opportunities that the university provides. Whether you’re drawn to illustration, advertising, or digital media, the University of Washington’s program offers a comprehensive curriculum that prepares you for a successful career in graphic design.

Central Washington University

Situated in the delightful town of Ellensburg, Central Washington University provides a comprehensive and experiential Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. The program combines traditional artistry with contemporary design principles, providing students with a well-rounded education that includes courses in:

  • visual storytelling
  • brand strategy
  • typography
  • user experience

CWU’s program includes a requirement for students to complete a summer internship in the design industry, which is one of its highlights. This real-world experience, coupled with personalized guidance from experienced faculty, ensures that graduates are well-prepared to enter the competitive field of graphic design.

Students also have the opportunity to showcase their work through exhibitions, galleries, and events, further enhancing their portfolios and professional networks.

Eastern Washington University

A Bachelor of Design degree, encompassing a comprehensive study of both traditional and digital design tools, is offered at Eastern Washington University. Located in Cheney, the program emphasizes practical experience through studio-based courses where students can apply their skills in real-world scenarios. The curriculum covers a wide range of topics, including:

  • computer graphics
  • color management
  • web page design
  • drawing
  • typography

A unique aspect of EWU’s program is its emphasis on peer feedback, which allows students to refine their work based on constructive criticism from their classmates. This collaborative approach not only enhances the learning experience but also prepares students for the collaborative nature of the design industry by fostering critical thinking skills.

With access to tools like Adobe Creative Cloud, GitHub, and a laser cutter, students are well-equipped to tackle both print and web design projects, making them versatile and adaptable professionals in the field of emerging technologies.

Western Washington University

The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Design at Western Washington University offers:

  • A highly reputed program with a competitive ethos and focus on creative problem-solving
  • Located in Bellingham, the program is limited to a maximum of 36 students per year, ensuring personalized attention and a close-knit learning environment
  • A curriculum that encourages students to explore the connections between design and culture, fostering a holistic understanding of the field.

The junior year of the BFA program sets the foundation for the senior year, which focuses on integrating graphic, production, and digital media design, preparing students for a wide range of career opportunities. With access to industry-standard equipment in the Design Production Lab and opportunities for professional development through internships and study abroad programs, WWU graduates are well-prepared to enter the job market. Impressively, 93% of WWU Design BFA graduates find employment in their field within six months of graduation.

Seattle Pacific University

The Bachelor of Arts in Visual Communication at Seattle Pacific University aims to instill students with essential graphic design skills and an in-depth grasp of historical and cultural contexts. Located in Seattle, the program covers a broad spectrum of design disciplines, including:

  • User experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design
  • Brand design
  • Typography
  • Digital media
  • Form development

Graduates of SPU’s program are well-prepared for careers in various design fields, such as:

  • UI/UX Design
  • Visual Design
  • Graphic Design
  • Motion Design
  • Product Design
  • Environmental Design
  • Information Design
  • Brand Design

The program’s comprehensive curriculum ensures that students are not only proficient in practical skills but also possess a strong theoretical foundation, making them versatile and adaptable in the ever-evolving design industry. Additionally, SPU design graduates typically earn higher incomes than the average design graduate, reflecting the program’s quality and effectiveness.

Shoreline Community College

A 2-year Graphic Design associate degree program, offering a solid grounding in design principles and techniques, is provided by Shoreline Community College. Located near Seattle, the program is structured into three main phases: foundational training, concentrated study, and specialized study. This approach ensures that students build a strong base before moving on to more advanced topics.

Key skills taught in the program include typography, illustration, and working with graphic elements. With no eligibility requirements for application and a range of financial aid options available, Shoreline’s program is accessible to a wide range of students. The Graphic Design AAAS program is an excellent choice for those looking to gain a comprehensive education in a relatively short period, preparing them for entry-level positions in the design industry.

Spokane Falls Community College

The 2-year Graphic Design program at Spokane Falls Community College offers:

  • Specifically structured curriculum to prime students for entry-level roles in the design industry
  • Located in Spokane
  • Program starts only in the fall quarter
  • Emphasizes hands-on experience with industry design projects, internships, and a cooperative education work experience component
  • Practical approach to ensure students gain the skills needed to thrive in a professional setting.

The curriculum covers a broad range of media, including:

  • print
  • web
  • video
  • animation
  • motion graphics
  • 3D modeling

By working with these various media, students develop a versatile skill set that makes them valuable assets in the job market. The program’s focus on real-world applications and advanced studies provides a robust education that prepares graduates for immediate employment in the design field.

Lake Washington Institute of Technology

A Digital Design degree program, instructing students in creating visual graphics for websites, designing layouts, and producing content for mobile devices, is offered by the Lake Washington Institute of Technology. Located in Kirkland, the program is designed to be flexible, with evening hybrid options and courses available in face-to-face, online, and hybrid formats.

This flexibility allows students to tailor their education to fit their schedules and learning preferences, making it an ideal choice for working professionals or those with other commitments. The program’s focus on digital design ensures that graduates are well-prepared to meet the demands of the modern job market, where proficiency in creating visually engaging content for various digital platforms is highly valued.

Seattle Central College

The Graphic Design program at Seattle Central College distinguishes itself with a focus on both fundamental design skills and state-of-the-art technology. Located in the heart of Seattle, the program is renowned by design professionals and provides students with access to advanced creative arts facilities that feature integrated classes and shared resources.

The curriculum emphasizes real-world projects, deadlines, and user experience, ensuring that students are well-prepared for the demands of the industry. Graduates are equipped with the practical skills needed for careers in:

  • Advertising
  • Branding
  • Animation
  • Interactive media

And more.

Notably, 80% of graduates find full-time employment within 60 days of graduation, highlighting the program’s effectiveness in preparing students for successful careers.

Career Opportunities for Graphic Designers in Washington

Graduates from Washington’s graphic design programs have a wealth of career opportunities available to them. From web design and UX/UI design to branding and advertising, the skills acquired through these programs open doors to a variety of roles in the creative industry. Some of the prestigious employers that hire graduates from these programs include:

  • Amazon
  • Boeing
  • Bungie
  • Microsoft
  • Phillips

These are just a few examples of the many companies that value the skills and expertise of graphic design graduates.

In addition to traditional employment, graduates can pursue freelance work or start their own design businesses, offering services in visual communication design, computer graphics, and more. The versatility of a graphic design education allows for flexibility in career paths, whether working for large corporations, non-profits, government agencies, or as independent consultants.

Choosing the Right Graphic Design School in Washington

Selecting an appropriate graphic design school plays a pivotal role in shaping your future career. While evaluating graphic design schools, take into account elements like the faculty’s industry experience, the curriculum’s emphasis on computer and technology applications, and the fostering of communication skills. For success in the Arts, Audio/Video Technology, and Communications Career Cluster, technical knowledge and skills prove indispensable, as well as understanding design fundamentals.

For a well-informed decision, employ tools like College Combat to juxtapose schools based on the factors bearing the most significance to you. By weighing these considerations carefully, you can select a program that aligns with your career goals and provides the best opportunities for growth and success in the graphic design field from the best colleges.