Top Graphic Design Schools in Wisconsin | Your Guide to the Best Programs

Searching for the best graphic design schools in Wisconsin? This guide explores top programs at leading institutions like Madison College, Milwaukee Area Technical College, and University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Whether you’re starting fresh or advancing your skills, find the right program to launch your graphic design career.

  • Madison College offers a comprehensive Graphic Design Associate Degree with flexible learning options and an emphasis on hands-on studio experience and portfolio development.
  • Milwaukee Area Technical College provides a versatile Graphic Design program available in online and in-person formats, covering both traditional and digital design techniques, while also offering a Production Artist technical diploma.
  • The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater boasts diverse Art and Design bachelor’s degrees with state-of-the-art facilities and numerous opportunities for internships, engagement with the arts community, and participation in student organizations like AIGA.

Navigating the landscape of graphic design education can be daunting, but choosing the right program is crucial for your future success. Wisconsin is home to several top-tier institutions offering diverse programs tailored to equip students with the skills needed in today’s dynamic graphic design field. Whether you’re aiming for a career in advertising, art departments, or as a freelance graphic designer, these schools have something to offer.

Each institution brings its own unique set of strengths and opportunities. Here’s what each of these schools has to offer:

  • Madison College: hands-on studio experience
  • University of Wisconsin-Whitewater: comprehensive bachelor’s programs
  • Milwaukee Area Technical College: flexible learning options

You’ll find a program that fits your needs at one of these schools. Let’s dive in!

Madison College Graphic Design Program

Madison College stands out with its comprehensive Graphic Design Associate Degree program, designed to prepare students for a variety of careers in the graphic design field. Whether you’re interested in working with advertising and art departments, art studios, or pursuing a freelance career, Madison College has you covered. The program offers both full-time and part-time options, making it accessible for students with different schedules and commitments.

The curriculum emphasizes practical skills, with courses that cover essential design software and tools. Students gain hands-on experience in web design, print media, and digital content creation. This practical approach ensures that graduates are well-prepared to enter the workforce as competent graphic designers. The program also encourages students to develop a strong portfolio, an essential asset for any aspiring graphic designer.

Moreover, Madison College recognizes the importance of staying current in the rapidly evolving graphic design field. The program is designed to keep pace with industry trends, ensuring that students are proficient in the latest design techniques and technologies. Graduates from Madison College are equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in various creative roles, from graphic artists to creative directors.

Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) Graphic Design Program

Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) offers a robust Graphic Design program that leads to a 2-Year Associate degree. This program is available in both online and in-class formats, providing flexibility for students who may have other commitments. Starting in either August or January, the program is structured to cover a wide array of skills essential for today’s graphic designers.

The curriculum includes:

  • The design of print-generated and computer-generated graphics for various media, such as books, web applications, and marketing materials
  • This dual focus ensures that students are well-versed in both traditional and digital design techniques
  • Additionally, students can earn a Production Artist technical diploma while completing their associate degree, adding another credential to their resume.

MATC places a strong emphasis on portfolio building, recognizing it as a critical component of a graphic designer’s education. Students are guided through the process of creating a professional portfolio that showcases their skills and creativity. This focus on portfolio development helps graduates stand out in the competitive job market, making them attractive candidates for potential employers in the advertising and art departments.

University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Art and Design Programs

The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater offers a diverse range of bachelor’s degrees within its Art and Design program, catering to various interests and career goals. Students can choose from disciplines such as:

This broad spectrum allows students to tailor their education to their specific interests and career aspirations by exploring various course descriptions.

One of the standout features of UW-Whitewater is its state-of-the-art facilities. The campus boasts fully equipped studios for:

  • Ceramics
  • Drawing
  • Metalsmithing
  • Painting
  • Printmaking
  • Photography
  • Sculpture

Additionally, students have access to three campus galleries, including the Crossman Gallery, which serves as a learning lab for art history students. These facilities provide a rich environment for creative exploration and professional growth.

UW-Whitewater also offers numerous opportunities for students to engage with the wider fine arts community. The Schuh Visiting Artists Program brings premier visual artists to campus for lectures and workshops, providing valuable insights and inspiration. Internships are another key component of the program, placing students in galleries, schools, advertising agencies, and other art-related organizations.

Participation in student organizations such as AIGA for Graphic Design further enhances the educational experience, fostering a sense of community and professional development.

Career Paths for Graphic Design Graduates

Graduates of graphic design programs in Wisconsin have a wealth of career opportunities awaiting them. The diverse skill set acquired through these programs prepares students for various roles in different sectors. One popular career path is working as an Advertising Graphic Designer, where creativity and strategic thinking are crucial. These professionals collaborate with advertising and art departments to create compelling visual content for marketing campaigns. Other career options include:

  • Web Designer
  • Brand Identity Designer
  • Packaging Designer
  • Motion Graphics Designer
  • User Experience (UX) Designer
  • Illustrator
  • Art Director

With the right training and experience, graphic design graduates can find success in any of these fields.

Another exciting option is becoming a Web Designer. In this role, graduates utilize their knowledge of web design, including responsive web design, to create and maintain visually appealing and functional websites. This career path is particularly dynamic, given the ever-evolving nature of web technologies and user experience trends. Additionally, many graduates find success as Junior Designers in design firms, where they work on a variety of projects, honing their skills and gaining valuable industry experience.

For those interested in leadership roles, the position of Project Manager is an excellent choice. Project Managers in the graphic design field require strong project management skills to:

  • Oversee the planning, execution, and completion of design projects
  • Ensure that projects meet the client’s requirements and are delivered on time
  • Demonstrate strong organizational and communication skills

This role is a perfect fit for graduates who excel in these areas.

Building a Strong Portfolio

A strong portfolio is the hallmark of any successful graphic designer. It serves as a visual resume, showcasing your best work and demonstrating your skills to potential employers. To build a compelling portfolio, it’s essential to include a range of work that highlights your versatility and adaptability. This might include projects from different media, such as print, web, and digital content creation.

Incorporating a strong typographic project is also crucial. Typography is a fundamental aspect of graphic design, and showcasing your ability to select and use type effectively can set you apart from other candidates. Additionally, self-initiated projects are highly encouraged as they reflect your passion and initiative beyond classroom assignments. These projects demonstrate your ability to think creatively and work independently.

Presenting your portfolio in multiple formats is another important strategy. A digital portfolio, such as a personalized website, allows for easy sharing and accessibility. However, having a physical book or folder can still be valuable, especially for in-person interviews or presentations. The key is to ensure that your portfolio is well-organized, visually appealing, and effectively communicates your skills and experience.

Technical Requirements and Tools

Proficiency in industry-standard software and tools is a critical component of a graphic design education. Simplified graphic design apps like Canva, Pablo, and Pixasuite AI are excellent for beginners, providing user-friendly interfaces and a variety of templates, photos, and illustrations. These tools help new designers create professional-quality work without needing extensive technical knowledge.

For more advanced design tasks, programs like GIMP, Pixlr, and Pixelmator offer robust features for photo editing and manipulation. These tools are essential for creating high-quality visuals and can handle complex design projects. Additionally, digital drawing tools such as Vectr, Gravit Designer, Inkscape, and iPad Procreate apps are invaluable for creating organic doodles and conceptual mockups, allowing designers to bring their ideas to life.

Layout software like InDesign, Scribus, and LucidPress is crucial for producing multi-page documents, marketing materials, and presentations for publishing companies. These programs enable designers to create polished, professional layouts that effectively communicate their message. Familiarity with these tools is essential for any graphic design student, as they form the backbone of many design projects.

Ethical Business Practices in Graphic Design

Ethics in graphic design is about more than just creating visually appealing work; it involves adhering to a set of moral principles and values that guide decision-making processes. One of the key ethical considerations is respecting intellectual property rights. This means obtaining proper licenses for any assets used in your designs and ensuring that you do not infringe on others’ work.

Compliance with legal and regulatory requirements is also crucial. This includes adhering to copyright laws and ensuring that your designs are accessible to all users, including those with disabilities. Avoiding misleading or deceptive practices is another important aspect of ethical graphic design. This means being honest and transparent in your communications and avoiding any practices that could harm or mislead your audience.

Promoting responsible creativity in graphic design involves:

  • Balancing innovative design ideas with respect for cultural and social values under the guidance of a creative director
  • Avoiding perpetuating harmful stereotypes or promoting discriminatory messages
  • Maintaining transparency in your actions and communications
  • Building trust with clients and contributing positively to the industry by helping them develop strategic marketing

Application Process and Admission Requirements

Applying to a graphic design program typically involves several steps. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, for example, the application process includes submitting transcripts, a portfolio of previous work, and letters of recommendation. This allows the admissions committee to assess your academic background and creative potential.

Previous coursework or job experience in art and design can be beneficial, though it is not always required. For instance, the Graphic Design Certificate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison does not require prior experience but does necessitate the completion of a foundational course. This ensures that all students have a basic understanding of key concepts before diving into more advanced coursework.

Additionally, some programs require students to complete a certain number of credits in residence. At UW-Madison, graphic design students must complete at least 24 credits of major studio coursework in residence. This helps ensure that students receive hands-on instruction and can benefit from the school’s resources and facilities.