How to Become a Graphic Designer in Rhode Island?

Despite having been established in 1636, Rhode Island continues to make a name for itself as one of the most art-centric states in the United States. From WaterFire to seemingly endless streets of art galleries, Rhode Island has been an inspiration for artists for decades. It’s not only a place of history but of innovation – which is why students considering a degree in graphic design should set their sights on some of the state’s most notorious art schools. 

What You Need to Become a Graphic Designer in Rhode Island?

While not mandatory, a degree in graphic design will make your career path easier. Degree programs are set up to introduce you not only to the basics like the tech, systems and handling clients. But also to theory and innovative thinking as well so that you can approach companies with novel ideas.

Rhode Island has an impressive array of art schools. Many offer degree programs in graphic design, ranging from certificates to graduate degrees. With a degree in one hand and a portfolio in the other, you’ll show employers that you’re ready to tackle their workload with innovative and creative ideas.

Career Outlook for Graphic Design

Rhode Island is one of the top ten states with the best average pay for graphic designers; $53K. Top graphic design companies in the state include North Street Creative, TribalVision, Busyseed, KSA Marketing and more.

Students graduating from the Rhode Island colleges and universities listed below go on to work as authors, brand designers, website designers, signage artists, magazine design editors, marketing specialists, and so much more. From film to product design, packaging and labeling, a degree in graphic design can take you anywhere you can imagine.

The Best Graphic Design Schools in Rhode Islan

The art institutions in Rhode Island recognize both tradition and progress, a compelling combination for incoming students. With campuses located close to Providence, a thriving city and art community, students will find the inspiration endless.

Rhode Island School of Design

Any student who has ever considered going to an art school has heard of the Rhode Island School of Design – or RISD, as it is more affectionately known. RISD was founded in 1877 and is a private college located in Providence. With yearly enrollment at just over 2,500, students can earn bachelor’s or master’s degrees in 22 majors.

Among those majors is a BFA in Graphic Design or MFA in Digital + Media, Graphic Design. For students planning on pursuing a master’s, you can stay close and comfortable to where your academic career started.

The undergrad Graphic Design degree gets students settled into the design process itself. This program isn’t just about foundational principles and theories; it also touches on reflexive practices, meaning students will be thinking quickly on their feet about how to find a solution to a problem.

Facility access includes bookbinding, screenprinting and papermaking technology as well as traditional print and photo resources. RISD hosts dozens of visiting designers a year to supplement the students’ learning experience.

Application requirements include a portfolio, a college essay, and a piece of work known as “The Assignment” as well as letters of recommendation. Students interested in pursuing an MFA after the BFA in Graphic Design can look forward to a 2 or 3-year program based on their needs, with an emphasis in social context, media and aesthetics. The three-year program is based on the needs of students who did not start out with an undergrad degree in Graphic Design – but at RISD, it’s all about passion, so they make it happen.

Roger Williams University

Roger Williams University is firmly based in the community, as its namesake would have wanted. The original Roger Williams was concerned with social justice and freedom of conscience. For students at Roger Williams University, that translates to helping out both local and global communities throughout their academic careers.

Located in Bristol, RI, this college offers an alternative for students who aren’t looking for that “big city” feel but want to be close to amenities and inspiration as well. Campuses spread from the coast into Providence itself. University housing is made to be diverse, and each of the eight communities has a “unique vibe,” according to RWU. First-year students will start out in traditional residential communities to help build ties and share in the process of settling in.

The undergraduate programs include a B.A. in Graphic Design Communication, a four-year course that brings together technical training with graphic-specific skills. Housed under the Feinstein School of Humanities, Arts and Education, the Department of Media + Design + Communication utilize advanced computer labs to give students access to the most up-to-date tech in the industry.

Throughout the array of courses available, students will learn to use the current tools and tech as well as understand the history of design and its theories and schools. There’s also a component of research in RWU’s Graphic Design Program, and internships provide real-world experience prior to graduation.

Students participating in this program must meet the university’s core curriculum requirements and a specific COMM 210 speech requirement as well.

Johnson & Wales University

Johnson & Wales, located physically in Providence, RI, was founded in 1914. But most recently, it has made its name known as an online college as well. JWU wants to give students experience, a must-have for anyone who has ever applied for a job. With two on-site campus locations in Providence and Charlotte, JWU also offers an extensive online program for students who are not able to attend fully in-person.

Most residential dorms are centrally located to the campuses, but an added benefit to being a student at JWU is the pet-friendly communities. Students in select halls can apply for a pet, an added responsibility that gives students purpose and companionship.

The university boasts a 96.8% career outcome rate across all fields and a 15:1 student-teacher ratio. In total, 46.5% of classes have fewer than 20 students – so the experience is truly private and hands-on for students looking for a little extra attention.

The Providence campus at JWU is currently the only one with a B.S. in Graphic Design. JWU focuses on creativity, inspiration and passion when it comes to this program. Courses leading up to the Graphic Design B.S. take place in both studio and design lab settings, where professors will present you with visual communication problems that you’ll need to solve with current software and hardware.

In the junior year of this program, students narrow their studies by choosing to focus on either web or print, a straight shot to defining their career. All students graduate with a portfolio of work to approach prospective employers with and a range of graphic design skills. The senior year culminates in project management and presentation to actual clients – meaning you’ll have a foot in the door before you even leave campus.

Advisors are also on-hand to discuss options such as study abroad and internships available with the program.

Rhode Island College

Rhode Island College’s tagline is “Make a Bold Choice.” They tout themselves as one of the schools with the best value in the region – not necessarily the cheapest, but the most bang-for-your-buck. Students have access to traditional residence hall housing and dining services, considered an important aspect of their educational career as living on campus has been proven to improve academic standing.

For alumni of Rhode Island College, the state is truly home – over 70% of them choose to live and work right where they got their degree. Over 7,000 students attend each year across five schools, including the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, which houses RIC’s BFA in Studio Art with a Concentration in Graphic Design.

            The program focuses not only on the basics of graphic design but on context, social organizations, interdisciplinary relationships and how technology plays a role in this career. Students work not only with the latest software but with traditional art media in a studio setting.

            As with most colleges, the roadmap for getting this degree includes a comprehensive list of General Education Courses. RIC does a great job of mapping out the trajectory of the academic year for students interested in the Graphic Design concentration. Courses available for students to choose from include Synthesis/Three-Dimensional Emphasis, Web Design: Principles & Practice, Issues for the Artist, Greek and Roman Art and more. There are six graphic design-specific courses with studio time and advanced typography included as well.

Salve Regina University

            If Providence doesn’t appeal to you, consider Newport – an island city with a rich history. Salve Regina sits on 8- acres among historic buildings. Founded in 1934, tradition matters at Salve Regina – but so does progress. This university has been ranked #24 in Best Undergraduate Teaching and #23 in Best Regional University in the North by the U.S. News & World Report.

            98% of students graduating from Salve Regina find employment or pursue advanced degrees within six months. Salve Regina is also concerned with social change and offers leadership development programs for students as well as the usual courses specific to programs. The school has a 65% acceptance rate.

            Despite its roots in tradition and Catholicism, at Salve, there’s a surprising amount of diversity – whether it be student housing options, sports programs, student organizations, or the combined 61 degree programs. Among those programs is the B.A. in Studio Art with a Concentration in Graphic Design.

            Added as a concentration option, the graphic design program utilizes small class settings to study the visual arts. Students are exposed to a variety of studio-based courses, including but not limited to woodshop, prehistoric art to 1400, ceramics, advanced studio concepts and a range of electives. The concentration aspect of the degree is a four-course process with a focus on graphic design.

By allowing students to branch out across the arts, Salve Regina promotes creativity and out-of-the-box thinking to get ahead in the industry. Undergrad admission requirements are standard, including with the application a college essay, letters of recommendation, and a portfolio for those majoring in studio art.