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Top 9 Graphic Design Schools In North Carolina (2023)

Looking to study graphic design along the Blue Ridge Appalachian Mountain range? North Carolina sits snuggled between Virginia and Tennessee, coastally meeting the Atlantic Ocean, speckled with cozy small towns.

Seeking luscious grasslands, small-towns or coastal views, North Carolina offers a sweet southeastern destination to study graphic design. If you have a dual passion for state history and nature reserves, look no further as we’ve compiled a list of the top graphic design schools in North Carolina. Ranging from four year programs to Online offerings, discover the best program for you including a graphic design course with Shillington—fast track your career with a 9-month part-time or 3-month full-time program, ensuring you have all the skills to break into the industry.

1. Shillington 

Location: Online, New York City, London, Manchester, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane
Duration: 3 months Full-Time, 9 months Part-Time

Graduates rave about the passionate teachers and remarkable portfolios created in a short amount of time. Shillington does not require any previous graphic design experience, just a readiness to learn in an inspiring environment with working designers as your teachers. Their mission and results make it one of the best graphic design schools as Shillington prepares designers with practical, conceptual skills and an industry-ready portfolio to begin working in the field. In just 3 months full-time or 9 months part-time on campus or online—you could become a designer!

2. North Carolina State University

Location: Raleigh, NC
Duration: 4 Years

Graphic design is meant to facilitate our interaction with digital and physical surfaces and the curriculum at North Carolina State University  pushes designers to go a step further in envisioning meaning to shapes, companies, systems and services. Ensuring students empower themselves beyond visual elements, the graphic design program prepares students across all facets of media, user experience and print to also empower those who interact with it. In addition to establishing a strong design foundation, students are guided through core studios and specializations, taught rapid prototyping techniques, research methods and visualization strategies to enhance their individual and real-world experiences. Design electives, studio and general education requirements are positioned within a 120 total credit program stretched across 8 semesters giving many opportunities to explore the entire university in four years. Students are prompted to tinker within the studio but outside the box which is just one of the reasons they are one of the top graphic design schools in North Carolina. Nestled in Raleigh, North Carolina’s capital, attendees of the program are encouraged to interact with the many ecological and historical attractions central to campus.

3. Appalachian State University

Location: Boone, NC
Duration: 4 Years

The Bachelor of Fine Arts at Appalachian State University strives to prepare students for all forms of visual communication design, as well as experience with research, conceptual approaches and production methods. Faculty of the program are practicing designers, mentors and guides to students as they navigate fully equipped facilities across campus. Alumni of the program have gone on to launch careers in advertising, publishing, production and visual media. Boone, North Carolina hosts a number of small businesses hungry to work with graphic design students, past internships have been held at High Country Home Magazine, Package Design Media, Appalachian Voices, as well as trickling to other southeastern states. The Peel is a quarterly, student-run, submission based literary arts publication—one of the many campus positions that have a role in cultivating university expression; submitters have their choice from over fourteen categories of art mediums. Appalachian State is considered one of top graphic design schools in North Carolina in part to their outdoor programming, ten official art-focused student clubs and 17 NCAA Division I varsity teams, all through campus.

4. East Carolina University

Location: Greenville, NC
Duration: 4 Years

East Carolina University’s school of art and design is host to a very active arts program,  comprising their nationally ranked College of Fine Arts and cementing their status as a top graphic design school in North Carolina. They work in partnership with Greenville’s city council in the creation of Arts Lab, an artist incubator that provides studio space, access to business opportunities and resources. Students gain expertise through art education, art history, interactive design, ceramics, video production, illustration, metal and graphic design concentrations—hosting a yearly student work retrospective and portfolio site for graduates. East Carolina University is the only university in North Carolina with a dental, medical school and college of engineering, all within the same institution. The school is comfortably located in Greenville—North Carolina’s entertainment center, according to the flurry of conventions, exhibitions and museum collections. Robert Wright, the university’s first president wrote he wanted every student, “to go from here literally afire with enthusiasm for East Carolina”.

5. University of North Carolina

Location: Charlotte, NC
Duration: 4 Years

Students of the Bachelor of Fine Arts program can be assured they have an active role in the direction of their studies; the 78 credit hour degree begins with three studio art classes and an art history course ensuring a solid design foundation. Though the school strives to equip general life skills across all attendees, UNCC is one of the top graphic design schools in North Carolina due to their unwavering commitment to major specific studies first. The college of arts + architecture creates forums for students of visual, musical, theatrical arts and architecture to display their work in tandem with the semester’s visiting artist. Between engaging course offerings and 18 NCAA Division I varsity sports, students are privy to the range of attractions close to campus. Charlotte, NC the commercial capital of the state is home to race car, botanical and amusement attractions. New members of the university have the option to reside in any of the fifteen learning communities, specifically designed for those with collective interests varying across language, international affairs, leadership, sciences and more.

6. Queens University of Charlotte

Location: Charlotte, NC
Duration: 4 Years

Founded in 1857, Queens University of Charlotte is a small private school nestled near downtown Charlotte, that works to mold concept driven creatives who deliver across static and interactive media. The department of art, design and music is housed within the newly renovated Gambrell Center where they focus on weaving cross-collaboration, historical precedence and civic engagement in the creation of dynamic designers.  Spanning the four years, students have eighteen credits to explore beyond their graphic design courses in tandem with a creative awareness and engagement credit requirement. The school emphasizes mentorship, real-world and international experiences; fostering experimentation through their entire semester, program specific and ten-day trip excursions central to the university experience. Queens University is one of the top graphic design schools in North Carolina due in part to their extracurricular programming. Join the royal family—according to the student body—as they blossom through the school’s ‘yes/and initiative’, which aims to build students up individually and in tandem with their unique interests.

7. North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University

Location: Greensboro, NC
Duration: 4 Years

North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University is a notable research university, land-grant recipient and catalyst institution for change in the lives of alumni like Jesse Jackson Jr., Taraji P. Henson and Terrence J. The newly constructed Harold L. Martin Engineering Research and Innovation Complex hosts a number of the university’s artistic courses. Through small-groups and individualized instruction students gain creative awareness while blossoming under the instruction of renowned faculty. The Bachelor of Arts in Visual Media Design has course offerings across motion arts, design drawing and advertising. Those who embark on an artistic journey at NCAT are receiving preparation from one of the top graphic design schools in North Carolina as the program works alongside the rapidly expanding analog and electronic processes impacting the field. Students develop the graphic language needed to be technically competitive yet still artistically expressive. Requiring 124 semester credit hours in total, the degree requirements include studios, electives, portfolio courses and general education courses.  Beyond campus, Greensboro is home to many historical, ecological and athletic attractions.    

8. Gardner Webb University

Location: Boiling Springs, NC
Duration: 4 Years

This university ensures a solid foundation in both print and digital design with an emphasis on creativity and innovation as one of the top graphic design schools in North Carolina located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Students of Gardner Webb University’s graphic design program obtain the necessary skills related to the entire design process, bridging typography, theory and software. Through service-oriented projects balanced between marketing and career focused goals, attendees of the program gain reality-based experience through off-campus professional internships across 54 hours of coursework. Programs are uniquely altered for each student, ensuring that no course of action is the same for each student working towards a communal goal to demonstrate a legal, ethical understanding of communication to balance the aesthetic studies. Boiling Springs, NC is a close-knit, quaint college town honored to host the groves of college students seeking community in their ‘flannel-mandatory’ streets.

9. University of Mount Olive

Location: Mt. Olive, NC
Duration: 4 Years

The bachelor of science in graphic design at Mount Olive is designed to prepare students for viable careers in the arts with attention towards their interdisciplinary and experiential learning pillars. This university is considered one of the top graphic design schools in North Carolina in part to the many strides they’ve made increasing student’s awareness of their artistic talents, theory and formation of a solid art making practice. The intimate one to one instruction coupled with 120 credits of engaging coursework in history, photography and digital applications guides attendees in their pursuit of a bachelor of science for graphic design. Mount Olive’s unique adult undergraduate program and free online application aligns with their values as a private, liberal arts institution. The quaint town of Mt. Olive, the Pickle Capital, is home to charming attractions and with the town’s manufacturing industry pivoting often to create local career opportunities.

10. Campbell University

Location: Buies Creek, NC
Duration: 4 Years

Join the ranks of Campbell University students as Camels and Sandhills, excited to expand interest in graphic design with the range of campus activities available in the heart of North Carolina. The rural environment of the university boasts one of the top graphic design schools as students move through art history, drawing and communication courses. With an overall desire to prepare attendees for the range of careers within the realm of arts students are given access to studio facilities, experienced staff and internship  opportunities. Positioned between the city of Raleigh, the outlets, mountains, city of Charlotte and ocean—this campus utilizes the stillness of the country to keep students focused on academics but plugged into various programming. With the motto, “Lead with us. Lead with purpose”, benefit from strong connections to service, spiritual ideals and Division I sports. The graphic design program seeks to train the next generation to make an impact on new media platforms through creative expression, preparing them in communication and marketing strategies.

Graphic design can take you into a number of exciting directions, this list offers a range of programs meant to inspire your decision taking into account— ideal campus atmosphere, extracurriculars and results. Shillington offers three intakes a year and applications are due one month before the start of classes to prepare for the time commitment and career transition. Attend one of our upcoming Info Sessions or Speak with a Campus Experience Manager to find the right course or time zone for you!


Laura Walton
January 6, 2023

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