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Top 10 Universities for Design

Top 10 Universities for Design

Design as a concept is no longer linked to purely physical objects but digital experiences and abstract concepts as well, enhancing its power to shape the world. Thus, students are given the freedom to define themselves as designers, each finding their own ways of working and direction when exploring problems, developing solutions and forming opportunities. There are a vast range of specializations in design ranging from fashion to industrial to animation. The possibilities are endless. Anything you desire to pursue, it’s there! To help you find the right schools and make the most prospective decision, we have shortlisted the top 10 global universities for design around the world and what they require for admissions. 

While there are a lot of different kinds of design, some disciplines require you to take up Math at a higher level. For instance, product or industrial design might need it, but fashion might not. Therefore, the most common subject pairing for design will be mentioned below.

Some of the common requirements are:

  • For IB students, all colleges and universities would like you to take up Visual Arts at least at a Higher Level or Design Technology if your school provides it. However, design technology is more for the design that involves hands-on work. 
  • You would not have to take up Math AI HL for all disciplines, so if you’re not most comfortable with it, you can proceed with Math AI SL. Lastly, it is always good to take one science subject at a minimum. This could perhaps be Physics.
  • Next, all colleges will require you to submit letters of recommendation. However, the number of letters may vary according to the university. But, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered there. Keep reading to know more. 
  • Keep in mind that a requirement of a minimum IB score of 24 points does not necessarily mean that admission will be easy. You will need to excel in your portfolio and extracurricular activities as that holds more weightage in your application. 
  • TOEFL and IELTS are required by the university for students who are non-native speakers of English.

If you’re looking for the environment to help you get one step closer to your dreams, you’ve come to the right place. Here are the top 10 universities for design.

#1: University of the Arts, London

UAL has 10 different colleges for their wide array of courses. They believe that creativity can have a positive social impact on the world around us. Their unique studio culture gives students the freedom to explore their individuality. It works at the cutting edge of new thinking in Design, Media and Screen and prepares its students to become the future of the creative industries. That’s why it comes first on the list of top universities for design. Graduates earn a BS in Economics from the Wharton School. UAL inspires their students to explore global, cultural, political and social issues through their practice. As a community they will help you to become bold, innovative performers and experimental designers.

Here are their requirements:

  • UAL requires you to submit a portfolio. The requirements of the contents of the portfolio will differ according to the course you wish to pursue. You may or may not have to give a video submission. This again depends on the course you choose.
  • You will need your IB Diploma and 5 GCSE passes at grade 4 or above including:
    • English Language
    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • Chemistry
    • One other subject (Art & Design or Design Technology are recommended)
  • UAL requires a minimum IB score of 24 out of 45. 

Below are the recommended scores for the standardized tests:

Test Minimum Score Minimum in each section
IELTS 6 5.5

#2: Parsons School of Design at The New School

All undergraduate students share a first-year experience that provides an introduction to the tools, critical thinking, and skills essential for your journey. Integrated seminars and studios deepen your conceptual abilities and prepare you for a major. As you question, experiment, fabricate, and reflect, you uncover new interests, ideas, and surprising intersections.

Here are their requirements:

  • Parsons requires you to submit two essays. Additionally, Parsons also gives you the option of submitting your portfolio and/or the Parsons Challenge. 
  • You are required to submit one counselor recommendation and one recommendation from a teacher. 
  • The New School does not require submission of SAT or ACT scores. Should you feel your SAT or ACT test scores are beneficial to your application, feel free to submit them for consideration. 

Below are the recommended scores for the standardized tests:

Test Minimum Score
SAT 1211
ACT 26

#3: Rhode Island School of Design

Founded in 1877, RISD stands out among the world’s preeminent colleges and universities of art and design. Its community of critical thinkers and makers shares a belief in the value of hands-on learning, experimentation and an ever-evolving approach to studio education reinforced by liberal arts studies.

Here are their requirements:

  • RISD is offering all applicants the ability to be reviewed without submitting results from the SAT or ACT. Students may opt into this process by selecting this option within the RISD section of the Common Application. For students who choose to submit test scores, RISD will superscore your results, looking at your highest outcome across multiple test dates.
  • RISD does not accept IB credit from art or studio classes. However, you will be eligible to transfer a maximum of 9 credits from IB HL classes with an earned grade of 5, 6 or 7.
  • RISD requires you to submit a portfolio. The requirements of the contents of the portfolio will differ according to the course you wish to pursue. Additionally, you will have to do RISD’s assignment which consists of 2 submissions.
  • You also have to write one college essay using one of the prompts that they provide.
  • One letter is required, although as many as three may be submitted. Recommendation letters should be written by teachers or other professionals who have firsthand knowledge of your art or academic achievements and can comment on your potential as a student.
  • RISD requires a minimum IB score of 33 out of 45 in order to stand a good chance. 

Below are the recommended scores for the standardized tests:

Test Minimum Score Recommended Score
SAT 1250 1470
ACT 27 32

#4: Politecnico di Milano

Politecnico di Milano is one of the top universities for design degrees in the world. The Department of Design is the main Italian center for scientific research in the field of design; rooted in the Italian culture of design, it is oriented to explore new disciplinary frontiers, putting design at the service of the challenges of contemporaneity.

Here are their requirements:

  • Their IB requirements are that the student should at least secure 24 points in six elective subjects, 12 of which must be obtained at Higher Level.

Below are the recommended scores for the standardized tests:

Test Minimum Score
SAT 1050
ACT 20

#5: Aalto University

The Aalto School of Arts, Design and Architecture is one of the most prestigious design universities in the world and the leading design school in Northern Europe. The Bachelor’s Programme in Design prepares students for designing future products, services and systems in a creative and critical manner.

Here are their requirements:

  • Students are asked to complete a preliminary assignment. Students who pass proceed to the next stage, the intake assignments. If you’ve passed your intake assignment, you will be invited for an interview.
  • If your IB course is completed in English you do not need to take TOEFL or IELTS.
  • Aalto requires a minimum IB score of 30 out of 45.  

Below are the recommended scores for the standardized tests:

Test Minimum Score

#6: School of the Art Institute of Chicago

SAIC is one of the most historically significant accredited independent schools of art and design in the nation located in Chicago. SAIC is distinct in the way that it provides graduate, post-baccalaureate, and undergraduate students an interdisciplinary curriculum and the necessary freedom to develop as artists, designers, and scholars. At the same time, they strive for a level of rigor, investigation, and cultural relevance that makes SAIC truly special. 

Here are their requirements:

  • SAIC requires you to submit a portfolio that showcases your best and most recent works. This will be evaluated for a possible merit scholarship. You will also need to submit an artist’s statement that explains why you made what you made. 
  • Students are not required to submit ACT or SAT. If you believe your scores provide additional insight into your academic abilities, you can submit them. Students whose first language is not English or haven’t studied in an English-language school for 4+ years are required to submit language assessment scores.
  • SAIC requires you to submit one letter of recommendation written by an instructor or other professional who can evaluate your motivation to succeed at SAIC.

Below are the recommended scores for the standardized tests:

Test Minimum Score Recommended Score
SAT 1048 1260
ACT 22 25

#7: The Glasgow School of Art

GSA’s Innovation School provides a unique and holistic overview of design’s role in future society and is also one of the best universities for design. The BDes and MEDes programmes equip students with a diverse skill set and thorough understanding of design’s evolving role as the creative and strategic link between technology and society. Both programmes offer opportunities for international study, as well as the possibility to participate in live projects with businesses and public-sector organizations. As a result, their graduates have a unique, multicultural perspective that prepares them for all sorts of creative possibilities.

Here are their requirements:

  • Glasgow requires a minimum of 30 IB points out of 45 including 5 in 3 subjects at higher level. This would normally include English and Visual Arts or Design Technology. You may also be required to take Math HL. If your English grade is not at grade 5 or above at a higher level, you will be required to submit an IELTS score.
  • You will be required to submit a digital portfolio and a portfolio statement.

Below are the recommended scores for the standardized tests:

Test Minimum Score
IELTS 6 with a minimum of 5.5 in each section
SAT 1370
ACT 30

#8: Pratt Institute

This bachelor’s degree prepares students to engage in critical inquiry through theoretical and applied research, establishing them as innovators and leaders in the field of design. Pratt provides students with an outstanding professional education and a traditional residential college experience within the exciting creative environment of one of the top art schools in the United States.

Here are their requirements:

  • Pratt requires you to submit a portfolio and an essay. The requirements of the contents of the portfolio will differ according to the course you wish to pursue.
  • Pratt is test-optional for high school applicants applying for the fall 2022 semester. The essay portion of the SAT and the writing test in the ACT is optional.
  • A letter of recommendation is not required, however, if you intend to submit one, it needs to be uploaded through the Common App application.
  • This is Pratts recommended high school coursework for Art and Design programs:
    • English 4 units
    • Social Studies 1 unit
    • Mathematics 1 unit
    • Science 1 unit
    • Academic Electives 3 units (social studies, science, math or a foreign language)
    • Pratt requires a minimum of 33 IB points out of 45. You may receive transfer credits for Higher level courses in which you may have earned a score of 5 or higher. However, Pratt does not award transfer credit for IB Visual Arts.

Below are the recommended scores for the standardized tests:

Test Minimum Score Recommended Score
SAT 1120 1340
ACT 25 30

#9: ArtCenter College of Design

ArtCenter students go beyond aesthetics and technical expertise to think critically, intelligently and humanely about their practice and its effects on others. Their undergraduate, graduate and Public Programs—all remarkably diverse in their areas of emphasis, methods of teaching and curricula—stress this core sensibility while pushing students to create meaningful work. ArtCenter offers 11 undergraduate degrees equipping students with the latest tools and techniques necessary to thrive in today’s creative landscape. Therefore, the ArtCenter College of Design must be on your list of top universities for design.

Here are their requirements:

  • The ArtCenter College of Design requires you to submit a portfolio. Your portfolio must be oriented specifically to the one major for which you are applying. In addition to the portfolio, one short answer essay and two essays are required for all students and some majors have specific prompts. 
  • ArtCenter does not require letters of recommendation. You will have the option to enter the name and email address for one to three people to provide letters of recommendation on your behalf in the online application.
  • ArtCenter does not accept IB credit from art or studio classes. However, you will be eligible to transfer credits from IB HL classes with an earned grade of 5, 6 or 7. Studio art credit is awarded based on portfolio work. 
  • Applicants from Spring 2019 and forward, the submission of SAT or ACT scores is optional. However, they still accept and receive copies of your scores if you choose to provide them.

Below are the recommended scores for the standardized tests:

Test Minimum Score
SAT 1216

#10: Design Academy Eindhoven

Design Academy Eindhoven is one of the world’s foremost educational institutes in the field of design. The various departments within the four-year Bachelor’s program and the two-year Master’s program train students from different perspectives to produce critical and socially engaged designers. DAE sees design as a global phenomenon with an increasing urgency to reform social structures and systems. These include reforms in the fields of consumption, care, social organization, and future industries, but the list is inexhaustible.

Here are their requirements:

  • DAE requires you to submit a portfolio and their assignments. Once it is reviewed, an invitation will be sent for an interview.

Below are the recommended scores for the standardized tests:

Test Recommended Score Minimum in each section
TOEFL 100 21


Also ReadSubject choices for design

Here are some bonus things that will get you some brownie points on your application!

To be a part of that small percentage of students that get selected into one of the top universities for design, the bare minimum won’t do. You will certainly need to go above and beyond to impress the admissions officer and be that 1%. Here’s how you can do that:

  • Attend Art competitions and win something! This is more for students interested in visual arts. However, any recognition will look good on your application.
  • Start or be a part of an art club. This shows leadership and managerial skills.
  • Internships are always a bonus. Try interning at a design company or job shadowing to understand how the industry works. It always adds on as an experience and will be beneficial for you in the future.
  • Learn new softwares or do certificate courses about the Adobe Creative Suite for instance. These softwares are heavily used in the design field and would definitely be a bonus for your learning journey since you would have a head start. 

Portfolio TIPS: 

  • Make your portfolio as strong as possible. It needs to speak who you are. 
  • It’s always quality over quantity, therefore, pick the work you are most proud of and is your best. 
  • Try to show the process and not just the end result so the admissions board can go through your entire thinking process. However, it is not required to be in great detail. 
  • It is also always good to show variety in your portfolio. It showcases that you are versatile with anything that comes your way. 
  • Always check the requirements of any college that you want to apply to. They may expect to see specific things in your portfolio. While some may ask you to include anything you want, some of them ask you to include course specific pieces.
  • Lastly, take the extra time to learn something from your course. They will appreciate the extra mile that you’ve gone to learn something before your college year has begun!

Anything and everything you do extra, weighs in on your application in one way or another. Keep in mind that everything you write in your statement of purpose should show what you’re truly passionate about. Don’t forget to explain your compassion towards everything you’ve done to depict your interest in pursuing a design major. 

Now that you have the all-in-one guide for anything you need with respect to the top universities for design, it’s time to get started and work towards your dream university. All the best on your application! 

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