Top 10 Digital Art Schools

Bristol School of Art, Media and Design

Part of the University of the West of England, this was previously known as the West of England College of Art, home to artists such as Rodney Matthews. Now boasting links with Aardman Animations and the BBC the school is about to undergo another evolution, with an £11m pound renovation. In addition to a ‘pure’ BA (Hons) in Illustration, the school also offers a combined degree in Illustration and Animation. This program exposes artists to more digital techniques, though the ability to select illustration as the main discipline ensures the curriculum remains focused on concept art skills.

 Academy Of Art University, San Francisco

“Built by artists, for artists” is the motto of this, the largest private school of art and design in the USA whose previous graduates include such luminaries as Jason Chan. The university flags its illustration course as being particularly suitable for prospective concept designers, though a range of industrial and product design programs can provide an equally rich training ground.

Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

Founded in 1877, The Rhode Island School of Design is home to the best Master of Fine Arts course in the US. The Department of Illustration is one of RISD’s largest, with capacity for 240 students. Students studying Illustration can choose from a range of electives, including narrative storytelling, comics and editorial illustration. In addition to visits from established artists, students also receive a portfolio review from Boston and New York City-based professionals. RISD’s alumni include Chris Van Allsburg, Steven Kellogg, Jon Foster and Seth McFarlane.

School Of Visual Arts, New York

Originally known as the Cartoonists’ and Illustrators’ school, the School of Visual Arts is located in Manhattan. Eleven undergraduate and nine graduate level programs are offered, with Illustration, and Visual and Critical Studies most likely to appeal to wannabe concept artists. The former is served by the largest Illustration faculty of any arts college, while the latter has been designed to give students a flexible programme with a strong emphasis on art history, theory and philosophy alongside modules in drawing and digital imaging. The SVA’s past graduates includes a number of Guggenheim Award winners, Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko, digital artist JP Targete and Dorian (son of Boris) Vallejo.

Art Center College of Design, Pasadena

Rightly hailed as one of the world’s leading graphic and industrial design colleges, the Art Center is renowned for a range of programmes geared towards preparing students for the realities of working in the commercial arts fields. Its instructors tend to be working professionals, while projects are intended to mirror real-life assignments. Illustration is the key course of interest, but artists would also do well to consider the Product Design programme – Art Center graduates have gone on to head up design at companies such as BMW, Ducati and Nokia, while on the illustrative and concept art side the list of alumni includes such acclaimed artists as Ryan Church, Craig Mullins, Jeff Soto and the legendary Syd Mead.

TRUEMAX Academy, Copenhagen

Founded comparatively recently in 1998, Denmark’s TRUEMAX Academy is now the largest independent school in Scandinavia. In truth it’s not a school that takes a generalist approach, instead focusing on 3D CG with its two key six semester courses, 3D Digital Artist and 3D Game Artist. But for those who already possess a solid grounding in the fundamentals of art, this approach can pay real dividends. What really seals the deal, though, is the line-up of instructors assembled by TRUEMAX, featuring Maya masters Steven Stahlberg and Chris Landreth, acclaimed digital designer Meats Meier, plus veterans from studios including Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Weta and Pixar.

The Arts Institute at Bournemouth

Embracing fine and media based arts alongside study in applied arts areas such as textile design, the Institute sits next door to Bournemouth’s more famous university. While the latter grabs the limelight with its animation courses, the Arts Institute is the school of choice for many prospective illustrators (like Danny Morisons). The degree encompasses everything from text interpretation through to photography, while print-based work is complemented by projects focusing on screen-based art. Live project briefs for real businesses give students a taste of working for genuine clients.

LISAA College Of Applied Arts, Paris and Pennes

France is home to three of the finest digital arts institutes in Europe. While Supinfocom and Gobelins are mainly of interest to animators, LISAA’s range of programs is a little more varied. Of particular note is the diploma in Graphic Design, Illustration and Internet Design. Course content embraces animation, typography and other elements of graphic design, alongside digital illustration, life drawing, photographic-based arts and art history. As with all programs offered at LISAA, it has been accredited by the French Culture Ministry.

Ringling School of Art and Design, Sarasota

This not-for-profit school is one of the US’s finest arts institutions. Of the arts and design courses offered, three are particularly relevant to concept art: Illustration, Computer Animation and Game Art and Design. All students start out in a Core Studies programme encompassing drawing, colour and design, before specialising in their second year. One of Ringling’s most famous graduates is ImagineFX fave and Massive Black
co-founder Andrew Jones.

ConceptArt Atelier, San Francisco

While other institutions provide a grounding in the general classical and digital arts skills so valuable to forging a career as a concept artist, this school – created by acclaimed design studio Massive Black and – is a somewhat different proposition. As the name suggests, it focuses solely on training for concept art work, with tutoring from a team of teachers, led by Massive Black president Jason Manley, whose combined 20 years’ worth of knowledge (and extensive experience hosting workshops) has been distilled to create a professional level two-year program. Competition for enrolment is fierce, but for artists looking to pursue a concept design career in games, film or other entertainment fields, ConceptArt Atelier may well provide the ultimate launch pad.