A good BA in Design gives you a foundation in Art and teaches you how to hone your creativity in order to design useful and beautiful things, but the best Master’s in Design are often multidisciplinary, bringing together Art, Technology, and Business to design solutions for the trickiest and most complex issues we have today.
Good design means both creativity and innovation. Aesthetics and functionality are equally important as you attempt to design solutions to a problem or a particular situation. There is a term for it even: design thinking, and it refers exactly to the cognitive, creative, and practical techniques employed by designers when solving problems.
This is why the best universities to study Design are those that nourish your creative and artistic side alongside offering state of the art facilities and resources.
Based on the latest QS Top Universities Subject Rankings, we analysed the top 20 universities in the world for studying a Master’s in Art and Design and identified the elements that make them stand out and earn their title as the best Art and Design schools. The top is dominated by the US (7 universities), followed by Europe (6 universities), UK (4 universities), Asia, represented by China and Hong Kong (3 universities), while Australia also reached the top with one entry.
These Asian universities are constantly getting better
Three universities from Asia are in this Top 20 best universities for Art and Design, one from Hong Kong and two from China:
- Tongji University, China
- The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong SAR
- Tsinghua University, China
All three universities have been growing significantly in World rankings since 2015, which shows their dedication to improve their service and offer high quality education to their students.
Tongji and Tsinghua have campuses in mainland China and are among the most prestigious universities in the country. They are large universities with a majority of Chinese students populating their classes. They are perfect for a fully immersive experience in Chinese culture.
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), on the other hand, is a smaller and far more international university. They have the maximum score of 100 for the International Faculty Ratio indicator on QS and high scores in International Students Ratio (80.7) and International Research Network (74.2).
>> Read more about the QS Ranking system and how it works.
Apart from being one of the best universities in the world for Art and Design , PolyU is also the fifth in Time Higher Education Young University Rankings 2022.
Poly offers four interdisciplinary Master’s in Design, successfully marrying art and technology:
- Innovative Business Design
- Intelligent Systems Design
- Smart Service Design
- Transitional Environments Design
PolyU is an excellent place to take advantage of the technological advancements available in Hong Kong. Their Innovative Design programmes benefit from a great technology start-up ecosystem. With a funding scheme (Micro Fund Scheme, Angel Fund Scheme) and supporting network (Mentors and Fellows), PolyU nurtures the start-up teams and accelerates them throughout their entrepreneurial journeys, and equips them for long-term success.
What’s more, being part of China but having a separate legal system makes Hong Kong a unique place to study and experience Asian culture.
Royal College of Art is the best worldwide and the best in UK
Royal College of Art in London is the only university in the United Kingdom that offers strictly postgraduate Art and Design courses. Imagine the atmosphere in that school! Of course you can study Design at many top universities across the world, but being part of a university specialized solely in Art and Design is bound to be a unique experience.
The School of Design at Royal College collaborates constantly with industry partners in order to offer students the opportunity to develop projects with these partners and make designs that are relevant to the real world.
Their Design Master’s programmes include the following:
- Global Innovation Design
- Service Design
- Innovation Design Engineering
- Healthcare Design
- City Design
The other UK universities which are in this top are:
Almost half the universities in the top are from the US
World university rankings almost always have many representatives from the United States, and this top is no different. These are the best universities to study Design in the US:
- The New School, New York
- Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)
- Pratt Institute, New York
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge
- School of the Art Institute of Chicago
- Art Center College of Design, Pasadena
- Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh
Needless to say, they are all very good universities and each offers a unique study experience. If, for example, you want to be at one of the oldest, most reputable universities in the world, choose MIT.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is an Ivy League university, constantly number one in QS World University Ranking. They have a unique Master’s programme in Integrated Design & Management, taught by specialists from three different fields coming together: Design, Business, and Engineering.
The programme was designed for people who are still early on in their careers and have a minimum of three years of experience.
However, if world reputation is not what matters to you but the mission and values of the university are more important, Pratt Institute might be the perfect university.
Pratt Institute is a place that cares about people and community. If you choose to study here, you should have a desire to use art and technology to better the lives of others. These values go back to its foundation in 1887 when Charles Pratt opened the first college of the institute and made sure it welcomed all people regardless of their gender, race, or class. In fact, it was his mission to make education available to those who otherwise couldn’t access it and help them improve their lives.
The university has campuses in Brooklyn and Manhattan, New York. It is hard to find a more fabulous location to study art.
They have four strong Master’s programmes in Design:
- Communications Design
- Industrial Design
- Interior Design
- Packaging, Identities and Systems Design
Northern Europe excels at delivering top Design Schools
Each European country has its unique atmosphere and your experience will be quite different if you choose Italy with its sunshine, gelato, and historical gems at every corner of the street or cold Finland with the beautiful aurora borealis, the reindeer, and hot saunas.
These are the best Art and Design Universities in Europe:
- Politecnico di Milano, Italy
- Aalto University, Finland
- Design Academy Eindhoven, the Netherlands
- Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands
- The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts (KADK), Denmark
- Konstfack University of Arts , Crafts and Design, Sweden
What we noticed is that half of the six European universities in this Top 20 are from Northern Europe. So if you don’t mind the long months of cold and darkness, then you should consider one of these excellent northern universities.
Finland, for example, is considered one of the most livable countries in the world because of its high quality of life which includes free healthcare and education, safety, green spaces and good air quality, as well as excellent opportunities for development. Finish education is one of the best in the world and, as a bonus, if you’re from the EU, EEA, or Switzerland, you don’t pay any tuition fees for university.
Aalto University is old and new at the same time because it was established in 2010 by merging three well-established Finish universities: the Helsinki University of Technology, the Helsinki School of Economics, and the University of Art and Design Helsinki. As you can see, Technology, Business, and Design are brought together again to create some of the most innovative Design programmes in the world:
- Collaborative and Industrial Design
- Creative Sustainability
- Contemporary Design
- International Design Business Management
- Fashion, Clothing, and Textile Design
But, perhaps you want a less winterish experience. Think about The Netherlands, then.Design Academy Eindhoven
in the Netherlands is renowned for being a forward thinking institution which encourages students’ freedom of thought and initiative.
The Netherlands is a great choice if you want to be in an environment of innovation and leading technology but at the same time enjoy a relaxed type of life, with a small city vibe. You’ll get to bike to classes (and everywhere else really) and have plenty of opportunities to do activities in nature.
The Master’s programmes they offer are the following:
- Contextual Design
- Social Design
- Information Design
- The Critical Inquiry Lab
RMIT University has the best Design programmes in Australia
RMIT University is rated the best university for Art and Design from Australia and New Zealand. On top of that, Melbourne is a beautiful city and Australia is a great choice if you love outdoor adventure and have respect for indigenous populations.
The university is specialized only in Design, Technology, and Enterprise, aiming at high-achieving students.
The School of Design offers the following Master’s programmes:
- Communication Design
- Animation, Games, and Interactivity
- Design Futures
- Design Innovation and Technology
I don’t know about you, but after learning about all these programmes, we feel that studying a Master’s in Design is one of the best ways of giving yourself the tools to make a real change in the world in any area you feel passionate about because Design is highly relevant to any field.