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THE BEST TEXTILE DESIGN SCHOOLS IN THE US 2017

Textile design schools teach students the art of textile design, a creative field that can include fashion design, carpet manufacturing, and many other cloth-related fields. Schools that offer pre-professional programs in textile design provide opportunities to apply students’ skills to apparel, industrial, or fine art venues using hands-on traditional and high-tech techniques.

When searching for a textile design program, individuals should start by looking at schools that offer a broad exposure to the textiles field, or for a school that provides students with the opportunity to develop specific expertise in areas like weaving, screen printing, or knitting.  Coursework found in most textile design programs develops original expression while also delving into technical, functional, and production aspects of painting and CAD applications.  

Classes may consist of color and design theory, textile science, introduction to software programs like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, design for form and function, computer-aided surface design, fabric identification, trend analysis, textile printing, and portfolio development. Some students may want to consider exchange or study abroad programs offered by many schools, which allows students to explore a variety of different techniques and create a sizable textile portfolio. On this page, we provide a list of the nation’s best textile design schools, along with guides and links to additional resources for students seeking education or training in a specific area of focus:

  • School Name

    17 schools ranked

  • An integral part of one of the world’s most revered research-based universities; the art program at UW utilizes a rigorous interdisciplinary approach & studio-based instruction coupled with international opportunities and competitive internships.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Public
    • imgEnrollment : 45,408
  • The University of Oregon’s Department of Art is integral to a major research university, obviating the Department’s vast resources for its 500 majors. Located in the lush environment of the Northwest, the Department’s curricula embrace a wide range of media through which students learn: diverse practices, the inextricable link between thinking and making, material techniques, technical skills, and the modalities of conceptual thinking and critical understanding.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Public
    • imgEnrollment : 24,032
  • Cornell's AAP offers instruction in architecture, fine arts and city and regional planning. Emphasizing the power of artistic talent to conquer 21st century challenges; they encourage imagination, critical thinking and inclusiveness.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 21,904
  • Embracing a forward-looking approach to artistic academia, SCAD is a student-centered institution determined to provide educational excellence within the context of a positive learning environment. Students learn to create art, as well as live creatively artistic lives.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 11,861
  • The recipient of a multitude of awards and recognition from across the globe; VCUART demonstrates it student support by having one of the lowest tuition rates of the nation’s Top 10 Art Institutions.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Public
    • imgEnrollment : 30,918
  • With its legacy beginning in 1873, Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt), is public, independent, and one of the nation’s oldest art schools. Stressing diversity and inclusiveness, MassArt fosters and encourages community-building, within and outside the college. Challenging students to transcend traditional boundaries, MassArt addresses the learning process within each student from a holistic standpoint. Valuing art as a life-enhancing force, there is an emphasis on academic excellence as a foundation for greatness.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Public
    • imgEnrollment : 1,990
  • Nestled amidst the picturesque New England seaboard, Rhode Island School of Design has long been one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious colleges offering rigorous art programs at both an undergraduate and graduate level.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 2,481
  • Founded in 1885 and located on a 16-acre campus in Kansas City, Kansas City Art Institute is a 4-year, private, college of fine arts and design. The school offers study in 13 academic disciplines; an intimate learning environment with 1 faculty member for every 9 students; and instructors who are accomplished and prominent artists, designers and scholars. Interestingly, Walt Disney attended the school in his younger years.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 645
  • With 22 undergraduate degree programs, 12 graduate programs and international study options; California College of the Arts successfully balances tradition with innovation and theory with practice. Students enjoy an 8:1 student/teacher ratio and class sizes averaging 13 students.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 1,975
  • Michigan State University - School of Art, Art History & Design (AAHD) offers both undergraduate and graduate degree programs in Textile Design, Apparel, Studio Art, Art Education and Art History. Focusing on both the aesthetic and conceptual elements of education in the visual arts, the Department is committed to developing an appreciation for both its creative and historical aspects. Students are challenged to embark on the learning adventure of a lifetime by experiencing the cultural life of the community, student exhibitions and the visiting artist and scholar lecture series; just to name a few.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Public
    • imgEnrollment : 50,538
  • Founded in Baltimore in 1826, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is one of the oldest art colleges in the U.S. For undergraduate education in the fine arts and its MFA programs, U.S. News & World Report has ranked MICA as one of the top colleges in the nation. Parade Magazine has ranked it in the Top 2 Studio Arts Programs in the U.S.; and The Princeton Review consistently names it a “Best Northeastern College.”

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 2,197
  • Amazingly, there is no tuition cost for full-time students at College of the Ozarks. Founded by the Presbyterian Church in 1906, the school has a required work program and refers to itself as “Hard Work U.” Placing emphasis on character development, patriotism, vocational success; cultural and Christian development; the school offers a holistic and rigorous liberal arts education. Class sizes are optimal, and there is 1 faculty member for every 16 students.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 1,441
  • The Tyler School of Art at Temple University is dedicated to providing a progressive education, focusing on student mastery of technique within the framework of a liberal arts education. From bachelors to doctoral degrees, Tyler offers artists, art historians, designers, educators and architects, a rich and diverse selection of programs from which to choose.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Public
    • imgEnrollment : 38,007
  • The College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University embodies the vision that art and scholarship can affect change. Emphasis is on self-discovery in visual art and design; risk-taking and critical thought.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 21,789
  • PhilaU’s Design and Engineering programs are distinguished by emphasis on in-depth exploration of individual design, as well as engineering disciplines. Course goals include the stimulating intellectual curiosity; as well as interdisciplinary collaboration.

    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Private
    • imgEnrollment : 3,670
    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Public
    • imgAccredited
    • imgSchool Type : Public
    • imgEnrollment : 8,916

HOW TO SELECT A TEXTILE DESIGN SCHOOL

Textile design covers a broad area and is essentially the process of creating designs for knitted, printed, woven or surface ornamented fabrics, including carpeting, wall hangings and wallpaper, clothing, art, bath and kitchen towels…the list goes on. It is also the art of embellishing fabrics and other surfaces by applying embroidery, beading, lace, etc. Textile design schools allow students to immerse themselves in a world of design while exploring one of the oldest traditions in the world.  Many schools offer students the opportunity to study from leading textile artists and develop a creative practice that intertwines traditional skills, like knitting and weaving, with contemporary interdisciplinary techniques and cutting-edge digital technology. But, selecting a program can be tricky and often depends upon each individual’s career aspirations and goals. Many employers prefer candidates who have earned a degree in textile design. Some designers, like Ralph Lauren, never went to college and was essentially self-taught. However, a degree could be the key to a huge array of exciting career options, and the best schools will offer a well-rounded theoretical understanding of textiles and textile production techniques, and offer students the opportunity to gain from the knowledge of professional faculty with experience in the industry.  Many schools also offer internships or apprenticeships which give individuals valuable hands-on experience and access to professionals in the field.

FIRST THINGS FIRST

Textile design is basically the art of changing the appearance of synthetic or natural surfaces by applying traditional, digitized, stylized, and illusionary techniques to embellish a product.  It is also the art of enhancing a fabric or other surface by applying three-dimensional techniques, like knitting, weaving, embroidery, embossing, beading, etc. Because textile design is such a broad field, students may want to decide first on a specific area of study, such as greeting cards (yes, card design is considered a sub-field of textile design), wallpaper design, carpet manufacturing, apparel design, etc.  Maybe your aspirations will lead you to become a fine artist who designs textiles for display on walls or in art galleries and museums. No matter your career goals, choosing a direction is vital to choosing a school. Since there are probably areas of textile design that you never thought existed, researching course curriculum and course titles from various schools is a good place to start.  Research college websites, their mission statements, and faculty lineup to see if the school offers a dedicated program in textile design, or if instead, it is a part of their art program.  But, unless you have a set direction for your career, choosing a school that overs a well-rounded curriculum may be best.

ACADEMIC DEPARTMENTS AND CURRICULUM

There are associate degree programs, bachelor degree programs, and master’s degree programs in textile design. There are also post-doctoral degrees for graduates who choose to teach at the college or university level.  Classes in textile design are taught at small colleges, leading universities, and private institutes.  Many courses blend design theory with hands-on practice in drawing, painting, pattern making, or screen printing, as well as digital methods, such as CAD, and combine artistic abilities and technical skills to take design from conception to production. Although students may find their time divided between classes in their major area of study and general education/elective classes, most programs are constructed to ensure students are ready for a career in textile design upon graduation.

A textile designer can work in the fashion industry designing fabrics and patterns for clothing and accessories.  They may work in an interior design shop creating textiles for curtains and wallpaper.  Textile designers also design textiles for products to be manufactured on a large scale. Again, depending on the school, there may be a few major areas of specialization within the scope of textile design, which may include merchandising and consumer sciences; apparel, functional and technical design, textile conservation and museum studies, and more. Coursework may include color theory and usage, textile design processes, textile terminology, repeat patterning, computer-aided textile design (CAD), and knitted and woven design.  Students may also study biotextiles, advanced woven structure design, bonding principles in non-wovens, non-wovens characteristics, processing and methods, and materials and polymers.  What kind of classes are you most interested in? Is the size of the school important? Is it your aspiration to graduate with a Bachelor of Fine Art or a Bachelor of Fiber Science with a concentration in Textile Design?  And if so, are you ready to work hard to ensure you’re ready to enter the workforce upon graduation? Are you artistic and passionate about textile design and the textile industry? All questions to ask yourself when considering curriculums.

PUBLIC VS. PRIVATE

Generally, all state/ liberal arts colleges require 120 credits to graduate, which is divided 30/30/60. Meaning, 60-course credits are in the student’s major area of study, 30-course credits in the student’s minor area of study, and 30-course credits fulfilling general education and elective requirements. Private schools, on the other hand, vary on the how they distribute course credit requirements but are typically more immersive in a student’s major area of study. Private colleges usually have smaller class sizes and lower teacher-to-student ratios. They also tend to attract more out-of-state students so campuses can be somewhat diverse. However, a private college education usually costs more, sometimes nearly twice as much. 

That said, many people will pay the higher cost for access to the latest technology (because public colleges are state-funded, they don’t always have the resources to acquire the latest technology) and personal attention by professors. Public colleges and universities typically have more students and degree offerings. Class size can be larger than in private colleges, but that’s not always true as many public colleges offer smaller classes.  Public colleges usually have more in-state students due to incentives. A case can be had for a more experienced and professional faculty at private colleges, but that too is not always the case, and students would be smart to check out the reputation and resume of a schools’ faculty prior to applying. So, ask yourself; do you like smaller class size, and are you willing to pay more for attending a private college where you may get personal attention from faculty and staff?  Is it important that you have access to the latest technology for designing textiles?

FACULTY AND ALUMNI

Beyond a doubt, the college experience is based on more than being in a new environment, taking interesting courses, and meeting new people. And, while each of those things plays a part in why thousands of individuals register for college classes every year, college is, in a big way, shaped by those who teach. Professors are paramount to a school’s success, but the work they do as members of a school community is equally vital. The sense of connection with professors helps students feel like they belong. They become mentors and advisors and can advise students on internship and networking opportunities. Because they are experts in the field of textile design, they can advise you on career options post-graduation.  And, although a positive student-professor relationship alone does not translate into good grades or academic success, students that establish a bond with their professors typically perform better. Find out in what ways are professors involved in the local textile and fashion scene? Will you have opportunities to go on field trips? 

Schools themselves also benefit from having qualified faculty on staff. In fact, that is one of the reasons students choose one school over another; the reputation of its faculty. Look at a school’s faculty and see if their style of teaching aligns with what you want in class? How current are they on the latest textile designing software? Are they also up-to-date on fabrics, fibers, dyes, and industrial textile design?  Do you feel they will let you explore the many areas of textile design and encourage you do discover your own way? What do recent grads say about the textile program at a particular school?

SCHOOL REPUTATION & COSTS

The average total cost for an associate two-year fiber, textile, or weaving design program is about $18,000. Out-of-state tuition costs for a bachelor’s program in textile design, fiber, or the weaving arts is just over $50,000 (that’s about $200,000 for a four-year degree).*  Most people will weigh the cost against the benefits. Some will decide that college is not for them, while others will see the value a good education has on future employment.  Plus, state colleges and universities costs are very different than costs for an education from a private institution. That’s why it is so vitally important to research schools and decide what kind of education is right for you. Keep in mind that ‘some’ employers give much more weight to a degree earned from a private institution that specializes in the arts, or textile design in particular. The important word here is some, as not all employers look at the school, but more so the body of work in a graduate’s portfolio.  

That said, a school’s reputation can carry a great deal of weight as well.  In Fall, 2013, 165,743 students at a number of campuses in the US took a survey by the American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2013. The outcome of that survey showed that 64 percent of respondents said a very good academic reputation was the most important factor for college choice.  Although other factors such as cost, location, and course content are also all vitally important, knowing the college you attend has a strong reputation which may help land you that dream job in textile design is paramount.  Asking other students and alumni can shed light on a school’s reputation, as can professionals in the field who have hired graduates.

*U.S. Department of Education’s 2015-2016 IPEDS Survey

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Larger cities offer opportunities to visit major museums and galleries that may show textile designs as part of their fine art collection. They also offer access to cultural experiences not often found in smaller cities. However, with size also comes longer commute times and the potential for added distractions.  Smaller towns offer a more intimate setting, less traffic and congestion, and a home town feel. And, just like the size of a city is important, the size of a campus should also factor into your school decision.  Do you crave the hustle and bustle of a big city, or prefer the less anxious small town environment?  If you are willing to move out of state, can you pay out-of-state tuition which is usually much more than in-state tuition, unless there is a tuition reciprocity program between states to take advantage of.  Keep in mind that there are also a few online and distance learning programs in textile design for students who work, live in a remote area, or have other obligations that don’t allow frequent campus visits to attend class.  Online classes often allow you to learn at your own pace and can be less expensive, but you probably won’t have the opportunity to form those all-important mentoring relationships with professors or have the chance to form relationships with fellow students.  So, ask yourself if student comradery is important to your overall college experience and if you’ll miss the one-on-one attention from professors on campus if you choose to study online instead.

What to Expect from a Textile Design Program

Whether pursuing an associate degree in textile design, a bachelor of fine art in textile or apparel design, or fiber arts, or furthering your education by pursuing a master of fine art degree, the goal of most programs is to prepare students for careers in the many areas of textile design.  Course offerings provide both basic and upper-level skill development and knowledge of the textile design field. The experiences and personal journey students embark upon in their tenure provide a solid foundation for professional development and educational growth.  Most programs are taught in both studio and art and design courses and prepare graduates for management, merchandising, design, and production careers in the textile and/or apparel industry.  A textile design major is also appropriate for individuals who are interested in pursuing opportunities in fashion retailing.

Curriculum and outcomes vary greatly from one program to the next, but graduates at all levels are expected to demonstrate the ability to creatively problem solve within the field of textile design utilizing technical, aesthetic, and conceptual knowledge. They should be able to communicate ideas using oral, written, and visual presentation skills relevant to the field; recognize the influence cultural and aesthetic trends (historic and contemporary) have on the textile industry; evaluate work in the field of textiles, including their own work; and demonstrate professional skills and abilities to compete in the marketplace, both nationally and internationally.

An associate degree in textile design primarily focuses on fashion, with only a handful of programs limiting their scope to textiles. Most programs at this level prepare students for entry-level positions in textile design firms or interior design shops upon graduation, although a degree is also useful for transfer to a bachelor’s degree program.

A bachelor’s degree program in textile design seeks to cultivate in students both the artistic and business side of textile design, so they are well-versed in the application and creation of textiles, and also understand the multidisciplinary nature of business, increasingly entrepreneurship. Most schools will require a final portfolio prior to graduation.

A master’s degree program in textile design (which is generally terminal) builds on skills learned in an undergraduate program, and usually culminates in an exhibition or show of student work. Some programs offer a concentration in merchandising or the business aspects of the textile business.  

The ability to land a job in the textile design industry relies greatly on an individual’s design portfolio.  Some employers will choose one candidate over another simply by looking through their portfolios.  A portfolio, which can be in print or online, or in the form of a personal website, is a personal record of growth and progress and is used to showcase skills and knowledge within the field of textile design. That’s why employers commonly use a portfolio to assess a candidate’s strengths and abilities; to see who they are and what they can do. And, that’s why it’s important to compile a professional-looking portfolio whether you attend college or not.