Graphic design is a growing and in-demand field that incorporates visual communication, artwork, branding, and aesthetics to effectively convey ideas and messages. Students pursuing careers in graphic design require specialized skills training through university degree programs, which can be quite expensive.
Scholarships provide a valuable source of financial aid for graphic design students, helping offset the high costs of tuition and materials. This article examines 10 of the top scholarship opportunities available specifically for students studying graphic design or graphic communications.
Definitions of key terms will be provided along with background context on the field and profession. Specific eligibility requirements, award amounts, deadlines and examples of past recipients will be analyzed for each scholarship.
The goal is to equip graphic design students with practical knowledge on the best ways to fund their education through competitive scholarships.
What is Graphic Design?
Graphic design is the art and practice of planning and projecting ideas and experiences with visual and textual content. Graphic designers use various techniques and media such as typography, visual arts, branding and web design to effectively communicate to an intended audience through visual display.
Some key aspects of graphic design include:
- Visual Communication: Conveying messages, stories, emotions or other ideas through images, colors, typography and layouts.
- Branding & Identity: Developing consistent visual representations such as logos and styles to build brand recognition for companies, products or organizations.
- Print & Publishing: Designing materials intended for print like magazines, books, posters, brochures and more.
- Digital & Web Design: Creating user-friendly and visually-interesting websites, applications, digital ads and other online/screen-based content.
- User Experience (UX) Design: Applying principles of usability and accessibility to optimize how users interact with and comprehend various digital interfaces.
- Illustration: Using drawing, painting and other artistic skills to create custom vector or raster images.
Graphic designers work across many industries including advertising, publishing, entertainment, education and more. The field requires strong artistic ability along with technical proficiency in design software programs.
Education & Training for Graphic Design
A bachelor’s degree in graphic design, communication design or a similar field is the preferred education level for graphic designers according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Undergraduate programs allow students to gain hands-on experience through project-based courses that cover core design principles, theory, history, typography, branding and various software programs. Some popular degree titles include:
- Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Graphic Design
- Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Communication Design
- Bachelor of Science (BS) in Digital Media Design
Specific coursework usually includes drawing, illustration, layout, typography, web design, printing processes, branding and more. Programs are available as both 4-year programs for new students or 2-year programs for those with an associate’s degree.
Beyond academic training, internship experience is highly valued by employers looking to hire entry-level graphic designers.
According to the National Association of Colleges of Art and Design, average annual costs for 2018–2019 ranged from $18,900 to $45,500 depending on if the college was public or private.
Additional living expenses such as room/board and materials can also pile up for students. This is where scholarships can help offset educational costs for graphic design students.
10 Best Scholarships for Graphic Design Students
The following are 10 top competitive scholarships available specifically for graphic design students to apply for:
1. VSA Partners Scholarship Program
- Award Amount: $5,000
- Eligibility: High school seniors or current undergraduates enrolled full-time in an accredited graphic design program
- Deadline: January 15 (annually)
Description: This award recognizes academic achievement and dedication to the graphic arts. Medium-sized global design firm VSA Partners established this scholarship to support promising graphic design students. Recipients have demonstrated interest in related fields like marketing, branding and advertising.
2. AGDA Foundation Scholarship Program
- Award Amount: Up to $10,000 total for multiple recipients
- Eligibility: AGDA student members enrolled in an accredited graphic design program
- Deadline: March 15 (annually)
Description: The nonprofit professional association AGDA (Art Directors Guild of America) offers this scholarship fund exclusively to its student members. Awards are based on applicants’ demonstration of design excellence, academic achievement, and engagement in AGDA student chapters or events. Recipients have submitted exceptional portfolios.
3. Print & Graphics Scholarships Association Awards
- Award Amount: Varies from $1,000 to $5,000+
- Eligibility: Current undergraduates studying graphic design, print media or marketing
- Deadline: Early March (annually)
Description: This association represents printing and graphic arts companies who together provide multiple scholarship opportunities. Selection weighs academics, career goals, recommendations and entries in the association’s annual design competition. Multiple annual winners receive support towards tuition.
4. AIGA|Dallas Design Scholarships
- Award Amount: Up to $5,000
- Eligibility: Texas residents enrolled in an academic graphic design program
- Deadline: Late March (annually)
Description: The local professional chapter AIGA|Dallas awards multiple scholarships yearly based on portfolios showing at least 3 quality design projects. Strong preference is shown to applicants focused on branding, advertising, publications and related fields served by chapter members. Finalists receive mentorship and job placement assistance.
5. The Eleanor Blake Scholarship
- Award Amount: $2,500
- Eligibility: Female graphic design students ranked sophomore or higher
- Deadline: Early April (annually)
Description: Named for the first female president of the AIGA, this award specifically supports women studying graphic design or communication arts. Selection considers academics, letters of recommendation, and essays describing future career goals and ways design positively impacts society. The scholarship rotation alternates between East/Midwest and West regions.
6. Frank Zutter Scholarship
- Award Amount: $5,000
- Eligibility: Illinois residents or enrolled in an Illinois college studying graphic design or advertising
- Deadline: Mid-April (annually)
Description: Established in honor of pioneering Chicago graphic designer Frank Zutter, this competitive award is intended to inspire students interested in brand identity development and strategy. Applicants submit designs, essays and reference letters that showcase motivation, future vision and likelihood of excellence in the profession.
7. Graphic Artists Guild Foundation Scholarship Program
- Award Amount: $2,500 – $5,000 each for multiple recipients
- Eligibility: Students enrolled full-time pursuing a career in graphic design or a design-related field
- Deadline: Early May (annually)
Description: This prestigious national program from the artists guild identifies students excelling in design coursework and leadership roles who demonstrate both financial need and passion for the field. Applicants participate in two rounds including portfolio review and live interview with selection committee.
8. The Star Tribune Newspaper Design Scholarships
- Award Amount: Up to $3,000 total for multiple annual recipients
- Eligibility: Sophomores or higher in a graphics, publishing or related design program
- Deadline: Mid-May (annually)
Description: Two scholarships are awarded each year to honor excellence and support continued education for students devoted to newspaper design and related print publishing careers. Selection weighs portfolios showing relevant projects, recommendations and personal statements about career goals. Recipients complete paid summer internships at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis.
9. American Advertising Federation/Adcraft Foundation Scholarships
- Award Amount: $1,000 – $5,000 each for multiple national recipients
- Eligibility: Currently enrolled undergraduate students studying advertising or graphic design
- Deadline: Early June (annually)
Description: Several scholarships are provided annually to foster interest in the advertising industry. Awards are determined by judging portfolios, essays, transcripts and involvement specific to advertising-related extracurricular activities like Adcraft student club chapters or AdFed internships/competitions. Winners will demonstrate creativity and fit for advertising career paths.
10. Print Industries of America College Scholarship Program
- Award Amount: $1,000 – $5,000 each for several recipients nationwide
- Eligibility: Undergraduate students pursuing majors relating to graphic communications/printing
- Deadline: Late June (annually)
Description: Administered by the national printing industry association, these scholarships recognize bright students showing dedication to careers within print/graphic design manufacturing and supply chain. In particular, preference is shown to applicants planning to join member companies after graduation. Competitive applications include recommendation letters and multi-page essays.
11. American Advertising Federation National Student Advertising Competition Scholarships
- Award Amount: $2,000-$5,000 for top teams
- Eligibility: Teams of students from AAF college chapters who participate in annual national case competition
- Deadline: Early May annually
Description: Student teams develop integrated marketing campaigns for real brand challenges. Top 5 teams win scholarships and all 50+ participating schools receive sponsor support. Judges include agency executives.
12. Donald McEvoy Memorial Graphic Design Scholarship
- Award Amount: $2,500
- Eligibility: Undergraduate New York state residents studying graphic design
- Deadline: Mid-March annually
Description: Awarded to a sophomore, junior or senior based on portfolio, recommendation letters, and essay about interest in graphic design career. Provides support through senior year capstone project funding.
13. Communication Arts Scholarship Program
- Award Amount: $2,000-$5,000 each for multiple winners
- Eligibility: Students majoring in visual communication, graphic design, advertising, etc.
- Deadline: Late January annually
Description: Prestigious international scholarship program recognizing excellence across design disciplines. Judges include top agency leaders/educators.
14. GAGA Scholarship Awards
- Award Amount: $1,000 each for multiple recipients nationwide
- Eligibility: Full-time graphic design students in sophomore year or above
- Deadline: Mid-March annually
Description: Funded by leading global design firm GAGA, this new program award scholarships based on portfolio review by senior GAGA designers.
15. Hiscox Graphic Design Scholarship
- Award Amount: $5,000
- Eligibility: Full-time US graphic design majors with financial need
- Deadline: Early June annually
Description: Seeks students dedicated to social impact-focused design career paths that solve real problems. Administered by Hiscox insurance in partnership with AIGA.
As this overview has demonstrated, lucrative scholarship opportunities abound specifically for talented graphic design students aiming to fund their education.
Strong applicants will research program requirements carefully, curate professional-caliber portfolios, ask industry professionals for letters of recommendation, and compose purposeful essays highlighting their career goals and experiences thus far within the field.
Networking through local AIGA or similar professional chapters also fosters valuable connections that can aid the application and selection process. With the job market demand remaining consistently high, scholarships provide an ideal way for students to launch their graphic design careers debt-free after graduation.