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Graphic Design

Academy Earns High Rankings on Prestigious Red Dot & LinkedIn Lists

The Academy of Art University has placed fourth on the Red Dot Design Ranking for Americas/Europe and has earned a spot on LinkedIn’s list of “Top Universities for Designers.” The university’s status as the second highest-ranking design school in the United States was determined by five consecutive years of consistent achievements in the Red Dot Award: Design Concept category.

Recent School of Graphic Design graduate Manjia Zhao, 26, was recognized as “Best of the Best” in Design Concept for her prototype game app Airnergy. The app, an element in Zhao’s MFA thesis project, encourages players to take stock of their energy use and make minor, real-life changes—each of which enhances the game’s colorful, whimsical “virtual garden.”

“I am from China and my home city was polluted, so I started the thesis…to help increase awareness about our environment. Players like a virtual world they can take control of, and the game motivates them to do little things in their daily lives. If you forget about turning off the lights, it relates to your score and your game garden,” she says.

Graphic Design MFA Director Phil Hamlett praises Zhao’s imagery and skillful design.

“Manjia has identified a problem facing the world and applied her formidable design skills to rectifying it,” Hamlett says. “Her mobile-first design solution tackles air pollution by bringing it to the forefront of people’s lives—that is to say, in their pockets—in the form of a lively and responsive app that uses ‘gamification’ to make an urgent societal and ecological need accessible and actionable.”

Red Dot received more than 16,500 submissions from nearly 70 countries in 2014.

Red Dot President Ken Koo called Academy of Art University “one of the top universities in America and Europe for continuously, and progressively, producing cutting-edge and forward-thinking product concepts.”

Academy of Art University was also named a “Best School for Designers” by the professional networking website The ranking was calculated by the success rate of its graduates in finding desirable jobs, i.e., jobs in graduates’ chosen fields. The Best Schools for Designers list was determined through LinkedIn’s analysis of employment patterns among more than 300 million LinkedIn members around the world.


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