The master of fine arts (M.F.A.) in design is a two-year graduate program that engages students in collaborative practice within a dynamic, multidisciplinary studio environment. This professional graduate program breaks down boundaries and brings together students, faculty, communities, and businesses to work collaboratively on the world's significant problems for the greater good.

Graduate students in design interact with the School of Design's inquisitive and intelligent community. Students and faculty throughout the school address first hand the issues of the world around them, with focus on sustainable design practices, social issues, and excellence in professional practice forming the core of the programs.

The program intersects design thinking with a specific area of focus, allowing for in-depth exploration of major issues with a variety of industry and research partners. The M.F.A. in design is closely aligned with the internationally recognized strengths of Syracuse University, allowing the design to be integrated with various campus-wide initiatives.

Examples include:

  • Sustainability (Syracuse CoE, Biomaterials Institute)
  • Entrepreneurship (Martin J. Whitman School of Management, Blackstone LaunchPad)
  • Social innovation (Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics, College of Law)
  • Aging and disability studies (Aging Studies Institute, School of Education Center on Human Policy)

The curriculum is propelled by research work that takes place on an ongoing basis within the Design Laboratory, allowing students to gain unique perspectives and project-based design experiences that lead to a competitive advantage once they graduate.

A background in design is required for admission to this program. Students may also gain basic technical skills and design methodology prior to beginning the program through a series of courses identified with your graduate advisor. All students will attend a summer orientation to gain an understanding of the many opportunities for focused research on our campus. They are also required to take Intro to Design Communication along with Design Thinking and Strategies in preparation for the fall semester.

Why our program?

  • By intersecting design thinking with a specific area of focus, our program allows for in-depth exploration of major issues with a variety of industry and research partners.
  • Our curriculum allows you to gain unique perspectives and project-based design experiences that lead to a competitive advantage upon graduation.
  • As a member of the School of Design, you will interact with other students and faculty in our programs, which include industrial and interaction design, environmental and interior design, communications design, fashion design, and museum studies.
  • You will engage with an impressive array of nationally and internationally known visiting designers who come to The Warehouse to lecture and critique work.
  • When you graduate, you will belong to a global network of enthusiastic VPA alumni.


The design program is located in SU's Nancy Cantor Warehouse, home of the School of Design. The building, located in downtown Syracuse, features professional studio facilities for each design program; two shared computer labs; a printing lab; and Design Works, a fabrication lab.

Learn more about The Warehouse.

Design students have the opportunity to take advantage of Syracuse University’s vast resources, including Bird Library and the Special Collections Research Center, which houses outstanding collections in the design field.

Visiting designers

Throughout the year the design program and the School of Design welcome numerous nationally and internationally known visiting designers to campus. Spanning the disciplines, these guests, some of whom are alumni, give presentations and lectures and often critique student work. They are a critical component of your artistic growth. Recent guests have included Glen Hougan, Patricia Moore H'12, Thom Filicia ’93, Massimo Vignelli, Alan Dye ’97, Garth Roberts, and Kyung-Won Chung G'80.


Students are admitted to the program for the summer semester only for a two-year immersion experience.

Students will learn the basic technical skills and design methodology during the summer boot camp sessions in design thinking and an introduction to design communication before entering the fall semester. All students will attend an orientation to better understand potential focus areas and how they pertain to design.

The 60-credit-hour M.F.A. program structure consists of three components per semester: a 6-credit studio (Design Project), a 3-credit design course (Design Research, Design Communication), and 3 to 6 credits of academic and studio electives. A minimum of 3 elective credits each semester is dedicated to your academic focus requirement (your specific area of choice).

Design Project provides a studio-based experience and environment where students work collaboratively on problems and develop solutions. Design Research supports the activities of the studio and thesis development. It is expected that your academic focus area will also support studio work and may be interrelated with the Design Research course. A student whose area of focus is in entrepreneurship, for example, may bring issues of marketing and production into play in the development of the studio project and use the Design Research course to examine theories of marketing in relation to design development.

Students will continue onto their second year after passing a review at the end of their first year and must complete a final presentation and master’s thesis in order to graduate.

Refer to Syracuse University's graduate course catalog for more information about our courses.

Program taught in:
  • English

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Sep 2020
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