• PhD student Amanda Geppert leading a workshop with the Resident Association of Greater Englewood.

  • PhD student Jaime Rivera researching visual workflows for design project knowledge management with Interaction Research Workshop classmates.

PhD Overview

IIT Institute of Design was the first design school in the US to create a doctor of philosophy (PhD) in design, and it continues to have the largest doctoral program in design. Our PhD is a program for those who wish to teach or conduct fundamental research in the field of design. Students who have earned their PhD degree have gone on to lead design programs at other universities, teach, consult, and guide global corporations in their pursuit of innovation and value.

Applicants to the PhD program must have a demonstrated interest in a research area that aligns with research currently being conducted by PhD faculty at IIT Institute of Design (see faculty profiles below). Admitted doctoral students will be required to submit and obtain approval for a program of study and pass a foreign language requirement. Within two years of being admitted, students take a comprehensive examination. After the comprehensive examination, students will be considered candidates for the PhD degree.

PhD at-a-glance

Doctoral candidates (2018 academic year)
Students per PhD advising faculty 2-5
PhD degree granted since program’s inception in 1992 23
PhD alumni holding faculty positions in universities 75%
PhD alumni working in major corporations 25%

PhD Faculty Advisors

Carlos Teixeira, Associate Professor
PhD program coordinator
currently accepting students
Patrick Whitney, Steelcase/Rob Pew Professor currently accepting students
Laura Forlano, Associate Professor currently accepting students
Anijo Mathew, Associate Professor currently accepting students


Course work includes credit hours transferable from the Master’s program (32 credit hours maximum). Classes include full- or half-semester courses selected from the university’s course offerings to complement objectives of the student’s program. They include 15 credit hours of required courses and 12 credit hours of elective courses (determined in consultation with advisor). Most course work credits are earned within the first three terms of enrollment.

The research component starts small and grows as the student progresses through his or her candidacy. The dissertation created from this work is intended to create a substantial and original contribution to design knowledge. Typically, 12 credits are earned over the first three terms; the remainder is earned over, at minimum, three additional terms.


  • 6 semesters (beyond Masters degree)
  • 107 credit hours (32 Masters, 27 course work, 48 research)
  • Full-time residency is required for first 4 semesters


Tuition (2016-2017 rate) $24,500 per semester
Student fees, books, and supplies $1,268* per semester
Living expenses (room & board) $6,750* per semester
Health insurance $1,483* per year

*estimated. Tuition and research stipends are not available. Only self-funded applicants will be considered.

To Apply

To complete your application you will need to provide the following:

  • Research Proposal. Guidance for the proposal will be provided by the PhD faculty. Before final submission of the application, all applicants to the PhD program must contact and discuss a research proposal with a PhD faculty (see faculty profiles above).
  • Interview. Conducted by phone, Skype, or in person with the PhD Program Coordinator.
  • Portfolio of work or published material. 5-15 pages that demonstrate critical thinking, concept exploration, and proposed solutions (may include non-design projects).
  • Resume or Curriculum Vitae. 2-4 years of professional practice is typical, but not required. Include peer recognition (e.g., publications, lectures, awards).
  • Transcripts from all prior degrees. Degrees must be from an accredited educational institution with a minimum cumulative GPA 3.0/4.0 or equivalent. For international applicants without a bachelor’s or master’s degree from an accredited English-language university, a TOEFL or IELTS test is required. (TOEFL minimum 100,  IELTS minimum 7.5)
  • Letters of recommendation. Three letters from professional or academic references commenting on your goals and abilities.
  • Application fee. $100.00


See additional information and commonly asked questions

Application Deadlines

Spring 2019 admission
September 21, 2018 (early round)
November 2, 2018 (final round)

Late applications may be considered, please contact us.

Fall 2019 admission
January 18, 2019 (early round)
March 1, 2019 (final round)

Admission to the MDes program with Foundation is offered for the fall semester only. Your application must be completed by 5 p.m. (CST/Chicago time) on the due date to be considered for that round. You will receive an email confirmation when all of your materials have been received. Admission decisions will be communicated roughly four weeks after this confirmation.

More Information

For more information or if the application deadline or your desired start date has passed, please contact: