Master of Design

The Master of Design (MDes) program welcomes students from around the world who examine the world from a keen, critical viewpoint and desire to make real change at a systemic and strategic level. Following the program, they become thought leaders, researchers, strategists and change agents at many of the most influential global organizations.

"Whenever and wherever I travel around the world I meet many alumni who are leading design research. Institute of Design always opens up new paradigms like planning, methodology, human-centered design and strategy in design research and education through distinguished leaders like Jay Doblin, Charles L. Owen, and Patrick Whitney."

Kunpyo Lee
Executive Vice President, LG Electronics
ID alum 1985

The MDes program is a two-year, 54-credit-hour degree program intended for those seeking professional knowledge at the highest level in the planning and design of new communications, products, services, environments, and systems. Students may construct their own curriculum after taking a core of methods courses focused on observing and understanding users in specific contexts, analyzing complex information, developing and exploring alternative solutions, and prototyping future innovations and scenarios. Examples of individual courses of study include communication design, product design, strategic planning, user research, design methods research, and systems design.

In addition to experienced designers, the school encourages students with no formal design training to apply to the program, offering a one-year “foundation” program of introductory courses providing prerequisite skills and experience. Students entering without any previous formal study of design or a portfolio will normally take three years to complete the Master of Design program. ID seeks to admit a class with approximately 50% of the students with design degrees and 50% from non-design backgrounds such as business, engineering, liberal arts, and architecture.

MDes Degree Schedule

2 years MDes (+1 year foundation*)


30 credit hours


Internship / Research Projects

Main Program:
Year One

54 credit hours


Internship / Research Projects

Year Two

Continuing Studies



* The Foundation program is a two-semester introductory course for students who need additional experience in design before beginning their graduate degree. Students without an undergraduate design degree are required to enroll. Click here for more information.

Please note that the MDes degree is not offered in part-time or online formats.

MDes statistics (based on the 2011-2012 incoming class)

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Average Age




Academic Information

  • Undergraduate degree in design: 63%
  • Undergraduate degree in non-design: 37%
  • Average GPA: 3.44/4.0
  • Average GMAT score: 650
  • Average GRE score: 310/340
  • Average TOEFL score: 106/120






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Expenses for Financial Affidavit

**fees may be subject to change without notice

Download  International Student Financial Affidavit 
Tuition for 9 months, 2014-2015*
Living expenses, books, + supplies for 9 months* $13,500
Mandatory health insurance** $950
Other student fees** $220
Total* $62,245

Application requirements 

  • Completed on-line application form (instructions for submitting remaining materials included)
  • Four-year bachelor’s degree from an accredited educational institution with a minimum cumulative GPA 3.0/4.0 or equivalent
  • Official (hard copy) transcript from institution where degree was earned
  • Completed statement of education and career goals 
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Resume of work experience: 2-5 years typical
  • GRE (minimum 310/340, 3.0/6.0) or GMAT (minimum 600/800, 3.0/6.0) for applicants without a degree in industrial/product or communication design
  • Portfolio (5-15 pages) for applicants with a design degree in industrial/product or communication design
  • TOEFL (minimum 100) or IETLS (minimum 7) for international applicants without a bachelor's degree from an accredited English-speaking university
  • Interview (in person, telephone or Skype) if deemed necessary by the Institute of Design
  • Application fee of $100

Inspiring Stories

MDes 2007 Senior Strategist, fuseproject
MDes 2011 Design Researcher, SC Johnson China RD&E