ID was the first design school in the US to create a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Design program, and it continues to have the largest doctoral program in design. The PhD in design is a research program for those who wish to teach or conduct fundamental research in design. The program culminates with a dissertation that extends the body of knowledge about design theory and process.

All applicants to the PhD program must have a demonstrated interest in a research area that aligns with research currently being conducted at the Institute of Design. For a list of currently active topics, please see our faculty profiles. Much of our faculty and students' research work is funded through a variety of grant and fellowship programs.

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, and after approval of the program of study and passage of the foreign language examination, the student must take a comprehensive examination. This examination is intended as a rigorous review of the level of competence achieved by the student as a result of the entire program of graduate study (except for the dissertation) as approved by the advisory committee and specified in the program of study form. Students are not considered candidates for the PhD degree until after the comprehensive examination is passed.

PhD in Design Schedule

  • 3 years of coursework and dissertation research + additional research
  • 2 year full-time residency and Master degree required
  • Total 107 credit hours including transferred credit from previous Master's program


Dissertation Research


Year One

59 credit hour minimum

48 credit hour minimum


Year Two

  • Qualification Examination

Year Three

  • Comprehensive Examination

Until Completion


Continuing Research

  • Final Defense
  • PhD Dissertation

Doctor of Philosophy in Design Program (based on the 2009-2010 PhD student body)

  • Doctoral Candidates: 9
  • Students per PhD advising faculty: 2-5
  • Rate of Completion: 87%
  • PhD degree granted since the program's inception in 1992: 23
  • PhD alumni holding faculty positions in universities: 75%
  • PhD alumni working in major corporations in various industries: 25%
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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

  • Master's degree in design or strongly related programs
  • GPA 3.0/4.0 minimum
  • Official transcripts from institutions where degrees were earned
  • GRE; minimum score 310
  • TOEFL required for international applicants without a degree from an accredited English-speaking university; minimum score 100
  • Portfolio required in some cases (may include non-design projects)
  • Completed Statement of Research Interests (found in application)
  • Three letters of recommendation from references capable of evaluating the applicant's academic capability
  • Interview
  • Work experience desirable, typically 2-5 years; should be included in resume for review
  • Must demonstrate peer recognition (e.g., publications, lectures, awards)
  • Application fee of $100