Find answers to the questions we get asked the most about the program, how to apply, how admissions work, and what happens post graduation.
What Design graduate degree programs do you offer?
The School awards a Master of Design degree (also known as MDes). We currently offer concentrations in Industrial Design, Interaction Design, and Visual Communication Design.
Can I take graduate Design classes as a part-time, non-matriculated, or visiting student?
No. The School only accepts full-time, degree-seeking students to the MDes program.
How big is the MDes cohort typically?
The size varies year to year, but typically we admit 4-10 students per year.
How much does the MDes program cost?
You can find information about cost and financial aid here. →
What is the studio space like?
The MDes studio is located on the 3rd floor of the Art Building on the Seattle campus of the University of Washington. The space combines individual desks (each student has their own assigned desk) as well as a shared space that can be used for socializing or fabricating larger prototypes and projects. See more about spaces here. →
What tools will I have access to?
You will have access to tools via a series of spaces in the Art Building and on campus. The spaces include the library, maker spaces (which give you access to laser cutters, 3d printers, sewing machines, vinyl cutters, electronics tools, etc.), woodworking shop, prototyping lab, computer centers (giving you access to large plotter printers), a digital portfolio studio (for photography), and more. See more about tools and spaces on the Experience page. →
What is the structure of the program?
The MDes is a two year program. The first year involves three graduate studios and three graduate seminars, as well as three electives. The second year is focused on your thesis project, where you work closely with your thesis chair (a member of the design faculty). Read more about the program here. →
What electives should I take while in the program?
Find a list of suggested electives here. →
How does the thesis process work?
The thesis is an opportunity to enrich the field of design with an original contribution. The thesis work is conducted during the second year of the MDes program, with a focus on research in the fall, design in the winter, and communication in the spring. You can find more information about the thesis and examples of past thesis projects here. →
Can I choose who I want to work with for my thesis?
Yes. You will be able to express your preference for your thesis chair and committee members. We will work together to align your preference, with your thesis interests and the expertise of the faculty.
What if I have ideas for my thesis when I enter the program?
It is good to have ideas for a thesis direction when you enter the program. You can strategically choose electives that will support your interest and you can start finding faculty who might be interested in guiding you through independent studies. However, many students change their mind once they enter the program and are exposed to new ways of seeing and thinking with design (and that works well too).
What is it like to be a Teaching Assistant (TA)? How do I apply for positions?
Teaching assistantships (TAships) are a great opportunity to gain experience in teaching design. If your long term goal is to teach design, this is a great place to start. During a TAship, you work with one faculty teaching one class (usually a freshman or sophomore class in design, although there are also sometimes opportunities to TA in other adjacent departments with classes at different levels). Every faculty is different, but most of the time the TA's responsibilities are to offer critique to students, grade projects, offer office hour sessions for students, and be present and participate during class. TAships are also a great financial opportunity: they cover your tuition for that quarter, they give you benefits (health, etc), and you also receive a stipend.
Our process in design to assign TAship is as follows: At the end of spring quarter, you will first apply to the TAships which fit best with your expertise and interests (we provide a list of classes with descriptions of skills needed). Once applications are filled, the faculty meet and assign the TAships based on your applications. We assign TAships for a whole year (fall, winter, spring).
Can I apply to more than one Design discipline?
No. The MDes program has only one track, where students from various design backgrounds (such as industrial design, interaction design and visual communication design) learn alongside each other. You need only apply to the Division of Design MDes program, but you should indicate your main area of interest. In your personal statement, please let us know what your background in design is and what branch of design you are interested in exploring during your MDes studies.
Can I apply for admission in any quarter?
No. We only admit students for Autumn Quarter.
What documents do I need to submit to apply?
You can find a list of required documents here. →
What should I include in my portfolio?
The portfolio should demonstrate your knowledge and abilities in the field of Design. You may include up to 20 pages of your design work, saved as one PDF which will largely be viewed on a computer screen. For each project, it is helpful to briefly describe what the project brief was and the intent of the design. If projects were made in a team, please include what part you were in charge of particularly. For some project, it is also sometimes helpful to include a brief overview of the process that lead to the final design.
The portfolio should include a cover sheet and a list of the projects included. The PDF document should not exceed 30MB in size. You are welcome to include web design, interactive pieces, animation, or video content as part of your portfolio by inserting links to these sources within your portfolio document. Please note, however, that these should be considered supplementary.
What should I include in my personal statement?
This statement should clearly articulate your goals and the extent to which the UW MDes program can be expected to prepare you for those objectives. The statement should also describe your background, specifically in the field of Design. This could include a description of your design process, your work experiences, your intentions in relation to the work you have submitted and what you plan to focus on during your graduate study. You should also reference the particular area of Design (industrial design, interaction design or visual communication design) in which you are interested. Your statement of purpose should also include specific areas of interest or topics you might be interested in for your thesis project.
I have an undergraduate degree, but it’s not a BFA. Am I eligible to apply to the program?
Yes. We consider all applicants with competitive design experience/portfolios.
I do not have a 3.0 GPA. Am I eligible to apply to the program?
No. The UW Graduate School requires a minimum 3.0 GPA for admission to the UW.
Do I need to submit GRE scores?
No. GRE scores are not required for application to the MDes program.
Can I apply specifically for the three year program?
There is no separate application for the three year program. Faculty review individual applications on a case by case basis. If you wish to be considered for the three year MDes program, please indicate this in your personal statement.
What is the minimum TOEFL score required?
Minimum scores for the TOEFL or other accepted English proficiency tests are available here. →
Is there a separate Scholarship, Fellowship or Teaching Assistantship application?
No. All MDes applicants are automatically considered for these awards. To read more about these awards, see this page. →
I applied last year and was not admitted. Can I use any of last year’s application materials again this year if I decide to reapply?
The School keeps application materials for one calendar year. Students reapplying in a consecutive year may request in writing to reuse transcripts and/or letters of recommendation. However, if your transcripts now contain new information, please submit new transcripts.
Who can I contact if I have questions about the application process?
If you have questions that are not answered in the instructions or on this FAQ page, please contact the School's Graduate Advisor, Ann Langford-Fuchs, at email@example.com. →
I want to know more about the program, where can I find more information?
What are the application deadlines for U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents?
U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents must apply online to the Graduate School and submit the additional application materials to the School by January 15.
What are the application deadlines for International Students?
The School does not have a separate application deadline for international students. All MDes application materials are due to the School by January 15.
Who determines which applicants are admitted to the MDes program?
Applications are reviewed by a committee of faculty members in the concentration (visual communication design, industrial design or interaction design) to which you apply.
When will I find out if I have been admitted?
Shortlisted candidates are usually contacted by email or phone in mid March. Offers of admission to the MDes program are typically mailed out in early April, due to a lengthier candidate interview schedule.
What happens to my application materials if I am not admitted?
Most application materials become the property of the University of Washington and are kept on file for one calendar year.
Do I have to accept my offer of admission immediately?
All admitted students must notify the School of their decision in writing by May 1. In accordance with the Council of Graduate Schools, students who have been offered scholarships, fellowships and/or teaching assistantships are under no obligation to respond to offers of financial support prior to April 15.
Do I have to pay an enrollment confirmation fee?
After the School notifies the Graduate School of your intent to enroll in our MDes program, the Graduate School will send you an admissions letter which will include information about submitting your non-refundable enrollment confirmation fee. It is due to the University of Washington Registrar by June 1. This fee is credited to your tuition account upon registration for classes.
Where do MDes alumni work?
MDes alumni work in a range of corporations, organizations and institutions. General areas of work include services/products companies (e.g. Blackboard Insurance, IKEA, SK Holdings, Vacasa) , technology corporations (e.g. Amazon, Epic Games, Google, Microsoft, Xerox Parc), design studios and agencies (e.g. Cognition Studio, Studio Matthews, Symplicit), non profit organizations (e.g. Chan Zuckeberg Initiative, Charles Wright Academy), and in publishing (e.g. Pearson Books). Some MDes alumni also go into academic institutions (e.g. University of Kentucky, Pacific Lutheran University, University of Washington).
For more details, you can visit our Design Alumni website. →
Can I teach at the university level?
Yes. Once you graduate from the MDes program, you are well qualified to apply for lecturer, adjunct, and faculty positions at the university level. In addition, if you held teaching assistantship positions during your time at the University of Washington, this experience plays an important role demonstrating your capacity as a design instructor.
Do MDes alumni work in a specific area of design?
No. In the same way that MDes students enter the program with a range of expertise and areas of interest in design, they leave the program with new perspectives on design but still a lot of flexibility on the areas of design they want to work in.