M.F.A. Design

Do you want to cultivate your knowledge and skills in diverse design disciplines?
Degree Type Master of Fine Arts
Careers & Salaries Graduate Degree Outcomes
Delivery Hybrid

Our Master of Fine Arts in Design program, a 60-credit terminal degree, combines practical problem-solving, ‘change the world’ mentality and innovative teaching in an art school experience that will help you grow as a designer, provide cross-disciplinary opportunities, and prepare you for creative leadership or teaching.

You'll reach across multiple design disciplines to find a unique focus area tailored to your interests. / UW-Stout

With its outstanding reputation for undergraduate art and design programs, UW–Stout is uniquely positioned to offer this cross-disciplinary graduate program. The MFA in Design incorporates a broad spectrum of design research and reflects an interdisciplinary approach to understanding design and design processes.

Our Cross-Disciplinary Setting

  • Graphic design
  • Game design
  • Industrial design
  • Interior design
  • Interactive Media & UX
  • Digital Cinema, Photography & Video
  • Animation & Digital Media
  • Sustainable Design

You will work with our dedicated faculty to create a focus area tailored to your interests through our robust course offerings and independent projects. Our students' work often draws from and combines with other disciplines. The research topics our students explore are not limited to our disciplinary boundaries, and seek to advance understanding of design's role in society.

Awards & Research Dissemination

The MFA in Design is regularly ranked by the Princeton Review as a Top Graduate Program for Game Design. In addition, students from the program frequently present their work in film festivals, exhibitions, competitions, and a variety of academic design conferences.

Where Are They Now?

Recent graduates of the MFA in Design are shaping the future of design with positions in both industry and academia.

  • Apple
  • Chippewa Valley Technical College
  • DreamWorks Animation
  • Edward Jones
  • Gustavus Adolphus College
  • Ramsey Engler LTD
  • Shutterfly
  • UW–River Falls
  • UW–Stout
  • Vancouver College of Art and Design
  • Wold Architects

Program Overview

View program plans, credit requirements and course descriptions.


The program provides a unique opportunity for experiential learning through collaborative faculty-student projects that reach across design disciplines. Courses will be delivered through a Customized Instruction model that accommodates working adults as well as day students—day classes, advanced studios, and independent study can be tailored for each student in a variety of flexible ways, including some online coursework. 

Meaningful Experiences

Our program prepares you for roles in the academic community and as design professionals and leaders.

Design class looks into outdoor museum on blue-green algae awareness

A group of Master of Fine Arts in Design students, working with the university’s LAKES REU project, recently created the concept of having an outdoor museum in Menomonie that would help educate visitors about the blue-green algae issue on Lake Menomin and, in turn, possibly gain more advocacy about cleaner water.

“Design research consists of strategies and techniques designers use when tackling creative projects,” Erik Evensen, M.F.A. Design program director said. “At the graduate level, it usually means using research to dive into complex, interdisciplinary problems, just like the phosphorus pollution issue in the watershed. These students took on this challenge, utilized some intimidating research practices, and executed some really thoughtful and exciting solutions. I think this project has a lot of potential for real-world applications. We're definitely starting a conversation about what this could actually look like here in Menomonie.”

Global competition, a workplace that increasingly values creative workers, the increasing role of evidence-based design, and the search for sustainability have created the need for a new model for graduate education in design. The MFA in Design will prepare you to become transformational practitioners and educators with a focus on innovation, breaking boundaries, design leadership and sustainable models of practice.

"I really enjoyed my time in the M.F.A. Design program. As an international student, the program director and faculty helped me a lot with both my schoolwork and life. The program challenged my ability and encouraged me to explore my potential. I am more confident about my communication skills and critical thinking. Both traits will help me be competitive in the industry."

-- Liang Wu
M.F.A Design

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Tuition & Fees

Customized Instruction at UW Stout can be described as programs that are designed with the adult learner in mind. If you're comparing UW-Stout's customized instruction tuition to our competitors, keep in mind:

  • Customized instruction tuition rate includes the textbook rental fee.
  • There are no additional university-based semester or technology fees.
  • Students in customized instruction programs pay the same rate of tuition regardless if Wisconsin residents, out-of-state or international participants.

Value for your Money

There’s more to value than just tuition. UW Stout also provides:

  • Program Director – faculty with discipline expertise.
  • Student Services adviser – one point of contact, providing support to students for each program.
  • Course sequences and matrices – know what courses are offered when so you can plan ahead.
  • Courses and programs may be stackable for use in another program.
  • Courses are flexible and convenient for working professionals.

Other universities will present costs and value differently - make sure you're comparing apples to apples.

Example Course Plan

This is an example of a three-year course plan for a full-time student. This is not reflective of part-time study. Please review the Graduate Bulletin for the official program planner, credit requirements, and course descriptions.

First Year (21 credits)
Fall Semester

  • DES-700 Design Seminar I (3 cr.) core
  • DES-701 Visual Communication for Graduate Study (3 cr.) studio elective
  • DES-561 Transmedia Studio (3 cr.) studio elective

Spring Semester

  • ARTH-720 History of Design Seminar (3 cr.) core
  • DES-725 Research Strategies in Design (3 cr.) core
  • DES-712 Sustainable Design Practice (3 cr.) core
  • Focus Elective (3 cr.)

Second Year (21 credits)
Fall Semester

  • ART-614 Color Seminar (3 cr.) studio elective
  • DES-750 Graduate Design Studio (3 cr.) studio elective 
  • Focus Elective (3 cr.) 


  • DES-710 Ethics in Design (3 cr.) core

Spring Semester

  • DES-XXX (3 cr.) studio elective 
  • DES-730 Critical Issues in Design Education & Practice (3 cr.) core
  • DES-800 Design Seminar II (3 cr.) core

Third Year (18 credits)
Fall Semester

  • DES-870 Creative Thesis in Design (3 cr.) core
  • DES-750 Graduate Design Studio (3 cr.) studio elective 
  • Focus Elective (3 cr.) 

Spring Semester

  • DES-870 Creative Thesis in Design (3 cr.) core
  • DES-870 Creative Thesis in Design (3 cr.) core
  • DES-XXX (3 cr.) studio elective 
Admission Requirements

General UW-Stout Graduate School Application

All prospective graduate students at UW-Stout must follow a standard application process through our Graduate School. Beyond that, each graduate program has specific requirements that must be met to be successfully admitted to the program:

Program-Specific Admission Requirements

To apply to the M.F.A. Design program, you will need to submit additional application materials through our SlideRoom account:

Visual Portfolio

10-15 examples of creative/professional work from your area(s) of expertise:

  • A series of 10-15 images or documents of creative/professional work, and brief written descriptions. 
  • A limit of 5 motion/video images will be accepted as part of the total 10-15 examples, each no more than 3 minutes in length. External video links accepted.

All work must be created by you, the applicant. Failure to follow this rule will result in immediate rejection. If your work is the result of a group project, highlight the role you played in its creation within the written description list.

Written Statement of Interest

This 2-3 page statement should describe your goals for graduate study, your topics of interest for research and exploration, and should provide context for your work included in the visual portfolio. PDF preferred.

Resume or Curriculum Vitae

PDF Preferred, and titled with your last name (i.e. Nelson_CurriculumVitae.pdf).

Candidate Recommendation Form

Three letters of reference from individuals who can speak to your abilities or potential as a designer, creative practitioner, and graduate student. PDF preferred.

All program application materials should be submitted digitally through SlideRoom.

MFA Design Advisory Committee

2020 Design Advisory Board

Erik Evensen Program Director Department of Design
Seth Berrier Associate Professor Department of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science
Robert Fraher Associate Professor Department of Design
Amelia Kennedy Design Manager 3D Design Studio - Target
Kimberly Long-Loken Assistant Professor Department of Design
Rochelle Maresh Senior Interior Designer Target
Joan Menefee Professor Department of English & Philosophy
Sarah Murawski Graphic Design Manager Great Northern Corporation
Julie Peterson Associate Professor, Program Director, Chair Department of Design
Vincent Pontillo-Verrastro Assistant Professor Department of Art & Art History
Glendali Rodriguez Associate Vice Chancellor Provost's Office (ex-officio)
Shane Sanders MFA in Design Student Representative
Elizabeth Sanders Associate Professor Department of Design, The Ohio State University
Fred Sklenar Creative Director Great Northern Corporation
Rich Walters Product Design Manager LSR
Julie Watts Professor Department of English & Philosophy, Founding Director of MSTPC


All Design News

New rankings push game design program to elite national level

The game design and development bachelor’s degree programs at UW-Stout are among the very best in the nation.

Graduate students propose design solutions for local museum

Students from UW-Stout's Master of Fine Arts in design program spent the spring semester collaborating with the Dunn County Historical Society to find design op

Class of 2020: Liang Wu

Master of Fine Arts in Design graduate thankful for faculty support, excited about his future