M.F.A. in Design

Sana Khan
Sana Khan, MFA Reviews, 2019

Most academic and professional institutions of higher education recognize the Master of Fine Arts in Design as the terminal degree for designers. This degree has become the standard prerequisite for those who intend to teach at the college level. It is also appropriate for individuals seeking to further develop their professional careers as design thinkers and researchers. The department also awards the M.A. degree, but only to students who are not accepted to degree candidacy in the M.F.A. program.

The Department of Art, Art History & Design offers the M.F.A. degree focusing on industrial design or visual communication design. The Master of Fine Arts degree at Notre Dame is for designers with exceptional talent and strong academic skills. The program combines studio work with academic studies in art history and criticism. Students may concentrate in industrial design or visual communication design plus explore areas of fine arts including ceramics, painting, photography, printmaking, or sculpture as well as other areas of interest at the university.

Students pursue areas of interest through a system of independent study with departmental faculty and a graduate committee selected by each student. Graduate students are expected to develop a personal direction in their work that culminates in a professional exhibition of design and research.

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Program Requirements

  • Admission to the third year of the M.F.A. program (M.F.A. Candidacy)
  • The successful completion of a written thesis approved by the student’s thesis committee
  • The completion of a thesis project: an exhibition of creative work that is approved by the art and design faculty
  • Submission of 10 slides documenting the completed thesis project to the departmental slide library

Credit Hours

The M.F.A. degree is a design and research degree that requires three years or six semesters of study and 60 graduate credit hours with a B (3.0 GPA) or better average, including nine credit hours of art history, three credit hours in ARHI 63750 (Graduate Seminar), and ten credit hours of ARST 78708 (Thesis Direction). The minimum residency requirement for the M.F.A. degree is registration in full-time status for two years or four semesters during the academic year. Students who are not in residence but still in the process of finishing an M.F.A. degree must be enrolled for a minimum of one credit hour of ARST 78706 (Non-resident Thesis) each semester.


All graduate students are allocated a spacious, secure, and well-appointed studio space that provides network access. Design students share the advantages of a campus that is rich in contemporary technology and still retains a deep appreciation for a heritage of traditional human values and wisdom. Technically advanced lecture rooms and digital labs support all student design activities. Additional hardware and software available to graduate design students include specialized computer hardware and the most current computer applications recognized in the industry.


  • The active visiting designer and scholars program brings several speakers to campus every semester.
  • Notre Dame’s location, 90 miles east of Chicago, provides easy access to view design exhibitions, tour studios and agencies, and to attend AIGA- and ACD-sponsored events.
  • The close location to Chicago also provides professional affiliation with both the Midwest and Mideast IDSA Districts. Industry-sponsored projects are integral parts of the industrial design curriculum.


Director of Graduate Studies
Jason Lahr
Department of Art, Art History, and Design
University of Notre Dame
322 Riley Hall of Art
Notre Dame, IN 46556-5673

ph: 574.631.5605
e: jlahr@nd.edu