Master of Graphic Design

Master of Graphic Design

The Masters of Graphic Design program helps move the passionate student toward deeper knowledge of the discipline and more purposeful, individually driven design practices.

Faculty charge graduate students to closely examine the cultural and technological situatedness of graphic design and its products, and to seek understanding of the people who use and interact with the things that graphic designers make. Coursework acquaints students with relevant theories and design research methods that frame and ground the design of propositional visual communication systems. Student inquiry into contemporary and emergent design issues prepares graduates of the program for leadership positions that both evolve the profession and advance the discipline.

Successful completion of the MGD degree also qualifies graduates to teach at the university level and to pursue a PhD in Design.

The MGD program is NASAD (National Association of Schools of Art and Design) accredited and is consistently recognized as one of the top graduate programs in the country. The faculty is nationally and internationally recognized. Our alumni are designers in leading professional offices around the world, faculty members in colleges and universities throughout the US, and doctoral students in PhD programs worldwide.

MGD II: The Two-year Master of Graphic Design Track

The MGD II program targets students who have earned a BFA in graphic design and are practiced in visual communication, interaction design, and related design fields. The curriculum pairs seminars with studios in the first three semesters. Overarching topics prompt students to explore core design concerns: the cultural contexts of design, the influence and experiences of end users, and the social and technological environments within which designed artifacts operate. Varying subtopics within these broad concerns allow faculty and students the opportunity to frame, research, and respond to particular design challenges.

Studios, seminars, and workshops expose students to histories, design (and related) theories, and research methods that point to current and emerging practices. Students investigate questions individually and collaboratively around the design of communication and interaction in several ways: through making (visualizations, visual diagrams, and functioning prototypes, for instance); assigned and independent reading and research; discussion and critique; and writing. Students also enroll in at least one elective offered in the college, university, or our affiliate universities, Duke University and UNC, Chapel Hill.

Students create a body of work as they explore research interest areas within studio and seminar subtopics. The experience of creating this work, coupled with researching and writing, positions students to identify a specific design investigation in their final year, which culminates in the required Final Project. For this work, students comprehensively research an area of interest, design propositional artifacts (findings), document the research and findings in a written thesis, and present the project in a public forum.

MGD III: The Three-year Master of Graphic Design Track

The MGD III program targets students who have some professional experience but who have not earned a first degree in graphic design or have earned a BA (graphic design concentration). Students enroll in two semesters of coursework prior to matriculating to the MGD II program. The curriculum is comprised of six studio­-based courses and two lecture/seminar courses. 6 credit studios cover systems design for user experience, visual communication, branding, service design, and other distinct graphic design topics. Additional 3 credit studio courses focus on subjects such as mobile interaction, typography, and coding for interaction design.

Program Expectations

  • Graduate education differs from undergraduate study. The bachelor degree establishes core skills and general knowledge with which to build careers in mainstream design practice. Graduate education, by contrast, asks students to establish design and research agendas that will help shape the future of the profession as well as their own careers (Applicants aiming for an entry-level position in graphic design should apply to the Bachelor of Graphic Design program).
  • MGD faculty expect students to exhibit behaviors and fashion inquiries that deepen individual knowledge, further design making and thinking skills, and anticipate the future of graphic design practice. To this end, students should demonstrate:
  • Intellectual curiosity and independent thought;
  • Self-motivation for mastering literature and discourse in the discipline and related fields;
  • Processes for posing researchable questions and corresponding design studies;
  • The ability to analyze and synthesize current user experience principles;
  • Creativity and insight in the development and uses of form;
  • Time commitment that yields thoughtful, thorough, and sophisticated investigations;
  • A collaborative attitude.

Graphic Design Admission Requirements

In addition to Graduate School admission requirements, the MGD program requires:

  • 5 visual examples for initial application review, submitted via SlideRoom (digital/multimedia files). Note that a US$10 fee is charged for this part of the application process.
  • A portfolio website that extensively represents the full range and depth of applicant visual work beyond the initial review examples submitted via SlideRoom. Label each project as professional, student, or self-generated work. List the year that the work was created, and briefly describe the project. Provide the URL link in the resumé
  • From applicants who do not hold an undergraduate degree in Graphic Design (or a similar visual communication discipline): GRE scores. The program considers the GRE score in relation to all other submitted application information, therefore, there is no threshold score.
  • From international applicants whose first language is not English: TOEFL or IELTS scores. (Minimum scores: TOEFL 100, IELTS 7.)