Master of Arts in Design

The 30-unit, two-year Master of Arts in Design program emphasizes problem-solving competencies that facilitate the ability to solve many problems, which can be both conceptual and practical in nature. Graduate students in the Master of Arts in Design program study visual communication and product design with an interdisciplinary perspective or may develop a specialized area of study in graphic design and/or visual communications, product design and/or manufacturing, industrial technology, project management, or digital media.


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Application Procedures

Applications for the Master of Arts in Design program are accepted October 1 through May 1 for admission the following fall semester.

Apply Through the Division of Graduate Studies

Admission procedures and eligibility requirements are available from the Division of Graduate Studies and SF State Bulletin (Catalog):

Applications are accepted through Cal State Apply. The Cal State Apply application for Design will include basic information and upload areas for a statement of purpose, portfolio, transcripts, and letters of recommendation, and other supporting documents. We recommend that you prepare these documents before starting your Cal State Apply application.

Application requirements include:

  • Undergraduate degree with an overall 3.0 grade point average.
  • Portfolio with visual, written, and technical documentation examples.
  • Current résumé or cv.
  • Statement of purpose (500-750 words) : Tell us why you want to attend the Graduate Program in Design at SFSU. Include your research emphasis or interest and what you believe you can contribute to graduate study. How will graduate study at SFSU in the School of Design facilitate your future career goals? You may discuss any personal, educational, or career highlights if you wish.
  • 3 letters of recommendation. These can be requested through Cal State Apply.
  • Portfolio, or Evidence of Creative, Written, or Technical Work (or work that best exemplifies your past discipline of study and/or professional experience). This may include: - visual materials (binder; slides; printouts, video) - written materials (articles; publications; papers) - technical; professional documentation/examples Portfolio materials may be submitted as a PDF file or online via a URL.
  • Graduate Record Exam (GRE) Writing Analytical Exam, with a score of 4 or higher, is recommended but not required.
  • Record of language scores (TOEFL or IELTS) is required for international student.
  • Applications are due on May 1st. Late applications may be considered on a space-available basis.

Program Requirements and Curriculum

For graduates, the normal load during spring and fall is from nine to twelve units per Fall and Spring semester. For international students, immigration regulations require a minimum academic load of twelve units for undergraduates and eight units for graduates for spring and fall semesters.

Additional details about the Master of Arts in Design are available from the SF State Bulletin (Catalog).

Program Learning Outcomes

The MA in Design Program will help students to:

  • Prepare to pursue professional work in design firms, teaching, project management, strategic planning for design firms, or management roles in technology.
  • Build problem-solving competencies, both conceptual and practical.
  • Study visual communication design and product design with an interdisciplinary perspective.
  • Work closely with graduate advisors to design an M.A. program that meets their career goals.
  • Engage in focused, critical research into a chosen design problem.
  • Develop a specialized area of study in graphic design/visual communication design, product design/manufacturing, industrial technology, project management, or digital media.
  • Develop a Culminating Experience Proposal and Project reflective of their professional interests.
  • Program may help students prepare for doctoral work at other institutions.

Fees and Expenses


  • Estimated Per Semester Resident Tuition and Fees: $4,346.00

Nonresident (U.S. and International)

In addition to the estimated regular tuition and registration fees listed above, nonresidents of the State of California must pay an additional $396 per unit (or fraction) for nonresident tuition fee. The total nonresident tuition fee paid per term will be determined by the number of units taken.

  • Estimated Per Semester Nonresident Tuition and Fees: $7,910-$9,098, depending on number of units enrolled

Mailing address

School of Design
c/o San Francisco State University
1600 Holloway Ave
San Francisco, CA 94132

MA Video Playlist

MA Graduate Journal

  • Acumen: Insight into the Design Process - Spring 2012

    Acumen: Insight into the Design Process - Spring 2012

    Art for Social Change in Iran. Waterflow and the Environment. The Fight for Equality in Health and Healthcare. The Revival of Bicycle Parts. Who Designed the Pack on Your Back? The Sustainable Future. Public Transit Ticketing Systems. The Light Clock.

  • Acumen: Insight into the Design Process - Spring 2011

    Acumen: Insight into the Design Process - Spring 2011

    Macro View, Micro Space. Print and Digital Technologies and the Importance of Aura. Light on the Beautiful Life. Bridging the Gap Between Spandex and Haute Couture. The Architecture of Healing. Let's Make Those Ramps!

  • Acumen: Insight into the Design Process - Spring 2010

    Acumen: Insight into the Design Process - Spring 2010

    Design with Respect. Trash to Treasure. From Real to Virtual. The Sense of Unity. All-Around Green. The Challenges of Teaching Graphic Design. Imagination for Innovation. Tarot. Closing the Gamut. Design is Research. Ra'ad Rehabilitation Goodwill Complex in Tehran, Iran. Shades of Gray.

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