Master of Arts in Design

The 30-unit, two-year Master of Arts in Design program emphasizes problem-solving methodologies and their application to both conceptual and practical problems. The program is interdisciplinary across visual communication and product design. Students develop a specialized area of focus with assistance from faculty advisors and through engagement with their graduate culminating project (thesis or creative work).

User-centered design methods, universal (inclusive) design, design with community partners, and socially motivated projects are particularly strong areas of our teaching, and align with SF State's mission to prepare students to be innovators and leaders in their communities and beyond.

Program Highlights

  • Faculty expertise ranging from product design to graphic design, visual communication, interactive design, digital modeling and fabrication
  • Open to students from both design and non-design backgrounds
  • Opportunities to participate in dynamic San Francisco Bay Area design community
  • Outstanding faculty to student ratio
  • On-site design facilities
  • Accessible class schedules to accommodate working students
  • International student applicants are welcome

Contact Hsiao-Yun Chu, the graduate coordinator, for more information.

Three design program students

Program Learning Outcomes

The M.A. 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.

Graduate Program Joins WRGP

We are pleased to announce that the School of Design is now part of the Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP) which enables students in 16 Western states and territories to enroll in participating public graduate programs as nonresidents, yet pay the lower resident tuition rate. This will apply to students from the 16 applicable states who enroll in the M.A. in Design program starting Fall 2019.

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).

M.A. in Design: Creative Project

Learn more about the proposal process, guidelines and schedule of the Create Project.


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.


Financial Aid and Scholarships

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

Apply to 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 showing evidence of visual design, artistic, written, and/or technical work.*
  • Current résumé or cv.
  • Statement of purpose (500-750 words) : Tell us why you want to attend the MA in Design program at SF State. Include your research emphasis or interest and what you believe you can contribute to graduate study. How will graduate study in the School of Design facilitate your future career goals? You may discuss any personal, educational, or career highlights if you wish.
  • Three (3) letters of recommendation. These can be requested through Cal State Apply.
  • Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is not required.
  • Record of language scores (TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE) is required for international students. The minimum accepted TOEFL score is 80 (iBT) or 550 (PBT); the minimum IELTS score is an overall band score of 6.5; minimum Pearson Test of English score is 59.
  • Applications are due on May 1. Late applications may be considered on a space-available basis.

* Portfolio should include evidence of creative, written, or technical work (or work that best exemplifies your past educational and/or professional experiences). This may include: visual materials (design projects and renderings); fine art/craft work; written materials (articles, publications); and or technical/professional pieces. Not all of these categories need to be represented in the portfolio. Ideally, we would also like to see sketches, illustrations, and/or renderings showing an ability to express ideas visually. Please describe the work briefly and specify your role in its creation. Portfolio materials may be submitted as a PDF file or online via a URL.

Please consider making a donation directly to the Masters in Design program. If you are interested in exploring alternative methods of supporting the program, whether through targeted donations or through non-financial means, please contact the department director, Prof Mari Hulick, or the Graduate Program Coordinator, Dr. Hsiao-Yun Chu. Targeted donations could range from donating book collections to endowing a named professorial chair. The program welcomes all manner of support from friends and alumni.

Group of three happy people who attended one of the events of this master's program

Are there any scholarships available? 

Information about scholarships and fellowships can be found here.

Are there any teaching assistant positions available?

 No, all of the classes in the School of Design are instructor-led, and there are no paid teaching assistant positions available.

Are international students eligible to work?

Eligible F-1 and J-1 students may work on-campus as student assistants, tutors, teaching assistants, etc. but not as work-study students. For more information, please see On-Campus Employment. Additional questions may be directed to

How does SFSU's tuition compare to other MA programs in Design?

Our tuition is very affordable compared to other MA programs in Design in the Bay Area, both for resident and non-resident students. Students from 14 Western states qualify for resident tuition through the WICHE program. You can see a recent tuition comparison here.

Where can I go for more information?

If you have further questions, please email us at Your question will be routed to the appropriate party.

Do you accept applications from people who do not have an undergraduate major in design?

Yes, we welcome applications regardless of your undergraduate major. Approximately half of our current graduate students have an undergraduate major in design or a related field, and approximately half do not.

Is the GRE required for this application?

No, the GRE is not required.

What are you looking for in a portfolio?

We are looking for evidence that indicates that you would be a good candidate for graduate study in design. This might include: design projects that you worked on as an undergraduate, projects that you worked on professionally, written examples that highlight your skills and experiences, websites or graphic design tasks that you worked on, artistic works, etc. Depending on the person, you might have some, but not necessarily all, of these represented in your portfolio.

If you do not come from a design background, you may have other evidence that shows you are a good candidate for graduate study. For example, perhaps you have done drawing, photography, painting, or other arts in the past and you could include some of that work. Maybe you are a published author and you can include some examples of articles that you have written. Or perhaps you come from a technical background and you can upload technical briefs or diagrams from your past work. Or maybe you have done some computer graphics work in the past. Any of these would be welcome in a portfolio.

We would also prefer to see any sketches, illustrations, or renderings that show your ability to express creative ideas visually.

How many pieces of work should I show in my portfolio?

We encourage you to show your best work in whatever medium it is. We suggest that your portfolio should include a minimum of 5-7 works and possibly more.

We also ask you to include a brief sentence or paragraph explaining the nature of the work and your role in its creation, so that we can understand what the project/document/picture represent and what your contribution was. This is especially important in the case of collaborative works.

Do you accept late applications?

Occasionally, we will accept late applications on a space available basis. Please try to get your application in on time in order to maximize your chances of admission. Please contact the School of Design by email at in case you wish to file a late application.

When will I find out my application decision?

We review all application materials on a rolling basis. Depending on when your application is completed, we hope to give you a decision within 4-6 weeks. Sometimes it will be longer due to university breaks, holidays, etc. Incomplete applications will not be reviewed until they are complete. Because our admissions are done on a rolling basis, it is best to get your application in on the early side.

Do you maintain a waitlist for people who were not immediately admitted?

Yes, a subset of applications are usually waitlisted and additional students may be added in on a space available basis.

Is design considered a STEM field?

No, design is not currently considered a STEM field.