Program details

The terminal Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Graphic Design at Iowa State University’s College of Design is your gateway to a dynamic career in visual communication and design innovation. The program focuses on communication design, problem-solving, and critical engagement with a contemporary media landscape. Graduates are proficient in communication design and the use of technologies that incorporate interaction with information, environments, objects, and interfaces.

Our MFA program will give you the opportunity to identify new professional positions, explore diverse opportunities, and define your space within the design industry.

Program benefits: 

  • Supportive funding: The highest quality applications will be offered competitively awarded scholarships, research opportunities, and paid assistantships to support their academic journey.
  • Streamlined curriculum: Our funnel-type program gradually reduces the course work as the degree progresses, allowing you more time to focus on your thesis as you near graduation.
  • Collaborative environment: Work alongside a cohort of students at various stages of the program, fostering an interpersonal environment where you can share experiences and knowledge.
  • Thesis focus: Your thesis will be centered around real-life work or problem-solving scenarios. Your thesis serves as a guiding roadmap as you transition into the next step in your professional career.
  • Dedicated workspace: MFA students in Graphic Design receive dedicated workspace currently located in the Student Innovation Center at Iowa State University, ensuring they always have a place to be creative.


The MFA is recognized as a terminal degree and requires a minimum of 60 credits. Students and faculty work collaboratively on a required thesis, integrating theory, research, and design problem-solving. An MFA thesis is a rigorous, scholarly, creative endeavor that demonstrates the ability of the student to do independent design work. Precise expression, logical construction and attention to detail are essential. However, considerable variation in style and format is possible.

We are pleased to offer the unique opportunity to pursue a double degree, combining the MFA program with other programs within and outside the College of Design. Earn the MFA and a second degree, such as the Master of Science in Human-Computer Interaction simultaneously while maintaining the high standards of both programs. In many cases, the time to double-degree completion is the same as the MFA. However, it is possible to add an additional semester to complete the work if a student chooses.

Iowa State University’s Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design degree program is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

Recent Student Work

Application requirements

Anyone applying for admission to the Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design program must complete the Iowa State University Graduate College online application. As part of the application, you will be asked to provide:

  • Official academic transcripts indicating a Bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) and a minimum 3.0/4.0 GPA
  • Three letters of recommendation from individuals from your educational or professional background who can most directly speak about your ability to complete graduate level course work and teaching duties.
    • You will be asked within the application to provide the names and email addresses for your three references; when you submit the application, the three individuals will receive an email notification from ISU Admissions with a link to the recommendation form
  • A statement of academic and personal interest including your career goals and reasons for applying for the program (500 word maximum)
    • Please address why you have selected graphic design at Iowa State for graduate study, your specific graduate study objectives and professional goals after graduation, and your proposed area of inquiry (the questions you hope to investigate and the faculty you would like to work with and why)
  • Digital portfolio (PDF or website), including at least 10 (but no more than 20) examples of your creative work; one project must demonstrate and explain your creative process through images and text
    • PDF format must be in US letter, US tabloid, A4, or A3, and landscape orientation is preferred; PDF file size must be less than 20MB
    • Links to video and audio content is encouraged, and if any projects involved collaboration or your were a member of a team please describe your role on the project
    • If your portfolio is web-based, upload a PDF document that indicates the website where your portfolio may be viewed
  • Resume, including scholarships, honors, awards, exhibitions, publications, outstanding extracurricular activities, employment experience, and research
  • English Proficiency Exam (international applicants only)
  • Financial statement (international applicants only)

Consideration date

The priority application submission date for fall admission and a graduate assistantship is February 1. Applications completed by April 1 will also be reviewed for admission but will not be considered for a graduate assistantship.

Career opportunities:

  • Recent graduates are teaching in higher education, working in industry, and starting their own practice.
  • Students leave the MFA empowered to identify new positions or opportunities in an organization, define more effective workspaces and proactively break down barriers in the graphic design field.


Graphic design students learning audio equipment and mixing in AK Studio class with Alex Braidwood in Los Angeles.

A Designer in the Making.

Find your place at Iowa State University’s College of Design, where we like to ask questions, poke and prod, create something new, and make a difference through design.