Program details

The Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Graphic Design focuses on communication design, problem solving, and the use of visual language, symbology and interaction. Graduates are proficient in the design of communications and the use of technologies that incorporate human interaction with environments, objects, and electronic and traditional publications.


The MFA is recognized as the terminal degree in the field and requires a minimum of 60-credits. Students and faculty also work collaboratively on a required thesis; integrating theory, creation, research, and design problem solving. An MFA thesis is a scholarly endeavor that demonstrates the ability of the author to do independent creative work. Precise expression, logical construction and attention to detail are essential. However, considerable variation in style and format is possible. A thesis may have an experimental, historical, philosophical or technical emphasis.

We are pleased to offer the unique opportunity for you to pursue a double degree between our MFA and programs within and outside the College of Design. Earn the MFA and a second degree simultaneously while maintaining the high standards of both programs. In many cases, the time to degree completion is lengthened only by one or two semesters.

The MFA in Graphic Design 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.

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.