School of Visual Arts

M.F.A. - Design


209 E 23rd St.

New York City, NY 10010

United States





Program Information

Degrees Offered:

M.F.A. - Design

Format: Campus

Program Description:

As a profession, graphic design weds art and commerce, form and content, and aesthetics and function. It began in the late 19th century as a service-oriented field with a few visionary practitioners emerging in each generation who set the standards and styles and established its philosophical underpinnings. For more than a decade advances in media have created many new creative opportunities, changing the role of graphic designers by forcing them to go beyond simply framing ideas into content development. Although production skills are necessary, graphic designers are increasingly in demand to contribute original “design thinking” into such fields as branding, publishing, editorial, packaging and products. The floodgates were opened with the advent of the computer; graphic design has been a component of a larger creative practice ever since. At this crossroads, designers were given the choice to become glorified production “artists,” framing and finessing others’ ideas, or building upon their expertise, develop concepts integral to the success of a client’s wares. The MFA Designer as Author program was the first in the country to emphasize an entrepreneurial course of study that raises the level of design expertise and achievement. The quintessential MFA Designer as Author student comes to this unique program with the desire to extend his or her practices beyond conventional graphic design into distinct realms of content creation. For the past decade we have made students into authors, producers and entrepreneurs of their own ideas. We believe that the danger in having unprecedented access to new and future media is that graphic designers could be edged out of the creative process. Authorship and entrepreneurship are viable alternatives and this program is predicated on the increasing need for designers to apply their wits and skills as providers throughout all the visual media—from print to digital. The concept of design authorship is, first and foremost, rooted in the independent creation of ideas. Developing concepts and finding the best forms to express and package them through design is key. Our students are form-givers and thus committed to originality. The outcome of the program is to develop and promote new products of value that are responsive to the needs and wants of a society in flux and to contribute objects and campaigns of worth that integrate the best in design and design thinking. The opportunity to build design skill and confidence through making a unique product is in itself a valuable process. Students must be fluent in the languages of graphic design and, particularly, typography, and increasingly more adept in motion and sound as well. They must be able to explain their ideas verbally and visually, for a good idea is nothing if it cannot be well articulated. We do not teach students how to design, but rather how to optimize their abilities to rise to the next professional level. In addition, we welcome those who have backgrounds in other fields and media. We believe it is important for the designer of the present and future to be thoroughly integrated into many communications platforms, if only to command the options that are and will be available. Our students are encouraged to draw inspiration from other visual and communication arts that share authorial practices. In this way, the program has not been restricted to the conventional curriculum. Instead, we embrace a broad set of visual, verbal and textual approaches as the foundation for student—and professional—activity. Our MFA studio is accessible 24 hours a day, and is designed to simulate an operational design/media firm with spacious work-stations that allow for individual and collaborative work. Students also have unlimited access to high-end editing rooms, a conference room, a design library (with 2000 current volumes) and a student-run exhibition gallery. Students also direct “Crit,” the graduate student design blog, and create websites to showcase our annual exhibitions. The program remains connected to the professional world while being in the academic one. MFA Designer as Author is tailored for students and professionals with backgrounds in graphic design, and we encourage those with environmental, product, Web, interaction design, film and photography backgrounds who are interested in further developing their skills in unique and progressive ways. For more information about our graduation rates, the median debt of students who completed the program, and other important information, please visit our website.


The School of Visual Arts (SVA) been authorized by the New York State Board of Regents to confer the degrees of Bachelor of Fine Arts, Master of Arts, Master of Arts in Teaching, Master of Fine Arts, and Master of Professional Studies. Specific programs in which these degrees are offered, and data required by the U.S. Department of Education on "Gainful Employment" for each program, may be found on SVA is accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, and is an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. The Interior Design program is accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation; the Art Therapy program is approved by the American Art Therapy Association, Inc.; and the Art Education program is accredited by the New York State Regents Accreditation of Teacher Education (RATE).  

Facts & Figures

Financial Aid: Yes

International Financial Aid: Yes

Classification: Specialized Institution—School of art, music, or design

Locale: Large City

Size & Settings: 3,000-5,999

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