Jul 23, 2024  
USC Catalogue 2019-2020 
USC Catalogue 2019-2020 [ARCHIVED CATALOGUE]

Design (MFA)

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Programs by School

A five-term program administered in collaboration with the Graduate School, the Master of Fine Arts in Design is a professional degree in the practice of design. A progressive degree option is available on a competitive basis to current Roski undergraduate students. With a faculty of influential design professionals and an expansive, retrofitted building in the downtown arts district, the MFA Design program seeks to be an ambitious and far-reaching addition to educational design community in Southern California.

In addition to mentored relationships with the design faculty, students participate in regular seminars, discussions and studio visits with leading visiting designers, writers and theorists from around the world. The Roski School’s partnership and affiliation with the contemporary design community in Los Angeles, such as American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), is a critical component of the MFA Design program.

The opportunity to gain experience as a teaching assistant is available on a competitive basis. All incoming students, regardless of country of citizenship, are considered for departmental funding and teaching assistantships.


The Roski MFA Design thesis committee will comprise three faculty members. Two members will be Roski faculty, defined as currently teaching in the Roski graduate program with either full-time, part-time or adjunct appointments, tenure-track or non-tenure track. A third member can be any full-time tenure track or non-tenure track USC faculty member, either within the Roski School or from outside Roski. Thesis committees are ultimately subject to approval by the school dean.

Master of Fine Arts Design students are evaluated by faculty during reviews held near the end of each semester.

Before a student is recommended for the Master of Fine Arts, a comprehensive review of past work and professional goals is held. A written thesis, documented with visual material, and a practice-based component, such as an exhibition of work, a public presentation, community project or a course syllabus at the end of the course of study, complete the Master of Fine Arts program. A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 on all graduate work is required for the Master of Fine Arts degree.


Admission is competitive and based on an application and portfolio submission at Slideroom.com

An undergraduate degree in Design or its equivalent with a GPA of at least 3.0 is required. Applications are accepted in the spring for the fall. Preference will be given to full-time students, although part-time study can be accommodated with the director’s approval. 

Application materials include the following:

1. USC Graduate Application

2. Transcripts (waived for Progressive Degree applicants)

3. Three letters of recommendation

4. Personal statement and CV

5. A portfolio of 20 images, submitted at slideroom.com

6. Results of the TOEFL or IELTS (international students only)


See the Roski Website roski.usc.edu for additional information about the MFA Design program.

Program Requirements

At least 56 units are required for the Master of Fine Arts in Design, to be distributed as follows:

Elective Courses (26 units)

  • 18 units of 400-level or higher coursework within Roski School of Art and Design, 10 of which must be at the 500-level or higher
  • 8 units of 400-level or higher coursework outside Roski School of Art and Design


All elective courses (Roski and non-Roski) must be approved by the Director of the MFA Design program. 

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Programs by School