S: M.F.A. Design

Grow your leadership abilities in diverse design disciplines.

Design Your Future in Creative Leadership. 

At UW-Stout, our Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) in Design is not just a degree—it's your canvas to lead, inspire, and instigate change. Blending practical problem-solving with a 'change the world' ethos, we elevate the traditional art school experience, crafting leaders who are as adept at teaching as they are at design. The M.F.A in Design is accredited by the National Association for Schools of Art and Design.

National Reputation & Recognition

The MFA in Design is regularly ranked by the Princeton Review as a Top Graduate Program for Game Design. In addition, students from the program frequently present their work in film festivals, exhibitions, competitions, and a variety of academic design conferences.

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Nationally Ranked

Top graduate program for game design.
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Refining Your Expertise

Our M.F.A. Design program utilizes a cross-disciplinary approach allowing you to blend your interests into a personalized education path. Our dedicated faculty work with you to weave course offerings and independent projects leveraging synergies among diverse disciplines.

Focus Areas

  • Animation & Digital Media
  • Cinema, Video, & Photography
  • Experience Design
  • Game Design & Development
  • Graphic Design & Interactive Media 
  • Industrial & Product Design
  • Interior Design
  • Sustainable Design
  • User Experience Design
Student exploring multiple areas of focus.

Hybrid Degree Model

Designed for contemporary creatives, the UW-Stout M.F.A. in Design operates with a hybrid model, merging flexibility with academic foundation. Core classes are offered during the evenings with a combination of on-campus and online meetings. Students can opt for full-time, on-campus studio courses or customize a part-time plan with hybrid classes and independent projects. This program does not offer a fully online experience.

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Curriculum & Admission Requirements 

Our MFA program's core curriculum fosters an understanding of design principles through an immersive blend of historical insights, ethical frameworks, and sustainable practices. Our students engage in rigorous research strategies, critical analysis of design education, and a culminating creative thesis that together empower them to emerge as thought leaders in the design community.

View program plans, credit requirements and course descriptions. 


Lab, Studios & Galleries

At UW-Stout’s School of Art & Design, our polytechnic tradition merges with diverse studios and labs, from digital realms to tactile arts, empowering you to prototype and perfect your creative pursuits. Every space is designed to foster discovery, ensuring your journey from concept to creation is filled with hands-on learning that defines your future. As you explore and experiment, you’re not just using facilities; you’re crafting a path that harmoniously blends your education with real-world application, supported by our commitment to your success.

View Labs, Studios & Galleries

Vicon Motion Capture Lab
Photogrammetry Lab
Green Screen Studio
Recording Studios
Photography Studios
Editing Suites

Wacom Digital Drawing & Sculpting Labs
Game Design Central Studio
Gaming & Digital Innovation Lab
Digital Fabrication Lab
Traditional Process Lab
Furlong Gallery

Students create character animation in the motion capture studio.

A Legacy of Graduate Success

Since our inaugural graduate in 2015, our MFA alumni have ascended as industry innovators, creative directors, and academic mentors, shaping the future of their respective fields. Their journey from Stout to success is a testament to the transformative education and hands-on experience that propels our graduates to excel and lead.

Featured M.F.A. Thesis Topics

Jackie Cummings, MFA '22
"Playing with Heartbreak: Research and Development for a Game about Breaking Up" Game Design, illustration & storytelling

Jessica Kromrie, MFA '22
"Representation and Diversity in the Horror Genre: How Design Research can Inform the Creation of a Themed Lifestyle Publication" Graphic Design, Art Direction, Cinema/Video

Shane Sanders, MFA '22
"Changing Design Aesthetic: Trends and Social Organizations of the Growing Toy Market for the Adult Collector" Product Development, Toy Design, Entrepreneurship

Drew Hagen, MFA '21
"Out of the Darkness: Defining the Three Eras of Film Noir" Cinema/Photography

Jonathan Wheeler, MFA '21
"Designing the Future: Diegetic Sculpture & Literary Adaptation in Speculative Fiction Cinema" Cinema/Video

Liang Wu, MFA '20
"Web-based Media for Asynchronous Communication Among International Students at the University of Wisconsin–Stout" Graphic Design & Interactive Media

Nicolette Brehm, MFA '20
"From vacant shopping malls to thriving senior living facilities" Interior Design & Sustainability

Hue Vang, MFA '18
"Sun of the Children" Game Design

Dharshana Gopalakrishnan, MFA '18
"Forgotten Treasure: An Ode to the Omaha Train Depot in Menomonie" Interior Design & Sustainability

Michelle Mailey Noben, MFA '17
"No Parent Left Behind: A UX Research & Design Project" Graphic Design & Interactive Media

Jackson Chufeng Yang, MFA '23
“A Thread Through History: How Interlinking Contemporary Art with Paj Ntaub Can Connect Generations.” Graphic Design, Illustration & Storytelling

Andrew Murphy, 2018

Andrew Murphy, 2018
Head of Strategic Projects, Apple

Michelle Mailey Noben, MFA '17

Michelle Mailey Noben, 2017
Sr. Manager of User Experience, Grainger

JDharshana Gopalakrishnan, 2018

Dharshana Gopalakrishnan, 2018
Designer, Wilkus Architects


Faculty at the ForeFront of Innovation

Erik Evensen, Associate Director of Transfer

Erik A. Evensen, MFA

Program Director, M.F.A. Design 
Professor, Department of Design
323C Applied Arts Building
Call or Text: 715-232-5324
Email: evensene@uwstout.edu

Julie E. Peterson, PhD
Professor of Interior Design
Graduate courses taught: Ethics in Design, Research Strategies in Design

Robert Fraher, MFA
Professor of Graphic Design and Interactive Media
Graduate courses taught: Design Seminar 2, Critical Issues in Design Education and Practice

Wendy Jedlicka, MIM
Senior Lecturer of Sustainable Design
Graduate courses taught: Sustainable Design Practice, Sustainable Design II: Global Impact

James E. Bryan, PhD
Professor of Design History
Graduate courses taught: History of Design Seminar

Dave Richter-O'Connell, MFA
Associate Professor of Industrial & Product Design
Graduate courses taught: Sustainable Design Practice

Michael Heagle, MFA
Assistant Professor of Time-based Media
Graduate courses taught: Creative Thesis in Design

Andrew Williams, PhD
Professor of Design History & Game Design
Graduate courses taught: History of Design Seminar

Start Your Academic Pursuit with a Graduate Certificate

Our graduate-level professional certificates are more than accolades. They are milestones on your path to the comprehensive M.S. Training & Talent Development program. Begin your journey with intention and discover where mastery can take you.

Design for Sustainability Certificate

The Design for Sustainability certificate focuses on innovation advantages found in applied sustainability explored in a design context.
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Improving the User Experience Certificate

Study the rhetorical theories guiding user experience strategies and learn how to implement user-centered research aimed to improve the content of documents.
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Tuition & Fees

As a hybrid program, the M.F.A. in Design uses Customized Instruction tuition model.

Customized Instruction at UW Stout can be described as programs that are designed with the adult learner in mind. If you're comparing UW-Stout's customized instruction tuition to our competitors, keep in mind:

  • Customized instruction tuition rate includes the textbook rental fee.
  • There are no additional university-based semester or technology fees.
  • Students in customized instruction programs pay the same rate of tuition regardless if Wisconsin residents, out-of-state or international participants.

Value for your Money

There’s more to value than just tuition. UW Stout also provides:

  • Program Director – faculty with discipline expertise.
  • Student Services adviser – one point of contact, providing support to students for each program.
  • Course sequences and matrices – know what courses are offered when so you can plan ahead.
  • Courses and programs may be stackable for use in another program.
  • Courses are flexible and convenient for working professionals.

Other universities will present costs and value differently - make sure you're comparing apples to apples.

Example Course Plan

This is an example of a three-year course plan for a full-time student. This is not reflective of part-time study. Please review the Graduate Bulletin for the official program planner, credit requirements, and course descriptions. Please note that core courses are on a two-year rotation.

First Year (24 credits)
Fall Semester
DES-700 Design Seminar I (3 cr.) core
ARTH-720 History of Design Seminar (3 cr.) core
DES-XXX (3 cr.) focus area

Spring Semester
DES-730 Critical Issues in Design Education & Practice (3 cr.) core
DES-561 Transmedia Studio (3 cr.) focus area
Focus Elective (3 cr.)

Summer Term
DES-710 Ethics in Design (3 cr.) core
DES-750 Graduate Design Studio (3 cr.) focus area

Second Year (24 credits)

Fall Semester
DES-701 Visual Communication for Graduate Study (3 cr.) focus area
DES-800 Design Seminar 2 (3 cr.) core
Focus Elective (3 cr.)

Spring Semester
DES-524 Color Seminar (3 cr.) focus area
DES-712 Sustainable Design Practice (3 cr.) core
DES-725 Research Strategies in Design (3 cr.) core

Summer Term
DES-715 Sustainable Design II: Global Impact (3 cr.) focus area
DES-750 Graduate Design Studio (3 cr.) focus area

Third Year (12 credits)
Fall Semester
DES-870 Creative Thesis in Design (3 cr.) core
Focus Elective (3 cr.)

Spring Semester
DES-870 Creative Thesis in Design (3 cr.) core
DES-870 Creative Thesis in Design (3 cr.) core

Admission Requirements

General UW-Stout Graduate School Application

All prospective graduate students at UW-Stout must follow a standard application process through our Graduate School. Beyond that, each graduate program has specific requirements that must be met to be successfully admitted to the program:

Program-Specific Admission Requirements

To apply to the M.F.A. Design program, you will need to submit additional application materials through our SlideRoom account:

Visual Portfolio

10-15 examples of creative/professional work from your area(s) of expertise:

  • A series of 10-15 images or documents of creative/professional work, and brief written descriptions. 
  • A limit of 5 motion/video images will be accepted as part of the total 10-15 examples, each no more than 3 minutes in length. External video links accepted.

All work must be created by you, the applicant. Failure to follow this rule will result in immediate rejection. If your work is the result of a group project, highlight the role you played in its creation within the written description list.

Written Statement of Interest

This 2-3 page statement should describe your goals for graduate study, your topics of interest for research and exploration, and should provide context for your work included in the visual portfolio. PDF preferred.

Resume or Curriculum Vitae

PDF Preferred, and titled with your last name (i.e. Nelson_CurriculumVitae.pdf).

Candidate Recommendation Form

Three letters of reference from individuals who can speak to your abilities or potential as a designer, creative practitioner, and graduate student. PDF preferred.

All program application materials should be submitted digitally through SlideRoom.

Program Advisory Committee

Advisory Committee Members

ErikEvensenAssociate Professor & Program Director, Department of DesignUW-Stout
SethBerrierProfessor, Department of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer ScienceUW-Stout
RobertFraherProfessor, Department of DesignUW-Stout
AmeliaKennedyDesign Manager3D Design Studio - Target
KimberlyLokenAssociate Professor, Department of DesignUW-Stout
JoanMenefeeProfessor, Department of English & PhilosophyUW-Stout
SarahMurawskiGraphic Design ManagerGreat Northern Corporation
JuliePetersonProfessor, Department of DesignUW-Stout
MichaelHeagleAssistant Professor, Department of DesignUW-Stout
GlendaliRodriguezProvostProvost's Office (ex-officio)
DaveRichter-O'ConnellAssociate Professor, Department of DesignUW-Stout
RichWaltersProduct Design ManagerLSR
JulieWattsProfessor, Department of English & Philosophy, Founding Director of MSTPCUW-Stout
WendyJedlickaSenior Lecturer, Department of DesignUW-Stout
NicoletteBrehmAssistant Professor, Department of DesignUW-Stout
MichelleMailey NobenSr Mgr UX Research & MeasurementGrainger
JonathanWheelerLecturer, Department of DesignUW-Stout
AndyJanetskiLecturer, Department of DesignUW-Stout
KarlKoehleLecturer, Department of DesignUW-Stout
ShannenJochimStudent Services CoordinatorUW-Stout Online


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MFA Design Handbook

Program Handbook

The Master of Fine Arts in Design handbook serves as an essential guide, encompassing a comprehensive overview of program structure, course offerings, and key academic policies. It's a valuable resource for students, offering insights and answers to facilitate their journey through the MFA program.

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