Application Process

UIC’s MDes program enables graduates to make substantive contributions to the design profession and the world by balancing deep disciplinary engagement with critical thinking—connecting a work’s meaning and purpose to global, cultural, political, technological, and economic influences. Below you will find important information and links to help you complete your application.


All application materials are submitted through your admission application portal. We recommend beginning your online application at least one week prior to the deadline.

Access the graduate application via the Office of Admissions website. There is an application fee of $70. You will be prompted to upload transcripts within the application.


In addition to the graduate college application requirements, applicants to Masters of Design programs are required to submit a portfolio, statement of intent, résumé, and three letters of recommendation. Submission of these items will be prompted within the application. The following guidelines will help you prepare the portfolio.

A complete application and a portfolio review is required for acceptance into any graduate program. All application materials must arrive by the application deadline. Do not email portfolios or application materials, as they will not be reviewed. There are no exceptions to this policy. 

Application portfolio for students with backgrounds in design or related fields
Upload your portfolio as a single PDF of no more than 20 pages, with a file size of 10 megabytes or less. If your PDF exceeds 10MB, you may upload a second multi-page PDF. You can also upload individual image (jpg) and/or video (mov) files. Images should be no larger than 1280x1280px @72ppi; video files should be no larger than 20MB.

Application portfolio for students without backgrounds in design or related fields
We look for evidence of work that demonstrates and articulates an emerging and serious interest in design. Successful applications have included self-initiated art and design projects; art or design work produced in extension courses; professional work wholly designed by the applicant; photography showcasing thematic perspectives or aesthetic approaches; and past degree projects that illuminate the application in specific ways. Strong applications connect portfolio images with ideas and visions expressed in the essay. The essay should also clearly indicate your interest in and path to design. How do you understand design? What do you want it to accomplish? What do you want to help to accomplish through design? 

Industrial Design applicants: Students applying to the 3-year MDes program in Industrial Design without a design background may submit two at-home design exercises in lieu of a traditional portfolio. Additional portfolio materials may also be submitted but the portfolio requirement is fulfilled by the two exercises.

Recommendation letters 
Three letters of recommendation from former professors or professional colleagues are required. The graduate application will prompt you to enter the email addresses of your recommenders. They will receive an email with a link through which to submit their recommendation. It is not necessary to use any forms for letters of recommendation.

Additional requirements for international students 
Official English proficiency test scores must be reported to UIC by the testing service. Minimum English competency test score: TOEFL 580 (paper-based); 237 (computer-based); 92, with subscores of reading 19, listening 17, speaking 20, and writing 21 (iBT Internet-based), OR, IELTS 6.5, with subscores of 6.0 for all four subscores. Click here for additional details on English proficiency requirements.

International applicants who need an I-20 will be required to certify that you can provide for your own tuition, fees and living expense for your entire stay in the U.S. Without proof of finances, an I-20 cannot not be issued. While you are not required to submit the documentation for I-20 processing prior to an admission decision, it is recommended so that the Office of International Services has all the documentation they need to begin the I-20 process should you be admitted.

Financial aid
Financial aid is the responsibility of each graduate student, and applicants are encouraged to fill out financial aid forms early to cover tuition, fees, and other school expenses. The UIC School of Design offers several possible avenues for financial support. Hourly design positions for MDes students are available in several campus departments. The UIC Innovation Center offers the possibility for paid engagement in research projects. Second year students who are interested in teaching will be considered for Teaching Assistantships. TAships include a tuition waiver and stipend and are offered on a per-semester basis. Awards without work obligation, including scholarship programs and University Fellowships, are highly competitive. For financial aid consideration, we strongly encourage applying by our December 15 priority deadline. 

If you are applying for a fellowship, UIC requires the final grades posted from your school. If you attended a school that utilized a pass/fail grading system you must submit grading sheets from your professors indicating letter grade equivalents.

Both domestic and international students are generally eligible for the types of funding awarded by the School of Design.

Fellowships and scholarships are not available while enrolled in prerequisite coursework.  

If you have specific questions about our MDes programs or would like to be contacted via email with additional information, please fill out our Request for Information form.

Please note:
This application process is for the Master of Design delivered in Chicago, IL. If you are interested in the MDes in Graphic Design delivered in Basel, Switzerland, please go to the Basel School of Design website.