Graphic Design MFA

in process work from our current MFA GD students
in process work from our current MFA GD students

If you are ready to take your design experience and training to the next level, or are interested in bringing skills from other disciplines into conversation with design research, then the University of Illinois graduate Graphic Design program is the place for you.

Graduate studies in Graphic Design offer unique opportunities to work with University of Illinois’s world-class researchers in many areas like Afro-futurism, equity-centered design, sustainability, and the fight against human trafficking. Students in the program become part of ongoing projects in Champaign and around the world. Examples of current faculty projects include the design of virtual reality narratives, multimodal interfaces for social computing, sustainable materials, artificial intelligence for self-driving trains, and peacemaking in Colombia’s post-conflict jungle zones.

In addition, MFA students in Graphic Design can work together with PhD students in Informatics who specialize in Design. The result is a rich interdisciplinary environment where discovery, discussion and collaboration are energized.

The program consists of three years of coursework totaling 64 credit hours, culminating in a research report and gallery show. For a curriculum-advising plan, see here. Since the MFA is currently recognized as the terminal degree in design throughout much of the U.S., the expectations for quality of research are usually higher than for other Masters programs, where a PhD might be expected to follow. MFA Graphic Design graduates at University of Illinois make a significant contribution to the real-world impact of design research.

Core Faculty

Eric Benson - Biological Systems Thinking/Sustainable Materials/Dystopian & Utopian Futures
Linda Kwon - Health Design/Design for Peace/Photography/Environmental Justice
Lisa Mercer - Social Innovation/Public Policy/Living Labs/Human Trafficking
Stacey Robinson - Afro-Futurism/Black & Brown Utopias/Race/Graphic Novels/African Diasporas and Wakanda
Stan Ruecker - Academic Prototyping/Digital Humanities/Design Theory/Experience Design
Juan Salamanca - Social Computing/Interaction Design/Mediating Artifacts/Visual Analytics
Nekita Thomas - Co-Design/Race/Urban/Social Justice

Meet more of our faculty

Meet Current MFA + PhD (Informatics) Students

Current Project Highlights

Recent books by Faculty

Design to Renourish: Sustainable Graphic Design in Practice
Eric Benson and Yvette Perullo, 2017
"The Best New Graphic Design Books of 2017" - Format Magazine
"Required Reading: AIGA's Design Educators Community List their Must-Have Books for Design Inspiration for 2017" - Design Observer

I Am Alfonso Jones
Tony Medina, Stacey Robinson and John Jennings, 2017
"Painfully important" Kirkus Reviews
"'I Am Alfonso Jones' Brings Powerful BLM Message to Young Adult Graphic Fiction" - Forbes

Visual Interface Design for Digital Cultural Heritage. A Guide to Rich-Prospect Browsing
Stan Ruecker, Milena Radzikowska and Stéfan Sinclair (eds), 2011
"[P]rovides an excellent scholarly introduction to the theory, scope and nature of rich-prospect browsers and browsing" - Journal of Documentation
"[A] splendid example of a team of humanities scholars exploring a particular theory by building prototype tools and discussing the results of using those tools" - Literary and Linguistics Computing

Visiting Design Researchers (current)

Jiameng Wang (2018-19)
Gerry Derksen (2017-18)
Zhabiz Shafeiyoun (2017-18)

Visiting Design Researchers (past)

Piotr Michura (spring 2017)

Past MFA Projects

Alex Dye, "Rethinking the Electronic Medical Record."
Qing He, "Mobile Gaming Application: Promoting Positive Attitude Towards Body Image for Girls Age Five to Eight."
John Jennings, "Utilizing Graphic Design Theory to Enhance Graphic Storytelling in Sequential Art"
Taekyeom Lee, "Re-materialization of Type."
Huang Li, "Hybrid Sense: The Immense Possibilities of Interaction of Digital Information with Physical Environments."
Maurice Meilleur, "Five Thesis on the Future of Type."
Wenjun Wu, "Everyday Walking as Aesthetic Practice."