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“Translasian” by MFA Design student Krongporn Thongongarj.
“Translasian” by MFA Design student Krongporn Thongongarj.
Form Your World
SVA’s MFA Design / Designer as Entrepreneur Program Connects You to the Heart of NYC’s Bustling Design Sector
As one of our students said, our own venture is to produce 'thinkers, makers and doers who tackle every problem from every angle.'
Steven Heller & Lita Talarico
Co-Chairs

The MFA Design / Designer as Entrepreneur program is designed to both link and bridge these many approaches in a course of study that inspires students to conceive, produce, brand and market their own innovative content. Through the holistic teaching of knowledge and experience combined with contemporary best practices, MFA Design students invariably develop the confidence that enables their talent to reach the highest potential.

Why We Stand Out:
  • We emphasize DESIGN entrepreneurship as an alternative to conventional practice, and as a means to raise the level of design expertise and achievement

  • We teach a broad set of visual, verbal and textual approaches as foundation for design

  • We focus on creation to optimize the designer’s abilities to rise to the next professional level

Student Work

More About the Department

In their first year at MFA Design, students are given advanced instruction in a variety of design and trans-disciplinary skills such as interaction, motion graphics, branding, user experience, typography as a visual language, video and new media directing, and art book and digital publishing. Along with these skills-based courses, classes in business, marketing, ethnography, strategy, research, advertising, promotion, intellectual property and networking are offered.


The goal of the second year is the venture. Students are required to conceive and develop a viable product, campaign, experience, service or app for a determined and tested audience. Students design and prototype this venture that will be presented to a review panel of guest critics and faculty who then determine whether it has enough merit to progress to the next stage of development.


At the developmental stage, students produce a prototype for the purpose of pitching to investors, collaborators or distributors. This final product is presented in public at our Venture Forum at the SVA Theatre and subsequently to the design community.

Most designers aspire to think for themselves, generate their own ventures and otherwise be leaders in their fields. Whether in the end the student becomes a founder of their own business, or for a company—starts a studio or joins a team—the lessons taught in MFA Design prepares designers for current and future challenges.

The core faculty consists of distinguished contributors to the fields of graphic design, digital media, product design and business, and is supplemented by guest speakers and critics. Lecture series and off-site visits to design studios and firms are regularly scheduled throughout the academic year.


Degree candidates must successfully complete 60 credits, including all required courses, with a cumulative grade point average of 3.0. A residency of two academic years is required.

The Design Entrepreneur Venture

The MFA Design venture is an entrepreneurial business that demands acute integration of graphic, interaction and product design, aesthetics, business and marketing. The end product is the culmination of intense research and development made ready for the marketplace or start-up investment. The venture can be virtual or physical. It can be an object, app, service, experience or advocacy campaign. It must be supported with extensive user experience research, iterating and testing. All assets must be functional and sustainable. The venture must have value to an audience that is quantifiable.

Networking Our Graduates

Students enrolled in the MFA Design: Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program study with renowned faculty and advisors that represent a wide range of design disciplines, viewpoints and methods, from traditional to progressive—notably design entrepreneurs, design strategists and design innovators. During the intense two years, students are introduced to various professional networks through our guest speakers and workshop leaders, who cover areas of type and typography, two- and three-dimensional objects, makers and inventors of products and user experiences. The faculty and guests are devoted to making this time in the designer’s life intellectually fruitful and creatively profitable.


Our faculty provides work and job recommendations for students, who upon graduation are employed by commercial and not-for-profit corporations, institutions and businesses. Many found their own start-ups, design firms and studios. Some become partners in businesses and individual projects. Graduates have started over 50 design studios around the globe.


MFA Design goes beyond the parameters of design by emphasis on design entrepreneurship. Students are immersed in the entrepreneurial start-up world through courses in business, intellectual property law and fundraising. These are not just ancillary classes but essential for today’s designer for a well-rounded career. Many successful products and ventures for profit and nonprofit outcomes have developed through student ventures, which are evaluated and critiqued by successful design entrepreneurs and business strategists. The venture is the beginning of an entrepreneurial adventure.


By graduation, designers know how to convincingly and cleverly pitch and negotiate. They are more confident and thus prepared to enter the next big stage of design practice, which involves creating their own content, which they brand, market and promote, while building business opportunities that will give something of value to their audiences.