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Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Objects: Master of Design in Designed Objects

The MDDO is a professional degree program with a taught curriculum that offers students the critical skills to imagine and create meaningful objects, systems, environments and experiences while challenging the boundaries of the field of design itself.

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Application Deadline: January 15

If you are ready to apply to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s (SAIC) Master of Designed Objects program, you will need to build a portfolio, gather all of your application materials, and complete the electronic application for Fall 2017 (spring admissions are not accepted).

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) Department of Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Objects requires an online application for its Master of Design in Designed Objects program. You will need a valid credit card and current email address in order to complete the form.

Please review the following requirements carefully before submitting your application:

  • Application deadline is January 15. No applications are accepted for the spring semester.
  • There is an $90 nonrefundable application fee. The application fee is discounted by 50% through December 1.
  • You must upload one 500- to 750-word statement of purpose describing the history of your interests and experiences in design, your personal and professional motivations and goals, and your reasons for pursuing graduate study at SAIC.
  • In addition to your application, you must submit an ePortfolio. Your portfolio should include a minimum of five different projects documented in up to 20 images, or up to 10 minutes of time-based work, or a combination of the two as appropriate. Applicants with no previous experience in design can submit a critical writing sample or a visual essay in lieu of a traditional design portfolio. Using the ePortfolio, submit a 1,000-word critical writing sample addressing some aspect of design that is of specific interest or concern to you. You may include images.
  • current résumé is required. Upload your résumé to the online application.

You also must submit an official college transcript and two letters of reference for admission into the program. You can ask your references to upload their letter to your online application or mail them directly to the school. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is recommended, but not required. Some candidates may be contacted for an interview.

International Students 

Students whose native language is not English, or who do not have a degree conferred by a US-accredited university, are required to submit evidence of English language proficiency. Submit Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) results with your application. The Institution Code for SAIC is 1713.

Minimum Required Scores

TOEFL: 100
IELTS: 7.0
For more information about the TOEFL, please visit here.
For more information about the IELTS, please visit here

Academic Records

Transcripts are records of your studies that list the courses you completed, the grades received, and provide evidence of degree conferral. They may include grade sheets, exam results, final diplomas, degrees, or graduation certificates. Official copies are issued in the original language directly by your university. Copies must bear the official stamp or seal of the institution, as well as the signature of the appropriate official such as the dean, rector, registrar, controller of examinations, or office of teaching affairs. Photos, notarized copies, facsimiles, or email transmissions are not acceptable. 

Official translations are expected for all educational documents issued in a language other than English. A translation agency or university language department should issue official translations typed on official stationary and the translator must attest proficiency in the original language and indicate their translations are accurate word-for-word.

The MDDO is a two-year, 66 credit hour program with a carefully sequenced course-based curriculum, built for students who seek immersion in the critical and technical skills specific to the extended practice of object design.

Term Credit Hours
First Summer Intensive  6  
  • DESOB 5050 Refresh: Summer Intensive (6)
First Year Fall 15  
  • DESOB 5150 Studio 1: Reset (3)
  • DESOB 5152 Research Methods Lab (3)
  • DESOB 5164 Material Intelligence Studio Seminar (3)
  • ARTHI 5120 Survey of Modern and Contemporary Arch. and design (3)
  • Elective (3)
First Year Spring   15  
  • DESOB 5160 Studio 2: Discover (4.5)
  • DESOB 5162 Prototyping Methods Lab (1.5)
  • DESOB 5154 Global Reset Studio Seminar (3)
  • ARTHI 5105 Theories of Things: Art/Design/Objects (3)
  • Elective (3)
Second Year Fall  15  
  • DESOB 6150 Thesis Studio 1: Initiate (6)
  • DESOB 6154 Material Futures Studio Seminar (3)
  • Elective or internship (3)
  • Elective (3)
Second Year Spring  15  
  • DESOB 6160 Thesis Studio 2: Manifest (4.5)
  • DESOB 6162 Positioning Methods Lab (1.5)
  • DESOB 6164 Leadership Matters Studio Seminar (3)
  • ARTHI 6120 Critical Issues in Designed Objects (3)
  • Elective (3)
Participation in four Graduate Critiques  
Participation in Graduate Design Exhibition  
Total Credit Hours 66  

Degree requirements and specifications

  1. Students have a maximum of four years to complete the degree. This includes time off for leaves of absence.
  2. Normally transfer credits are not accepted. All requests for transfer credits are reviewed individually by the chair of the department at the time of admission and are subject to approval at that time. No transfer credit will be permitted after a student is admitted.
  3. Full-Time Status Minimum Requirement: 12 credit hours
Example of Student Work.


The MDDO is a two-year, 66-credit program with carefully sequenced, course-based curriculum built for students who seek immersion in the critical and technical skills specific to the extended practice of object design. Providing a creative and intellectual context in which designed things are closely examined, the MDDO program focuses on the critical rethinking of objects and the changing relationship between things, ideas, users, and contexts. Though the program is grounded in experimental practice, students are challenged to find their individual voice as a designer. This important aspect of the program is manifested in the diversity of thesis projects, where students employ experimental, commercial, critical, social, or speculative approaches to design.



Defining the Next Designer

Designers reimagine the objects and systems that mediate our daily lives. Borrowing critically from product design, systems design, furniture design, social design and interaction design, the MDDO teaches designers to be active with their agency, social citizens who maintain an expansive understanding of the object. We encourage MDDO students to develop their practice by taking courses in other departments across SAIC and by applying to AIADO’s External Partnership courses.


Future designers need to be thinking designers, practitioners willing to explore unknown territory and work with problems not yet defined. By establishing open platforms for rigorous thinking and making, the department encourages students to challenge the fluid borderline that outlines design, opening the profession to unexpected possibilities.

MDDO versus MFA

In contrast to the MDDO, the two-year Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Studio, Designed Objects is for students with previous experience and a strong portfolio in 3D design, furniture design, lighting design, ceramic design, jewelry design, product design or industrial design. The tutorial structure of the MFA in Studio, Designed Objects allows students to pursue independently directed projects while working with faculty advisors on a one-on-one basis each semester.

Interested in learning more about how you can apply?

Visit the graduate admissions website or contact the graduate admissions office at 800.232.7242 or