Master of Design in Designed Objects

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

Graduate Programs Summer Meet and Greet
Wednesday, August 7, 6:00 - 8:00 pm.
Join us at the historic Roger Brown Study Collection in Chicago to meet with SAIC Graduate Admissions and learn more about our graduate programs.

Application Deadline: January 10

If you are ready to apply to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago's (SAIC) Master of Design in Designed Objects, you will need to first submit SAIC's Graduate Application form and then a corresponding ePortfolio for the Designed Objects department. ePortfolios are required for each additional program to which you wish to apply. All submissions happen via the software SlideRoom. Admission to SAIC is for the Summer term only.

Completed Online Application

SAIC requires applicants to apply online. Filing an online application requires a valid credit card and a current email address. You may apply to up to three programs with one application and fee. If you are applying to either the MFA in Studio or the Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Studio you may select up to three departments of entry. Applications must be submitted prior to 11:00 p.m. (CST) on the appropriate deadline.

Start your application here: SAIC Graduate Application

Questions? Contact the Office of Admissions at or 800.232.7242.

Nonrefundable Application Fee

When you click the "submit" button on your the Graduate Application form, you will be prompted to enter credit card information to pay the application fee. Your application form is not fully submitted until you have entered your credit card information. Under no circumstances will an application fee be waived or refunded. After you submit the application form you will be directed to a dashboard where you can begin working on your ePortfolio(s).

Application fee: $90

Application fees will be discounted by 50% through December 1.

Official College Transcripts

During the application process an unofficial transcript is acceptable for review pending an Admissions decision. Official transcripts are required upon admission. Include transcripts both official and unofficial from all universities/colleges from which a degree was obtained or prerequisites were fulfilled. You can attach unofficial transcripts as .pdf or .jpg files in the Educational History section of the application form. If you are in the process of completing a bachelor's degree when you apply, a transcript showing your first three years of study is acceptable.

Transcripts are considered official if sent directly from the degree- or credit-granting institution to the SAIC Graduate Admissions Office. Hard copy transcripts are considered official if the documents remain in the registrar's original signed and sealed envelopes.

Official transcripts can be sent both in digital and hard-copy format. Digital transcripts can be sent from the degree- or credit-granting institution to Hard copy transcripts can be mailed to:

SAIC Graduate Admissions
36 S. Wabash Ave., Suite 1201
Chicago, IL 60603

Statement of Purpose

Write a 500- to 700-word statement of purpose that describes 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. Upload your statement of purpose to the Attachments section of your ePortfolio.

Letters of Recommendation

You are responsible for securing two letters of recommendation from persons who are qualified to write about your potential for success at SAIC. If you are currently a student or are a recent graduate, we recommend you request letters of recommendation from current or former instructors.

Letters of recommendation should be submitted electronically via the References section of the application form. In this section you will be asked to provide an email address for each of your references. Once you click "send request," an email will be sent from SlideRoom to your references with instructions on how to submit their recommendations online.

If your references are unable to provide an online recommendation please contact the Graduate Admissions office at


Applicants are required to submit an ePortfolio. You must submit a separate ePortfolio for each program or studio department to which you apply. After you pay the application fee and submit the application form, an ePortfolio for each of the programs you selected in the application form will automatically appear in your SlideRoom dashboard.

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 in which one image is equivalent to approximately two minutes of time-based work. Applicants with no previous experience in design can submit a critical writing sample or a visual essay in lieu of a traditional design portfolio. The critical writing sample should be 1000-words in length and address some aspect of design that is of specific interest or concern to you. This writing sample can include visual images and should be submitted as a PDF.

  • Images: .jpg, .gif, .pdf (up to 5 MB each)
  • Videos: .flv, .wv, .mov (up to 60 MB each)
  • Audio: .mp3 (up to 10 MB each)
  • Text documents: MUST be in .pdf format (up to 10 MB each)


The Designed Objects department interviews by invitation only. Applicants who pass the preliminary review will be invited to schedule an on-campus interview in February. Notification will be sent by late January.


A current résumé is required. Upload your résumé to the Attachments section in your ePortfolio.

International Applicants

International applicants are required to submit evidence of English language proficiency. You are waived from this requirement if you meet any of the following conditions:

  • Your native language is English
  • You have an undergraduate degree conferred by a U.S. accredited university
  • You have an undergraduate degree conferred by a university whose primary language of instruction is English

If you do not meet one of these conditions, you must submit official English language proficiency test scores. You are strongly encouraged to schedule a language proficiency test appointment as early as possible in order to receive official test scores prior to the application deadline. SAIC accepts official scores from both Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and International English Language Testing System (IELTS). The TOEFL Institution Code for SAIC is 1713. Please upload an unofficial copy of your test score results to the International Requirements section of the application form.

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

Official test scores that meet the minimum requirement must be received by the application deadline.

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 (6)
  • DESOB 5162 Prototyping Methods Lab (3)
  • ARTHI 6120 Critical Issues in Designed Objects (3)
  • Elective (3)
Second Year Fall  15  
  • DESOB 6150 Thesis Studio 1: Initiate (6)
  • DESOB 6154 Material Futures Studio Seminar (3)
  • Art History Elective (3)
  • Elective or Internship (3)
Second Year Spring  15  
  • DESOB 6160 Thesis Studio 2: Manifest (6)
  • DESOB 6162 Positioning Methods Lab (3)
  • Elective (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

The MDDO is a two-year, 66-credit 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. By providing open platforms for rigorous thinking and making, the program presents students with a creative and intellectual context in which the materiality, agency, utility and poetic potential of objects can be studied and explored. A series of core studios, supported by seminars and technical labs, conclude with the public presentation of a year-long thesis project.

The shared MDDO studio space offers both an individual base and a lively environment for discussion, knowledge exchange and project advancement. Though the program is grounded in experimental practice, students are challenged to find their distinct voice as a designer. This manifests itself through the diverse range of design approaches evident in the thesis projects presented each year. View examples of student work.


Example of Student Work
Ying Cui
Example of Student Work
Stella Yueqing Shen


Designers reimagine the objects and systems that mediate our daily lives. Through a critical appraisal of product, furniture, interaction, and systems design, the MDDO program teaches designers to be agents of change who maintain an expansive understanding of the object. Future designers need to be enlightened practitioners, willing to explore unknown territory and work with problems not yet defined. The program encourages students to challenge the fluid borderline that outlines design, opening the field to unexpected possibilities. MDDO students are encouraged to develop their practice by taking elective courses in other departments across SAIC and by applying to AIADO’s External Partnership Courses.

Alumni of the MDDO program have attained success in a diverse range of careers from product and furniture design, user experience design, creative direction, design research and strategy, design education and independent design practice.

MDDO Example of Student Work
Maya Jay


In contrast to the structured curriculum of the MDDO, the two-year Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Studio, Designed Objects is for students looking for a self-directed program of independent study.  Students work with faculty advisors on a one to one basis each semester to pursue a range of design projects that reflect their specific interests. Applicants are expected to have previous experience and a strong portfolio in three-dimensional design practice, and the ability to self-manage an extended program of independent study.

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