What would 
you learn?

Program Info
Learn to design with human-centered approaches that prioritize people and planet over profit. Use empathy as a guiding principle to become an equitable, ethical, and impactful designer in today’s world. Through the Stanford MS Design coursework, we aim to enable the following in our students:

The ability to prototype and make across all mediums, existing and emerging.

Understand the landscape of design work. Build physical products, code, write policy, and work with emerging technologies.

The care and responsibility to be leading stewards of the planet, all people, and the data we generate.

Know how to work slow and fast. Understand how to learn from and with other humans. Realize the importance of equity, ethics and implications. Set visions and the paths to them. Prioritize people and the planet over profit.

The quirky creativity that produces new-to-the-world ideas.

See trends, spot new opportunities, and have the courage to boldly try something untested. Leverage interdisciplinary exposure and ambiguity.

The flexibility of adaptive learning.

Able to navigate ambiguous projects and processes with appropriate methods; integrate learning from a wide range of life experiences to develop habits and mindsets that foster lifelong learning.


Stanford MS Design encompasses courses across three focus areas:

Design Core

Foundation courses to develop a 
well-rounded designer:

+ Project-Based Design Work

+ Human Factors
+ Design Ethics
+ Leadership

+ Visualization

Methods Focus Area

Design can only achieve meaningful impact when it is expressed in the world. Each of the three methods focus areas enables students to effectively implement their design abilities. They allow students to have methods for analysis, describing phenomena, and design problem application.

These focus areas are central to a student’s professional marketability. Students select one of the following methods focus areas.

+ Physical Form + Manufacturing

+ Emerging Technologies + Digital User Experience
+ Human Behavior + Multi-stakeholder Research

Domain Focus Area

Students will select a domain focus area to gain added knowledge in a field of interest to them. Students will work with their advisor to define a rigorous domain focus area and select the appropriate courses. This domain depth provides a rich context for the MS capstone project.


For additional university-specific grad admissions inquiries, please visit the Stanford Graduate Admissions FAQ page here.

What qualities does the Stanford MS Design Program admissions committee look for in an applicant?

We are looking for someone who is a good fit with our program and its philosophy, and someone who will make an impact in the world through design and design thinking. The ideal candidate believes that understanding people and what they value can lead to innovation and significant breakthroughs. Ideally, the candidate combines design and technical skills and business understanding with a desire to build upon the human-centered design process that we teach. They have the potential to develop their creative confidence and understanding over the course of the program. And finally, the Committee will select candidates whose outlook and areas of expertise complement those of the other students admitted to the program for that particular year.

Can I apply for the Stanford MS Design Program if I do not have an engineering background?

Our program results in a Master of Science in Design, so having an undergraduate science or engineering degree of any kind would be the most straightforward and desired preparation for our program. However, we consider for admission any students who apply with a B.S. degree. The program no longer accepts students with a background in Art. We do not have the resources necessary to respond to inquiries that ask if a particular degree is equivalent to a B.S. degree. To answer this question yourself, please consult with the institution that granted the degree and attach official documentation from the institution supporting that your degree is a B.S. equivalent under the Supplemental Materials section of your online application.

What degree do I receive upon completion of the program?
Masters of Science in Design
Who do I direct my questions to about the online application system and the specifics of the various pieces of information requested as a part of the application process?
For program-specific admissions questions, please email our admissions team at design-admissions@stanford.edu. Office hours hosted by our admissions team in the month of November to address admissions inquiries will be posted here on our website under the How to Apply section.

For general university-wide admission requirements or troubleshooting technical challenges in the Grad Admissions application portal, please email gradadmissions@stanford.edu.

When do applications open and close?
The online application will open in late September 2022 at the Stanford Graduate Admissions site for students entering Fall of 2023. It will remain open until our application deadline on Thursday, December 01, 2022 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time
Do you have a GPA and/or GRE requirement for admissions?
GRE scores are not required by the Stanford Design Program for the current 2022-23 Grad Admissions cycle (students entering Fall of 2023). Stanford is a highly selective university and we expect that all graduate students will be able to demonstrate academic excellence prior to admission. We do not have a specific GPA requirement for admission, and during the admissions process, the committee casts a wide net, considering your overall academic preparedness; your career and life experience.
Do I need industry experience before I can apply to the program?

Successful applicants will bring maturity, self-efficacy, and unique skills to the program. Thus, many successful applicants have some industry experience. Our program is very self-directed and students need to have sufficient experience to be successful – typically one or more years of professional employment. And you will be put in leadership positions in a variety of your classes – it helps to have some previous experience leading teams before you arrive at Stanford. The Loft, which is the facility where our students live and work, is a learning community where students teach each other. We expect you to teach what you know to your peers. In order for the Loft to “work”, we rely on mature graduate students who are self-confident enough to teach and learn from each other.

Do I need a design background to apply?

We are looking for a balance of design potential and design experience in incoming students. No specific design experience or employment is required. The admissions committee evaluates your statement of purpose, portfolio website, academic preparation, recommendations, and previous life experience in conjunction with each other. That said, you do not need anyone’s permission to be a designer. Design can be a philosophy, a viewpoint, or a unique way of framing and tackling a problem. The best candidates cannot help themselves; they are always trying to improve and change the world around them. If you want to change something, you have to design. Show us what you care about through what you work on. One of our favorite professors used to say, “Use design to design.” We still agree.