ArtCenter College of Design | Pasadena, California | Learn to Create. Influence Change.

Media Design Practices

Media Design Practices (MDP) seeks individuals who want to use design to understand and change the world. We are looking for risk-takers with varied interests who pursue design and critical inquiry with depth, intelligence, empathy, and passion. Applicants must have earned, or be in the process of completing a bachelor’s degree.

Media Design Practices offers two tracks: Lab and Field. For either track, students can apply for either a 2-year or 3-year course of study.

In the Lab track, students work in a studio context, using design to pose questions through applied and speculative projects that engage with emerging communication technologies and cultural practices.

In the Field track, students’ work takes place at the intersection of social justice, public policy, media infrastructure, and communications technology. A unique feature is that each year all field students spend at least 9 weeks in immersive learning and research in an international setting. The track is run in collaboration with Designmatters, Art Center’s social impact department.

The MDP selects applicants for the 2-year option who are designers with exceptional training and experience in the visual, spatial, and interaction design fields. A degree in design is preferred but is not required. Applicants should have a substantial body of work and be ready to realize high-level concepts.

For 3-year applicants, we accept both accomplished and burgeoning designers from a broad range of backgrounds who bring valuable perspectives to the practice of design. The Development Year provides a design curriculum that prepares the applicant to integrate their past experience into a design approach that is fully realized in their concept year and thesis work.

Find out more about our department at artcenter.edu/mdp.


A completed admission application

This can be downloaded, or you can complete our online application.

A nonrefundable application fee

A nonrefundable application fee of $50 for U.S. citizens and permanent aliens or $70 for non-U.S. citizens and non-U.S. permanent alien residents.

Official transcripts from all colleges attended

A completed undergraduate degree must be verified prior to enrollment.

Required English Proficiency Testing

Graduate applicants whose bachelor's degree was achieved in a language other than English must score at least 100 on the Internet Based TOEFL (iBT) or 7 on the I.E.L.T.S to be considered for admission.

Visit www.TOEFL.org or www.ielts.org for testing and procedures information. Art Center does not accept institutional scores, and all scores must be sent directly from the testing service. We do not accept electronic download scores from I.E.L.T.S. In addition, the College may require minimum scores on each section of the test.

Your resume

A CV summarizing the applicant’s educational and professional background. It should highlight relevant academic studies, project work, awards and achievements, and work experience.

Your portfolio

The design portfolio is the cornerstone of the application. The portfolio should be a curated body of work that demonstrates the applicant’s expertise in the conception and creation of sophisticated design and other relevant works (e.g. creative or critical writing, business plans, software, curriculum, research, grants, etc.).

The portfolio must demonstrate versatility, criticality, rigor, point of view, willingness to discover, and accomplishment working with graphic, visual, interactive, spatial, or experiential media. Projects can be professional, self-initiated, and/or class assignments. Applicants are encouraged to include work that demonstrates process, research, experimentation, and a spirit of inquiry. We encourage applicants from other fields but projects from outside of media design must demonstrate the applicant’s ability to cross boundaries and think about issues in the realm of communication and media.

The portfolio should be edited to highlight the applicant’s best and most relevant work. Brief written descriptions of the projects should accompany each piece. Collaborative or commercial pieces should clearly state the applicant’s contribution or role.

All projects in the portfolio should be presented through Slideroom. No physical portfolios will be accepted. Media Design Practices prefers all portfolios in the form of either a PDF or a website. The PDF or website should include stills, screen shots or photo documentation for all projects including print, interactive, motion or video. Where possible, dynamic media projects should be accompanied by links to working examples to ensure the full depth of the project is experienced. This content can be on a personal website or third-party service such as Vimeo or YouTube.

Upload a PDF or document containing your URL to Slideroom at https://artcenter.slideroom.com. A nominal fee will be charged by Slideroom for this service. Full instructions are listed on their site.

Statement of intent

Applications must include a personal statement of intent. The essay should outline the applicant’s motivation for pursuing graduate study in Media Design Practices at Art Center, discuss personal goals for the future, along with areas of interest and relevant experience. Applicants also need to answer the writing assignment listed below for their chosen track only. The statement of intent should be clear and concise, between 500-1500 words in length.

Applicants to the Lab track should address the following:

Choose two inquiry-led design projects (projects designed to pose questions) and discuss each project in terms of its questions, process, rigor, creative iterations, success and/or interesting failures. Which aspects would you take forward and which would you leave behind as you pursue new critical questions of your own? What would those questions be? We encourage you to include one of your own projects, especially if you have a self-initiated project in which you determined the process and critical direction.

Applicants to the Field track should address the following:

Choose two socially engaged design projects and discuss each project in terms of its process, engagement, orientation, scalability, sustainability, ethics, and politics. Which aspects would you take forward and which would you leave behind as you pursue new critical questions of your own? What would those questions be? We encourage you to include one of your own projects, especially if you have a self-initiated project in which you determined the process and critical direction.

Letters of recommendation

Letters of recommendation (one to three) from academic and professional references are strongly encouraged. They can be emailed to admissions@artcenter.edu or mailed to the Admissions Office.

References should be from people who are familiar with the applicant's work and experience, and should speak to an ability to conceptualize, execute and communicate design.

Visit our site

Visit the MDP Web site for additional information.
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