Get Started

Prepare yourself for a new and exciting career in design with the M.S. Design + Innovation (MD+I) program. This page contains all of the information you need to get started on your application.

Prospective students with questions about the program, application process, requirements or who would like feedback on their application documents should contact the MD+I enrollment coach, Anna Denucci.

Contact Anna by email at:

Applications for fall admission are due on February 1st

This program does not admit in the spring or summer.

Start or continue your application

How to apply

All application materials must be submitted online through the Graduate School’s application portal. Applications will open approximately one calendar year prior to the start of the program. Do NOT send any paper copies of documents by mail (email or paper mail) unless specifically requested to do so by the Graduate Admissions Team. Applications must be complete to be reviewed by the Graduate Admissions Team.

  1. Apply online through the application portal:
  2. Upload all required documents to the application portal. You do not have to complete your application or upload all documents at once. You can return to the portal to work on your application at any time.
  3. Pay the application fee ($75).
  4. Personal Interview (if necessary). A personal interview with MD+I program staff in the form of a telephone call or video chat may be required.
  5. You will receive an automatic message when your application is complete and under review. To review the status of your submitted application, log in to your Application Portal. Any requests for information or changes in your status will be noted in the portal.
  6. The MD+I admissions committee makes decisions on a rolling basis. Applicants will typically receive a decision within four weeks of application.

Required documents

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Resume / Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Add your Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV) to the online application.

Check out UW-Madison’s tips for writing your resume or CV and the DesignLab’s advice for creating effective professional documents, including resumes and CVs.

Creative Brief

The creative brief is a multi-page document that conveys why you want to attend MD+I, what you hope to achieve as a designer and examples of your work, so that we can understand the experience you bring with you and your potential as an MD+I student.

We recommend that you think of the creative brief as a design project. This document is like a short magazine, portfolio or booklet that gives us a chance to get to know you, why you want to join MD+I, how you have worked in the past and what you are dreaming of in the future. It consists of three parts, which you should compose as a single, multi-page PDF for upload. 

The three parts are:

  1. Statement of Purpose (max 500 words, or about 1 page) Tell us your design origin story. When and how did you first understand that design + innovation was the path for you? What motivates you to choose MD+I? What is your “why”?
  2. Design Prompt (max 500 words, or about 1 page) If you could re-design anything (a process, place, brand, building, product, program, planet….) what would it be and why? What essential steps would you take to get this design project started?
  3. Work Samples (maximum 10 pages) What projects, collaborations, works of art, experiments or ideas are you the most proud of? Using a consistent design approach to all pages and an emphasis on visual representation of your work, show us 2-3 recent projects. We are interested in seeing your best work – whether that be design, research, art, collaborative, professional or team projects, experiments, prototypes, class projects, independent passions, installations, community work and more. There is no standard approach and your work samples will be uniquely yours.

All that said, here are a few file and format guidelines to help you achieve consistency and legibility in your creative brief. File requirements, denoted with an asterisk (*), and recommendations follow:

  • Format: PDF*
  • File size: 4MB max*
  • Pages: 15 max (including all parts of the creative brief, cover and table of contents)
  • Page layout: 12” x 18” or A3, two-page spreads should be combined into one page. 
  • Color format: RGB
  • Resolution: 150 dpi
  • Project info: Always note the date and context (professional, academic or personal). If you worked on a team, describe your role and contributions. If you include any images that are not your own original work, you must cite your sources. 

Note on links: We do not accept links to portfolio websites in lieu of an uploaded document, designed to the specifications above. If you include links to time-based media (such as video, performance or podcast work) within your creative brief, review is at the discretion of admissions committee members and may not be taken into consideration. It is in your best interest, therefore, to include all of your work in a visual or written format in the creative brief document.

Resources for creative brief design

The UW-Madison DesignLab has many resources, including these design tips and tricks that will help you put your best foot forward.

Don’t know how to start? Questions about how it’s going? Our enrollment coach, Anna Denucci, is here to answer your questions and give feedback while you are developing your creative brief.

Email Anna with your questions and requests for feedback.

Recommendation Letters

Include two (2) letters of recommendation. Enter the recommender email contact information into the online application. Recommenders will receive an email with instructions for the survey and recommendation letter upload process.

Your letters can come from a supervisor, mentor, advisor, or faculty who you have a positive relationship with and can speak to your skills, experiences and abilities

Unofficial Transcripts

Upload your unofficial transcripts to the online application. All applicants must upload a copy of their transcript from their undergraduate institution and other previous higher education institutions, including other graduate studies.

GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Scores

GRE scores are not required for admission to MD+I.

English Proficiency Scores (TOEFL/IELTS)

English Proficiency Scores (TOEFL/IELTS) are required for those whose native language is not English, or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English. The required proficiency scores are:

  • Minimum TOEFL requirement: 92 internet (iBT); 580 paper-based test (PBT)
  • Minimum IELTS requirement: 7.0
  • Minimum IELTS Indicator requirement: 7.0

Note: We do not accept Duolingo.

Scores are accepted if they are within two years of the start of the admissions term for which applicants are applying. TOEFL scores should be electronically sent directly from Educational Testing Service (ETS) to institution code 1846 (no department code is needed). IELTS scores should be electronically sent directly from IELTS to UW-Madison, Graduate Studies.

International Student Information

English Proficiency Scores (TOEFL/IELTS) – required for those whose native language is not English, or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English. See Graduate School Requirements for Admission ( for more information and exemption policies. Scores are accepted if they are within two years of the start of the admissions term for which applicants are applying. TOEFL scores should be electronically sent directly from Educational Testing Service (ETS) to institution code 1846 (no department code is needed). IELTS scores should be electronically sent directly from IELTS to UW-Madison, Graduate Studies.

The Master of Science in Design + Innovation program is not a STEM-OPT program, CIP code: 30.9999 Multi-/Interdisciplinary Studies, Other.

Graduate School Resources for International Students

Financial assistance

Resources to help you afford graduate study might include assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and financial aid. Further funding information is available from the Graduate School. Be sure to check with your program for individual policies and restrictions related to funding.

Program resources

Students enrolled in this program are not eligible to receive tuition remission from graduate assistantship appointments at this institution.

Federal loans

Students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents may be eligible to receive some level of funding through the federal direct loan program. These loans are available to qualified graduate students who are taking at least 4 credits during the fall and spring semesters, and 2 credits during summer. Private loans are also available. Learn more about financial aid at their website.

International student services funding and scholarships

For information on International Student Funding and Scholarships visit the ISS website.

Application and Admissions FAQs

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If I don't have a 3.0 GPA, what recommendations do you have for my application?

The Graduate School requires students to have a 3.0 GPA or above to be eligible to apply. However, if your GPA is between 2.8-3.0 and you have a strong application or motivations for entering the program, then the review committee may be willing to consider your application.

Action steps: connect with our enrollment coach to ask about your GPA eligibility and work with them on your application. You will especially want to focus on explaining the GPA in your statement of purpose and using your portfolio to showcase skill and potential.

If your GPA is lower than 2.8, connect with our enrollment coach to talk through the program application process, standards and options before applying.

Do international applicants have to submit the TOEFL or IELTS?

Yes, per Graduate School rules. Applicants must score at least a 92 or above on TOEFL, 7.0 band score or above on IELTS, or meet exemption requirements.

Do I need to take the GRE or another standardized test?


What type(s) of majors should I have for this program? Are there prerequisities?

MD+I is open to all majors. There are no specific prerequisites except for Graduate School standards. MD+I admits students with any degree as long as they can showcase an aptitude for design in their application and are motivated to learn.

How many letters of recommendation should I have?

Two. Letters can be from a supervisor, mentor, advisor, or faculty who you have a positive relationship with and can speak to your skills, experiences and abilities. There is no guarantee that any additional letters of recommendation than two will be reviewed.

Does the MD+I offer assistantships?

No, MD+I is unable to offer assistantships or any campus position that involves tuition remission. MD+I students are eligible for hourly jobs on campus and the program does regularly offer a limited number of internal hourly positions.

Do students work while they are in the program?

MD+I is a fully in-person, on-campus program with classes and other activities that occur on every weekday. As such, working full-time during the program is highly discouraged.

However, many of our students work part-time while they are in the program. They may do so on- or off-campus. All students can also look into Student Jobs while on campus.

Connect with our enrollment coach and program staff about to learn about ways that students integrate employment into their lives during the program.

Do scholarships exist for this program?

MD+I is currently unable to offer program-specific scholarships.

Students are welcome to apply for third party scholarships and use benefits when they are available. See the UW Graduate School’s Funding and Financial Aid page for more information.

  • The WiSH portal lists available scholarships
  • You may also seek outside scholarships, such as from FastWeb or other third parties

Am I able to apply for financial aid for this program?


We recommend contacting the UW-Madison Graduate School to discuss funding and financial aid. (Please note that MD+I students are not eligible to receive tuition remission from graduate assistantship appointments at this institution.)

What are the required courses for this program?

MD+I is a 30-credit, 12 month masters program that admits in the fall and graduates students in the summer. 18 credits of the curriculum (6 courses) are required. 12 credits of the curriculum (4 courses) are electives that fulfill specialization requirements. For an overview of the curriculum and specialization courses, visit the MD+I program page on UW Guide.

What is the timeline to complete this program?

12 months of full-time coursework from September through August.

How much work will I be doing on a weekly basis?

Your course load as a full-time graduate student will typically be 9-12 credits (3-4 classes) during the fall and spring and 6 credits (2 courses) during the summer session. Each credit carries a load of 45 hours of in- and out- of classroom work, combined, per semester. Read more about course load on the registrar’s website.