The Master of Fine Arts in Interior Design program at Parsons is uniquely positioned to lead the discourse and practice of interior design in the 21st century. Inaugurated in 2009 at Parsons, the school where formal interior design education began, this graduate program builds on more than 100 years of leadership in the field. Design as a social practice is the program’s guiding philosophy. Students explore design as a force for change, a means of environmental stewardship, and a tool for shaping experiences.
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Integrating sustainable design strategies with new developments in technology and materials, the two-year, full-time professional MFA in Interior Design program prepares a new generation of designers to address social changes and demographic shifts shaping clients’ needs today. A faculty of distinguished practicing professionals work with students to imagine new possibilities for the design of habitable space. The program hosts “AfterTaste,” an international conference dedicated to exploring the connections between interior design and fields including art, architecture, film, science, psychology, philosophy, medicine, and music.
The 60-credit studio-based and research-oriented curriculum challenges students to analyze the relationship between human behavior and perception of the interior. Courses investigate materials and their environmental impact, fabrication and manufacturing processes, building systems and operational energy consumption, drawing and digital representation, and the history and theory of interior design. During the second year, students develop a thesis project, written thesis book, and exhibition. This program is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.
Using New York City as an urban laboratory, the curriculum draws on Parsons’ long-standing connections to design firms, manufacturers, galleries, and museums. Students supplement core classes with electives offered throughout Parsons and the rest of The New School in fields such as design and technology, anthropology, psychology, and environmental and urban studies.
The program is situated in Parsons’ School of Constructed Environments (SCE), home to related programs in architecture, lighting design, and product/industrial design. SCE students share research and fabrication facilities and work collaboratively on projects in an open design studio, uniting historically separate design disciplines to support cross-disciplinary innovation.
The School of Constructed Environments offers students wishing to combine interior design and lighting design a unique double major. The MFA Lighting Design and Interior Design is a three-year, 90-credit-hour curriculum allowing students to develop an in-depth technical, aesthetic, and experiential understanding of the relationship between light and interior space. Interested students should apply directly to their primary program of interest — Interior Design or Lighting Design — and follow the application prompts for the double major.
Graduates are positioned to transform the field as practitioners and educators by working in interior design and architecture studios and in the fields of industrial design and sustainable design; developing new design practices; and collaborating with nonprofit, government, and educational institutions.
The Master of Fine Arts degree is awarded for completion of 60 credits. Transfer credits are not accepted. Students must maintain a 3.0 cumulative grade point average and fulfill all requirements in a timely manner.
Since 2012, the School of Constructed Environments has offered an MFA double major combining the established Master of Fine Arts Interior Design and Master of Fine Arts Lighting Design programs. This unique curricular track allows students to investigate in depth the design of environments and human inhabitation with a focus on the relationship between light, materials, and interior volumetric space. The three-year MFA track will enable students to develop critical sustainable design thinking and technical skills associated with lighting design and interior design.
Students enrolled in this unique multi-disciplinary track expand their knowledge of light and space relationships through research and design investigations of material, form, and surface interactions with light. Human perception within the interior, and the corresponding psychological and physiological effects of design decisions, are basic to all investigations. Design as a social practice is a guiding philosophy.
The MFA double major offers an opportunity for critical and speculative evaluation of the interior condition; its studio-centered, research-oriented focus challenges students to analyze the relationship between human behavior, comfort, perception, and social exchange with attention to light and the built interior. Human health and sustainable strategies associated with materials, indoor air quality, and energy allow students to position aesthetic and intellectual interests against tangible realities confronted in practice.
Through project-based learning and a culminating thesis year, students pose questions and develop independent ideas, interests, and problem-solving skills. Seminars focusing on technologies, analysis, application techniques, biology, and design theory complement the studio coursework. As the birthplace of interior design education in the early 20th century and of lighting design education in the 1970s, Parsons invites re-examination and innovation of these related design disciplines through its MFA double major.
Assisted by Parsons' alliance with professional organizations and a distinguished faculty of prominent practitioners, theorists, historians, critics, and scientists drawn from New York City, students pursue professional internships and other partnerships during semester breaks and full-time positions subsequent to graduation with leading players on the global design and research stage.
Admission to the MFA Double Major requires acceptance into both the Interior Design and the Lighting Design programs.
To learn more about the double major's curriculum, see the Curriculum section.
Interested students should apply directly to the double major program; they will automatically be considered for admission to the individual MFA Interior Design and MFA Lighting Design programs as well.
The MFA Interior Design program seeks students with an insatiable curiosity, a hunger for learning, and a desire to explore unknown territories. We are looking for students who are committed to making a better future for all people through the design of experiences and environments. We look for students who want to experiment and invent, who know the importance and power of collaboration, are willing to work hard, who take risks, and who aren't afraid of failure.
Because interior designers create places for other people to inhabit (live, work, learn, and play), the ideal applicant will have had at least one year living and working outside of academic institutions prior to attending graduate school. We are looking for students who understand that designers must be conscious stewards of quality of life, of culture, of planetary health, and of the health of all living things. We are looking for people who want to learn new ways of doing things, will help shift paradigms, and are committed to inventing a healthier, more engaging future.
Applicants of any academic background and with a variety of experiences will be considered for acceptance into the MFA Interior Design program.
The application deadline is January 1. To be most competitive for admission and merit scholarship consideration, please apply before the deadline. We will continue to review applications submitted after the January 1 priority deadline pending space availability in the program. The Admission Committee will make a decision on your application only after all the required materials have been received. Spring term admission is not offered for this program.
Financial Aid Deadline
All applicants selected for admission into our program are considered for a merit scholarship award that is determined by the strength of their application. Scholarship award notification is communicated at the same time as the admission decision. International students are eligible only for merit scholarships. If you are a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen, we encourage you to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which can be found on the Web at
www.fafsa.gov. The FAFSA is available each year on October 1. You do not need to wait for an admission decision to apply for federal aid; we recommend submitting by our FAFSA priority deadline of February 1 for fall applicants. (The New School’s federal school code is 002780.)
All applicants are required to apply online. Save your work frequently and print a copy for your records. You must complete all required fields and uploads prior to submission.
Any additional supporting documents that need to be sent by mail must include an
Application Materials Cover Sheet. All supporting materials must be received before your application can be reviewed.
See below for additional information regarding submission of transcripts and recommendations.
Some of your required materials will be submitted through
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