Master of Arts in Design Criticism

The Master of Arts in Design Criticism (MAD-Crit) is a two-year program that develops textual and visual argumentation in the areas of architecture, urbanism, landscape, and allied design practices. With the seemingly limitless expansion of design techniques and productive capacities today, there exists a new urgency for a parallel polemics that can contribute the conceptual armature and directives for the immediate future of design culture. Revolving around intensive writing seminars and publication workshops, the ambition of the program is unabashedly operative: i.e., it is driven by the practice of writing and the demand to inject argument immediately into diverse media of communication. This operative orientation is accelerated by being situated within a School of Architecture focused on contemporary design, and through the program's overlapping coursework with the MArch and MS programs, such as participation in its research studios and publications.

Today, architecture and its corollary design fields have become increasingly compelled toward academic and professional specialization. While producing important scholarly and technical advances, this context has undermined if not obliterated the potential role for those invested in design culture as public intellectual. The MAD-Crit program aims to recover this generalist role that has been lost in the proliferation of doctoral programs and software niches. Taking advantage of its location in a major American metropolis and at public research university, the MAD-Crit program is particularly well-situated to solicit and expand the audience for design criticism and reposition the significance of design in public discourse. Moreover, as the product of design competitions are increasingly gravitating to books and arguments, the program understands criticism broadly to include proactive design propositions. At UIC, criticism serves as an invitation for new practices rather than a retrospective calling out of existing ones; it is a platform for future production. The MAD-Crit program is committed to empowering a new generation of idea activists for the discipline.

The program is intended for students, including postgraduate and mid-career professionals, who are interested in re-focusing on research, writing and publication. In addition to those with architectural backgrounds, the program is also suitable for those from other fields who are already practicing as critics, journalists or curators but who want to develop expertise in the design areas considered; or those who would like a terminal, graduate degree in order to pursue an academic career. The program takes advantage of the remarkable number of faculty in both the School and College who are internationally-recognized practitioners in contemporary criticism, design theory, and publication production. The Master of Arts in Design Criticism is an academic, or non-professional, degree, and does not fulfill requirements toward the professional architectural licensing examination.

Please note that applicants to the Master of Arts in Design Criticism program should submit a formatted portfolio of written work rather than a design portfolio. The overall design of the portfolio itself should demonstrate a level of thinking, care, and consistency that is commensurate with the applicant's written work. Aspects of the portfolio that should be carefully considered and consistent throughout are: page size and proportion, orientation, and layout; font style; title pages; use of color; etc.


Graduate Admissions Guidelines

Download a .pdf of the Graduate Programs Guidebook (3.5mb)

MAD-Crit Faculty

Penelope Dean, School of Architecture

Alexander Eisenschmidt, School of Architecture

Jack Henrie Fisher, School of Design

Sam Jacob, School of Architecture

Marcia Lausen, School of Design

Jonathan Mekinda, School of Art and Art History and School of Design

Lluis Ortega, School of Architecture

Bob Somol, School of Architecture

Recent Publications

aX, Vol. 3+4

Fresh Meat Journal

Western Towns