MFA in Applied Craft + Design

Design Thinking with the Hand

Connecting design thinking to design doing, Oregon College of Art and Craft and Pacific Northwest College of Art have collaborated to create a unique MFA Program grounded in hands-on making, entrepreneurial strategies, and social and environmental engagement.

Combining a mentor-based approach with an exceptional visiting artists program, students work one-on-one with nationally and internationally recognized designers, makers, and

scholars in a self-directed curriculum that challenges them to bring to life the full strength of their ideas and skills.

With a curriculum focused on the development of a strong artistic
voice, the realization of work for a specific community or client, and entrepreneurism that connects making a living with making a difference, the MFA in Applied Craft and Design is the only graduate program of its kind. 


The first year of the MFA in AC+D begins with an intensive design build project facilitated by leading designers and makers. Over a two-week period, students meet with stakeholders and clients to identify goals and needs for the project, collaboratively brainstorm possible solutions, and consider material and budget limitations.

The project finishes with the collective fabrication and installation of the final product. Project facilitatorsw, who have included Butch Anthony, Steve Badanes, Jack Sanders, and Portland designers Sara Huston and Kari Merkl, model the skills for hands-on engagement, effective time management, and strong client relations. This rigorous project requires teamwork, teaches effective collaboration, and reveals the importance of process.

Incoming students learn the strengths and weaknesses of their peers, practice effective communication, and gain familiarity with studio workshops and tools to establish a strong foundation for the rest of their graduate experience. 


Each year, we take our students out of the studio and into the world for short, immersive trips including a residency at A-Z West, Andrea Zittel’s outpost in the California high desert next to Joshua Tree National Park. Since 2000, Zittell has been converting this 50 acres into “a testing grounds for living.” 


The Third-Year Fellowship is awarded each spring to a graduating AC+D student. Fellows are provided with a space in the AC+D studio and have complete access to equipment, facilities, and faculty, enabling them to continue to refine the ideas and skills they have developed in the program. The Fellow becomes a resource for first- and second- year students, sharing his or her experience and perspective. 


The AC+D Entrepreneurial Fellowship is an opportunity for graduates to continue the development of an Entrepreneurial Practicum project. The Entrepreneurial Fellowship helps foster the success of the early stages of a multi-faceted endeavor by providing access to the resources and community of AC+D. In this exchange, the Entrepreneurial Fellow is granted the following opportunities to take the next steps in launching their proposed enterprise: a stipend to cover expenses, space at the Bison Building, time in the studio, access to the facilities, access to Creative Entrepreneurship faculty and course auditing.


Chair, MFA in Applied Craft + Design

Heidi Schwegler explores a wide range of materials in the service of her subject matter. She is drawn to the peripheral ruin, modifying discarded objects to give them a new sense of purpose. There is an equilibrium inherent in such things – they float between endurance and decay, a living death. Her numerous exhibitions include the Co/Lab Art Fair (CA), Raid Projects, (CA), Platform China (Beijing), Scope Art 2004 (NY), and the Hallie Ford Museum (OR). Schwegler is a Ford Family Fellow, a MacDowell Colony Fellow, a Yaddo Artist in Resident and has received several RACC Individual Project Grants. Reviews of Schwegler’s work have appeared in Art in America, Daily Serving, ArtNews and the Huffington Post. She is represented by Upfor Gallery in Portland, OR.