What kind of program did I apply to?

I applied to the Master of Design + Master of Business Administration Dual Degree Program (MDes+MBA) at Illinois Institute of Technology Institute of Design (IIT ID). The application consists of five elements:

1) Online application form including TOEFL and GMAT scores

2) Resume

3) Portfolio

4) Personal Statement

5) Interview

When did I have an interview?

I submitted my application in the final round (March 1st), and I got an email invitation from Prof. Matt Mayfield, Associate Dean of IIT ID, on March 8th. As I was on the business trip in the week, I asked him to have a meeting on March 19th March. On March 20th, I got an offer from the school with a scholarship.

Where did I have an interview?

When I replied to Matt, I sent my Skype ID and we had an interview via Skype. I was in my office around midnight and had an interview in a conference room. Though it is a design school, I highly recommend that you be in a suit.

What were the typical interview questions asked?

The interview was very basic and totally not tricky.

-Please briefly introduce yourself.

-How did you know about IIT ID?

-Do you apply to other schools? Could you tell me why the school was also attractive to you?

-Do you have any questions?

Advice for those who will be interviewed in the future

The interview was very casual and friendly. I suggest that you prepare questions as I assume an interviewee will ask a few questions. Enjoy!

How did you hear about the IIT Institute of Design (ID) Master of Design + Master of Business Administration (MDes + MBA)?

I was interested in design thinking that is said to be the combination of design and business. Then, I read a book, 21世紀のビジネスにデザイン思考が必要な理由. The author was an alumnus of IIT ID and when I searched on the IIT ID, I found that the school offers the MDes+MBA Dual Degree Program. My impression of the school was literally “the combination of design and business”.

Why that particular program?

I was interested in design thinking, in other words, “how to create a human-centered business.” In design schools, you can learn how to design human-centered, innovative products, business, service, or community. On the other hand, in business schools, you can gain broad business knowledge to manage organizations. So I was like “Why not pursue both?"

Though I knew other schools that offer the Design + MBA program, IIT ID was the best design school for a non-design, business background person like me for the two reasons. One is that the school’s design program offers the Foundation Program that is designed for those who do not have a formal design background and covers essential design theory and technique required to succeed at the master’s level in design. The other is and the school’s design program is focusing on more “problem-solving + aesthetics” than “conceptual art.” Many faculty members have worked as design consultants so they understand the balance of business and design.

What do you hope to do afterward?

I wanted to be a person who can be a bridge between design and business. More concretely to say, a design consultant or a marketer at a design-oriented company is my ideal job right now.

What has been surprising about the program so far?

You will obtain not only theories or methods but also actual skill sets. In the Foundation Program, you will learn how to use Adobe software such as Illustrator, Photoshop, and Indesign, and 3D modeling software, Fusion 360. Also, you will learn how to make prototypes with foam cores and cardboard. Those skills will help you to visualize your idea and make your audience easy to envision your idea so that your presentation becomes more convincing. I had not imagined that I, as a person who is bad at drawing and painting, would be able to visualize my ideas before I came here.

What do you wish you had known before you started applying?

What is the portfolio? For business people, it’s like creating a business case with visual components. Though I recommend that you create your portfolio, as some of my business background classmates have not submitted the portfolio, you could ask the admission office if you, a non-design background applicant, need to submit your portfolio.

How should I write the portfolio?

You can ask Vince, definitely! He is brilliant! Set a margin and create negative space, use fewer words and use more visual components, and make your information hierarchy clear without too many bold fonts or vibrant colors.

What do you wish you had known before you enrolled?

Program years:


It’s going to be a one-year program for everyone. You can extend the program to 1.5 years.

MDes + MBA

If you have a design background and you are exempted from taking the Foundation Program, the program is going to be two years. You will take an MBA with part-time MBA students, so the classes are held on Saturday and you will have a summer semester in summer vacation. You may take weekday classes if you get permission from the business school advisor.

Foundation + MDes + MBA

If you do not have a design background or could not show enough design skillsets with your portfolio, you MUST take the Foundation Program to finish your MDes program. The total program is going to be 2.5 years. The MBA course will be a part-time MBA, so the classes are held on Saturday and you will have a summer semester in summer vacation. You may take weekday classes if you get permission from the business school advisor.

What advice would you have for Japanese considering applying to these kinds of programs?

Going to a design school is not the mainstream for a business person. Also, design or design thinking is still a fledgling area in Japan. Thus, you might face lots of criticism or harsh feedback from your family or friends. However, if you are really interested in design, you should be honest with yourself. You should go for it. Just as there are lots of Design+MBA programs or MBA programs that incorporate design at the universities that are famous for their design programs such as IIT and California College of the Arts, there are lots of MBA + Design programs at universities that are famous for their MBA programs such as Harvard, Northwestern, UC Berkeley, and MIT. Find the best program for you, and be true to yourself.

Testimonial for Vince

Do you know any counselors who can give advice on design school applications including the portfolio? No, right? Me neither, until I met with Vince.

Needless to say, he is a friendly, brilliant advisor and counselor on your essay, resume, and interviews as everybody says. However, what I would like to emphasize is his passion for giving a helping hand to applicants. He never compromises with understanding your thoughts and helping you. He is always encouraging but also down-to-earth and trustworthy. Also, for design school applicants, he has experience in the design world and can give advice on your portfolio but also introduce appropriate people using his broad network if needed.

Vince will definitely help you in every single aspect of the tough application process. Good luck.

– IIT Master of Design + MBA Class of 2021, IIT ID Scholarship