Furniture Design | Minneapolis College of Art and Design

Furniture Design: Degree Information

MCAD emphasizes a collaborative process and working with students from all majors. For this Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, you will take courses in several different areas, including a core focus, adding up to 120 total credits required for graduation. 

Required Courses - These are the core courses that every Furniture Design student takes.

Foundation Studies - These classes help you become a well-rounded student; they build a solid art background.

Studio Electives - Throughout your studies you can choose from several studio electives that give you hands-on creative time. 

Humanities and Sciences Electives - These classes round out your experience at MCAD, deepen your creative practice, and fulfill non-studio requirements for a degree. 

Learning Outcomes 

  • Traditional and experimental building techniques, including material knowledge and appropriate use of historical context from the past to current.
  • Individual design methodologies including but not limited to the following: rapid visualization, CAD, research, trending, and outsourcing fabrication.
  • Professional practice, including presentation techniques, digital presentation, and written requests for proposal (RFP), creation and following a design brief.
  • Creating an authentic body of work ranging from studio to mass-production furniture.

Core Required Courses

36 credits

FURN 3000 Furniture Design: Materials and Techniques
3 credits

A prerequisite to all other furniture courses, this course examines both wood and metal as primary elements in traditional and sculptural furniture construction. Students learn to design and construct furniture through basic to advanced instruction in a wide range of techniques, from plasma cutting and welding to metal and wood lathes, other power tools, and floor machinery. Advanced hand tools are explored. Each project includes a drawing component to allow conceptual exploration and refinement of presentation skills. Demonstrations, lectures, and field trips to local lumber and steel yards are important components of the course.

Prerequisites: Foundation: 3D

Furniture Design Courses (select five)

FURN 3010 Furniture: Studio Methods
3 credits

This course investigates furniture construction by examining and deconstructing the design process through drawing, computer rendering, and model making. Critiques take place at all stages of the design process. The class also examines current designers and their processes through reading assignments, in-class discussions, and lectures by visiting design professionals.

Prerequisites: Foundation: 3D

FURN 3020 Lighting / Accessories / Housewares
3 credits

This course introduces students to a mix of real-world products, such as tableware, home decor, personal accessories, lighting, etc., in which appearance is a primary consideration. Assignments will focus on developing appropriate expressive qualities, techniques for form generation and development, iterative refinement of form, appearance models, and attractive presentation of work. Students will integrate new sketching, model-making, and prototyping materials and techniques. Students are encouraged to incorporate a broad spectrum of materials such as plastics, metals, woods, castables, glass, and stone.The class includes studio experiments with light (including lamps and atypical light sources), wiring, and electrical safety. Lectures and demonstrations support class activities.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Product and Furniture Design; or faculty permission

PD 3040 Product as Art
3 credits

In this class products, furniture and designed objects are viewed as fine art. This class investigates the boundaries of functionality, aesthetics and purpose to sustain or dispute this definition. Lectures covering crossover designers and artists initiate a conversation about the role of function in art and art in design.


Prerequisites: Models, Prototypes, Fabrication; or Fabricated Sculpture

FURN 3056 Furniture: Textile and Surface
3 credits

This class conceptualizes textiles and furniture surfaces as skin or wrapped objects and delves into the ergonomic relationship of furniture with the human body. Students explore industrial sewing machines, sewing from temporary patterns, applying adhesives, and weaving, as well as traditional and nontraditional methods. Topics include a range of materials, as well as mining conservation and environmental concerns. Each project incorporates lectures, demonstrations, and critiques. Off-campus professional networking opportunities are also immersed within the semester. 

Prerequisites: Furniture Design: Materials and Techniques

FURN 3070 Environment and Retail Design
3 credits

This studio course examines the combination of multiple design disciplines including interior design, architecture, graphic design, furniture design and product design. Projects include commercial, hospitality and retail environments as it pertains to human scale. In a studio setting, designs are created with an application of anthropometrics, social responsibilities, accessibility accommodations and environmentally responsible design. Projects focus on critical ideation and are evaluated by faculty and peers through group discussions and critiques.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Product and Furniture Design; Design Drawing: 2D Drawing for 3D Design; Digital Visualization and Fabrication; Graphic Design 1

FURN 3080 Production Design
3 credits

This course focuses on the design of limited- and mass-production furniture. Students examine flat-pack, sustainable materials, and local and global outsourcing. The differences and similarities of each type of production model are explored through studio assignments utilizing computer modeling and full-scale prototyping. Group critiques and discussions focus on the relationship of craftsmanship and technology in each student’s work.

Prerequisites: Theory and Methodology of Furniture Design, Digital Fabrication

FURN 3090 Digital Fabrication
3 credits

This course explores the expanding creative possibilities of digital fabrication with computer-generated, found (appropriated), and scanned digital objects. Students learn advanced three-dimensional modeling techniques in formZ Pro to create ideation, form development, presentation, and fabrication models in addition to techniques for capturing existing objects with MCAD’s 3D Laser Scanners. Objects are digitally fabricated from various materials and incorporated into finished works using MCAD’s 3D printing, laser cutting, and CNC router systems while outsourcing is explored as an effective practice in digital making. Instruction includes post-digital techniques in fabrication along with modeling-based presentation techniques and the review of other professional level software packages.

Prerequisites: Foundation: 3D and Foundation: Media 1, or faculty permission

FURN 3093 Advanced Material Exploration
3 credits

This course is an exploration of furniture/objects created using a variety of materials, including fiberglass, carbon fiber, solid surface(s), and injection molding. Projects range from handmade studio works to production-ready designs. Techniques and tools include mold-making, epoxy resins, gel coat, vacuum bag, hand and machine shaping, and CNC routing. Students examine conservation and environmental concerns throughout the production and function of each creation. Each project consists of lectures and demonstrations with group and individual critiques throughout each assignment.

Prerequisites: Furniture Design: Material and Techniques, Digital Fabrication

FURN 2000 Exploring 3D: Furniture and Sculpture
3 credits

This course explores the shared concerns of furniture and sculpture; their similarities in making and their contrasts in concept, enabling students to individually pursue ideas within both disciplines. This hands-on studio course focuses on learning and applying techniques in making contemporary furniture and sculpture beyond the 3D Foundation experience. Students create objects that lead to a new aesthetic and creative possibilities through expanded processes and new material options.

varying Choose one intermediate sculpture class
3 credits

FA 4000 Professional Practice: Fine Arts
3 credits

This course addresses the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the contemporary art world. Topics include writing for professional opportunities, exhibitions, the documenting and marketing of work, website development, residencies and graduate schools, copyright and tax issues, jobs in education, and studio/business startup concerns. Students engage in a variety of individual and group projects, including curating an off-campus exhibition. Course faculty, guest lecturers, and visiting artist presentations connect abstract information with real-world experience.

Prerequisites: Prerequisite: Junior standing

varying Internship or Studio Elective
3 credits

Choose to pursue an internship or an additional studio elective

FURN 5010 Advanced Furniture Design Seminar
3 credits

This course is for the advanced student who is interested in developing a self-motivated, sustained body of work through an understanding of the relationships between the formal, conceptual, and contextual aspects of sculptural form. Examining their own studio practice in relation to current topics in the field, students expand their perspectives while developing their work. Studio practice is supported by development of critical thinking skills, individual and group critiques, guest critiques, writing exercises, and readings covering artists, criticism, and theory.

Prerequisites: Four 3000-level furniture courses, successful Junior Review

FURN 5100 Senior Project: Furniture Design
6 credits

During their senior year, every furniture design major is required to develop and complete a substantial body of work in a specific field. This course provides a forum for the critical evaluation of this work and curatorial guidance in preparation for the Commencement Exhibition. Course content includes critical readings, position paper, individual and group discussion, and informational meetings. Required for all seniors.

Prerequisites: successful Junior Review, Senior standing

Foundation Studies

19 credits

FDN 1111 Foundation: 2D
3 credits

Foundation: 2D is an introduction to creative thinking that develops students’ skills in research, observation, interpretation, and self-expression. An emphasis is placed on exploring new ways to read and see the world, as well as new ways to report on it. Students learn basic two-dimensional principles through the use of various media, tools, materials, and processes. As a result, students develop a visual and verbal language for analyzing, organizing, shaping, and communicating two-dimensional form and meaning.

FDN 1112 Foundation: 3D
3 credits

This course is an introduction to understanding of visual creation for the development of knowledge, imagination, and perception. Students are introduced to basic three-dimensional concepts as well as materials and technical production processes. Classroom activities include shop demonstrations of tools and techniques, information, lectures, and discussions appropriate to promote the balanced fusion of practice and theory.

FDN 1211 Foundation: Drawing 1
3 credits

Foundation: Drawing 1 is an introductory drawing course designed to prepare students for study in all majors of the college. Students develop basic drawing skills, including the ability to perceive and express visual relationships, organize a two-dimensional composition, and depict and manipulate form, space, and light. Students work from direct observation of still life, interior space, and landscape.

FDN 1212 Foundation: Drawing 2
3 credits

Foundation: Drawing 2 is an observationally based drawing course designed to reinforce and develop the basic drawing skills established in Foundation: Drawing 1. Students work with a variety of subjects, including a substantial amount of drawing from the figure. In addition to working from direct observation, students explore drawing as a tool for invention, conceptualization, and idea development. The course also affords students an opportunity to investigate drawing materials in more breadth and depth than in Foundation: Drawing 1.

Prerequisites: Foundation: Drawing 1

FDN 1311 Foundation: Media 1
3 credits

Students are introduced to digital resources at MCAD while exploring digital media. Areas covered include the Service Bureau, Gray Studio, and Media Center, along with other digital resources. Students use a variety of software and hardware to learn the basics of working with recorded media, including video, sound, and photography, as well as developing critical language for discussing media and media artists.

FDN 1411 Ideation and Process
3 credits

Everything we make has its beginning as an idea, which takes form as an artist/designer makes a series of decisions to guide its creative evolution. This course is designed to help students explore the development of new ideas and their own process of making. Students also create visual tools to track their creative process from idea through construction and then to post production analysis. The course consists of discussions, critiques, exercises, and visual logs.

Prerequisites: Sophomore standing

FDN 1412 Sophomore Seminar: Contemporary Practice
1 credits

Practice is more than working methods: it’s the context, marketing, and creative space that maintain creative work. Contemporary Practice introduces students to the foundations, variety, and tools of a professional practice. Students upgrade websites and documentation, enter contests, and create professional presentations of their work. Classes consist of lectures, student presentations, and guest speakers from a wide range of disciplines.

Prerequisites: Sophomore standing

Studio Electives

26 credits

varying BFA Studio Electives

Choose BFA studio courses to take as electives; amount determined by your major.

Humanities and Sciences

39 credits

AH 1701 Introduction to Art and Design History 1
3 credits

The objective of this course is to familiarize students with the major stylistic, thematic, cultural, and historical transformations in art history from prehistoric times to the nineteenth century. This course helps students develop critical tools for the interpretation and understanding of the meaning and function of art objects, architecture, and design artifacts within their original historical contexts. Class sessions consist primarily of lecture with some discussion.

AH 1702 Introduction to Art and Design History 2
3 credits

This course introduces students to issues in modern art, popular culture, and contemporary art and design. Topics may include the expanding audience for art, the transformation of the art market, the impact of new technologies, the changing status of the artist, and the role of art in society. This course is taught as a seminar with some lecture.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Art and Design History 1 or faculty permission

varying Art History Electives
6 credits

Take 6 credits of art history courses

EN 1500 Writing and Inquiry
3 credits

Key to the creative and critical growth of the engaged, successful artist is participation in a culture of writing and inquiry. Students in this course focus on the kinds of writing they will encounter and produce in their coursework at MCAD and as creative professionals. Regular writing workshops allow students to concentrate on experiential and practical approaches to writing. Students explore a variety of texts and objects through class assignments, and then develop clear compelling essays employing a variety of rhetorical and narrative strategies.

varying Creative or Professional Writing
3 credits

Creative or professional writing elective

varying Humanities and Sciences Elective
3 credits

Choose one humanities and science classes.

varying Scientific and Quantitative Reasoning
3 credits

Scientific and Quantitative Reasoning classes increase students’ appreciation for the power of scientific and quantitative approaches to knowing the world.

varying Histories, Places, Philosophies
6 credits

6 credits of histories, places, philosophies electives

HS 5010 Liberal Arts Advanced Seminar
3 credits

The Liberal Arts Advanced Seminar enables students to pursue their own research and writing goals within a seminar setting. Projects are student-originated and consist of both a written piece and a public presentation. Class sessions are discussion-based and interactive. Group learning is emphasized

Prerequisites: Completion of Cultural Awareness Requirement (4000-level course), Junior standing

varying BFA Liberal Arts Electives
6 credits

Choose two liberal arts electives.

Total Credit Hours