Through a series of carefully orchestrated studio courses, each student is allowed to develop individually as a designer over the course of the three-year Master of Fine Arts program. Students are expected to focus on one or two primary areas of design—set, film, costume, or lighting–and are encouraged to take classes in the other disciplines as well.
Art courses and classes in technical aspects of theatre are important tools for the design student but the program's emphasis is clearly on the design process. In the classroom students are encouraged to explore, in depth, the text, character, music, history, and psychological elements of their work and are challenged to apply their creativity in new and imaginative ways.
Often the most exciting work is created when set designers work together in class with lighting and costume designers and directors. The designer/director relationship is nurtured by the participation of Columbia University directing students in advanced design classes. Tisch School of the Arts filmmakers and designers work together in the classroom on joint projects under the tutelage of some of today's top film production designers.