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MDes in Integrative Design

The wicked problems we face — poverty, healthcare, climate change, terrorism — require design expertise in deep collaboration with other experts and community stakeholders.

M Des Charrette March 17 2017 9928

Through Inte­gra­tive Design, we have the abil­ity to respond thought­fully, thor­oughly, and with informed intent to the com­plex, multi-causal chal­lenges the world faces today.

The two-year MDes in Inte­gra­tive Design grad­u­ate pro­gram at the Stamps School of Art & Design at the Uni­ver­sity of Michi­gan leads the charge to cre­ate and strengthen a new kind of designer able to respond to the cre­ative chal­lenges of the 21st century.

Along­side indus­try and non-profit part­ners, stu­dents in the MDes pro­gram address real-world wicked prob­lems through hands-on, project-based learn­ing in the con­text of one of the world’s pre­mier research insti­tu­tions. Each year, the Uni­ver­sity of Michi­gan spends $1.48 bil­lion on research, demon­strat­ing deep and resourced com­mit­ment to the advance­ment of new knowledge.

MDes stu­dents ana­lyt­i­cally inter­ro­gate the Social, Tech­no­log­i­cal, Eco­nomic, Eco­log­i­cal, Polit­i­cal, Val­ues-based, Aes­thetic, and Eth­i­cal (STEEP­VAE) issues sur­round­ing the wicked prob­lem at hand. STEEP­VAE is an effec­tive, human-cen­tered ana­lyt­i­cal frame­work for under­stand­ing the com­plex, provoca­tive chal­lenges in our world — and its appli­ca­tions are endless.

The next cohort of MDes stu­dents will address the topic of Mak­ing Jus­tice and the wicked prob­lem of poverty within the program’s umbrella theme of equity and access.


MDes Stu­dio

MDes stu­dents con­duct their cre­ative work and research in the MDes Stu­dio, a new stu­dio space designed to sup­port col­lab­o­ra­tion — it is flex­i­ble and recon­fig­urable, with spaces and tools for both group and indi­vid­ual work, as well as a broad range of pro­to­typ­ing processes. The MDes stu­dio is located in a 33,000 square-foot build­ing that also houses fac­ulty stu­dios, project spaces, wood shop, met­als shop, dig­i­tal media stu­dio, and large shared work­ing and meet­ing areas.

All grad­u­ate stu­dents also have 24/7 access to state-of-the-art met­als, fibers, ceram­ics, sculp­ture, wood, print­mak­ing, dig­i­tal media, and dig­i­tal fab­ri­ca­tion stu­dios in the Art & Archi­tec­ture build­ing. Stu­dents can also uti­lize a wide range of resources and equip­ment only avail­able at a top research uni­ver­sity, includ­ing audio engi­neer­ing stu­dios, robot­ics labs, vir­tual real­ity stu­dios, spe­cial­ized libraries, insti­tutes, col­lec­tions, botan­i­cal gar­dens, and much more.

The MDes Cohort


In the first four years of the MDes program, students have worked with:

  • 100+ faculty, researchers, and industry practitioners
  • 32 University of Michigan Schools and Departments
  • 26 institution partners, conducting over 1,500 hours of clinical observations
  • 150+ workshop and charrette participants at the MDes studio

Each cohort com­prises grad­u­ate stu­dents who wish to trans­form their pro­fes­sional careers through crit­i­cal think­ing and mak­ing, and sys­tem­atic analy­sis and inves­ti­ga­tion of com­plex, real-world problems.

Hand-picked with an eye for diverse global per­spec­tives and knowl­edge from across the design dis­ci­plines and beyond, the MDes cohort is rel­a­tively small in size, ensur­ing opti­mal col­lab­o­ra­tion in an envi­ron­ment where all mem­bers are seen, heard, and active.

Suc­cess­ful appli­cants will be:

  • Col­lab­o­ra­tors seek­ing an inte­gra­tive design approach to solv­ing com­plex problems
  • Cre­ative Lead­ers look­ing to push the design dis­ci­pline and indus­try forward
  • Expe­ri­enced Design­ers wish­ing to trans­form their career path or pro­fes­sion­als in other fields who want to tran­si­tion to a design-engaged practice
  • Career Chang­ers pro­fi­cient in spe­cial­ized, com­ple­men­tary skills they would like to incor­po­rate into an inte­gra­tive approach
  • Researchers pre­pared to revise and expand their under­stand­ing of cross-dis­ci­pli­nary research and design methods
  • Inno­va­tors with a com­mit­ment to social inno­va­tion, sus­tain­abil­ity, and change for the com­mon good
  • Self-Starters excited to bring together peo­ple and resources to cre­ate sus­tain­able change

We have a strong place­ment rate for our grad­u­ates, who leave the pro­gram with a ros­ter of indus­try con­tacts, the abil­ity to lever­age the power of cross-dis­ci­pli­nary col­lab­o­ra­tion in unprece­dented ways, and exper­tise in the appli­ca­tion of STEEPVAE.

MDes Col­lab­o­ra­tion: Design Charette

Learn more about the col­lab­o­ra­tive nature of our MDes pro­gram in this video, doc­u­ment­ing a design charette that teamed MDes stu­dents with fac­ulty, indus­try lead­ers, and health­care professionals.