Graduate Programs

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.

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.

icons representing Social, Technological, Economic, Ecological, Political, Values-based, Aesthetic, and Ethical (STEEPVAE) issues
Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability: Stamps DESIS Lab

The Stamps School of Art & Design is a proud member of the DESIS Network. DESIS stands for “Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability;” it is a network of design programs from schools and colleges across the globe whose faculty and students are interested in innovating meaningful social change in collaboration with community stakeholders. It is through this lens and this context that much of the work of the MDes program takes place.

MDes students conduct their creative work and research in the Stamps DESIS Lab, 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 DESIS lab 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

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.

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