Graduate Programs

MDes Curriculum

The two-year Master of Design program requires 60 credits of studio, seminar, and course work.

The MDes curriculum includes design education and social engagement training. Within the structure of an umbrella theme and cohort topic, the first year is focused on reaching a holistic understanding of the problem and the second year on addressing a specific aspect of it.

Stamps MDes faculty are the primary source of support and advice to MDes graduate students in planning an academic program and research agenda and dealing with challenges as they arise throughout the design process. Credits for studio work are split between collaborative work and individual development.

First Semester

Students refine analytical and collaboration skills and build knowledge of integrative design inclusive of design methods and cross-disciplinary research methodology.

Course Credits
Design Studio 1A: Inquiry 6 credits (4+2)
Design Methods 3 credits
Design Studio 1B: Integration 3 credits
University Elective 3 credits
Total: 15 credits
Second Semester

Students develop critical thinking and making skills informed by perspectives from design's canon as well as those of other relevant disciplines.

Course Credits
Design Studio 2: Prototyping 6 credits (4+2)
Design Seminar: Design for the 21st Century 3 credits
University Elective 3 credits
University Elective 3 credits
Total: 15 credits

Students conduct fieldwork in a relevant real-world digital, physical, or hybrid environment within a public or professional context.

Course Credits
Fieldwork Studio 6 credits (4+2)
Total: 6 credits
Third Semester

Students make progress toward developing an integrative design project related to the umbrella theme and cohort topic and involving an accessible social context.

Course Credits
Design Studio 3: Co-creation 6 credits (4+2)
Thesis Prep 3 credits
Design Seminar: Professional Practice 3 credits
Total: 12 credits
Fourth Semester

Students finalize their thesis publication and use project-driven outcomes to help prepare them for career next steps.

Course Credits
Thesis Project 9 credits (3+6)
University Elective 3 credits
Total: 12 credits


MDes Curriculum Overview

DESIGN STUDIO 1A is focused on human subjects inquiry and problem definition using the STEEPVAE analytical framework. What is known? What is not known? Who is affected? The cohort explores a given, real-world context looking for opportunities where contributions can be made. 

That effort is supported by the DESIGN METHODS and the INTEGRATION STUDIO 1B that delve into the resources of the University and beyond. How do designers and researchers from other disciplines go about doing their work? What can we contribute to that? What are we integrating? How are we going to integrate it? 

In the second semester, DESIGN STUDIO 2 centers on prototyping. It’s about taking what we’ve learned from the first semester and trying to deploy it. We want to capture some information and data about how our ideas operate in the world. What works well? What needs to be fixed? This is backed up by DESIGN FOR THE 21ST CENTURY, a design seminar that explores, through an integrative lens, the key critical and theoretical perspectives that ground the discipline of design. What constitutes research in design? What are the contributions of design research to contemporary society? 

THE SUMMER FIELDWORK STUDIO takes the skills we have developed and the ideas that we’re exploring and moves them into a different public or professional context guided by a new or existing line of inquiry that broadens the scope of our knowledge of the umbrella theme and cohort topic. For example, we might start our summer as part of a collaborative pop-up studio with another university design graduate cohort, then move to working in a professional or public context, and then to working in a digital space. It’s all about integrative design — trying out different models in different contexts. 

Third semester is the ramp-up towards the thesis. COCREATION STUDIO 3 focuses on finding your constituents and community partners; beginning the process of getting buy-in on the identified opportunity; and actually beginning to build your project. This effort is backed up by THESIS PREP, which focuses on determining the integrative design approach that is necessary to undertake the project and the kind of writing necessary to compose the document itself.

PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE looks toward the future, when you’ll have your Masters of Design in Integrative Design. How do you make a case for having such a unique qualification? What are the opportunities? What will the ladder be post-graduation? 

Fourth semester is primarily your THESIS PROJECT. You’ll work together with the MDes cohort, your thesis committee, and other stakeholders within your network to define, refine, and present your thesis to the world.


Credit Breakdown

Studio work is divided into two different sets of credits each semester.

First - Third Semester
Course Type Credits
Integrative design work overseen by studio leader 4 credits
Individual development within the collective activities, overseen by primary advisor 2 credits
Fourth Semester
Course Type Credits
Overseen by primary advisor 6 credits
Overseen by studio lead 2 credits