Master of Arts in Design

For non-designers who want to cultivate design skills.

The MA is a one-year program for people from non-design backgrounds that covers the fundamentals of design for interactions, including visual communication, prototyping, and human-centered practices. You will learn about the tools, culture, and practice of design. Most importantly, you will learn to see and think design.

Whether you’re looking to take the first step in transitioning to design from another discipline or add a design complement to your existing professional profile, the MA degree has you covered.

A solid foundation for your next steps.

The MA program allows you to study design fundamentals with some of the brightest thinkers and most talented practitioners in the field. You’ll learn timeless principles while gaining exposure to approaches, ideas, and methods at the forefront of design.

For some, this one-year program is a sufficient introduction to design that will inform and augment their skill set as they continue in a complementary career track. For others, this is the first step toward deeper studies that will ultimately lead to a rewarding career in design. You might go on to complete our MPS, MDes, or PhD program; continue a course of study in business, human-computer interaction, or entertainment technology; or return to work in your previous field with the advantage of design skills and perspectives.

MA curriculum

An overview of courses offered through the MA program is provided below. For more information, please contact us to schedule a call with our academic advisor, or plan a visit and take a tour of the facilities while you're here. Current students should refer to the University’s Schedule of Classes for complete course offerings and descriptions.

MA: Year One

1 Fall

Develop foundational visual and communication design skills. Cultivate an understanding of design thinking, methods, and processes.

Seminar: Design Thinking12 units

Discover the way expert designers think and make. Investigate key concepts in historical and contemporary design practice, and learn to articulate the value of design- based innovation.

Studio: Visual Communication Fundamentals 12 units

Practice communication design by giving visual form and meaning to complex information, concepts, processes, and systems.

Design Software Lab 9 units

Learn to use common design software and basic coding in support of your studio projects.

Design Principles & Practices12 units

Learn and practice a variety of design skills and approaches through a focused series of hands-on activities.

Colloquium Optional, 3 units

Learn about faculty research.

2 Spring

Expand your visual and prototyping skills, and deepen your understanding of interaction design. Gain exposure to the broader role and impact of design in the world.

MA Seminar: Transition Design 12 units

Explore new frameworks, mindsets, and processes through which designers can catalyze environmental and social change toward more sustainable futures.

Studio: Introduction to Interaction Design 12 units

Establish the basic skills, perspectives, and working vocabulary of an interaction designer. Apply what you learn to projects that span all phases of the design process.

Prototyping for Interaction Design 12 units

Develop physical and digital prototyping skills to shape product form and behaviors.

Elective 12 units

Take a design elective or a course outside of design to complement your skills and knowledge. We recommend courses in policy, business, service or social innovation, interaction or communication design, or professional writing.

© School of Design, Carnegie Mellon University, 2014

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