Master of Arts in Design

The Master of Arts (MA) in Design is a one-year degree intended for students without design experience, who would like to transition from other disciplines, or add a design complement to their existing professional profile.

Program Structure

Through a combination of studio and seminar courses, students from non-design backgrounds are introduced to the fundamentals of designing for interactions, learning design processes, skills, and thinking.

Fall Semesters Year One: Students first focus on visual skill development and the understanding of design thinking, methods, and processes. 

Spring Semesters Year One: Students expand on their visual and prototyping skills to acquire a better understanding of design for interactions and gain exposure to the broader role and impact of design in the world.

The diagrams below provide an overview of MA coursework. A complete listing of MA course descriptions is available for download in a PDF.

MA: Year One

Students focus on visual skill development and the understanding of design thinking, methods and processes.

1 Fall

Seminar: Design Thinking

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

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

Design Software Lab

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

Design Principles and Practices

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

Colloquium (Optional)

Lectures from faculty about their research.

Students expand their visual/prototyping skills and understanding of interaction design, while gaining exposure to the broader role/impact of design in the world.

2 Spring

Seminar: Transition Design

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

Studio: Introduction to Interaction Design

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

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


Recommended in business, policy, service, social innovation, interaction or communication design, or professional writing.

© School of Design, Carnegie Mellon University, 2014

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