Master of Design

For designers who want to transform their practice.

The MDes is a two-year program in design for interactions that immerses you in a research-based approach to design within the context of services and social innovation. Ours was one of the first programs to offer a master’s degree in interaction design, and is widely considered among the best in the world. We have deep roots in information and communication design, and our graduates enjoy access to a rich variety of career options.

Our program framework acknowledges the social and natural worlds as the greater context for all design problems. Through coursework and research, our graduate students learn a rigorous process for documenting, analyzing, and understanding the past and present—in order to propose more desirable systems and interactions for the future.

We encourage students to take a broad view of design and engage in radical invention as they become active creators of a better future.

Apply design research in your area of interest.

A unique feature of the MDes program is the thesis, an independent research and design project you’ll complete with your faculty advisor as mentor. You might choose to investigate emerging design opportunities in computing or communication technology, or define a topic in design for services or design for social innovation.

In the first year, you’ll choose a thesis advisor, identify possible topics, and ultimately construct a researchable question that will frame your project. In the second year, you’ll follow an intensive research and design process culminating in a solution that addresses your research question.

Sample Thesis Projects

MDes curriculum

An overview of courses offered through the MDes 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.

Note that elective coursework is an important opportunity to strengthen and complement your unique sets of skills and knowledge. We recommend courses in the areas of policy, business, service and social innovation, interaction and communication design, or professional writing. To supplement the degree, we strongly encourage summer internships between the first and second years, facilitated through our annual career event, Confluence.

MDes: Year One

1 Fall First Year

Get an introduction to design for interactions and design for services and social innovation, and learn about their potential impact in business and policy. Expand your skills in communication and interaction design.

Seminar: Interaction & Service Design Concepts 12 units

Investigate the history, current state, and future of interaction design practice and research.

Studio: Designing for Interactions 12 units

Envision preferred futures by giving form to the behaviors and interactions of products, services, and systems.

Interaction Design Lab 12 units

Prototype for interaction design using sketches, wireframes, storyboards, video, animation, and code.

Communication Design Studio: Theory & Practice 12 units

Use design strategies to decode complex information and to communicate messages clearly.

Thesis Prep3 units

Frame your research project.

Colloquium3 units

Learn about faculty research.

2 Spring First Year

Investigate business and policy opportunities in design for services and social innovation through research-based team project work in your studio course. Work with advisors to prepare your thesis proposal.

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: Research Based Design for Interactions 12 units

Tackle a client-sponsored team project using an integrated research and design process.

Design Research Methods 9 units

Learn and apply a range of participatory methods for exploratory, generative, and evaluative research and design.

Thesis Prep 3 units

Investigate your personal interests, identify an advisor, and construct a researchable question to frame your project. Plan and propose the research and design approach you’ll follow in your second year.

Elective 12 units

MDes: Year Two

3 Fall Second Year

Through thesis project work and your choice of electives, craft a generalist degree in design for interaction, or develop a concentration in design for services or social innovation.

MDes Thesis Project 21 units

Build on the foundation of coursework and studios through thesis research with your advisor.

Conduct research and develop creative concepts to address a significant problem of unique interest to you. You might choose a topic in the area of design for service or social innovation.

Engage with stakeholders in the real world to inspire and evaluate your ideas.

Review progress and your evolving body of work with peers and your advisor.

Seminar: Advanced Interaction & Service Design Concepts 12 units

Survey new models and approaches to interaction design and design for service in professional practice.

Elective 12 units

4 Spring Second Year

Bring your thesis project through to fruition, and take advantage of electives to cultivate your expertise in design for interaction, and design for services or social innovation.

MDes Thesis Project 21 units

Model, test, refine, and document solutions from your year of deep research and design exploration.

Synthesize your findings and apply what you learned to finalize your project.

Present and defend your thesis to a panel of experts.

Showcase your project as a unique feature of your design portfolio, demonstrating your ability to take on a significant research and design project.

Elective 12 units

Elective 12 units

© School of Design, Carnegie Mellon University, 2014

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