Master of Design

The Master of Design (MDes) in Design for Interactions is a two-year professional degree for students with an undergraduate degree in design or previous design experience. The MDes is currently considered the terminal degree in design.

CMU was one of the first programs in the world to offer a master’s degree in interaction design (IxD). Twenty years ago, the program focused primarily on screen interfaces for computer applications and Websites. Since then, the boundaries between hardware and software, device and user, have blurred considerably – a trend that continues to accelerate. Our two former degrees in Interaction Design (IxD) and Communication Planning and Information Design (CPID) have been combined into a single degree, the MDes. However, an emphasis on communication/information design remains an integral component of the new MDes in Design for Interactions, both through required coursework and electives within and outside the program.

Our new curriculum situates research within the larger context of the interactions between people, organizations and the natural world. Students in the MDes program engage in research-based design for services and social innovation that aim to catalyze the transition to more sustainable futures.

Program Structure

Fall Semester Year One: Core seminars and studio courses provide the intellectual and practical foundation of the program by:

  • Familiarizing students with design for interactions, design for service and design for social innovation
  • Demonstrating design’s impact in both the business and public policy sectors
  • Strengthening students’ skills in communication and interaction design

Spring Semester Year One:  Students continue to investigate service and social innovation design opportunities within the business and public policy sectors through:

  • research-based team projects 
  • study of the essential elements of communication for designers

Year Two: A unique feature of the MDes program is the second year thesis, an independent research and design project developed by students under the mentorship of a faculty advisor. The thesis year is complemented by elective coursework from the School of Design and other departments across the CMU campus.

To supplement the degree, we strongly encourage summer internships between the first and second years, facilitated through our annual career event, Confluence.

A complete listing of MDes course descriptions is available for download in a PDF.

MDes: Year One

Students are introduced to design for interactions through services and social innovation with potential impact in business and policy, while expanding their skills in communication and interaction design.

1 Fall First Year

MDes/MPS Seminar I 12 units

Interaction and Service Design concepts

MDes/MPS Studio I 12 units

Designing for Interactions

Interaction Design Lab 12 units

Concept/Strategy/Prototyping/Visualization

Communication Design Studio 12 units

Theory & Practice

Colloquium 3 units

Lectures from faculty about their research

Thesis Prep 3 units

Framing research questions

Students investigate business and policy opportunities in design for services and social innovation through research-based team project work, and prepare a thesis proposal.

2 Spring First Year

MDes/MPS Seminar II 12 units

Transition Design

MDes/MPS Studio II 12 units

Research Based Design for Interactions

Research Methods for Design 9 units

Supports Studio II

Elective 12 units

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

Thesis Prep 3 units

Scoping a thesis project

MDes: Year Two

Students may opt for a generalist degree in design for interaction, or craft a concentration in design for services or social innovation through their thesis project work and choice of electives.

3 Fall Second Year

MDes Thesis Project 21 units

Design for Interaction, focus in design for services or social innovation

MDes Seminar III 12 units

Advanced Interaction & Service Design Concepts

Elective 12 units

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

Students bring their thesis projects to fruition and develop expertise in design for interaction, and design for services or social innovation, through electives.

4 Spring Second Year

MDes Thesis Project 21 units

Design for Interaction, focus in design for services or social innovation

Elective 12 units

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

Elective 12 units

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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