Why study Design?

The Master of Design (MDes) program exists within a multidisciplinary setting across the Communication Design, Fashion Design and Industrial Design programs housed in the Ullman School of Design at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP). The program is rooted in an evidence-based approach that emphasizes design research methods and strategies to address complex sociocultural, environmental, educational, and health challenges. MDes students materialize these challenges through writing, visualization, and prototyping techniques that result in published scholarship and exhibition. This is a research-driven curriculum, not one of making design artifacts.

MDes students design interventions through strategic investigation and rigorous research protocols. They engage in research methods during their first semester in partnership with faculty from the Ullman School of Design. A thesis topic is identified and developed throughout continued direction in theory, primary, secondary, and applied research, and chair-directed studies. Required courses expand student capability in design research methods and strategy, design discourse, and visual strategies for the dissemination of research.

The objectives of the MDes program are to:

  • Focus on Methods: designing understanding
  • Focus on Strategy: designing innovative paradigms
  • Focus on Systems Thinking: designing dynamic structures to complex problems
  • Focus on Evidence: designing applied solutions with measurable results
  • Focus on Empathy: designing for social impact

Thesis project topics may focus on — or blur the lines between — research for Communication Design, Fashion Design, and/or Industrial Design. Graduate students work under the guidance of faculty to target domain-specific design applications in real contexts, such as design for aging populations, design for health and wellness, and design for education. The final thesis work is presented and defended visually and in writing. Thesis projects are also exhibited at the annual DAAPworks show. MDes students are expected to work with a high level of independence, motivation, and competence through their education. Students with undergraduate degrees from design-related fields and non-design-related fields are invited to apply to the two-year Master of Design program.

Admission Requirements

  • The application deadline is February 1st. Apply here
  • University application forms
  • A baccalaureate design degree from an accredited college or university, with at least a 3.0 undergraduate GPA (in a 4.0 grading system)
  • Unofficial transcript(s) from all colleges/universities attended. Note: Official transcripts are not required during the admissions process, and only unofficial transcripts are required for the application. Applicants should not send official transcripts until they are offered admission. For complete requirements please visit the Graduate School transcript requirements: http://grad.uc.edu/admissions/policy.html
  • A resume or curriculum vitae summarizing accomplishments to date
  • At least two years of professional experience in design practice or teaching (Internships and sponsored projects may be applied towards this time)
  • A letter of intent that briefly answers the following: 
    • Name at least one faculty member in the School of Design with whom you’d like to work and explain why. Note: The directory of faculty may be found here: https://daap.uc.edu/about/directory
    • One of the benefits of studying in a Tier 1 research university is access to many other disciplines of research and study. What other departments at UC could you imagine making use of, either for study or collaboration?
    • If you secured a research grant, what problem would you focus on and what would you propose to do?
  • At least three personal references who can comment on your past performance and future potential in academic and professional contexts
  • A portfolio that includes 12–15 examples of your work as an indication of the skill level required to pursue graduate studies in design (including aesthetic sensitivity, objective knowledge of form, interest areas, and ability to solve problems). The examples should support your letter of intent. We no longer accept website links or hard copies of portfolios. 
  • Applicants with English as a second language must have a score of 570 (paper-based) or 230 (computer-based) or 88 (Internet-based) on the Test of English as a second language (TOEFL). The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is also accepted. For IELTS, an overall band score of 6.5 is needed.

MDes Graduate Program Director: Emily Verba Fischer emily.verba@uc.edu (513) 556-4251

The University of Cincinnati and all regional campuses are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

This program is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art & Design (NASAD)

Contact Information

Dennis Puhalla
3435 Aronoff
Cincinnati, OH 45221
(513) 556-6434

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Program Code: 23MAS-DSGN-MDES