First Year

Fall

  1. Design Graduate Studio I: Relational Space
  2. Contextual Design Research I: Consumer Values, Attitudes, Behavior
  3. Interaction Design I: The Differentiated Shopping Experience
  4. Graduate Seminar I: Foundations of Global Thinking
  5. Elective

Design Graduate Studio I: Relational Space

The design projects assigned in Design Graduate Studio I, II, III and IV share the same structure, but differ in their complexity and duration. Students are assigned formally structured design projects, requiring a substantive research phase (augmented by the Contextual Design Research class), a prototype or concept development phase, followed by a concept/design refinement phase, finishing with design presentation and reflection phases. Topics will be relevant to today's ever-changing cultural and technological societies. Studio I focuses on the concept of relational space, in particular how design can function in the articulation of institutional strategies and their intended audiences.

Contextual Design Research I: Consumer Values, Attitudes, Behavior

Contextual Design Research I and II introduce the methods, tools and techniques of research that are relevant to designing with people in mind for product, experience, space, or service. The methods and tools fall into the categories of “what people say,” “what people do” and “what people need.” Contextual Design Research I and II are primarily lecture-based, but also include a variety of hands-on learning activities that are applicable at all points along the design process. This course is structured around the graduate studio projects. Open to graduate students only.

Interaction Design I: The Differentiated Shopping Experience

Interaction Design I and II introduce the fundamental concepts, methods, and practices of interaction design. They investigate the intersection of content, interface and experience in the context of business solutions. Students work in teams to identify market opportunities and define relevant consumer or user behavior patterns. The courses focus on technological, behavioral and theoretical underpinnings of interaction design and the importance of market analysis, research, testing, and the use of storytelling techniques. Both courses are offered in a studio format. Students participate in group discussions, critiques and presentations. Open to graduate students only.Interaction Design I focuses on electronic and online media, in particular user research and design and the specification, evaluation, and refinement of the interactive experience.

Graduate Seminar I: Foundations of Global Thinking

This seminar provides a foundation for thinking about economic, political, cultural and aesthetic issues in a global context, especially as they might inform individual design practice, i.e., the student’s local action. The seminar begins by examining the process of exchange and in particular the way humans interact with one another through market transactions. Students then examine various ways of understanding globalization as an economic and cultural system. Subsequent classes focus on the mechanisms of the global market and the increasingly important role design has come to play. Of particular concern are the aesthetic and informational values built into production and consumption practices. This further entails consideration of questions of sustainability and ethics. Provisions are made to accommodate the exploration of individual and group interests as the semester progresses.

Elective

Studio Electives I, II and III offer opportunities for graduate students to select studio courses from CCS’s wide-ranging undergraduate programs, either to pursue personal creative interests, gain studio experience related to an intended thesis direction or augment basic skills. Students will make their selection in consultation with their graduate advisor(s).

Winter

  1. Design Graduate Studio II: Brand Extension
  2. Contextual Design Research II: Research Principles & Methods
  3. Interaction Design II: Interactive Design Dynamics
  4. Business Practice I: Marketing as Strategy
  5. Elective

Design Graduate Studio II: Brand Extension

Design Studio II builds upon the knowledge gained in Studio I. Where Studio I focused on relational space, Studio II focuses on a different relation, namely that of brand and consumer. In particular, Studio II explores the concept of brand extension, the business strategy of capitalizing on an existing brand’s equity to sell new products and services. In this class, students will study a brand’s core identity and image ecology and gain insight into its emotional connections. Students will then design products and create prototypes with these values in mind and devise a promotional strategy. Work will be documented throughout the semester in a multi-media design process journal. Attention will be given to the degree to which design solutions fulfill stated goals and objectives, on the quality of execution of all aspects, and on the ability to effectively communicate concepts to faculty and peers.

Contextual Design Research II: Research Principles & Methods

Contextual Design Research II builds upon the knowledge gained in Contextual Design Research I, exploring user-behavior research at deeper, more specific level. In particular, students will be called upon to think differently about the user experience and its implications for their design work. The course focuses more intensely on qualitative research from public data and from proprietary resources the students develop, including conducting end-user research. Students will develop a deeper understanding of the human context surrounding their design work and how to apply a variety of research methods to solve a particular design challenge.

Interaction Design II: Interactive Design Dynamics

Interaction Design II builds on the knowledge gained in Interaction Design I. The class calls upon students to use the research, development, and executional expertise learned in Interaction Design I to work on an assignment for a specific client. Students learn how to study a client’s current situation, opportunities, challenges, and needs and conduct research with multiple stakeholders and potential users. Research findings will be translated into critical business and user requirements. Taking this information, students will design high-level interactive experiences that are founded on a rigorous, defensible design rationale. The class will proceed in phases, from discovery and ideation to final presentation to clients.

Business Practice I: Marketing as Strategy

This course is designed around a framework that organizes and interrelates marketing topics into succinct modules. Using the new textbook, "Marketing: The Big Picture" by Christie Nordhielm, students are required to apply the big picture framework to a live “mini” case that they choose and write themselves using a carefully designed template. Students will then take a leadership role in managing the discussion of these mini-cases. In this way, the class maximizes their relevance to current business practices and also acquaints the students with the ‘business case’ format. Students also leverage a simulation tool, the Big Picture Simulation, to test their knowledge of the concepts learned in class.

Elective

Studio Electives I, II and III offer opportunities for graduate students to select studio courses from CCS’s wide-ranging undergraduate programs, either to pursue personal creative interests, gain studio experience related to an intended thesis direction or augment basic skills. Students will make their selection in consultation with their graduate advisor(s).

Second Year

Fall

  1. Design Graduate Studio III: Social Innovation by Design
  2. Graduate Seminar II
  3. Design Graduate Thesis I

Design Graduate Studio III: Social innovation by design

Design Studio III calls upon students to use knowledge gained in the first two studios in developing an extended case study of the local environment. Students will undertake primary and secondary research, in the case of the former through personal interviews, participant observation, and surveys, and in the case of the latter through literature reviews and accessing other data and information available from public sources. Students will be called upon to apply that research to a specific context and communicate information to a chosen audience effectively using the appropriate media and language. The goal is to design an innovative, replicable, and scalable communication strategy and deployment platform.

Graduate Seminar II

Graduate Seminar II builds on the knowledge gained in Seminar I, asking students to apply concepts learned in the first class to a local case study. Whereas Seminar I was relatively structured, Seminar II calls upon students to exercise greater autonomy, working in small groups to perform independent directed research and report back to the class for discussion and analysis. Where Seminar I provided a foundation of global thinking, Seminar II presupposes that students will use that information to act locally. Seminar II takes the local community, i.e., Detroit, as its subject, but the expertise gained, in terms of conducting research and negotiating its various components, is intended to be applicable to future projects that students will be called upon to undertake, both as they finish the degree program and then as they pursue their own design practice in other locales.

 

 

Design Graduate Thesis I

The Design Graduate Thesis I and II curriculum is designed to help students synthesize external factors – such as technology, global and environmental issues and trends, including social change – and translate them into a form that is meaningful in a business setting to create relevant design solutions. “Relevant” in this context requires that students’ design solutions resonate with an identified market segment from all design and functional standpoints. Design Graduate Thesis I and II are studio courses where each student will be required to create a body of work that is the culmination of his/her graduate study experience. The Thesis requires that students follow a design development path that commences with an extensive and rigorous research phase. A business case and/or a creative brief will grow out of the research findings and serve as the plan of work for the completion of the Thesis. Students are expected to work through the subsequent phases of creating a high-quality creative deliverable(s), either digitally or hand-built as appropriate.Thesis I focuses on the proposal and development phases of the thesis project.

Winter

  1. Design Graduate Studio IV
  2. Business Practices II
  3. Design Graduate Thesis II

Graduate Studio IV

Design Studio IV culminates the formal studio process and lays the foundation for the Graduate Thesis project, which is the capstone of the MFA in Design program. Studio IV focuses on the concept of design through delivery. Students will create a branded exhibit and event experience that applies a brand strategy across multiple touch points. Students will be called upon to explore a combination of exhibit cases and create “real-world” solutions that resonate with an identified brand character in all respects, including aesthetics, values, and functionality. Students will demonstrate mastery of project planning and management techniques, employ a toolkit of design strategies, and apply research to produce physical environments that communicate appropriate design solutions.

Business Practices II

Business Practices II expands on the knowledge gained in Business Practice I with a special emphasis on the essentials of entrepreneurialism. Business Practices II calls on students to develop a business plan for an important project, including writing and presenting key documents in a business case. Among the deliverables: an “elevator” pitch, a two- to three-page executive summary, and a 12- to 15-page business plan. Students will use e-learning materials, books, in-class presentations, and discussions to develop their own initial ideas and then choose one concept to work with in small teams. The teams will collaborate on developing, refining, and presenting a final presentation and business plan at the end of the semester. Students will be called upon to master the fundamental concepts of entrepreneurialism and the keys to innovation. These include understanding business concepts and vocabulary, developing and market testing the structural elements of a business case, and acquiring the skills to analyze, execute, and deliver highly effective oral and written presentations. Attention will also paid to such basic business knowledge as reading and preparing financial statements and understanding how executives and investors evaluate new business opportunities.

Design Graduate Thesis II

Graduate Thesis II continues the work begun in Graduate Thesis I and it is the capstone of the MFA in Design program. Students will expand on the proposal and development phases of their project to complete the execution and refinement and final presentation and installation of their thesis work. Students will work independently with consultation from advisors to execute a portfolio of deliverables in preparation for final thesis review and graduation. The deliverables consist of a written and bound document that articulates the business context and supporting research related to the project, a studio-based design artifact (singular or multiple) in a 2D, 3D, and/or digital form as appropriate, a final oral and visual thesis presentation to the Graduate Thesis Review Committee, and a thesis exhibit at the Graduate Thesis Exhibition.

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