Integrated Design

MFA Integrated Design

Graduates of the Integrated Design program will be interdisciplinary professionals who can think and create across traditional 2D, 3D and digital design disciplines.

A new kind of designer is emerging – design strategist, brand ambassador, service designer, design researcher, social innovator. Today’s complex design problems need a holistic approach for understanding and creating solutions. Integrated Design is for designers who seek career opportunities outside the traditional 2D or 3D boundaries. The program is not just about creating beautiful artifacts or studying a random combination of different mediums or disciplines; it is about creating design thinkers, with an eye toward social innovation. It is about having the confidence born out of strong creative skills in 2D, 3D or digital disciplines to advance your career outside the conventions of a single practice.

Our curriculum integrates relevant aspects of business practices with human-centered research into the creative process to prepare you for success in the 21st century. It is structured to stimulate innovative and entrepreneurial thinking in a rigorous, interdisciplinary environment – where collaboration throughout the design process is a core pedagogical tenet.

As a student in the College’s MFA program in Integrated Design, you will be among highly talented people who share a passion for solving problems. Whether it’s branding strong human touchpoints that differentiate a cancer surgery center in the eyes of its patients, or developing powerful co-creation tools for a non-profit organization dedicated to helping families become self-sufficient, or designing a wearable device for preventing myopia in children, you will be challenged to think about how design can find answers to complex issues faced by society. Simply put, how can we, as designers, be a catalyst for impact, rally engagement and transform people’s lives?

Led by MFA Integrated Design Professor and Chair, Maria Luisa Rossi, students in Integrated Design and Interaction Design collaborated on a project with GE Appliances called "Future of Healthy Living Within the Home.” This project focused on integrating health and wellness components into GE Appliances’ products through the use of interaction and beyond. The students presented their scenario hypothesis ideation at the GE Appliances headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky, in  November '16.

Interdisciplinary Design

We believe that impactful design starts with a deep understanding of the users as well as a multi-disciplinary approach to creating solutions. Our curriculum focuses on a proven combination of research, business and studio courses to simulate ‘real projects’ in the classroom, often with an eye towards the future. These projects are sponsored and taught by industry leaders and practitioners who offer insights, critiques and guidance throughout the duration of the program. The design problems are complex, multi-faceted and market-driven, requiring a team of individuals with diverse skills to complete rather than the isolated works of individual designers. Not surprisingly, the successful results reflect a more holistic solution, integrating 2D and 3D as well as digital, spatial and interactive thinking.

With the tools for envisioning alternative scenarios that cross boundaries of traditional disciplines, our graduates are able to successfully solve problems and innovate in the face of a dynamic and uncertain future.

Interdisciplinary Design is not about making stand-alone artifacts, as beautiful as they may be. Nor is it a random, or worse, an individually-driven combination of different mediums or disciplines.Interdisciplinary Design is creating solutions that impact our lives in relevant and meaningful ways. Although other MFA programs offer similar-sounding programs, we believe that our curriculum is unique in the specific way it integrates proven business practices, research methods and advanced creative skills to prepare our students for success.

Our program includes:

  • the study of marketing fundamentals and entrepreneurship practices specifically tailored for the design strategist or entrepreneur
  • the application of observational and ethnographic research methodologies to identify unmet user needs as well as the ability to validate ideas through primary market research
  • the utilization of scenario planning to explore innovative design opportunities for the future
  • the translation and visualization of concepts and rapid iteration of prototypes in studio settings

While other MFA programs are contained within the confines of a classroom, our projects, often sponsored by industry, are designed to mirror real-life business challenges whose solutions are design-driven and interdisciplinary.


The Interdisciplinary Design MFA can be completed in two years, full-time.

MFA: Interdisciplinary Design program highlights

  • Learn from faculty with years of industry experience and design business connections.
  • Work on real industry-sponsored projects for companies such as Whirlpool, Carhartt and ATX Telematics.
  • Complete a culminating design thesis that involves design development, extensive research, business case/creative brief development and the realization of a  substantial deliverable.

Our curriculum is led by faculty who understand what it takes to succeed in the design industry because they have been or currently are successful industry practitioners and leaders. Students learn not only to become critical thinkers and strategic designers but to be professionals because creative talent and executional skills alone do not guarantee career advancement or entrepreneurial success. Students are taught to work effectively in teams both as leaders and as team peers. They cope with the real stresses of deadlines and uncertainties, both within and outside of their control. They learn to champion their ideas through formal presentations and rigorous critiques led by industry professionals who are in positions to recruit and hire promising talent.

In the final academic year for graduate students, the MFA Interdisciplinary Design curriculum concludes with the Graduate Thesis, designed to help students articulate and execute a body of work that is the culmination of their graduate studies experience. Students follow a design development path that commences with a rigorous research phase. A business case and a creative brief emerge from their research findings. These serve as the plan of work for the completion of the Thesis. Through multiple phases – complete with milestones and reviews with their advisors – students complete a series of high-quality deliverables, building up to a final presentation to the Graduate Thesis Review Committee.

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Contact Us

MFA Integrated Design Department
T. 313.664.1475
F. 313.664.1490

Department Chair
Maria Luisa Rossi