CCS Graduate Program in Integrated Design Re-envisioned as Systems Design Thinking

The College for Creative Studies (CCS) graduate program in Integrated Design has changed its name to Systems Design Thinking, effective Fall 2020 semester. Offering a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree, the program prepares students to use holistic, human-centered approaches to service design, helping them to develop and strengthen the skills designers need to understand, empathize with, collaborate on and design long-term solutions to chronic social problems.

According to Systems Design Thinking Chair Maria Luisa Rossi, the new name reflects a programmatic shift in focus that has been building gradually in the past few years, in keeping with trends in the field of design. Persistent and immense social problems, such as economic and health inequality, or climate change, require more empathetic and innovative approaches that center people and societal well-being as well as a system approach. Design can play a crucial role.

One recent design studio, in partnership with the City of Detroit Department of Innovation and Technology and Comcast’s Community Impact Team, challenged students to develop sustainable digital inclusion strategies for the city’s low-income, mobile-only households. Another, the 2030 Detroit Equitable Mobility project, explored innovative, safe and sustainable mobility solutions for the city’s neighborhoods.

“Services have moved from being a peripheral activity in a manufacturing-centered economy, and from their initial focus on service interactions and experiences, to an engine for growth and society-driven innovation,” Rossi said, noting that the program offers not a discipline but, rather, an approach that can be applied across many disciplines.

“Service design research and practice have entered into more strategic and transformational roles. Designers trained in systems design thinking engage issues of organizational change, sustainability and social change.”

Students in the program participate in three foundational studios, offered across three semesters, in “Scenario Design,” “Service Design” and “Social Impact Design,” as well as coursework, sponsored and independent projects to help them, as designers, leverage the capacities of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses and systems within a city to survive, adapt and grow.

For more information on the MFA in Systems Design Thinking at CCS, please go here.