Master in Design Studies (MDes)

"Projectors, Experiments in Image Tectonics" by Zeina Koreitem (MDes '16), recipient of the Daniel L. Schodek Award for Technology

How do we prepare for challenges that no longer conform to the boundaries of disciplines? The Master in Design Studies (MDes) program challenges students to understand and influence the underlying processes shaping contemporary life. More

Areas of Concentration

Design and design research matter in new ways today. If rapidly changing climates, energy flows, material economies, and migratory populations are the emerging challenges of our time, then the design disciplines offer unique insight on how to navigate these complex, open-ended conditions.

Distinct from research in the sciences or humanities, design research involves highly interactive ways of thinking and learning, through hands-on, cross-disciplinary, multimedia practices that directly engage the technical, material, spatial, ecological, political, economic, thermodynamic and planetary dimensions of design. Seeking to empower the next generation of designers and urbanists, the program utilizes a set of novel and alternative methodologies in a collaborative, immersive, and multimedia environment. Ultimately, MDes at GSD challenges conventional ways of learning—through field work, fabrication, collaboration and dissemination—in a range of labs, seminars, workshops, initiatives, publications, and ongoing projects whose scope and diversity are unmatched by any other design school in the world.

The program consists of three semesters of coursework. Students in each area undertake a core set of courses including a discursive proseminar in the first semester, followed by research methods and related topical courses in the second semester. During their second semester students elect to complete the program in three semesters, culminating in a final Qualifying Paper, or they may elect to extend their research into a fourth semester with an “Open Project” final design research endeavor, conducted independently or in collaboration with their peers and GSD faculty. Whether it is establish a research agenda for an academic career, retool for design practice, or enter design from an adjacent, the MDes program is a nimble and flexible program designed to amplify and accelerate the cultivation of novel approaches to design for this century. Please review further information on the program’s areas of concentration and outcome throughout the GSD website. And, if possible, please join us for our Open House events at the GSD for further information about the programs.

Program Directors
John May, Design Critic in Architecture
Kiel Moe
, Associate Professor of Architecture and Energy

Inside Design Studies


Horizon House: A Retreat in Nature

Horizon House was developed by a team of eight students at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, and was selected First Place in the 3rd LIXIL International University Architectural Competition, held on April 20, 2013 in Tokyo.  The competition focused on the concept of…

exhibition dates: APR 3 – MAY 16, 2014