Master of Design in Innovation Design Strategies

We place the designer at the center of creative transformation.

From healthcare to retail, technology to transportation, social issues to issues of economy — any complex thing is bound to be, well, complicated. That’s where our MDes in Innovation Design Strategies comes in.

We believe that no matter what industry or inequity a problem stems from, design gives us a place to start uncovering answers. We know that thinking, creating, and communicating like a designer creatively frames and solves problems, and that it is the key to dismantling and decoding them.

Our MDes in Innovation Design Strategies blends many new ways of thinking — design thinking, systems thinking, future thinking, to name a few — with new ways of designing — experience design, strategic design, service design, business design — while keeping holistic, human values front and center.

Our approach

The MDes in Innovation Design Strategies offers a competitive advantage in many fields, including business, engineering, healthcare, and education. Real world problems require real world solutions, and that’s why our curriculum is grounded in projects partnered with clients who bring key challenges that demand design-led strategic approaches to address. 

Together, our MDes candidates collaborate to to grapple with those client-focused challenges. But more importantly, with our training and mentorship, students in these projects redefine how challenge is approached, identify opportunities for action, and help deliver more complete and resilient solutions.

Throughout our curriculum, we emphasize leadership opportunities so students have the experience and confidence to take the skills in design-led strategy and innovation they develop and transform their careers with them. Not only do we require courses--like Leadership and Complexity--where students develop their leadership styles, we also invite students to manage a design team, facilitate a strategic design workshop, participate in speaking opportunities, or spearhead a brainstorming session with other organizations.

Our students

Students who thrive in this 60-credit, two-year program are seasoned design and business professionals ready for a transformation in their career path or recent graduates who want to deepen their leadership toolkit.

We know, however, that many of our prospective students would like to balance this program with their current work life. For that reason, we also offer a three-year half-time enrollment option. While the workload is still steep and rigorous, our three-year option allows students to stay on track and share all classes with those enrolled in the accelerated full-time version.



The MDes program structure: a scaffolded approach

Our hands-on, experiential learning approach sees coursework gradually build outward, widening students’ circle of knowledge with increased complexity in our Innovation Design Strategies approach. Some key benchmark points include: 

Self: solve a difficult problem in a saturated market

In this phase, you will explore how your individual background can contribute to driving innovation and what needs your field has that could be solved by design-led approaches. You will learn about the theories of design thinking and its potential to drive change, and you will apply what you’ve learned to a real business problem brought on by a saturated market.

Ecosystems: solve a technology-driven, complex problem

In this phase, you will study, perform, and devise best practices of strategic research, the framework for deeply understanding any ecosystem in which you’ll work. You will learn how to effectively uncover a market’s nuances, and how to articulate and balance the needs of clients, users, and stakeholders. You will apply this knowledge to generate a systemic vision from which businesses and organizations can foresee their opportunities and scenarios of value -- and from which you can create a new solution.

Complexity: solve a human-centered, complex problem

Whether you want to design a new product-service experience or architect an organizational change, learn how to apply creativity to break down complex business and societal problems; scale integration of that solution for local, global, or universal reach; and manage risk and uncertainty as you prepare to bring a solution to life.

Implementation: Thesis

Learn how to lead the process of implementing a solution so that it is viable, reliable, and desirable; learn how to provide the strategic and business tools to spot and implement future scenarios of value; and learn and create tools to measure your solution’s impact.

The final thesis project is a capstone course during which you’ll be responsible for all phases of the design process, from initial development to final solution. You will be supported as you seek out and develop your own project for a real client from the for-profit or non-profit space. You will consult with clients, organize teams, and oversee process, deliverables, and final solutions.



MDes program outcomes

Transformation is key -- for the organizations we help and the MDes candidates themselves.

Not only do CCAD Master of Design in Innovation Design Strategies graduates have the skills and confidence to stand out in their desired professions, they know how to apply the human-centered, strategic approach we teach across industries, across communities, across the world.

Our graduates are able to effectively tackle challenges, galvanize their teams, and make a meaningful impact using this unique strategic process and the intangible creative skillset that comes with it. They’re the organizational leaders, cultural catalysts, and innovators of tomorrow. 


More information is available for your consideration in our Grad Studies Guidebook, or join us on campus for an information session to learn more. Or, check out Graduate Studies on Twitter.


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MDes program course descriptions

Design Integration Studio I & II
GRID5001& 5002 - 6 credits

The core studios assist students with the development and understanding of their design projects through critique, discussion, presentations, and charrettes. Concurrent with the Design Projects, the Integration Studio offers opportunities for reflection and practice in building teams, collaboration, experimentation, and synthesis. Must be taken in conjunction with Design Projects.

Design Thinking and Methodology
GRID5802 - 3 credits

This course will introduce students to a human-centered approach to collaborative innovation and responsive problem solving. Students will learn history of and present applications for design thinking through case studies drawn from commercial, educational, and social sectors. The course culminates in participatory workshops that familiarize students with critical issues in planning and facilitating design thinking in contemporary organizations.

Design Integration Studio III & IV
GRID6001 & 6002 - 6 credits

The advanced studios assist students with managing and understanding their Design Projects practicums through critique, discussion, case studies, readings, and charrettes. Particular emphasis is placed on collaboration, building teams, facilitation, synthesis, conflict resolution, and managing creativity. Must be taken in conjunction with Design Projects.

Design Projects
GRID5105 & 5106, GRID6000 - 18 credits

These practicums place students in collaborative studio-based projects through the CCAD MindMarket. Students will work on commercial, cultural, and community-based projects, putting their previous design experience into practice while further cultivating collaborative approaches to solving problems in interdisciplinary or trans-disciplinary methods. Must be taken in conjunction with Design Integration Studios.

Leadership and Complexity
GRID 5803 - 3 credits

Complex leadership redirects the emphasis away from the individual as leader and toward a more systematic interdisciplinary strategy. This course actively engages students in developing the adaptive leadership skills needed to thrive in complex and changing environments. This includes how to diagnose, interrupt, and innovate to foster individual creativity, collective engagement, and creative community within ambiguous, risky and dynamic atmospheres.

Thesis Project
GRID6070 - 6 credits

In this capstone project course, students will be responsible for all phases of the design process – from initial development to final solution. They seek out and develop their own projects for real clients from either the for-profit or non-profit space. Students consult with clients, organize teams, and oversee process, deliverables, and final solutions.

Research, Creation, and Development
GRID6003 - 3 credits

Students in this course will practice how, what, and when to develop research for real-world design scenarios and solutions. They will then develop and formally present their research methods and findings. The appropriateness of specific research methods and strategies, and the understanding of their applications will be practiced and emphasized.

Communications & Advocacy
GRID5804 - 3 credits

This course provides students with the tools to facilitate constructive dialogue within creative teams and with external partners. The ability to advocate for good design solutions within organizations and communities is stressed. Narrative techniques, marshaling and mastering an argument and negotiation skills are explored.


Service Design 
GRID5806 - 3credits

The services section is among the largest and fastest growing portions of the global economy.

This course explores how innovative services are developed through systematic processes. Students learn how to Identifying potential areas of service, establish standards of delivery, define when and how to provide user interactions (channels, artifacts, actors), and measure the impact to ensure value creation and profitability.

Using a systems-thinking approach, the course is structured around hands-on, collaborative projects, applying the diverse methods, techniques and tools of service design to develop innovative customer experiences. Case studies from a wide variety of industries and contexts are explored. Elective. May be taken by non CCAD students and professionals seeking to expand their understanding and skills.

Business Foundations for Design
GRID5801 - 3 credits

The material in this course will assist design leaders with considering financial information as part of complex decision-making. By understanding the financial behind business decisions, students will be better able to manage fiscal tensions within a successful design business. This course is designed to prepare future leaders to comprehend, analyze, and develop such financial information and consider it within a relevant design context.

Planning, Sustainability and Ethics
GRID5805 - 3 credits

This course stresses strategic planning as vital to success of any enterprise. Planning is viewed in an expanded sense that fosters values, sustainability and ethical behavior. The development of goals, identifying constituents, measuring success, and establishing a feedback system for continuous improvement are emphasized.

Course information

Check out the Master of Design courses.

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Adjunct Instructor
Master of Design
Assistant Professor
Advertising & Graphic Design, Master of Design
Chair of Interior Architecture & Design, Associate Professor
Interior Architecture & Design, Master of Design
Director of Liberal Arts, Department Head of ESL, Assistant Professor
Liberal Arts, Master of Design, Master of Fine Arts
Chair of Master of Design in Strategy & Innovation, Professor
Master of Design
Adjunct Instructor
Master of Design
Adjunct Instructor, Business, Math, & Entrepreneurship
Liberal Arts, Master of Design, Master of Fine Arts
Associate Professor
Advertising & Graphic Design, Master of Design
Dean of Graduate Studies, Professor
Master of Design, Master of Fine Arts
Adjunct Instructor, CORE Studio, Business, Math & Entrepreneurship
Liberal Arts, Master of Design
Department Head for Business, Math, & Entrepreneurship, Assistant Professor
Liberal Arts, Master of Design
Assistant Professor
Industrial Design, Master of Design


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