We place the designer at the center of creative transformation.
From healthcare to retail, technology to transportation, social issues to issues of economy — today we all live in complex environments. 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 and hidden opportunities. We know that thinking, creating, and communicating like a designer creatively frames and solves problems, develops innovations, and leverages transformation.
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.
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 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.
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, wicked 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.
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.
GRID5001 - 3 credits This studio assists students in 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. Students will explore how their individual background can contribute to driving innovation and what needs has their field that could be solved by design-led approaches. Must be taken in conjunction with Innovation Design Projects I.
Innovation Design Projects I
GRID5105 – 6 credits This first of three practicums places students in collaborative studio-based projects through the CCAD Corporate and Community Partnerships. 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. Students will learn about the potential of design strategies to drive change and innovation by applying them to a real business problem brought on by a saturated market. Must be taken in conjunction with Innovation Design Skills.
GRID6003 – 3 credits This active studio experience allows students to create presentations, visualizations, and information for design professionals to practice how, what, with whom and when to develop research for real-world design scenarios and solutions. The appropriateness of specific research methods and strategies, and the understanding of their applications, will be practiced and emphasized.
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 the history of and present applications for design thinking through case studies drawn from commercial, educational, and social sectors. This course is a seminar class which will be comprised of lectures, in-class exercises, readings, writing papers and participating in class discussions. The course culminates with field trips and guest speaker(s) that familiarize students with how design thinking is applied in contemporary organizations.
Innovation Design Systems
GRID5002 – 3 credits This advanced studio assists students in 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. Students will study best practices of systems thinking and foresight, the framework to profoundly understand a wicked problem in any ecosystem in which they’ll work. They will map its connections and the interdependencies amongst the market, the context, and the people, including clients, users, and all stakeholders. Must be taken in conjunction with Innovation Design Projects II.
Innovation Design Projects II
GRID5106 – 6 credits This second of three practicums places students in collaborative studio-based projects through the CCAD Corporate and Community Partnerships. Students 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. Innovation Design Projects II will focus on solving a technology-driven, human-centered wicked problem. Students will generate a systemic vision from where businesses and organizations can foresee their opportunities and scenarios for value creation by design. Must be taken in conjunction with Innovation Design Systems.
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.
Innovation Design Research
GRID6001 – 3 credits This advanced studio assists students with their thesis project. Students will generate, plan, and execute primary and secondary design research. Academic writing will be emphasized as well as applied research to their thesis challenge. The exploratory research phase of the thesis will start as early as the Spring semester of the first year and be thoroughly executed during Summer. This way, analysis and the emergence of opportunities can be developed during the Fall of the second year.
Design Projects III
GRID6000 – 3 credits The last practicum project places students in collaborative studio-based projects through the CCAD Corporate and Community Partnerships. Design Projects III will focus on designing new product-service experiences for organizational change — learning how to manage uncertainty and risk, think, and do at a local, global and universal scales and how to apply creativity to solve business and societal complex problems. Students will lead design and business opportunities, with a human-centered approach, and manage design teams for prototyping and implementation mapping.
Leadership & Complexity
GRID5803 – 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.
GRID5806 – 3 credits The services sector 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 identify potential areas of service, establish standards of delivery, develop innovative customer experiences, define when and how to provide user interactions (channels, artifacts, actors), and measure impact to ensure value creation and profitability.
Planning, Sustainability & 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.
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.