MPS in Retail Design curriculum

MPS in Retail Design Program Overview

The Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Retail Design trains practicing designers in a multidisciplinary approach that emphasizes the effective and ethical use of consumer behavioral science and data analytics, alongside a spectrum of design disciplines and executive-level business acumen.

From the consumer’s point of view, retail is physical stores, social media, e-commerce sites, and the delivery experience. Therefore, the MPS in Retail Design is consumer-centric and channel-agnostic, and aims to support designers who need exposure to key facets of each of these modes. In that spirit, the program will develop students’ creativity and innovation skills in the service of consumers’ needs, expose them to proven practices from the world’s leading brands and retailers, and contextualize all this in a program focused on an inclusive future for retail.

The MPS in Retail Design is built around a core two-course sequence, Design for Retail 1 & 2, which is grounded in industry best practices. It culminates in a two-course capstone sequence undertaken in which students develop, design, and execute a real-world project.

Program Learning Outcomes

Graduates of the MPS in Retail Design will be able to:

  • Apply advanced understanding of retail strategy and practice to the design of consumer experiences in both physical and digital spaces
  • Communicate effectively and inclusively across industry sectors that intersect in the retail space, including between retail clients and designer colleagues
  • Anticipate future retail design challenges and how to address them in a sustainable way

Course Cadence (full time)

Year 1Design for Retail 1 (3)Design for Retail 2 (3)Cognitive Science for Designers (3)
 Analytics & Trends (3)Retail Design Capstone Project 1 (3)Service Design (3)
 Design Thinking (3) Retail Design Capstone Project 2 (3)
 Presentation & Storytelling (3) ELECTIVE (3)

Course Cadence (half time)

Year 1Design for Retail 1 (3)Design for Retail 2 (3)Cognitive Science for Designers (3)
 Design Thinking (3) Service Design (3)
Year 2Analytics & Trends (3)Retail Design Capstone Project 1 (3)Retail Design Capstone Project 2 (3)
 Presentation & Storytelling (3) ELECTIVE (3)


Course Descriptions

Design for Retail 1 (3 credits) & Design for Retail 2 (3 credits)

COURSE DESCRIPTION: Design for Retail 1 and Design for Retail 2 are sequential and form the core of the MPS in Retail Design curriculum. These courses explore the intersection of design professions and business realities necessary to create consumer experiences, with attention throughout on including the needs and desires of a diverse customer base in the design process. They are built on proven industry practices that deliver relevant results in the areas of research, strategy, multi-disciplinary design process, design development, and execution. Students will learn critical thinking skills that balance evidence-based decision-making with creativity, innovation, inclusivity, and investment-driven business cases. Through deep analysis of successes and failures in this profession, students will gain skills that will enable them to develop and execute world-class retail designs. Course instructors will engage industry professionals as subject matter experts to supplement in-class theory and practice work.

Design for Retail 1 (3 credits)

COURSE DESCRIPTION Detail: Design for Retail 1 establishes a foundation by addressing key contextual issues of retail history, operational basics, industry processes and practices, and the guiding principles of the MPS in Retail Design.

COURSE OBJECTIVES: Upon successful completion of this course students will be able to:

  • Explain the fundamentals of the retail ecosystem
  • Document retail research and data sources
  • Deploy key tools for the articulation of customer personas, needs, and experiences

Design for Retail 2 (3 credits)

COURSE DESCRIPTION Detail:Design for Retail 2 covers the subjects of client and design project management, multidisciplinary design, application of proven methods to digital retail, and managing creativity in the context of a business case. Class work will include execution tactics which will integrate with work in Retail Design Capstone 1, which will be taken concurrently

COURSE OBJECTIVES:Upon successful completion of this course students will be able to:

  • Manage key aspects of the client and partner experience
  • Design retail experiences within key parameters
  • Deliver documentation and design packages

Cognitive Science for Designers (3 credits)

COURSE DESCRIPTION: This course harnesses relevant research and analysis techniques from the fields of psychology, neuroscience, and sociology as they are employed (and misemployed) in understanding consumer behavior. Students will to integrate, challenge, and deploy what researchers have established about consumer behavior in case study and project work.

COURSE OBJECTIVES: Upon successful completion of this course students will be able to:

  • Determine ethical and effective uses of consumer psychology
  • Conduct consumer research
  • Assess sociological influences on consumer behavior

Analytics & Trends in Retail (3 credits)

COURSE DESCRIPTION: Retail is data driven. This course explores quantitative and qualitative data, where it comes from, and how it is synthesized and used to inform the design and development of consumer experiences. Students will undertake project work to help them understand what constitutes a trend and the relevance of data to making critical decisions about how consumers engage brands and make purchase decisions.

COURSE OBJECTIVES: Upon successful completion of this course students will be able to:

  • Obtain and analyze qualitative and quantitative consumer data
  • Map appropriate and relevant uses of consumer data
  • Predict trends rooted in consumer data

Presentation & Storytelling (3 credits)

COURSE DESCRIPTION: Storytelling informs design. It shapes how a brand demonstrates relevance and meaning to its consumers, how an organization understands its customers, and how a designer conveys their work to collaborators and clients. This course explores various forms of storytelling relevant to retail and design disciplines. Students will engage with professional communications and brand-to-consumer communications such as brand positioning, customer profiling (personas and journeys), and sensory merchandising (perception based product and service presentation).

COURSE OBJECTIVES: Upon successful completion of this course students will be able to:

  • Evaluate the effectiveness of various storytelling techniques
  • Construct visual stories that influence consumers
  • Create and deliver persuasive presentations that yield action for internal and external stakeholders

Service Design (3 credits)

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

Design Thinking & Methodology (3 credits)

Course Description: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.

Retail Design Capstone Project 1 (3 credits) & Retail Design Capstone Project 2 (3 credits)

Retail Design Capstone Project 1

This project-based course (the first half of the Retail Design capstone experience) will place retail design students in a local retail setting, such as: a fashion pop-up, a digitally enabled physical space marketing experience, a specialty home goods brand with store and digital expressions, a mobile healthcare offering, or a food-centric hospitality offering. Together with the local partner, students will identify current challenges that the business faces, engage data and behavior insights to deduce how they came to be, and propose solutions.

Retail Design Capstone Project 2

This project-based course (the second half of the Retail Design capstone experience) anticipates students will continue working with the local partner engaged in Capstone Project 1. The student will work with the partner to propose solutions to current challenges while forecasting future limitations and opportunities. Throughout, the management of various design and operational disciplines to bring a meaningful experience to a customer will be emphasized.