Master in Design Studies (MDes) Pre-Fall 2021

The mention of “empty land” in government’s transmigration policy and agricultural development

"A Guidebook to an Empty Land: Kalimantan and the Shadows of the Capital" by Angela Mayrina (MDes '20) — Recipient of the Design Studies Thesis Prize

In 2021, the Master in Design Studies (MDes) program was reorganized, and as a result the areas of concentration that appear below are no longer offered to new applicants or incoming students. Students who are currently enrolled in these areas of concentration will be able to complete their degrees as expected, and may continue to refer to this and related web pages for relevant information.

A new curriculum for the MDes degree is now offered at the GSD. Learn more about our new Master in Design Studies program. More

Areas of Concentration

Inside Design Studies

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.

If rapidly changing climates, media systems, 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 pedagogy 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 cultural life. Seeking to empower the next generation of designers and urbanists, the program utilizes novel and alternative methodologies in a collaborative, immersive 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, followed by research methods and related topical courses, selected from offerings within the GSD or from the many other schools and departments at Harvard. Students may elect to complete the program in three semesters of coursework, or they may extend their research into a fourth semester by pursuing an MDes Thesis Project, conducted independently or in collaboration with their peers and GSD faculty.

Whether it is to establish a research agenda for an academic career, retool for design practice, or enter design from an adjacent discipline, 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 to learn more about each of the programs.

Program Director
K. Michael Hays, Eliot Noyes Professor of Architectural Theory

Inside Design Studies