Eligibility and Lottery System

To participate in the MDes Open Project lottery, students must be enrolled in the fourth semester of the MDes program, or the second semester of the “MDes year” of a concurrent degree program.

Open Project Descriptions and Presentations

Descriptions for Open Projects are posted to the GSD Course Bulletin. You will find the courses’ scheduled meeting times there as well. Please note that the course bulletin is an active document; updates to the course bulletin will be taking place until the lottery, and in some cases, after the start of the academic term.

Open Project presentations will be prerecorded and accessible through the Open Project Canvas sites. Presentations generally consist of thorough course descriptions, pedagogic objectives, course schedule, and instructor attendance. Please pay close attention to these details and consider them when you rank your choices in the lottery.

Live zoom Q&A sessions with Open Project instructors are scheduled for the following times.  Each session will be recorded.  Zoom links are posted in the MDes Canvas site.

  • Wednesday, January 11, 10:00 am
    Open Project 9706 – Eric Gordon/Helena Rong: Technology, Trust, and Governance
  • Thursday, January 12, 10:00 am
    Open Project 9704 – Mpho Matsipa: Black Counter-Cartographies and The Futures of Time
  • Thursday, January 12, 11:00 am
    Open Project 9705 – Elisa Silva: Revisiting Field Conditions
  • Thursday, January 12, 1:00 pm
    Open Project 9701 – Malkit Shoshan: Forms of Assembly: All Things Considered
  • Friday, January 13, 10:00 am
    Open Project 9703 – Allen Sayegh: Apparatus for Hacking Perception
  • Friday, January 13, 2:00 pm
    Open Project 9702 – John May: New Figures of Exodus (Histories and Philosophies of the Designed Present)

Recommended Backgrounds or Skills

To enable cross-disciplinary collaboration, all MDes Open Projects are by default open to eligible students from all MDes Domains. There will be no prerequisites. However, some Open Projects may recommend that students have certain skillsets. Such a recommendation is communicated to students in the course description.

Lottery Ballot Procedures

The MDes Open Projects Lottery opens at 9:00 am on January 10, and closes at 9:00 am on Tuesday, January 17, 2023. You can adjust your selections until the time the lottery closes.  You must cast your ballot online via my.Harvard . Make sure your submitted choices are accurate before the deadline. You will be automatically enrolled in the Open Project to which you are assigned via the lottery. A student’s failure to properly submit a lottery ballot will result in a random assignment to an Open Project. The results of the lottery will be shared via my.Harvard by the end of the day. Lottery results are binding.

In cases where lottery results cause extreme hardship, students are provided the opportunity to petition the results of their Open Project placement. Petitions will be reviewed by a committee consisting of the MDes Program Director, MDes Domain Heads, and the Director of Administration for Academic Affairs. Students should submit a written appeal to their Program Coordinator (Liz Thorstenson) by 9:00am, Wednesday, January 18. Exceptions are rarely granted.

If you have questions about the lottery procedure or your eligibility, please contact your departmental Program Coordinator.

Lottery Technique

The Registrar’s office runs the MDes Open Projects lottery, which automatically enrolls all participating students in an Open Project. The MDes Program Director and program staff are present to review lottery results and a Student Forum representative is present to observe the process. The results of the lottery depend on the number of students participating in the lottery, their ballot selections, and the number of seats available in the courses included in the lottery. The lottery software is blind to student names, MDes tracks, or previous lottery results.

The MDes Open Projects lottery, like the Option Studio lottery, uses an optimization technique called ‘linear programming’ to maximize ‘Total-Highest-Choice’ across all students. The algorithm minimizes ‘unhappiness’: the sum of assignments that are not first choice, weighted by how far from first choice they are–so a fourth choice is much more unhappy than a second choice, etc. This is not the same as maximizing the number of first choices. Although the effect is similar, a single first choice may be sacrificed for greater overall ‘happiness’. Whenever there is a tie, a random choice is made. The intent is to enroll a similar number of students in each Open Project, but the number of seats may be slightly adjusted in iterative runs of the lottery to increase first choice assignments or overall ‘happiness.’


Updated 01/16/2023