Institute of Design
Faculty with Research Interests
For more information regarding faculty visit the Institute of Design website.
A Legacy of Experimenting and Responding to Change
The Institute of Design has continuously explored emerging ideas about how design interacts with society. At its founding as the New Bauhaus in 1937, the faculty and students experimented with new visual languages and use of new media and material. The school was renamed the Institute of Design (ID) in 1944 and merged with Illinois Institute of Technology in 1949. In the mid-1950s, while the mainstream of design focused on visual embellishment of communications and products, ID faculty recognized design could be useful in the large-scale problems facing business and society and were the first to incorporate approaches from the social sciences with the design process. In the 1960s, two decades before it was common, ID pioneered the use of computers to support analysis and synthesis in design. In the late 1980s, ID faculty noticed an increasing need for organizations to link their strategy to a deeper understanding of people. Thus, ID created areas of study in strategic design planning and human-centered design to complement traditional specialties like communication design and product design. As design addressed larger problems and increased its influence in various parts of organizations, it became evident that design needed a more formal body of knowledge. To help increase the rigor and speed of the development of new theories and methods in design, and with the support of the GE Foundation, ID created the first Ph.D. program in design in the United States. Today, ID is focused on using design methods to address complex problems that confront organizations and society at large.
Institute of Design attracts students and faculty from around the world who want to create and learn new design methods to address major challenges of organizations and society at large. The 200-person community of graduate students, full-time and adjunct faculty, staff, and visiting researchers are very diverse yet share a common goal.
The diversity at ID comes from the interesting people who join. Entering students, on average, have six years of professional experience in design or in other fields including the social sciences, engineering, business, and the arts. Some are recent graduates from the best universities in the world while others may have ten years of work experience or graduate degrees in a variety fields. About forty percent come from outside the United States. Twelve full-time and forty adjunct faculty members represent a phenomenal range of experiences from academic research to leadership within design firms and centers of innovation at large companies. Visiting researchers come from government agencies and other universities around the world, representing a variety of fields such as design, law, and business.
Those who join ID share the goal of using design methods to help define and solve challenges facing companies, governments, and civic organizations. They have noticed that standard ways to plan for next-generation products, messages, and services lack efficacy because the nature of business and the lives of users are more complex, ambiguous, and faster changing than before. They believe structured design methods can define and explore strategic options to make organizations more productive and improve the daily life of people.
ID Degree Programs
ID’s programs are markedly different from other graduate design programs because we teach rigorous methods, focus on complex problems, and link strategy to a human-centered viewpoint.
The Master of Design (M.Des.) program is for students who want to achieve mastery of advanced design. Students can take a variety of classes to form one or more specialties. These include communication design, interaction design, product design, strategic planning, user research, design methods, and systems design. This full-time program has a two-year duration for those holding degrees in industrial or communication design and a three-year duration for those with degrees in other fields.
The M.Des./M.B.A. program allows a student to earn a Master of Business Administration degree (through Stuart School of Business) while concurrently earning the Master of Design degree.
The Master of Design Methods (M.D.M.) program is for mid-career professionals from a variety of backgrounds who want to augment their current abilities by learning advanced design methods. Students may have backgrounds from design or other fields and should have at least ten years of experience leading projects in either design or innovation. The M.D.M. can be earned full-time over two semesters or part-time over four to six semesters.
The Ph.D. program is for researchers who seek to contribute to theories and methods core to the field of design.
Full-time and adjunct faculty represent specific areas of expertise critical to the field, like product design, communication design, information design, design planning, the history of design, interactive diagrams, cognitive psychology, anthropology, semantics of form, imaging, and computer science. The faculty at ID conducts various types of research supported by foundations, companies, government agencies, and individuals. In general, the research intends to add to the body of knowledge in design while at the same time demonstrates how design can be applied to a variety of problems that often seem extremely complicated or vexingly ambiguous. See id.iit.edu for more information.
Admission to all degree programs at ID is highly competitive. Meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee admission. Test scores and GPA are just two of several important factors considered.
Master of Design
For admission to the Master of Design (M.Des.) and Master of Design/Master of Business Administration (M.Des./M.B.A.) programs, an applicant must hold a baccalaureate degree from an accredited educational institution with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0/4.0, have a strong record of academic achievement, and be highly recommended. Applicants should have a minimum of two years of professional experience. Applicants from countries whose native language is not English must submit scores for TOEFL (100 minimum) or IELTS (7.5 minimum). Portfolios are required for applicants who possess design degrees. Applicants without design degrees are encouraged to apply to the M.Des. program. All applicants without an undergraduate degree in industrial or communication design must submit GRE (310 minimum) or GMAT (600 minimum) scores. Regardless of previous degrees, students may be required to complete prerequisite design courses before starting their M.Des. requirements.
Master of Design Methods
In addition to the requirements for Master of Design, applicants to the Master of Design Methods program must have at least five years of professional experience (eight to ten years is typical) in leading teams creating novel, effective products, communications or services. A document or portfolio representing this work is required along with three letters of recommendation from professional colleagues. The quality of this professional work substitutes for GRE/GMAT test scores.
Doctor of Philosophy
Applicants to the Ph.D. program must hold a master’s degree in design from an accredited educational institution, have a distinguished record of academic achievement, and be very highly recommended. Applicants without a master’s degree should apply for the M.Des. program. Doctoral applicants with a master’s degree in design must show evidence of distinguished academic and, if appropriate, professional work in their fields. Depending on the applicant’s academic background and intended area of study, other prerequisite courses may also be required.
Dual Degree Program
Covers the rhetoric of design case making using verbal, quantitative, visual, and spatial modes of persuasion. Includes a survey of document and presentation types useful in the product development process.
This class will introduce students to theory and methods of behavioral observation, description, and analysis.
This course examines research methods used throughout the design and development process from process, financial, and results standpoints with a focus on planning research activities.
This course is a survey of the research methods commonly used in design research and gives an overview of distinctions between primary and secondary research, quantitative and qualitative research, and online and in-person research in order to prepare students for research-intensive projects.
This course aims to give design researchers the knowledge and tools to consistently make the right decisions when capturing and selecting photographs to use in storytelling.
The focus of this course is to gain familiarity with an underlying set of the principles and practices of ethnographic interviewing.
This course is intended to familiarize students with the methods and practice of experience modeling. It entails a deep understanding of people in naturalistic, everyday settings and interpretive methods of analysis to create representations of the organization of everyday life.
This course examines methods that aim to understand the cultural meaning that artifacts have to people.
This course will introduce students to the whens and hows of creating and using stimulus effectively in their practice of design research.
This class aims to familiarize designers with the tools and techniques that are commonly used by quantitative researchers such as surveys and statistical analysis. Students will learn how to design, understand, and evaluate surveys and other quantitative research tools and techniques as well as how to use online survey tools in their own work.
This course will introduce students to co-design methods including when to use co-design methods, what are the advantages and disadvantages of co-design methods, and how to create engaging co-design workshops.
This course will allow students to gain rigorous training in how to develop coding schemes, code qualitative data, and gain a deeper analysis of users based on field research.
This class covers methods and tools used in online research with a focus on the design of research objectives, implementation of their study protocol, and moderation of study participants.
Introduces students to the broad context of design planning. It includes a discussion of the general forces acting upon an organization (competition, technological developments, channels of information, and product distribution) and ways to understand the people who use design.
A descriptive course in business strategy for designers covering new venture strategy, competitive strategy, marketing strategy and tactics, decision sciences, entrepreneurship, private equity, business plan writing, innovation, introductory finance, and self-discovery. This course will build a series of non-mathematical models of success and failure in both entrepreneurial and corporate settings.
This course will consider the relationship between theories and practice in the two very different realms of economics and design.
This course will examine traditional and emerging models for how large organizations and other corporate entities engage to develop innovative offerings. Readings will cover recent developments in cooperative and open-sourced forms of innovation development.
This course is an introduction to the techniques and processes involved in portfolio planning. We will explore the role of portfolio planning in typical organizations and how it relates to other processes like strategy and specific product development.
New Venture Design will teach aspiring entrepreneurs how to build design-led start-ups and new ventures, making this course ideal for students with new business ideas that they have been itching to design and launch. This exploration will happen across the four critical elements of a new venture: brand / value proposition; user experience; business model; and organization. Students will walk away with an understanding of how to architect new ventures using a combination of user empathy, market data, and intuition.
This course covers the application of design planning methods and theory to real-world challenges. With a team-based, hands-on approach, students will tackle all stages of problem solving from initial framing to final solution proposals. Students may take this class multiple times, non-concurrently, for a maximum of 12 credits towards their degree.
This course examines the broader issues and forces that affect the conditions of how design can be effective within typical organizations. Through exercises and application of frameworks to examine these forces, students learn to recognize and adapt design plans to changing contexts.
Introduces frameworks and methods for effectively implementing change in organizations. Using cases, students will identify principles, actions, and measures that mitigate risk, improve implementation success, and inform stronger designs.
This course will introduce how concepts from the field of behavioral economics can be thought of as another kind of "human factor" and ways in which they can help inform the process of design thinking.
This class introduces students to key concepts and methods to communicate design work. This includes a conceptual shift from communication as transmission of content to collaborative construction to better engage and align stakeholders in design work.
Explores the language of diagrams as a communication means to represent different types of abstract, relational information. Students will be introduced to design principles of developing effective diagrams and multiple types of diagrams.
This class explores metaphor for its utility as a powerful thinking and communication tool drawing from research in academic fields such as cognitive linguistics and visual communications. Students will consider metaphors and analogies (as well as similes, allegories, metonymies, and other visual/verbal devices) for their power open up new thinking, frame change and suggest action -- all critical communication milestones in design planning.
This class focuses on the study and development of visualizations to expand information presentation by using dynamic, interactive properties. Explorations to include data narratives, data visualization, time-based visualizations, analyzing motion, narration, transitions, and other visual properties that can enhance comprehension.
A project-oriented workshop focusing on applying design principles to link theoretical methods to practice in the area of human-centered communication design. Students may take this class multiple times, non-concurrently, for a maximum of 12 credits towards their degree.
Discusses pictures, abstract symbols, text, numbers, diagrams, three-dimensional form, and other sign systems in the context of communicating a designed offering. Additional teachings include the basics of visual communication principles to aid in developing effective communications.
This class introduces students to theories of communication from other academic fields for application in design. It explores broadly the conception of communication to include relevant perspectives from education, social psychology, phenomenology and knowledge management.
This class teaches students how to use communication as a design method to accelerate synthesis and give tangible form to valuable information throughout the development process. Students are introduced to relevant theories of language, visual perception, visual representation, and communication.
How does one visually capture and represent complex systems, topics, and activities that are too large to conceptualize using memory and cognition alone? Modeling complexity is a visual approach to large-scale problem definition that seeks to represent the full picture of a system by applying theories of visual perception and known techniques for representing relationships in data.
The class introduces the basic principles and methods for structuring complex information for effective understanding, identifying problems, and guiding solution development. Graph theory, definitions of relations, and structural patterns of relations are introduced as foundation. Examples of information structuring and management include basics of Structured Planning, Semantic Net, and Interpretive Structural Modeling.
The primary goal of the course is to understand systems thinking and approaches in design. The course reviews historical development of systems approaches and introduces systems concepts and approach to design. Particular emphasis goes to system modeling methods that facilitate designers to observe, describe, analyze, predict/envision, design, prototype, and evaluate behavior and performance of complex systems from different viewpoints.
This workshop introduces concepts of services, design principles, and methods that are needed for the design of service systems. Topics include the nature of services, customer acquisition and retention, value propositions in service business, service prototyping and pilot testing, stakeholder management, infrastructure, and operational and implementation issues. Students may take this class multiple times, non-concurrently, for a maximum of 12 credits towards their degree.
Introduces structured planning methodology and applies it to complex design problems at the system level. Team techniques are emphasized, and formatted information handling and computer-supported structuring processes are used through the design process from project definition to information development, structuring, concept development, and communication. Students may take this class multiple times, non-concurrently, for a maximum of 12 credits towards their degree.
The course investigates principles and methods for representing and understanding structure and behavior of different types of systems. Various forms of theoretical and philosophical frameworks and methodologies are introduced to model and understand fundamental characteristics of domains of concern from different perspectives. Class topics include general systems theory, system modeling, causality, and formalisms. The class will also explore example applications of system concepts and modeling methods in design research.
Platform is an innovation strategy that provides a common set of standards to enable a variety of offerings to be built on top of it, creating higher value for all stakeholders involved. This course explores how platforms provide a base to accommodate many options that can support diverse contexts and user needs.
In this course students will learn how to apply design methods and strategic thinking through open innovation practices for leveraging the interconnectivity of markets, technology, finance, and social networks in order to envision sustainable solutions with impact in the local lives and well-being of communities.
Introduces basics of design methodologies concerning design process models and knowledge representation and management. It discusses multiple viewpoints and aspects of design in order to address complexity of information required to implement human-centered approaches and interdisciplinary collaboration as well as developing and managing effective design processes, methods, and organizations for enabling innovative design.
In this course students will learn key principles and concepts on complex adaptive systems in relation to human-centered design for understanding how product and service innovation can shape sustainable value webs and marketplaces.
This workshop class introduces system modeling methods for representing different types and aspects of systems including continuous models, discrete models, probabilistic models, and structural models. System modeling and simulation software packages are used to understand and predict the system behavior. Various forms of physical prototyping are also applied as complementary methods to understand, analyze, explore, and evaluate systems through the development process.
This course teaches students the principles of socio-technical system design. Today's complex systems need to be designed as a whole system rather than piece-meal components. Hence, this course introduces students to the perspectives and principles that can be used when designing complex systems with people and technical subsystems.
Introduces the basic principles and methods for assembling, developing, and analyzing information in the tasks of design research. Techniques for collecting data, testing hypotheses, and presenting conclusions are learned in the context of conducting a pilot research project.
Explores the philosophical framework for conducting research and building knowledge in the field of design. Topics include concepts from epistemology, phenomology, and structuralism. Comparisons are made between design research and research in other fields.
Investigation and discussion by faculty and students of topics of interest from different perspectives such as building a design research discourse (reading research papers critically, selecting among publication venues); investigating alternative philosophical bases for design research (comparing empirical, pragmatic, and phenomenological approaches); or exploring methodological and theoretical conflicts in design research.
Research and thesis writing.
This course introduces students to the professional and theoretical aspects of the product definition process. It covers the process of creating a new product definition in detail, the characteristics of new product definition documents, aspects of organizational structure and dynamics as they relate to developing new product definitions, and sources of innovation.
Design Connoisseurship introduces design as a profession in context with history and contemporary practice. Multiple perspectives including the human-centered design process, the role of the senses, an appreciation of craftsmanship, and importance of stakeholders will be introduced with methods to assess and solve complex problems. Emphasis will be placed on learning how to articulate issues and define success or failure.
Prototyping is a key method that designers use to navigate the design development process. Although prototyping is often thought of as coming at the end of the process to verify a design solution, our approach maintains that prototyping needs to happen throughout the process from initial research to storytelling to concept generation and lastly to refine and improve the selected direction.
In this course students will examine what, how, and why product form happens. Topics include the relationship between a product's form and corporate identity, visual trends, new materials, manufacturing techniques, semantics, product architecture, and ergonomics.
Analysis of issues involved in a design project with a human factors perspective is an important step during user research and the design development process. Knowing the basic concepts and principles of human factors will enable students to be user centered in their approach.
An introduction to the common methods used to produce or manufacture products. Alternative processes, materials and finishing methods, relative costs, and applicability to design of products will be explored.
This course is an opportunity for students to exercise their design muscles throughout an entire product development experience from framing through ideation to final concepts. Students may take this class multiple times, non-concurrently, for a maximum of 12 credits towards their degree.
This course introduces the concept of product architecture and platform to explore their possible applications to different types of products from different viewpoints.
This course introduces methods for effectively describing the dynamic nature of interaction and applies them to different types of design cases.
This course examines thought leaders in interaction design, their innovations, and the technology and business contexts that shaped the environment for their work. Students will review designs to better understand the elements that led to significant design breakthroughs.
This course examines interactive media and focuses on design methods and techniques for improved engagement between the entity providing the offering (e.g., product or service provider) and the entity consuming the offering (e.g., users, stakeholders, and purchasers).
This workshop offers students the opportunity to practice methods for design research, concept development, interaction design, and rapid prototyping.
This course introduces different tools and platforms for the development of interactive systems. Students will employ the different platforms to translate a concept from concept to prototypes for evaluation and communication. Students may take this class multiple times, non-concurrently, for a maximum of 12 credits towards their degree.
This course introduces different methods and tools for the prototyping of interactive systems. Students will employ the different methods to translate a concept from ideation to installation through multiple layers of sketches, prototypes, and interactive peripherals.
This course explores issues in design for interactions that are enabled by affordances available in ubiquitous computing, mixed reality, and virtual reality environments.
This course explores interaction design principles, opportunities, and issues for embedded systems. It includes evaluating and creating product concepts for vertical markets and various levels of computing performance, modalities, affordances, and constraints.
This course focuses on the social dynamics of design as an agent of change and innovation introducing students to simple frameworks to help them get ideas off the ground and gain support within their organizations. The course will explore cognitive models and simple methods to engage key stakeholders and facilitate organizational buy-in.
This seminar will look at different variations of interactive and reactive spaces. The seminar will concentrate on the theory and construction of, identities and characteristics of actors embedded in, and the technology employed in the design of such spaces.
This seminar is designed to engage students in a critical discussion about contemporary media and technology and the socio-cultural contexts in which they are situated. Theoretical notions as well as contemporary critique of media, technology, and their appropriations will be explored through lecture and discussion sessions.
This course will explore the relationship between technologies -- new media, urban screens, mobile and wireless technology, and ubiquitous computing -- and cities and urban public spaces.
This workshop will explore the relationship between digital technologies -- new media, urban screens, sensors and radio-frequency identification chips (RFID), mobile and wireless technology, and ubiquitous computing -- as they are embedded into physical products/artifacts, spaces, and environments as well as architecture and buildings, which is commonly referred to as the "internet of things."
This course is an overview of methods to analyze data and synthesize solutions that will likely be encountered as part of a design effort.
The course will present an overview of some of the key principles that drive design innovation followed by a broad look at the design innovation process, various methods, and frameworks.
This course will improve critical thinking skills when wrestling with the wide variety of input and insight that often accompanies design initiatives. The course will include basic overviews of argumentation, secondary research, and group-based discussion methods.
This class will teach methods and tools that focus a team's creativity and analysis on the right deliverables and explore how the basic functional methods of the business world (such as schedules, budgets, emails, and meetings) can be informed by design thinking to be more effective for teams composed of multiple disciplines.
A course to introduce the techniques and process of problem definition and solution generation as used in the field of design.
Prototyping for non-designers.
Classes, workshops, and seminars revolving around faculty specific research. Instructor permit only. Instructor will define requirements for enrollment. Students may take this class multiple times for a maximum of 24 credits toward their degree.
Supervision of participation in curricular practical training (CPT).
Classes that cover special and contemporary topics in design. Students may take this class multiple times for a total of 24 credits toward their degree.