A new two-year graduate program in integrative design at the University of Michigan represents a paradigm shift as designers address unpredictable and fast-changing real-world problems and situations in society.
The first cohort of students in the U-M Stamps School of Art & Design’s Master of Design in Integrative Design program will address the umbrella issue of 21st century health care, an open-ended, ambiguous “wicked problem” with no easy answers, multiple stakeholders and multipronged systems.
Working alongside health care professionals, industry partners and other experts from across the university, the students during the intense two-year M.Des. program will address issues such as hospital productivity and efficiency, aging populations, doctor-patient relationships and more. Each new cohort will address a different “wicked problem.
The U-M Stamps School of Art & Design is one of the few graduate programs in the country to focus design training on future-proof, collaborative design processes rather than individual, product-based skill building. With its emphasis on the design process, cross-disciplinary teamwork and problem-based learning, the project-based Stamps M.Des. program will bring together a select team of experienced designers from a range of backgrounds to grapple with a single “wicked problem,” while engaging with top-tier researchers at U-M and around the country.
“Most design education is still focused around individual disciplines—industrial design, graphic design, etc., but in actual practice, most designers work in teams, solving problems using an integrative design process,” said John Marshall, director of the Stamps M.Des. program. “What we are providing is hard to find yet also very much in demand—deep, rigorous training in the broad principles and foundations of design thinking and research methodologies and hands-on experience in the integrative design process.”
Though a handful of other schools around the country have recently launched transdisciplinary or multidisciplinary design programs, few offer the context and resources of a world-class research university
“Now more than ever, designers are being asked to play a leading role in addressing unpredictable, fast-changing and ambiguous conditions in nondesign settings,” said Guna Nadarajan, dean of the Stamps School. “With unparalleled access to literally hundreds of experts and researchers in fields such as law, public policy, economics and more, the Stamps School is uniquely situated to lead the conversation in the role that design can play in contemporary society and to transform the way design is taught and practiced around the world.”
The first class of the program will begin in fall 2015. Students will be experienced designers wishing to transform their career path or professionals in other fields who want to transition to a design-engaged practice.