1. Entry

Entry courses are grouped into Foundation, Fundamentals, and ad-hoc Bootcamp modules. They are intended to help a student fill any gaps they have in their education or practice coming into the school and also serve to orient students to ID’s specific philosophy and culture.

Foundation courses are for students that do not have any formal education in design. The courses are pre-set and taken concurrently. Students placed in this program will take all courses as a cohort.

Fundamental courses are for students that have small gaps in their prior education or experience. These courses also underpin many of the advanced courses offered. Students will take these courses along with other electives in their respective programs.

All students will be advised as to which courses in these modules are most appropriate for their situation and goals.

Foundation
5 Courses

Introduction to Interaction

4.0 credit hours

Explores the basic concepts of interaction design and fundamental theory The objective of this course is to introduce concepts of interactive media to students who enter the MDes program without a prior design degree. Through three modules based on user experience and interaction design, the course will enable students to engage with different digital media…

Introduction To Photography

1.5 credit hours

Learn how to be a capable image-maker through being a competent image-evaluator In an increasingly visually taxed world, with people’s ability to create and consume image-based media the easiest its ever been, knowing how to create compelling photography that can breakthrough the content-laden din to get noticed is a valuable skill. After a grounding in…

Introduction to Objects & Artifacts

4 credit hours

Creates the foundation of knowledge and skills for three-dimensional design At the end of this course, students should be able to explore, create, and communicate design directions for simple products and environments taking into account design principles, human factors, technology, and business issues. Learning Objectives Students learn about the design process through a series of…

Introduction to Visual Communication

4 credit hours

Covers fundamentals for conveying visual information in effective and clear ways. This course provides the fundamentals for conveying visual information in a way that is effective and clear. Through a deep understanding structure and context of content, students will learn to apply visual elements, techniques, and principles crafting effective visual messages. Learning Objectives Students will…

Introduction to Design Practice

1.5 credit hours

Builds a contextual basis for the field and profession of design Designers of the highest caliber offer not only excellent formal skills and conceptual rigor, but also an intellectual grasp of the professional practice of design, including evolution through history, current state and future direction. Broad knowledge of the field of design, and the different…

Fundamentals
7 Courses

Fundamentals of Web Development

1.5 credit hours

Prepares students to confidently build projects with front-end web development tools. Web development technologies are increasingly important tools in a designer’s kit, aiding in every aspect of the design process from research to presentation. There is no platform as universal and distributed as the world wide web and mastering its complementary software languages and tools…

Fundamentals of Product Design

1.5 credit hours

Explores the fundamental challenge of embodying a solution in a physical form. While many technical requirements for creating products define the materials to use and drive product form, designers are also actively defining a company’s brand expression through form and materials. This course looks to examine the influences of advanced technology, environmental concerns, and competitive…

Fundamentals of Visual Communication

1.5 credit hours

Examines the principles and methods of visual representations and communication. Design, being an extremely expansive field, includes experts with highly specialized skills. While excelling in their respective areas, many lack the basics of good visual communication design, relying on commonplace or trendy graphic design expressions. Yet being able to communicate ideas that don’t yet exist…

Diagram Development

1.5 credit hours

Explores the language of diagrams and similar techniques for increasing communication effectiveness. Designers are often challenged with the development and synthesis of complex ideas, whether they are research outputs, design concepts, or system plans. At the same time, the proliferation of easy-to-use graphic and visualization tools facilitates the creation of visual representations that often emphasize…

Prototyping Methods

1.5 credit hours

This course explores the growing number of prototyping methods for design. Although prototyping is often thought of as coming at the end of the design process to verify a 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…

Building and Understanding Context

3 credit hours

Covers basics of argumentation, secondary research, and group-based discussion methods for establishing useful contexts to design against. This course will improve critical thinking skills when considering the wide variety of inputs and insight that often accompanies design initiatives. Understanding the context of a particular design challenge is critical to ensuring an insightful and reliable solution.…

Analysis + Synthesis in Design

3.0 credit hours

Introduction to the typical process and tools designers use to understand fuzzy problems and develop insightful directions to pursue. Design analysis is primarily concerned with generating insights that drive the development of new products, services, and communications. Design synthesis is concerned with generating solutions that act on the insights developed in design analysis. These solutions…

2. Core

Core courses are grouped into modules which are key to developing a student’s critical competency for nearly any type of design practice they wish to pursue. The modules include courses to deeply understand complex challenges (Insight Development and Human Advocacy), to creatively explore options (Prototyping and Critique), and to develop impactful and resilient solutions (Systems Thinking, and Leadership).

By the end of their program, MDes students are expected to establish competence and demonstrate mastery in each module. (MDM, PhD programs have slightly different expectations.) 

Insight Development
4 Courses

Data Literacy

1.5 credit hours

Introduction to the methods, tools, and techniques for working with “quant” data in the design process Data literacy – the ability to confidently evaluate, interpret, and craft compelling stories with data – is a critical skill for designers working with data-smart products and interdisciplinary teams. But as a new skill for many, data analysis and…

Designing Futures

3 credit hours

Explores issues in design and contemporary culture at the intersection of digital technologies, ethics, and society. How are futures imagined, performed, and made durable over time? Where and how are futures being made? Who is included and who is excluded from these futures? What is the role, agency and responsibility of design in making futures…

Principles and Methods of User Research

3.0 credit hours

Introduces the principles and methods of user research for design. This course will introduce the principles and methods of user research drawing on the fields of anthropology and design as well as the intersection between these fields. What is a “user” and why might it be important to conduct research from a user-centered perspective? What…

Introduction to Observing Users

3 credit hours

Introduces the theory and methods of behavioral observation, description, and analysis. This course will introduce students to theory and methods of behavioral observation, description, and analysis. Students will use a variety of techniques derived from social and behavioral psychology and anthropology to develop useful, powerful approaches to solving modern design and business problems. Readings and…

Systems Thinking
4 Courses

Sustainable Solutions Workshop

3.0 credit hours

Applying design methods and open innovation towards sustainable solutions with impact. Contemporary problems and their solutions can be defined as complex adaptive systems because they emerge from the daily behavior of seven billion people looking for better standards of living when confronting the challenges and opportunities shaped by the unprecedented interconnectivity of the world economy,…

Sustainable Solutions Seminar

1.5 credit hours

Covers key principles and concepts with complex adaptive systems in relation to human-centered design Even though it is well acknowledged that the unprecedented interconnectivity of the world economy, the global society, and the natural environment has a direct impact in the local lives and wellbeing of communities, yet change-makers such as corporations, NGOs, investors, entrepreneurs,…

Systems and Systems Theory in Design

1.5 credit hours

Understanding the structure and behavior of different types of systems. The course investigates principles and methods for representing and understanding the structure and behavior of different types of systems. Various forms of theoretical and philosophical frameworks and methodologies are introduced to model and understand the fundamental characteristics of domains of concern from different perspectives. Topics…

Modeling Complexity

1.5 credit hours

Introduces visual techniques to translate complex topics into models, diagrams, and frameworks. This skill is increasingly important as many problems that designers are wrestling with involve large-scale problem definition. And include subjects and characteristics too large or numerous to conceptualize using memory and cognition alone. Learning Objectives While simple models and frameworks often emerge naturally…

3. Concentration

Concentration course modules are focused on hard skills and oriented towards specific design practice roles like Design research, Product-Service delivery, Innovation strategy, and Product management. 

Students are encouraged to focus on 1-3 concentration modules as a part of their overall plan, though students are free to take courses within and amongst any of the concentrations as they desire.

ID’s course catalog, like the field of design, is continuously evolving so some courses may shift as they develop or as the modules change to accommodate new courses.

Collaborative Design
4 Courses

Multidisciplinary Prototyping

3.0 credit hours

Project-based course with students from various colleges working together to address a real-world problem. Multidisciplinary Prototyping will approach projects with a real-world impact from a multidisciplinary stance. In this class, students will work with students from other disciplines around campus to engage design-led innovation methods and solve a real-world challenge provided by a company or…

Agile Culture

1.5 credit hours

Understanding key principles, values, culture/behaviors, and methods of Agile in design practice. Design Thinking is about defining the right work, and agile is about doing the work right. Agile culture is about clarity of purpose and that all work directly supports the overall value delivered to markets and customers. This course will be a balance…

Facilitation Methods

1.5 credit hours

Explores the methods and techniques to guide teams to desired outcomes in ways that build alignment, engagement, and momentum. Facilitation is the unspoken, untaught skill that can make all the difference in your ability to lead others through routine, as well as more complex, adaptive challenges. In this class, you will become a more adept,…

Managing Interdisciplinary Teams

3.0 credit hours

This course will teach methods and tools that focus a team’s creativity and analysis on the right deliverables. It will also explore how the basic functional methods of the business world–things like schedules, budgets, emails and meetings–can be informed by design thinking leadership to be more effective for teams composed of multiple disciplines. In both…

Communication & Media
5 Courses

Photography

3.0 credit hours

Become a capable image-maker by training to be a competent image-evaluator In an increasingly visually taxed world, with people’s ability to create and consume image-based media the easiest its ever been, knowing how to create compelling photography that can break through the content-laden din to get noticed is a valuable skill. After a grounding in…

Innovation Narratives

1.5 credit hours

Explores communication methods to give tangible form to valuable information throughout the development process In both professional and academic careers, there is an increased need for storytelling skills and self-awareness. TED Talks have truly changed the way we expect content to be delivered. Creating passion-filled, compelling, and effective stories is a critical part of leadership.…

Advanced Diagramming

1.5 credit hours

Explores the use and design of dynamic and interactive qualities for effective visualizations. We will review current theories and examine real-world examples of data narratives, data visualization, and time-based visualizations, analyzing motion, narration, transitions, and other visual properties that can enhance comprehension. As this field is evolving and new tools emerging, the course will also…

Metaphor and Analogy in Design

1.5 credit hours

Explores the use of metaphors for increasing communication effectiveness. Designers cannot afford to communicate poorly: it’s more than a cliché that even great ideas can languish if not communicated well to the people who can convert them from thought to action. This is true when presenting to internal audiences, clients, at interviews, and with teams:…

Communication Design Workshop

3 credit hours

Provides practice of research, development, and prototyping methods for communication design solutions. This workshop offers students the opportunity to practice methods for design research, concept development, and rapid prototyping of communication design solutions. The course explores a variety of communication design outlets such as traditional communication media, new communication media, multimodal communications, spatial communication, communication…

Enterprise Management
4 Courses

New Venture Design

1.5 credit hours

This course will teach aspiring entrepreneurs how to build design-led start-ups and new ventures. Students will learn how to launch in-market experiments and test new business ideas through iterative ‘explore, create, build and learn’ cycles. This exploration will happen across the four critical elements of a new venture: brand/value proposition, user experience, business model and…

Planning Implementation

1.5 credit hours

Frameworks and methods for effectively navigating change in organizations. One of the biggest frustrations designers face in the real world is seeing their designs sit on a shelf, or worse, become so bastardized that they are unrecognizable by the time they are implemented. Planning Implementation helps students develop skills – and gives them tools –…

Business Models and Value Webs

1.5 credit hours

Practical understanding of how businesses create value and sustainable strategic differentiation. In this course, students will develop a practical understanding of how business models work to create value for customers and sustainable strategic differentiation for a business. Through the semester, project teams will create new business model concepts representing interrelated entities in an ecosystem and…

Introduction to Portfolio Planning

1.5 credit hours

An introduction to the techniques and processes involved in product/portfolio planning Today’s companies face many challenges. The least of which is managing their finite resources to deliver ever more compelling products and services faster than their competition and at higher profits. Portfolio planning in this context is the culmination of efforts to explore, create, and…

Interaction Design
5 Courses

Prototyping Interactions

3 credit hours

A survey of interaction models, prototyping methods, and tools borrowed from computer programming and product design. This review will help designers work at the intersection of social, cultural and technological contexts. The course will also touch on topics in cognitive psychology, sociology, and anthropology with computer science and design. Learning Objectives Expose students to methods…

Persuasive Interaction Design

1.5 credit hours

Examines interactive media and improving the engagement between a provider (e.g. product or service provider) and a consumer (e.g. users, stakeholders, purchasers). Using the principles of persuasive technologies and design, we will explore theories and techniques to make an offering engaging enough through its interactions to support preferred behavior (such as repeated use, more effective…

History of Interaction Design

1.5 credit hours

Examines key thought leaders in interaction design, their innovations, and the technology and business contexts that shaped the environment for their work. We will identify important technologies and innovations for human/computer interaction and seek to forecast their future capabilities. We will review and assess successful and failed designs to better understand the elements that led…

Interaction Design Methods

1.5 credit hours

This course introduces methods for effectively describing the dynamic nature of interaction. Beyond the basic concepts of interaction, underlying theories and design principles will also be discussed to examine understanding user needs, modeling, prototyping, designing, and evaluating interactive systems. Learning Objectives The course will cover the following topics: Historical development and nature of interaction design…

Interaction Design Workshop

3 credit hours

Explore the latest interaction design techniques to effectively support engagement and delivery. This workshop offers students an opportunity to explore issues related to interaction design and complex behavior challenges and build their skill in conducting user and contextual research, analysis to identify insights and design principles that may be used to reframe and refine solutions…

Stakeholder Research
6 Courses

Coding and Analysis

1.5 credit hours

An overview of classic grounded theory coding techniques as well as current practices used in design. The field of design began integrating social science methods for understanding users in the early 1990s. At first, the methods for data collection and data analysis were utilized in conjunction with one another, ensuring a tight relationship between the…

Survey Methods

1.5 credit hours

Introduction to the basic components and considerations of survey design. In this course, we will cover basic components of survey design, including data collection modes, sampling, coverage errors, nonresponse, interviewer effects, questionnaire design, and ethics related to survey research. Students will also gain practical and hands-on experiences to further understand the practical aspects of the…

Cultural Probes

1.5 credit hours

Overview of how, why, and when to use cultural probes for the purposes of design. Cultural probes are playful and creative artifacts or stimuli that are introduced into a design research process in order to elicit inspirational responses. This class is an overview of how, why and when to use cultural probes as well as…

Experience Modeling

1.5 credit hours

Covers the process and methods to describe and depict experiences. This course covers the process and methods of “Experience Modeling” –illustrating current and potential future experiences for the purpose of design-led innovation. As the number of touch points with customers has exploded, the challenge in understanding and managing a multi-channel customer experience has become increasingly…

Interview Methods

1.5 credit hours

Explores the use of interviews as a primary method of inquiry and insight development. This course will provide both practical knowledge and theoretical/methodological background to enable students to thoughtfully engage with users through individual and group-based interviews and to analyze and understand those dialogues. The course will combine scholarly research from the social sciences and…

Research Photography

1.5 credit hours

Explores the use of photographic imagery in design-led, user research and related activities. Photography plays a critical role throughout the design process and is particularly important during upfront discovery research. From the preliminary framing of a design challenge through to the communication of research findings and design direction, students will learn how to take successful…

Systems & Innovation
4 Courses

Strategies for Open Innovation

1.5 credit hours

Design tactics and strategies for integrating knowledge distributed across multiple domains. This course teaches design tactics and strategies for integrating knowledge distributed across multiple domains. Open innovation systems, which consist of a productive capacity to design complex solutions by incorporating large quantities of relevant knowledge distributed across large networks of people has become a dominant…

Engaging Stakeholders in Innovation

1.5 credit hours

Explores the social dynamics of design as an agent of change and innovation. As leaders in large organizations wonder where their next big idea will come from, individuals and teams within these organizations wonder how to get their great ideas to gain traction and attention among executives and peers. The void between ideas and sponsorship gets…

Innovation Methods

3 credit hours

A broad look at innovation in design processes, methods, frameworks, and key principles. Based on the book “101 Design Methods: A Structured Approach for Driving Innovation in Your Organization”, this course will cover seven modes of innovation: sense intent, know context, know users, frame insights, explore concepts, frame solutions, and realize offerings. The course will…

Introduction to Design Planning

1.5 credit hours

Introduction to basic ideas, frameworks, and capabilities of innovation initiatives. This course is short but intense, and instrumental for understanding the basic ideas, frameworks, and capabilities that modern design planning and innovation programs demand. If you believe that innovation is fundamentally about creativity, the term “innovation planning” appears to make no sense. This should be…

English + Design

English for Special Purpose + Design courses are for students that require additional fluency in English and the field of design. English courses are taken concurrently with MDes courses during the first two semesters.

Students specifically placed in this program are required to take all of the English courses listed as a cohort, though the courses are open to all MDes students.

ESP Cross-Cultural Communications II

3 credit hours

In this course students continue to improve skills for navigating through social and academic interactions. Topics of study will include US history and current events to provide ample opportunity to compare the US to their native-born cultures. Particular focus will be on typical miscommunications that can arise when designing for and within multiple cultures. Excursions…

ESP Design Listening and Presentation Skills II

3 credit hours

In this course students practice speaking through class debates, leading discussions, and exchanging ideas. Students learn to express opinions clearly and with confidence. Reading and discussion of papers originating within the design research community continue from last semester with particular topics including sustainability, boundary objects, personas, distributed cognition, and emotion. In parallel, students will give…

ESP Design Reading & Vocabulary Skills II

3 credit hours

In this course students extensively read and analyze typical design literature to increase comprehension of the author’s purpose and tone. Topics will mainly focus on the business of design and the language related to professional practice of design. Skills such as skimming, identifying main ideas and supporting ideas will be emphasized. Students will develop design-specific…

ESP Cross-Cultural Communication I

3 credit hours

In this course students explore the history of Chicago and its culture through planned excursions and discussion of cultural expectations. Rich discussions of cultural differences create a forum to reflect on experiences and understand Chicago subcultures. (e.g. sports, food, art, and architecture). Students improve skills for navigating through social and academic interactions through exposure to…

ESP Design Listening & Presentation Skills I

3 credit hours

In this course students develop skills in listening, giving presentations, and strategies for note-taking during presentations. Students learn to spontaneously express ideas and ask questions with confidence. This class will focus on strengthening familiarity with formal presentations and informal presentation skills and language use in US classrooms. American English pronunciation in particular is emphasized. This…

ESP Design Reading & Vocabulary Skills I

3 credit hours

In this course, students improve reading skills by analyzing core literature in the field of design. Typical topics covered include creativity, typography, abstract modeling, visual storytelling, and the relationship between art and design. Students will learn to recognize transitions and keywords to find main ideas and improve fluency. Vocabulary derivation skills, inference skills, and dissection…

PhD

These courses are specific to the PhD program at the Institute of Design. Masters students may be allowed to enroll with faculty and advisor approval. All PhD students will work closely with their advisors to plan their course of study and research. 

PhD Research Seminar

3 credit hours

This course is a ‘full court’ seminar in which all doctoral students are invited and encouraged to participate and support your doctoral research. The purpose of this doctoral seminar is to stimulate critical, constructive and generous discussion of PhD students’ research and writing in progress, to continue cultivating a lively and supportive intellectual design research…

PhD Philosophical Context of Design Research

1.5 credit hours

This course surveys the major philosophies and theories that underpin design research through exposure to some of the most significant scholars and public intellectuals of the last 100 years. Specifically, the following perspectives and traditions will be discussed: pragmatism, structuralism, activity theory, phenomenology, actor-network theory, theories of culture and symbolic interaction. For example, what do…

PhD Principles and Methods of Design Research

1.5 credit hours

This course surveys a range of research methods from different scientific traditions including science, social science, engineering, and design. Through a deep reading of monographs (dissertations that have been published as books) from the social sciences and design fields, the following approaches will be discussed: experimental vs. field research, inductive vs. deductive reasoning, positivist vs.…