MFA: Design Research and Development (DRD)

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The Design Research and Development track is for persons with academic backgrounds in all fields of design. Professional practice experience is also useful, but is not required. Students in our program are encouraged to think critically about design problems and processes, to compare and test methods, and to seek discoveries through the analysis and synthesis of cross-disciplinary approaches and the application of design thinking. Because the program is intentionally multidisciplinary and process-oriented, courses in this degree may also be of interest to persons who are incorporating design thinking into the processes of other disciplines, which generates a diverse atmosphere. Research topics are encouraged in alignment with the expertise of the core faculty in order to maximize the potential for student participation in funded projects and other active theoretical or practical investigations. Areas of investigation generally fall into one of three categories: Research for design practices; Research about design practices; Design practices as research.

Students in this track are required to complete 60 credit hours of study to receive a MFA degree in Design. This includes a core of seminar and studio courses and independent thesis-related studies and open electives in the themes of studio/lab, history/theory, and collaborative/interdisciplinary activity. Students work closely with a three-person thesis committee to develop their thesis topics and the vehicles best used for their development.

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Curriculum

The Design Research and Development (DRD) track, leading to the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Design, is devoted to the development of knowledge and skills possessed by successful designers, including environmental and social awareness, novel methods for human-centered and systematic analysis and visualization, and creative problem-solving. We emphasize the creation of outcomes that address and contribute to contemporary issues in a global society.

The DRD track centers on research that discovers and explores new concepts, theories and outcomes in domains that are relevant to designers. The techniques and tools applied may be those traditional to design practice, including testing performance, usability, and user satisfaction, or they may evolve from experimentation, prototyping/making and exploration of the digital realm. Engaging primary research is critical to the processes of discovery that we encourage.

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Example Course Plan

Courses marked with * are required in the semester shown. Electives and other courses represent the credit hour requirements and suggested distribution, but are flexible in the order that they are taken. 

Total Credit Hours: 60

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Autumn Semester

Design 6100 Methods for Design Research, 3 credits*
Design 6200 Foundation for Grad Studies, 3 credits*
Design 6400 DRD or DAIM Graduate Studio, 3 credits*
Elective, 3 credits
Advising by 2-person committee occurs (as needed)

Spring Semester

Design 6300 Exploration in Grad Studies, 3 credits*
Design 6400 DRD or DAIM Graduate Studio, 3 credits*
Design 7193 with 2-person Committee (Research Elective), 0.5 to 6 credits*
Elective, 3 credits
First Year Review with all design faculty (first week of May)

May/Summer

Elective, 3 credits
Elective, 3 credits

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Autumn Semester

Design 6400 DRD or DAIM Graduate Studio, 3 credits*
Design 6500 Graduate Design Seminar, 3 credits*
AAEP 7725 Research Writing or other Elective, 3 credits (recommended, not required)
Elective, 3 credits
Second Year Review with Thesis Committee 

Spring Semester

Design 6400 DRD or DAIM Graduate Studio, 3 credits*
Design 7998 Thesis Project Development, 3-6 credits*
Elective, 3 credits 
Elective, 3 credits

May/Summer

Design 7999 Thesis Writing, 3 to 6 credits*
Masters Examination

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Category Descriptions

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Courses include: DESIGN 6100, DESIGN 6200, DESIGN 6300, DESIGN 6400, DESIGN 6500, DESIGN 7998, and DESIGN 7999. 

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Courses providing strong emphasis on history and analytical methods, as well as the philosophical, political, environmental and social awareness, material and context for works related to design and specific research interests.

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Individual Studies (DESIGN 7193) that explore a research interest in design under the guidance of design faculty. 

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Courses providing opportunities to study and interact with another discipline beyond design.

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Courses providing hands-on experiences that advance skill applied in creative research or to understand and incorporate experimental or applied practices in any discipline (i.e. ACCAD Grad Studio Courses - 5001, 5100, 5140, 5301, 6002, 7103).

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For detailed information about forming Thesis Committees, the first year review and Thesis Committee Review, please see the Department of Design Graduate Studies Handbook.

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Career Prospects

Students graduating in the Design Research and Development track of the MFA have careers that include:

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  • Brand Designer/Manager
  • Data/Science Visualizer
  • Design Director/Manager
  • Design Educator
  • Design Researcher
  • Design Strategist
  • Graphic Designer
  • Human-Computer Interaction Designer
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  • Industrial Designer
  • Interaction Designer
  • Interior Designer
  • Motion Graphic Designer
  • Multimedia Designer
  • Product Designer
  • User Experience (UX) Designer
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  • User Interface (UI) Designer
  • User Interface (UI) Research
  • User Experience (UX) Strategist
  • User Experience (UX) Researcher
  • Visual Communication Designer
  • Web and Social Media Designer/Manager
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Example DRD Projects

The below images link to projects featured on an external website dedicated to our annual Spring Exhibition, which occurs at the OSU Urban Art Space.