M.F.A. in Design Research and Development



The Design Research and Development program leading to the Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) 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 program 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.

Career Prospects

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

  • Brand Designer/Manager

  • Data/Science Visualizer

  • Design Director/Manager

  • Design Educator

  • Design Researcher

  • Design Strategist

  • Graphic Designer

  • Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) Designer

  • Industrial Designer

  • Interaction Designer

  • Interior Designer

  • Motion Graphic Designer

  • Multimedia Designer

  • Product Designer

  • User Experience (UX) Designer

  • 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

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. 

Year One

Autumn Semester
Design 6200 Foundation for Grad Studies, 3 cr.*
Design 6400 DRD or DAIM Graduate Studio, 3 cr.*
Interdisciplinary Elective, 3 cr.
Design 7193 with 2 person committee, 3 cr.*

Spring Semester
Design 6100 Methods for Design Research, 3 cr.*
Design 6300 Exploration in Grad Studies, 3 cr.*
Design 6400  DRD or DAIM Graduate Studio, 3 cr.*
Studio Elective, 3 cr.
First Year Review

Theory/History/Criticism Elective, 3 cr.
Studio Elective, 3 cr.

Year Two

Autumn Semester
Design 6400 DRD or DAIM Graduate Studio, 3 cr.*
Design 6500 Graduate Design Seminar, 3 cr.*
AAEP7795/7725 Research Writing, 3 cr. (Recommended, but not required - Fits into Thesis Category)
Theory/History/Criticism Elective, 3 cr
Thesis Committee Review

Spring Semester
Design 6400  DRD or DAIM Graduate Studio, 3 cr.*
Design 7998 Thesis Project (Independent), 4 cr.
Theory/History/Criticism Elective, 3 cr.
Interdisciplinary Elective, 3 cr.

Design 7999 Thesis Writing (Independent), 5 cr.
Masters Examination

Total Credit Hours: 60

Category Descriptions

Theory/History/Criticism Electives (9 credits)

Courses with strong emphasis on historiography and analytical methodologies, as well as with the philosophical, political, and material contexts for works related to design, animation, or interactive media and specific thesis topics.

Interdisciplinary Electives (6 credits)

Courses which are based on studying and interacting within another disciplines beyond design

Studio Electives (6 credits)

Courses should provide hands-on experiences that advance skills applied in creative research or to understand and incorporate experimental or applied practices.

Design Courses (39 credits)

Courses taken independently with members of the student’s thesis committee focused on the production of a thesis.


For detailed information about forming Thesis Committees, the first year review and Thesis Committee Review, please see the Design department’s Graduate Handbook at: https://design.osu.edu/grad/resources