Make a positive impact with the most in-demand design toolkit in the world today: systems thinking, design process skills, and imaginative prototyping.
MDes in Interaction Design is a one-year, intensive STEM-designated program built to provide students with the tools to create better relationships among people, products, and environments worldwide. Interaction designers flourish in this complex intersection, using craft-based design skills, systems thinking, and human-centered technology to find creative solutions in the heart of San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Our intensive program prepares you to enter one of the most in-demand design fields in the world. You’ll learn to design for the environment, public health, transportation, education, and other major industries with wide-ranging impact.
Study in the creative capital of Silicon Valley
You’ll be constantly inspired by our location in the San Francisco Bay Area, home to leading technology companies, animation and film studios, and groundbreaking art galleries. Graduates of our program have found great success in the many research-driven design practices in the Bay Area and beyond. We’re also in one of the best art and design schools in the world. With a community of fine artists, industrial designers, curators, writers, and other creative practitioners at your fingertips, you’ll find unique ways to make technology meaningful and delightful.
You’ll build upon foundational work in design principles, methods, and craft during a sequence of immersive studio courses. From information architecture and user interfaces to digital prototyping and experience design, you’ll do it all. We imagine future mobile experiences, social networks, and connected products. Recent student projects evolve beyond speculative design to realize full-scale solutions:
- Wearable air quality monitor
- Smart lock with facial recognition
- Data visualization portal for municipal health trends
- User interface for semi-autonomous vehicles
Design for the greater good
At the heart of our program is a space we call the Social Lab. Each semester, you’ll have the chance to make a positive impact in the wider community. We partner with arts organizations, bookstores, educational nonprofits, and Bay Area neighborhoods to harness emerging design technologies for the greater good. A recent collaboration with the African American Art & Culture Complex (AAACC), for example, resulted in a beautiful parklet. Co-designed with CCA architecture students, the parklet celebrates and promotes the AAACC’s important mission and unique public programming.
Your IxD experience at CCA
- Master digital prototyping tools
- Explore hierarchy, layout, grid, line, shape, and typography
- Create user scenarios, information flows, and wireframes
- Apply systems thinking to real-world challenges
- Collaborate with arts organizations and nonprofits
- Utilize print, screen, mobile, web, and vehicle canvases
- Experiment with auditory, tactile, and motion inputs
- Study organizational systems and leadership skills
- Design for systems, behavior, and interactive technology
- Create performances, storyboards, and personas
- Learn to pitch design and business concepts
- Build small-scale responses, then at-scale solutions
Our faculty are all practicing designers with extensive industry connections. They work for Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, IDEO, and numerous design consultancies in the Bay Area. Their expertise in user experience design, user interfaces, interactive media, gaming, and service design—just to name a few fields—helps shape our intentional curriculum for future design leaders.
Chair Josh Silverman has created successful relationships through design for 25 years. He speaks and hosts workshops globally, teaches and guest critiques nationally, and is always connecting people and communities. Josh is preternaturally curious about patterns in decision making and the shapes of teams. He is driven daily by great pairings, trusting relationships, harmonious intersectionality, and long bike rides.
Our intensive one-year, three-semester program is STEM-designated. The coursework emphasizes craft, social impact, and leadership. You’ll learn to address critical, complex challenges through powerful design process skills and intuitive organizational systems.
View course guides
Your degree audit, combined with the recommendations of our program’s manager, will determine which of our three curricular paths is the best option for you. All paths include the same courses, only in different sequences:
Our students’ talent for creative, human-centered design sets them up for success in a variety of professional fields. Hands-on experience in the Social Lab gives them the practical skills they need to leverage design for social impact. Our alumni develop augmented reality interfaces for surgeons, design semi-autonomous electric cars, and make apps that help people overcome addiction. Wherever they are in the world, they make an impact through elegant, ethical, and sustainable design practices.
Potential career paths
- User experience designer
- Interaction designer
- Product designer
- Visual designer
- Organizational designer
- Creative design lead
- Social entrepreneur
- Creative director
The MDes in Interaction Design is an intensive one-year, three-semester program. We welcome students of all ages and backgrounds who are collaborative systems thinkers and aspiring design leaders. Many of our applicants have 5–7 years of professional experience and are ready to take their careers in new directions. Placement in our program is based on the strength of personal essay responses, portfolio submissions, transcripts, and recommendation letters.
The MDes program develops craft, collaboration, and leadership skills through concentrated teamwork. Students spend a significant amount of time making, reading, writing, presenting, and working on interpersonal communication. We look for evidence of your capacity to engage fully with these requirements in your essays, resume, and recommendation letters.
Because the program’s primary emphasis is on design craft skills, we look for strong promise and design excellence in your portfolio. Portfolios don’t need to be in UX or IxD. In fact, a strong graphic or industrial design portfolio will be looked on more favorably than a weak UX portfolio. We also look for your aptitude in tackling complex social challenges and engaging with the community, perhaps through volunteer work in nonprofits or exploration of how design might better address critical social challenges.
You’ll need to submit three components that are common to all CCA graduate applications:
- Resume/curriculum vitae
- Two recommendation letters
- Unofficial college transcripts
In addition, you'll submit a portfolio and personal essay that are tailored to your specific degree. Expand the items below to view details.
The IxD master’s program interviews a small sample of applicants and may contact candidates on an individual basis.