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MDesInteraction Design

Make a positive impact with the most in-demand design toolkit in the world today: systems thinking, design process skills, and imaginative prototyping.

Overview

Imagine, prototype, and build the future

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.

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View of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

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.

Studios + Shops

Go from concept to final product

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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
Interaction Design students work to solve social issue like wayfinding to low-income resources at San Francisco's Glide Foundation_feature_MB

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

Faculty

Founders and craftspeople

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.

Steve Diller, Interim Chair of MDes in Interaction Design

Steve Diller, Interim Chair of MDes in Interaction Design.

Interim Chair Steve Diller is the CEO of Scansion, a strategic design firm based in the Bay Area, and a longtime faculty member of the MBA in Design Strategy program at CCA. With an array of high-profile clients, including Intel, eBay, Chrysler, Carhartt, and PayPal, Diller leads teams in developing innovative product and service offerings in many business categories through the application of design thinking.

Curriculum

STEM-designated program

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.

MDes Interaction Design

Fall Semester

IxD 1 Studio
3 units
IxD 2 Studio
3 units
Personal Leadership (with MBA in Design Strategy)
3 units
IxD Social Lab 1
3 units

Spring Semester

IxD 3 Studio
3 units
IxD 4 Studio
3 units
Design Leadership (with MBA in Design Strategy)
3 units
IxD Social Lab 2
3 units

Summer Semester

IxD 5 Studio
3 units
IxD 6 Studio
3 units
IxD 7 Studio
3 units
IxD Social Lab 3
3 units

Total 36 units

Careers

Make life-changing products and experiences

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

News + Events

What’s happening in the design community?

How to Apply

Gather your strongest work for your application

The MDes in Interaction Design is an intensive one-year, three-semester program. We welcome students of all ages and design backgrounds who are collaborative systems thinkers. Many have at least five to seven years of professional experience and are ready to take their careers in new directions. Placement in our program is largely based on the strength of portfolio submissions and transcripts.

Application fundamentals

You’ll need to submit three components that are common to all CCA graduate applications:

  • Resume/curriculum vitae
  • Two recommendation letters
  • Unofficial college transcripts

Additionally, you’ll submit a portfolio and personal essay that are tailored to your specific degree. The IxD master’s program interviews a small sample of applicants and may contact candidates on an individual basis.

MDes Interaction Design submissions

Portfolio

You’ll need to submit a visual portfolio that represents your practice in any studio-based field. Architecture, film, graphic design, industrial design, sculpture, or a related discipline are all acceptable.

Please include up to 25 still images, videos, time-based media, or interactive media. If you choose to submit video or time-based media, include a three-minute sample reel that’s clearly labeled with the title, date, running time, and brief description of the work(s).

Our admissions committee will review your portfolio on a computer, so please make sure it adheres to the following specifications:

  • Must be a SlideRoom submission
  • Maximum of 5 MB for each still image
  • Maximum of 60 MB for each video, time-based media, or interactive media

Once your portfolio has been submitted via SlideRoom, no further changes can be made.

Personal essay

You’ll need to answer five open-ended questions in paragraph form (1,500 words maximum). In addition to typing out your answer to question one, you’ll also need to record your response to the question in a video. Like your visual portfolio, your personal essay must be submitted via SlideRoom.

Copy and answer these questions:

  1. What draws you to the field of interaction design right now? Make sure you also record your response to this question in a video (up to one minute in length) and include the link.
  2. What are your hopes and dreams as a designer and future leader?
  3. What experiences have best prepared you to engage with community partners through our Social Lab?
  4. What complex social challenge inspires you the most right now? Please include why the challenge is important and what drives you to find a solution.
  5. What are your expectations for the IxD program?

You must convert all your written responses into a single PDF document. Make sure your video link is included beneath question one.

Technology requirements

Laptop

We recommend a 15-inch MacBook Pro laptop. Please note that student discounts and payment plans are available from Apple’s Education online store (log in using your CCA student username and password). Additionally, you can go to any Apple retail store and present them with your CCA student ID card for a discount.

Software

Adobe Creative Cloud is required for all students. This bundle includes software for illustration, image editing, and interactive desktop and mobile prototyping. If you anticipate that your work will incorporate motion graphics or film, we recommend that you purchase the Adobe Creative Suite Master Collection. The Master Collection includes everything from the first bundle, plus film and video sound editing software. For a discount, visit the JourneyEd student store.

Contact our program manager with questions

Christine Lasher

Program Manager, Design Division: Graduate Design Strategy and Graduate Interaction Design

+1 415-551-9351

[email protected]

Join a studio culture focused on innovation

Apply now