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Social Design Curriculum 2012-13

The Master of Arts in Social Design (MASD) is a 30-credit program spanning two semesters across one academic year. MASD integrates intensive coursework with extensive studio and field experience. Most studio/fieldwork is conducted in the Baltimore area, but is not limited to the city and region. Students complete 15 credits in each of the two semesters (3 seminar, 9 studio/field, 3 elective).

Social Design Seminar (3 credit hours) studies, discusses, and debates the designer's role and responsibility in society, specifically the belief that social change can happen through design. It also prepares students to better understand community, the design process, and importance of research, problem identification, audience understanding, and idea development as a way to approach challenges/projects and change behaviors.

Social Design Studio (9 credit hours) immerses students into the East Baltimore community through relationship building, research, participation, and project work as well as exposure to and understanding of the partner organizations and larger challenges facing the community. Hands-on experience and project work combined with volunteerism and outreach plays a vital role in the program.

Elective (3 credit hours) informs students' work in the MASD program by providing opportunities to choose from dozens of elective courses offered through MICA and potentially Johns Hopkins University. Potential courses could include studio, theory, history, anthropology, health communication, etc. These broad and wide-ranging course offerings allow students to deepen and broaden their personal points of view, while informing and contributing to the work generated in the program.

To learn more specifically about graduate liberal arts courses, visit www.mica.edu/Programs_of_Study/MA_Degree_Programs/Liberal_Arts/Course_List.html

Fall semester focuses on instruction, exploration and outreach.

  • Social Design Studio starts off with a collaborative project focused on relationship building and understanding of the East Baltimore community (community tours, history of neighborhood, community groups & voices, etc.). Students begin to connect their personal interests and objectives with certain issues and partner organizations. By the end of the semester, students in discussion with their program advisors will develop a thesis proposal and identify a specific challenge or issue and partner with an organization, group, initiative, or institution
  • Social Design Seminar is focused primarily on researching and discussing best practices, methodology, theory & practice. Group discussions and critiques are balanced with individual meetings with faculty and visits with guests.

Spring semester focuses on immersion, analysis and application.

  • Social Design Studio places students in the field and provides the structure to formally begin collaboration with a partner organization. Students are fully engaged in project work around a specific set of challenges. They spend most of their time outside the institution with members of the community and collaborating directly with partner organizations.
  • Social Design Seminar is focused primarily on development, discussion and critique relating to their project work / field experience and thesis.


Project Review and Thesis is a requirement for all graduating MASD students. The MASD program will contribute substantial new research as well as tangible case studies and project outcomes related to social design. Students will engage with the cultural, social, political and economic factors that will inform their design work in the community and through critical reflection on these experiences, develop their own approach to projects and problem solving. They will engage in immersive research, develop innovative strategies, and help test and implement appropriate communication and intervention plans and programs.

Students will document their own work in the form of: 1) research, personal narrative and/or testimonials, as well as 2) documentation of process including objectives, key messages, essence and project outcomes. Results will be used not only as case studies to document the process, but as data and research to help analyze and assess the effectiveness of the ideas and solutions as well as inform future MASD students, current and future partner organizations, and most significantly, members of the community.