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MICA’s Social Design (MA) is a 1-year, interdisciplinary graduate program that explores the designer’s role and responsibility in society, challenges conventional ways of thinking, facilitates new institutional collaborations, utilizes design and the design process to bring about social change, and strives to create contexts in which ideas can be sustained.

MICA’s Social Design (MA) offers a human centered, experiential, creative, and optimistic approach to understanding and addressing the challenges facing society. The program delivers its content through a variety of curricular and project based learning opportunities in conjunction with visiting faculty and scholars from different disciplines and backgrounds. Students are challenged to understand the social, cultural, political, and economic factors surrounding social issues and are encouraged to work towards tangible solutions in collaboration with other institutions, organizations, and community members. Students with various backgrounds and interests emerge from the program with the relevant and individualized skills needed to affect social challenges, while benefitting from MICA’s supportive, connected, collaborative, and community based environment.

Social Design (MA) delivers its content with a team of full-time faculty and a variety of visiting faculty from different disciplines and backgrounds. It is broken down as follows:

Social Design Seminar studies, discusses, and debates the designer's role and responsibility in society, specifically the belief that social change can happen through design. It takes the form of discussions, readings, workshops, presentations, and critiques and will provide students with tools, skills, and the overall awareness to address various aspects of social design and innovation.

Social Design Studio immerses students into applied projects focused on relationship building, research, and outreach as well as exposure to and understanding of partner organizations and challenges facing the community and society in general. This hands-on course provides students with practical, collaborative, project-based opportunities and experiences outside the institution.

Elective Courses in either studio or liberal arts allow students to explore additional subject matter and content that will contribute to their work in the Social Design (MA). Students can choose courses from dozens of graduate or undergraduate courses offered through MICA. Areas of interest may include courses in graphic design, environmental design, interaction design, studio, theory, history, anthropology, sociology, or pubic health.

Students in this 1-year, 30 credit, interdisciplinary graduate program will:

  • Have the opportunity to participate in sponsored projects through our Practice-based Studios, focused on engaging students and outside partners in socially conscious projects using design and design thinking to translate ideas into tangible outcomes with the goal of making a positive impact on society;
  • Have the opportunity to pursue professional, paid, part-time "mini-fellowships" (typically ~8-hours per week for 16 weeks) during the year with a variety of institutions to put newly-acquired social design skills into practice in real professional contexts.
  • Experience a flexible curriculum and personal structure that emphasizes learning by doing, working to solve social issues, not just study them
  • Learn to identify and engage partners with the assets needed to solve community issues, ultimately working collaboratively with an interdisciplinary group of students, visiting faculty, community leaders, educators, entrepreneurs, public health officials, and renowned designers
  • Identify problems and propose solutions through extensive research, learning subject matter in the process and developing the ability to confidently defend ideas;
  • Develop deeper skill-sets, beyond the visual and aesthetic, that can be applied to multiple career options in the fields of design, social sciences, and more.

Facilities and resources available to students in the MASD program include:

  • Access to acclaimed faculty and advisors, as well as institutions-including the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Maryland-that have long-standing collaborative relationships with the College;
  • Open studio, critique areas, classrooms, and flexible project and exhibition space that enables year round engagement, research, and design related programming;
  • The full array of facilities and technical resources on MICA's main campus, including the ArtTech Center, MICA Print Lab, and Decker Library and Media Resources Collection, among the country's best art and design libraries.

Who Should Apply

An ideal candidate for the Social Design (MA) would be a professional, practitioner, or recent graduate who:

  • believes design and the design process can, and should, play a role in creating positive change;
  • can offer a unique perspective to the program;
  • is prepared for a collaborative, immersive, hands-on graduate experience;
  • is excited about and able to work collaboratively with different disciplines, knowledge bases, and points of view;
  • is interested in developing and cultivating a personal point of view and approach to social design;
  • Has worked or studied in a relevant field including (but not limited to), design, architecture, business, writing, anthropology, sociology, public health, fine arts, engineering, environmental studies, non-profit, and more

Laptop Requirement

Students in the Social Design (MA) are required to provide a laptop for their studies. Due to the extensive community engagement and project/field work outside the institution, the mobility of a laptop will be essential to the program and experience. If you are interested in purchasing a new laptop or determining if your current laptop is sufficient, learn more about specifications and recommendations here.

Learn more about the Social Design (MA) and Center for Social Design here.