Carnegie Mellon University School of Design

mission statement

The School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University believes that design and designers have a critical role to play in the 21st first century in addressing the complex problems confronting society and in solving problems for the near, mid and long-term future. 

The School's approach acknowledges the social and natural worlds as the greater context for all design problems. Designers can no longer think about products or communications in isolation; to practice ethically and effectively, they must also consider interactions within broader social and environmental contexts. The programs are unified by a framework that responds to changes in design, while also seeking to shape the future of the discipline and advance the field as it matures.

Through coursework and research, our students learn a rigorous process for documenting, analyzing, and understanding the past and present—in order to propose more desirable systems and interactions for the future. We encourage students to take a broad view of design and engage in radical invention as they become active creators of a better future.

international role

The School of Design has a broad international network that includes exchange partnerships, regular participation in academic networks and conferences and research collaborations between faculty from other institutions. Student exchange partnerships include: Victoria University of Wellington, Technische Universiteit Eindhoven (TU/e), Ecole Bleue, KAIST, Design School at Politecnico di Milan.

The School is a member of both the Design Resarch Society (DRS) and the Service Design Network (SDN) and faculty regularly present at these conferences. In addition, the School has been leading the formation of a Transition Design Network that now informally includes 14 partner universities in 11 countries and plans to host a gathering to formally constitute the network in summer of 2020.

national role

The School of Design at Carnegie Mellon is routinely ranked in the top 5 design programs in the United States and maintains active membership in organizations such as the AIGA and IDSA as well as the Service Design Network and Design Research Society. It also maintains close partnerships with a wide variety of both industry and non-profit partners and its annual student job fair, Confluence, sees 75-100 companies travel to campus each February to interview undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students. These same organizations frequently sponsor classroom and faculty research in many of the focus areas mentioned above. Faculty frequently partner with peer institutions on research projects both in the discipline of design as well as inter and trans-disciplinary collaborations.

main focus

The School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University is one of the only leading design schools to offer degrees at the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral levels within a top-ranked multidisciplinary research university. Students are exposed to a broad curriculum, and are encouraged to collaborate with peers from other disciplines. The School of Design was one of the first programs to integrate the topics of sustainability and social innovation into the core of research and curricula at all levels and this philosophy shapes programs and informs the thinking, methods, and practice of students, researchers and faculty.

Students become “systems thinkers,” able to see and solve complex problems in a globally connected and interdependent world and become comfortable working collaboratively in transdisciplinary teams, and are encouraged to develop a holistic, research-based approach to design and the ability to frame problems within large socio-political-environmental contexts. Students study 'design for interactions' at all levels of the curricula. Undergraduates develop expertise in the areas of communications, products and environments and both undergraduate and masters students situate problems in the areas of design for social innovation and service design. Doctoral students conduct research in Transition Design.

faculties and departments

The School of Design is one of five schools within the College of Fine Arts at Carnegie Mellon University. In total, Carnegie Mellon University has seven colleges.

bachelor level programs

Bachelor of Design (BDes): 4 year program with tracks in communication, product or environments design

master level programs

Master of Arts in Design (MA): 1 year program in introduction to Design for Interactions

Master of Design (MDes): 2 year program in Design for Interactions

Master of Professional Studies (MPS): 1 year program in Design for Interactions 

research activity and main areas

Product, communication and environments design, social innovation, service design, interaction and computational design, design for learning, foresighting/futuring, design for behavior change, design history, user-centered research methodologies, speculative/critical design, design theory, transition design.

doctorate level programs

PhD in Design:  4 year, full time, residential degree in Transition Design

subject areas for exchange students

The School of Design is only able to accept exchange applications from students who attend our exchange partner schools.  Exchanges are most often for students in their third year of Design studies, with a focus on Communications, or Products or Environments. 

application deadlines

October 1 for the spring semester 

March 1 for the fall semester

teaching languages

English only.

semester dates

Fall semester: late August - mid-December

Spring semester: January - mid-May

cost of living per month (studying and living)

Exchange students pay tuition to their home school.  Living expenses in Pittsburgh can vary widely depending primarily on accomodation. On average, students can expect to spend $1700/month.

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