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Hallie Ford School of Graduate Studies

MFA in Collaborative Design

PNCA’s MFA in Collaborative Design is defined by the work we do and the people we do it with. For example:

• Designing a hybrid space for independent musicians
• Creating / marketing an in-home all-purpose hot compost bin
• Exploring “Broken Design” in our annual publication, Blight
• Product / market design for reducing invasive species

Are we service designers? Entrepreneurial designs? Product designers? System designers? Yes. And more.

We work mostly in teams, but we take on individual projects through independent study and capstone theses such as:

• A multimodal transportation initiative
• An interaction system for treating / preventing pediatric migraines
• BridgeLab, a college-wide design/art entrepreneurship incubator
• zLab, a design-based education program

We’re highly connected to the design / creative / nonprofit / entrepreneur community in Portland. The city is our laboratory. But we venture past Portland’s famed urban growth boundary – to the Pacific coast, to the mountains, to the high desert. These natural landscapes provide much of our region’s resources where many ecological / social / economic issues remain unsolved, even ignored. We see opportunity here.

We’re creative problem solvers.

Video by Gia Goodrich MFA ‘11

Why work with us, as a student, a collaborator, a client, or a mentor? Because we tackle big issues (“wicked problems”). Because we’re at the front edge of systems thinking, disruptive design, and entrepreneurship. Because we work hard. Because we have fun.

But most of all, because you’ll transform the way you think, the way you design, the way you work.

A visual gimpse into PNCA’s MFA in Collaborative Design. Click the images for more information.

Students work with faculty in dynamic teams to foster networks of people, places, tools and artifacts, to engage in iterative design solutions, and to respond to project briefs containing environmental, social and technological challenges.

Students graduate from our 60-credit, two-year program with a robust portfolio of individual and group projects. They work with mentors to develop leadership, collaboration and design skills using a variety of media, facilitation strategies, and systems approaches.

Is this the program for you?

We’re looking for emerging designers, entrepreneurs, activists and team members who want to take their understanding, approach and skills to a new level. Students come from backgrounds in art and design, liberal arts, science, policy, technology, engineering, journalism and business, with a wide variety of life experience. It’s how we curate our diverse team that makes the difference.  Applicants are passionate about making a significant impact in the world. We’re passionate about enabling change-makers.

Our graduates are launching successful programs, working for leading design initiatives and nonprofits, creating thriving design consultancies, and working in higher education. 


To receive information or updates on the MFA in Collaborative Design, fill out the inquiry form and contact Peter Schoonmaker, Program Chair, pschoonmaker [at] pnca [dot] edu.

Applications due: February 1, 2015.

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