MFA in Collaborative Design
MA in Design Systems


Course Fall Year I Spring Year I Fall Year II Spring Year II
Critical Studies (3cr) Systems Thinking Design Ecolologies Cultural Entrepreneurship Creative Leadership
Seminar (3cr) Research + Insights Collaboration, Facilitation Problem Identification Capstone Seminar
CD Studio I (3cr) Design Methods Design Deliverables Incubate + Accelerate Launch
Workshop (1cr) Design Sprint Visual Facilitation Data Visualization Exploratory Design
CD Studio II (3cr) Design for the Long Now Strategy + Foresight Capstone Studio Capstone Studio
Hallie Ford Studio (3cr) Hallie Ford Elective - Craft Hallie Ford Elective - Teach Hallie Ford Elective - Code Hallie Ford Elective - Print
MA program:      MFA program:          

Program Comparison

MFA Collaborative Design

  • For the early to mid-career creative
  • An immersive MFA program
  • Studio emphasis, terminal masters
  • Mentored capstone + thesis
  • Three afternoons / evenings per week
  • Two years / 60 credits

MA Design Systems

  • For the early to mid-career creative
  • An executive Masters program
  • Leadership / professional emphasis
  • Thesis only
  • Two afternoons / evenings per week
  • Two years, 40 credits

The Collaborative Design curriculum is project-based, preparing participants to tackle complex problems at multiple scales using a variety of design techniques. Courses are often connected to each other through shared projects. We learn together in a cycle of discovery, doing, evaluation, and iteration. Topics adapt each year to local, regional and global opportunities and concerns, as well as faculty and student interests.

Critical Studies courses enable students to understand and work with complex systems; approach design as an interacting set of actors, objects and techniques; take initiative to make proposed design solutions a reality; and develop leadership skills that will maximize effectiveness with colleagues, stakeholders and clients.

Critique Seminars provide participants with critical feedback on group and individual projects. Using theory, case studies and in-class project, seminars explore current design research methods, collaboration and facilitation techniques, problem identification and stakeholder engagement methods, and culminate with a capstone project that launches each participant into the next stage of their creative career. Our seminars are highlighted by weekly “Twilight Talks.”

Studios provide hands-on project experience in specific problem domains, working with clients, collaborators and partners. Each studio facilitates a pattern of discovery, proposal, and build, where students are presented with - or develop - a design brief, and collaboratively create design solutions.

Hallie Ford Electives are offered by PNCA’s six graduate programs, and broaden participants skills in craft, code, theory, writing, print and pedagogy.

Workshops build specific skills in a fast-paced one-credit studio intensive. The role of the workshop instructor is to bring domain expertise or a thoughtful plan for experimentation that allows students to acquire a set of skills, techniques or way of working.

Independent Study allows for exploration of topics not incorporated into the curricula of regular classes. Students work with the chair and community partners to craft a project proposal and resources to pursue a particular line of research, design, craft, or entrepreneurial activity.

Collaborative Design Internships are an important component of the program, offering the chance to apply program learnings to the workplace, and bring industry challenges into the classroom. Students are expected to engage in these 1-credit opportunities beginning in the spring of Year 1.