Design Science – Master of Science Program

The Master of Science in Design Science is the program for students who want to expand their career paths by meeting the growing need for the interdisciplinary design of complex products, devices, and systems. The program provides each student flexibility in exploring across multiple disciplines to learn in-depth rigorous design methods and theory that drive the design process. Each student defines a custom program of study tailored to his or her background and design interests in consultation with a program advisor. An individual student’s curriculum is structured so that knowledge from at least two disciplines permeates their program of study. This is the guiding principle for the DESCI program requirements. This path integrates disciplines from top programs at the University of Michigan to balance rigorous coursework, trend-setting research and practica.

Students are required to take a core set of classes that teaches them integrative design processes and research methods, and then deepen their knowledge in two or more disciplines by leveraging courses available across the university. In one year, graduates of the Design Science program are uniquely positioned to build bridges between key stakeholders bringing future employers in advanced industries and government settings the skills needed to meet the challenges of innovation in today’s workplace.


Coursework requirements include:

  1. (A) a core, two-semester course sequence (6 credits) consisting of DESCI 501 and DESCI 502; 1 semester of DESCI 790 (2 credits), and one semester of DESCI 791 (1 credit),
  2. (B) five courses (15 credits) selected from existing disciplinary offerings,
  3. (C) one practicum/independent research course.

Group A: Core Courses (9 Credits Total)

The core Design Science courses provide a common foundation in Design for all students independent of their chosen disciplines. These courses integrate design knowledge and practice across all disciplines and teach the universal principles. The first course aims at establishing a common experience in doing design. The second course aims at providing a common basis for studying design. The colloquium provides exposure to modern research topics and a forum for interactions and building a cohesive Design Science community.

  • DESCI 501: Analytical Product Design (3 credits)
    Design of artifacts is addressed from a multidisciplinary perspective that includes engineering, art, psychology, marketing, economics, and other disciplines. Using a decision-making framework, emphasis is placed on quantitative methods, building mathematical models, and accounting for interdisciplinary interactions. Students learn integrative design techniques such as conjoint analysis, kansei engineering, multi-domain optimization, and advanced decision making. Students work in team design projects from concept generation to prototyping and design verification.
  • DESCI 502: Design Process Models (3 credits)
    Interaction and coordination of decisions based on multi-discipline design analyses. Innovation and creativity are addressed as elements of the design process. Enterprise design decisions made on functionality and business criteria are analyzed within organizational, cultural and social models. Students propose and test novel analysis methods and design process models. Emphasis is placed upon scientific research methods.
  • DESCI 790 and DESCI 791: Design Science Colloquium and Seminar (1–2 credit)
    Topics on Design Science are presented by doctoral candidates and by invited speakers across campus and from outside the university. The aim of the colloquium is to aid in exposure to current design knowledge topics.

Group B. Design Specialization Courses (15–18 credits total)

For the Master’s Degree in Design Science, students are expected to specialize and integrate the knowledge of two disciplines within design. These courses are intended to give the student the necessary foundation in Design Science through the study of rigorous methods in the disciplines. Students, in consultation with the program advisor, select a sequence of courses within a design specialization to ensure sufficient depth. The students customized course of study should be 15–18 credit hours, as follows:


To provide breadth of design knowledge, students select one course from three of the six different disciplines listed below (9 credits) 

  • Architecture and Urban Planning; Art & Design or Performing Arts
  • Business
  • Engineering and Computer Science
  • Information Sciences
  • Behavior, Social, and Cognitive Sciences
  • Medicine and Public Health

To provide disciplinary depth, students select an additional course from their two identified disciplines, with a minimum of 6 hours in their two selected disciplines. Courses should be selected towards a specialization aim. Example of specializations at U-M identified by Design Science faculty include:

  • Computer Design
  • Data-Driven Design
  • Decision Making in Design
  • Design Education
  • Design Optimization
  • Design Tools, Methods and Processes
  • Device Innovation
  • Ergonomics in Design
  • Humanitarian Design
  • Interaction Design
  • Materials Design
  • Medical Device Design
  • Multisensory Design
  • Organizational Processes in Design
  • Sustainable Design
  • Systems Design
  • User Centered Design

Group C. Design Practicum (3–6 credits total)

To provide context to integrate the theoretical and scientific principles that students learn, students are required to have a minimum of 3 hours of practicum. This may be an internship with an industrial company or government partner, or may be a research or design project with faculty at the University of Michigan. The program advisor approves the practicum experience given the customized program plan of the student.

  • DESCI 503 (3–6 credits) Master Practicum OR
  • DESCI 590 (3–6 credits) Master Independent Project

Sample Program (1-Year Plan of Study)

The MS of Design Science is intended to be completed within twelve months. A template of a sample program is given below. Students take 14-16 hours of courses per term.

Sample Template

Students can extend their study into the summer by completing the practicum as a summer internship. Students meet with the program advisor upon admittance to the program to chart the specific courses for their specialization within design.