Design Science – Prospective Students

The Design Science program is unique. It is defined by a strongly interdisciplinary approach to the science of design, where students gain specialized knowledge in two separate fields.

The goal is to participate in the creation of new knowledge about the design process. The focus is on methods and models that allow the rigorous study of design as it is practiced in the world today.

By applying a wide range of qualitative and quantitative methods to design, students will learn how to discover ways to improve the design process.

Design Science Prospective Students

Students who fit well in this unique program are those interested in the “why” behind successful design. What principles and processes lead to better designs, how can designs be implemented and adopted, and how can design be taught more effectively? The focus in the program is the rigorous study of how design can be accomplished rather than a studio approach to design skills.

Students learn what science can teach us about effective design across many fields of practice, and acquire the skills to apply that knowledge to new design projects. A key feature of the U-M program is its customization. Every student has a different course of study based on their specializations across two disciplines. Each student’s program of study is based upon their interests and consultation with faculty advisors from different disciplines of design. So, the key to a great graduate experience in Design Science is finding faculty mentors who match your interests in design. One of the strengths of the Design Science program is the breadth of interdisciplinary studies possible within our program.

Are You a Good Fit?

The Design Science program offers a Master of Science and a Doctor of Philosophy in Design Science. Applicants must have earned at least a bachelor’s degree at the time of admission. A master’s degree in a relevant discipline or equivalent coursework must have been earned prior to advancement to doctoral candidacy. Examples of relevant disciplines are the social sciences, engineering, business, art, information, product design, and architecture. It is expected that students entering the program will have a good foundation in at least one of the disciplines contributing knowledge to design science.

The Design Science Graduate programs are specifically designed to accommodate students with a diversity of backgrounds, who are interested in design research and practice at an advanced level. Each student will have a tailored program of study based on her/his background and interests. The number of admitted students each year is very small. Students are selected based on their academic achievement, their potential for innovation, and their ability to be self-directed.

Program graduates may pursue careers in academia, industry or government. The Design Science program offers a new degree outside of traditional disciplines. As such, it may require explanation for future employers who are unfamiliar with Design Science. The program follows the tradition of rigorous scholarship at the University of Michigan and has a strong analytical and quantitative orientation. Therefore, students with strong analytical and mathematical skills (typical for students with backgrounds in the physical sciences and engineering) will be particularly suitable for pursuing studies in the Design Science program. 

MS Prerequisites for Admissions

To apply to the MS of Design Science:

  1. Applicants must have bachelor’s degree in a relevant design field such as engineering, business, psychology, industrial design, architecture, music, computer science, information, etc.
  2. An aspiring Design Science Master’s student will be expected to have strong mathematical skills; it is likely (but not necessary) that the typical student will have a BS in either engineering, in the physical/ mathematical sciences or business with a strong mathematical background. Non-engineering students will be admitted to the program with a record of appropriate math studies, such as statistics, probability or calculus, in their undergraduate degree in order to pursue the scientific methods taught in this Master’s program. If there is a strong candidate without the appropriate mathematical record, they may be requested to take the appropriate courses before enrolling.
  3. GRE is not required, but strongly encouraged especially for students in non-engineering or non-science-related bachelor degrees to demonstrate their mathematical skills.

PhD Prerequisites for Admissions

There can be several degree paths that a student may follow applying for the doctoral program:

  1. A student with an MS/MA/MFA degree may be directly admitted to the DESCI PhD program.
  2. Alternatively, a student can apply to a separate discipline-based MS/MA/MFA program, and seek admission to the DESCI PhD program. After one semester of full time enrollment in the Master’s program, the student can apply for admission to the DESCI PhD program as a dual degree student.
  3. Finally, a student can apply for formal admission to the DESCI PhD program without a master’s degree, but must complete 24 credits of ‘master’s equivalent’ coursework in addition to the 24 required credits for the DESCI PhD Program. The choice of courses will be subject to approval by the Program Committee.

In all cases, DESCI students must have completed the Master’s degree by the time they reach doctoral candidacy in the program. A DESCI student is expected to have good mathematical and analytical skills to be able to conduct rigorous scientific research in design. A good minimal set of mathematical skills for all students are equivalent to the material covered in the following courses: Calculus 1, Calculus 2, and Introduction to Probability and Statistics.

Students admitted to the program must be paired with faculty advisors from two different disciplines. In this way, each student will have dual mentorship throughout his or her studies at University of Michigan. Identifying faculty advisors who are interested and available to work with a student is a critical part of the admissions process.