Graduate Programs for Engineers Interested in Design

Finding a graduate program that is a good fit as you evolve as an engineer and designer can be a challenge. A good challenge to have, though! Chances are you are interested in interdisciplinary studies already, and once you go that way it is hard to go back.

Have you ever drifted off deep into your thoughts and imagination of what would your work look like in a bunch of different career paths in design? Divergent thinking helped me to find out what-in-design I wanted to pursue. Committing to think about everything I liked, the skills I had, the skills I wanted to earn from a graduate degree led me to significantly enhancing my search of fellowship programs and graduate degrees related to Engineering Design and beyond.

Because of this, I have compiled a list of several of the programs I found on the internet regarding interdisciplinary research & design that you can apply to with an Engineering background. I make the note that you can apply with an Engineering background because for many of us that feel strong in our pragmatic approaches to problem solving, creativity, idea generation and ability of prototyping concepts in the category of ugly-but-functional can sometimes be discouraged to pursue a different path to design than we’re taught in Engineering school. These programs I’ve shared even though are related to, inside of or entirely on Engineering, make me hopeful that we are getting closer to concretize the realization that interdisciplinary and intersectional approaches to design (including Art, Psychology, Neuroscience, Engineering, History, Architecture, Linguistics, the list goes on!) are important, as is bringing people with a wide variety of skills & talents together to solve the world’s problems.

Graduate Programs in Design

(Masters and/or Ph.D.)

Design Impact @ Stanford University

Design & Innovation @ Technical University of Denmark (DTU)

Design Science @ University of Michigan

Engineering Design @ Pennsylvania State University

Engineering Design Innovation (EDI) @ Northwestern University

Human-Centered Design @ University of Washington

Integrated Innovation for Products & Services @ Carnegie Mellon University

Integrated Product Design @ University of Pennsylvania

Social and Engineering Systems @ Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Of course you can always go the traditional Engineering M.S./Ph.D. (Mechanical, Industrial, Computer, etc.) path and find faculty members that are working in interdisciplinary research problems. This is a great option as well! However, this is your homework to do with the particular research topics in design that interest you. Know that there is a possibility you will do coursework that deepens your knowledge in topics regarding your specific engineering discipline perhaps before you can contemplate taking coursework in other disciplines. This varies among schools, departments, and advisors therefore, research, reach out, and ask questions.

When doing your search, note there might not be a short-cut for this, you can approach using one or more strategies. The first is to seek for profiles from the faculty page of schools you select that resonate with your research interests within design. In my experience and given the nature of my topic of interest there was an overlap between Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Engineering so I looked within both departments in several schools. Another approach is using the publications or abstracts you’ve read that interest you and then looking for the authors’ Institutions. That way you have a finite list of schools, departments and faculty members you want to engage with in your future.

That said, if you know about a particular design program or are a student/alumni of one of the mentioned programs, I encourage you to write a response!


03/17/2017: I added two more programs to the list thanks to a kind suggestion via Facebook: Master of Science, Engineering Design Innovation (EDI) @ Northwestern University + Master’s of Science in Engineering Integrated Product Design (MSE:IPD) @ University of Pennsylvania. List remains in alphabetical order.