MDF PROGRAM STRUCTURE
The Master of Design Futures is driven by the final capstone course, Future Design Research Project. All courses lead towards this self-directed venture. While the project is not fully proposed and designed until the Research Methods course, we encourage you to start designing your project from the outset. In this way all the courses become useful lenses on your concept.
The courses are fully online and sequential. They can be taken as 12 months full-time or 24 months part-time. We estimate that you will need to devote approximately 6–9 hours per week for each 24cp course, and slightly less for the 12cp courses.
Over the Program you will be exposed to contemporary ideas around human centred design, design thinking, collaboration and high performance team work, the value of design, mindfulness and ethnography, among an array of practices and practitioners.
RMIT uses an integrated scholarship approach and practice based research and education methods as the foundation of its academic philosophy. These forms the basis for the MDF Program. You will be learn by making and researching in tandem. In addition, the Program operates on peer learning, which takes advantage of a diverse set of expertise in the Program community.
At this Masters level, you are expected to be self-directed, capable of accelerated learning, highly collaborative and exploratory. The program is designed for you to lead your own development with guidance and support from a range of industry and academic lecturers.
The courses that make up the Program
Future Design Contexts is a contextual course that brings together all the strands that play out within the Program: human-centred design; design thinking; design strategy; service design; transition design, as well as a critical view of the social conditions that design works within.
We are intrigued by how design operates differently depending on the culture or location it works within. We look at how the principles of human-centred design shifts our practices to face the people who come into contact with our designs, and how that opens new possibilities to design meaningful and impactful outcomes, whether the outcomes are a product or service.
We are aware of the political nature of design and the social conditions that surrounds it. We envisage futures that are sustainable on all levels, and which rely on imagination and creativity to share the benefits to the widest reach of people.
As the name suggests, this practice is all about designing effective and satisfying services — transport, retail, health, business and government services to name a few.
It combines experience design, UX and co-creative practices to bring knowledge and experience to the surface in order to design services that are relevant to the people most impacted by the service. This includes the user who accesses the service, as well as the provider who supplies the service.
Collaborative workshops and interviews are used to gain the information and local knowledge in the discovery phase. This is then processed through ‘customer journey maps’, which make the touch-points and pain points (each step of the journey — obstacles or challenges) visible; and ‘service blueprints’, which bring the backstage (provider) together with front-stage (user) together in a new suite of relationships.
Insights garnered through the process lead the design of new services or the redesign of existing services. These are tested iteratively through prototypes, constantly returning to the people implicated in the service for their advice and input.
Using similar tools and techniques to Service Design, Design Strategy has a broader remit. It engages with the world around ‘a thing’ or ‘a service’ and considers what limits or creates the conditions for design innovation.
Dan Hill, one of our Adjunct Professors, calls the conditions that design resides within, the ‘dark matter’. This includes the codes that determine the development within a city, or the regulations that constrain innovation around production, through to the social and cultural conventions that hinder or allow new things to happen.
Design Strategy can also be concerned with the re-definition of the organisation, the city or the community that the designer is working with. As new designs require the redesign of the dark matter, they force far reaching changes in how the organisation, community or city operates.
Interventions and prototypes are a part of the suite of tools used in Strategic Design. Small interventions can have large impact through a ripple effect, where one change produces multiple, small and large effects.
Futures Design Clients is about the changing relationship between the designer and their ‘publics’. How do we work co-creatively yet also bring design value to a situation? What does a contemporary design practice look like?
We approach this course as an experimental space where the tools of design research methods — such as customer journey maps and service blueprints, prototypes and persona — can be taken into new forms. We use experimentation to think through the issues and insights we are discovering. Film, installations and performance are exciting ways to develop persona and prototypes.
The methods are used to explore our own practices, relationships with our collaborators and as ways to communicate the complex and intangible nature of the contemporary design practice.
In this course we decouple leadership from the person who is a ‘leader’ in order to design future leadership models, appropriate to networked and collaborative workplaces and communities. These types of leadership models are mindful, inclusive, distributed, collaborative and socially aware.
We use mindfulness as a way to ground the investigation into how leadership adapts to a situation, and to understand leadership, and followship, at a deeper level. This builds from an exploration of collaboration, to encompass interpersonal and individual mindfulness practices aimed at assessing and nurturing authentic design leadership capacities.
Whether leading a design studio or an organisation, or if you bring these qualities to other institutions, you will be connecting into sustainable and challenging, future leadership opportunities.
The attributes of this leader are more collaborative and compassionate. The people who occupy this type of leadership are diverse in their backgrounds and personalities. This allows space for more authentic styles such as the quiet leader, the influencer, and the persuader, to name a few.
Partner Electives can be taken at any recognised academic institution or through alternative providers. The aim is to allow you to fill gaps in your skills or experiences, which in turn enhance the outcome of the whole Program.
You will be able to study globally or locally. Where possible we endeavour to work with you to discover suitable opportunities for you to explore.
Design Research Methods is designed to equip you with the skills and knowledge to develop a viable and feasible research proposal. The challenge and opportunity is to choose a topic, and develop research questions/propositions that can be answered/addressed over 1 the capstone research project course.
Designers tend to be solution-focussed, but this course is about problem finding, and it is important that you formulate questions and propositions before seeking answers and resolutions. Research, like design, is an iterative and immersive practice, but one that requires rigour (there can be no assumptions), discipline (focus, consistency and determination) and a degree of foresight. Research is about new knowledge and experimental and emergent practices.
Along the way you will also learn and develop research skills, identifying and critically analysing and synthesising existing literature and contemporary practice. A good research project can begin with a vague feeling of discontent at some aspect of your current practice that you have never been able to adequately address. It can also be prospective, and aligned to a new direction in your practice.
Design Futures Research Project is the Capstone course in MDF. It is here that you bring together all your discoveries, methods and motivations to create a design stance. Your project could be something that represents your practice now or in the near future; or it could be a re-positioning statement.
You design the topic, the methods and the final artefact, in conjunction with your supervisor. The outcome may be documentation of your new knowledge and mindset; or it could be something public such as an event, seminar or broadcast.
As each of you will have different motivations the outcomes will be necessarily diverse (and exciting). They will follow the principles of human centred design, and where possible extend these into new realms.
As they say in the software ad: ‘we can’t wait to see what you do with it’.