The requirements, reviews, and curriculum for CCA's MFA Design program are designed such that graduating students successfully achieve the following program learning outcomes:
The form language of the work reflects a level of professional competence and sophistication appropriate to the graduate level.
Working generally within or adjacent to areas defined by the disciplinary fields of graphic design, product design, interaction design, and contemporary media and digital arts, students in the program produce 2D, 3D, time-based, interactive, and/or dynamic projects. Even the most recently developed of these fields already boasts rich stores of intricate and technically sophisticated formal language, tropes, and gestures. Leading innovation in these fields requires not only a professional command of this form language but also the capacity to reach beyond it in new ways, bringing new vision and insight into these fields. Students may also work in a transdisciplinary way where appropriate, reaching beyond the confines of the form language implied by one field or discipline toward formal resources derived from another (often adjacent) field or discipline. Student work in the program demonstrates a facile command of form language appropriate to one of our core disciplines.
The conceptual core of the work is clear, contextually appropriate, internally coherent, differentiated, and innovative.
Design is an intentional act, even when it intends to produce unexpected results or outcomes. The extent to which a design project achieves what it intends to achieve as well as the intricacy and complexity of that purpose can be taken as a measure of the conceptual development of the work. Conceptual development might be scaled to the satisfaction of human needs but it need not necessarily be so. Since design always occurs in a cultural context, with psychological, social, economic, and political ideas and structures, the conceptual development of a design project might be expressly linked to concepts or ideas in these areas. Design, in other words, might become a vehicle of conceptual and critical thought.
The student demonstrates the capacity to analyze and understand the context in which her/his work operates. Research skills include information gathering, investigation, documentation, analysis, interpretation, and evaluation.
Context-based research skills are increasingly significant in design practice. These skills include information gathering, investigation, documentation, analysis, interpretation, and evaluation. Design research encompasses research into the cultural context in which the work may live, the needs of users who may encounter the work, or the technical, material, or formal nature of the work itself. Design work may be practiced as an iterative mode of investigative research. While some methods of research in design have entered common parlance across otherwise-distinct design fields—the “ethnographic” methods of human-centered design research, for example, or the analytic strategies of critical cultural studies—others remain idiosyncratic to individual designers. Computers have also become powerful tools for large- and small-scale data collection and analysis as well as for formal innovation in design. Students in the program are exposed to a variety of contemporary design research strategies and methods, but they are also expected to design contextually appropriate strategies of their own. Mastery of research skills includes the ability to steer processes or exploration and realization, adapting design work to changes in context and technology.
The student clearly and compellingly presents his or her design using oral, written, visual, and other means appropriate to the work.
Designers need to concisely and convincingly convey the nature, purpose, and scope of projects to key stakeholders, including clients, colleagues, and/or members of the community. Students in MFA Design sharpen their presentation skills, advocating on behalf of their work in contextually appropriate ways. Presentation skills include formal and informal oral presentations, often accompanied by collateral materials distinct from the design work itself. Other skills also include formal and informal, short- and long-form written presentations alongside digital forms of presentation, from websites to portfolios and video. Students in MFA Design prepare a written thesis alongside their design work.