xdMFA Program Curriculum

students using virtual reality headsets
students in a studio looking at work pinned to a wall
students using a wheelchair in a building to study usability
student work pinned to a wall in the studio with lots of design work like sketches posted

The mission of the Experience Design MFA is to enable learners to gain the design thinking, knowledge, and skills required for developing high fidelity, people-driven outcomes at personal and systemic levels. Coursework synthesizes theory and methods from design research, service, user experience, and communication design, encompassing digital and physical technologies. Learners grow these competencies through exercises, projects, and learning experiences designed to develop practical, analytical, creative, emotional, and social intelligences. Graduates are prepared to enter a wide range of design practices as designers and educators who are equipped to lead and develop culturally relevant design innovations in complex contexts.

a person documenting a plate of food with a smartphone

Conduct Research

Develop and conduct in-depth research on human and system behavior for design innovation.

a busy street intersection in a city with pedestrians and cars

Embrace Complexity

Analyze and visualize real and perceived factors at a systemic level.

an open book stacked on a pile of books

Apply Theory

Apply a wide range of theories and frameworks to experience-centered design processes.

people sitting in a meeting room worthing together

Productive Partnerships

Develop outcomes with stakeholders via engaging and empowering co-creative processes.

a student project showing a new design for a courtroom

Detailed Design

Create design prototypes and plans with a high degree of formal and functional detail.

a group of construction workers

Cultural Alignment

Create culturally relevant design outcomes informed by research.

a man giving a presentation to a room of people

Effective Reporting

Report design analyses and recommendations effectively for a wide range of audiences.

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The MFA in Experience Design is a studio-based program where most learning is facilitated through critique and feedback. In our courses, students learn a variety of design thinking and creative skills:

  • Sketching to communicate ideas and proposed designs to others.
  • Comping to communicate the form, makeup, and operation of design prototypes.
  • Systemic mapping to visualize real and perceived components of complex systems.
  • Wireframing and storyboarding to prototype interfaces, interactions, and services.
  • Experience mapping to visualize ways people interact with a design.
  • Designing face-to-face and recorded presentations whose visuals effectively support spoken and textual content.
  • Observations, interviews, and focus group facilitation lead to the production of an ethnographic report.
  • Prototyping tools like SketchUp and Figma to enable product testing.
  • Building physical prototypes at a basic level for rapid product testing.
  • Designing and facilitating charrette sessions to involve community members in the design process.

xdMFA Course Sequence

Fall Semester - Year 1

Design Research Methods ART 627

Methods Course

Mixed-methods research methods to discover stakeholders' experiences and where innovation is needed.

Skills: field research, ethics, coding & analysis, research design, design ethnography, insights, experience mapping, reporting

Travel: Oxford Weekend (1st-year students only)

3 Credit Hours | Hybrid

Design Research Theory ART 651

Theory Course

Theory for human motivation, behavior, perception, and ethical design innovation and implementation.

Skills: motivation, cultural competency, diversity & inclusion, writing, reframing, innovation, sustainability

3 Credit Hours | Online

Experience Design Studio ART 650

Studio Course

People: Meaning-Making: Exploring ways diverse peoples make meaning of themselves and their world when they use design.

Skills: research, prototyping, personas, experience mapping, testing, social cognition, perception, identity, culture

Core Theory: Self-Determination Theory

pueblo buildings in santa fe

Travel: Santa Fe, New Mexico Topic: Culture

3 Credit Hours | Hybrid (One Travel Weekend)

Spring Semester - Year 1

Experience Design Project ART 652

Project Course

Selecting and planning a self-developed collaborative experience design initiative with stakeholders.

Skills: leadership, proposal writing, feasibility analysis, facilitation, co-creation, secondary and primary research

3 Credit Hours | Online

Elective

Specialization Course

Select from the elective picklist to customize your degree.

3 Credit Hours

Experience Design Studio ART 650

Studio Course

People: Motivation: Examining how peoples' culture, relationships, attitudes, and values affect their user experience.

Skills: research, prototyping, personas, experience mapping, testing, behavioral theory, motivators

Core Theory: Theory of Planned Behavior

buildings in the french quarter of new orleans

Travel: New Orleans, Louisiana Topic: Multi-sensory Design

3 Credit Hours | Hybrid (One Travel Weekend)

Summer Semester - Year 1

Experience Design: Walt Disney World ART 536

Elective Course

Learning from Disney how to create magic and facilitate access through experience design and research.

Skills: behavioral theory, reporting, logistics, storytelling, delighters, service design, guest service, theme park design

cinderella castle at night

Travel: The Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando, Florida

3 Credit Hours | Hybrid (Six Nights at Walt Disney World)

Fall Semester - Year 2

Design Research Methods ART 627

Methods Course

Advanced field research to discover stakeholders' experiences and where innovation is needed.

Skills: field research, ethics, coding & analysis, research design, design ethnography, insights, experience mapping, reporting

3 Credit Hours | Online

Design Research Theory ART 651

Theory Course

Advanced theory is used to reframe design projects, encourage collaboration, and clearly define stakeholder needs.

Skills: psychological & communication theories, philosophy, logic, rhetoric, writing, reframing, innovation

3 Credit Hours | Online

Experience Design Studio ART 650

Studio Course

Design: Interaction: Creating design outcomes that enable access to diverse peoples, producing meaningful experiences.

Skills: research, prototyping, personas, experience mapping, testing, usability, delight, accessibility, style, function

Core Theory: Semiotics

a street in montreal at night

Travel: Montréal, Québec, Canada Topic: Language

3 Credit Hours | Hybrid (One Travel Weekend)

Spring Semester - Year 2

Experience Design Project ART 652

Project Course

Thesis Project Development: Self-developed project that implements research skills, insight generation, reporting, prototyping, and testing with stakeholders.

Skills: products, services, presenting, design sprints, co-creation, charrettes, leadership, prototyping

3 Credit Hours | Online

Design Career Readiness ART 549

Specialization Course

Career preparation and readiness to work and lead others in user experience, customer experience design, and design research roles

Skills: budgeting, leadership, interviewing, portfolio development, networking, presenting, personal branding

3 Credit Hours

Experience Design Studio ART 650

Studio Course

Context: Setting: Accounting for how external factors such as social climate and environment impact user experiences.

Skills: research, prototyping, personas, experience mapping, testing, environmental and systems theory

Core Theory: Soft Systems Methodology

cliffs of zion national park

Travel: Zion National Park, Utah Topic: The Natural Environment

3 Credit Hours | Hybrid (One Travel Weekend)

Summer Semester - Year 2

Elective

Specialization Course

Select from the elective picklist to customize your degree.

3 Credit Hours

Fall Semester - Year 3

Design Research Methods ART 627

Methods Course

Advanced co-creative methods to support Thesis Project work.

3 Credit Hours | Online

Design Research Theory ART 651

Theory Course

Advanced theory and writing to support theoretical framework development and the literature review.

3 Credit Hours | Online

Special Topics Design Studio ART 560

Specialization Course

Exploring ways design can reduce oppression, marginalization, and misunderstanding.

Skills: collaboration, primary & secondary research, design thinking, design process, problem-solving, ethics

3 Credit Hours | Online

Spring Semester - Year 3

Experience Design Project ART 652

Project Course

Thesis Project Operation: Implementing, testing, and reporting Thesis Project work.

3 Credit Hours | Online

Elective

Specialization Course

Select from the elective picklist to customize your degree.

3 Credit Hours

Elective

Specialization Course

Select from the elective picklist to customize your degree.

3 Credit Hours

Approved Electives

  • ART 536 Applied Experience Design (Walt Disney World, Hybrid, 3 hrs)
  • ART 571 Sculpture IV & V (Oxford, 3 hrs)
  • ART 620 Drawing (Oxford, 3 hrs)
  • ART/IMS 640 Experience Design Internship (Jobsite, 3-6 hrs)
  • ART 645 Printmaking (Oxford, 3 hrs)
  • ART 680 Graduate Seminar in Art History (Oxford, 3 hrs)
  • IMS 504 Visualization (Oxford, 3 hrs)
  • IMS 507 Interactive Business Communication (Online, 3 hrs)
  • IMS 511 Visual Rhetoric (Online, 3 hrs)
  • IMS 514 Web and Social Media Analytics (Online, 3 hrs)
  • IMS 515 Advanced Usability and User Experience (Online, 3 hrs)
  • IMS 518 Social Media Marketing (Online, 3 hrs)
  • IMS 519 Digital Branding (Online, 3 hrs)
  • IMS 522 Advanced Web Design (Hybrid, 3 hrs)
  • IMS 540 Interactive Media Studies Practicum (Oxford, 3 hrs)
  • IMS 561 Advanced 3D & Simulation (Oxford, 3 hrs)
  • IMS 677 Independent Study: Web Design (Online, 3 hrs)
  • IMS 677 User Experience Research (Online, 3 hrs)
(ART: Art; IMS: Emerging Technology in Business and Design)

The Miami University Bulletin series is the official source of information about the programs and courses of study offered at Miami University. Consult the bulletin for the most up-to-date listings.