Experience Design Thesis

student work diagrams posted on a wall
a student using a tool that simulates dementia
student work diagram posted on a wall
students observing people sorting post it notes

The Thesis Project requires MFA Candidates to use both research and making methods to complete a culminating project around a self-selected topic. This project has research and making requirements, though the framework for the project is open enough to accommodate different types of projects and expertise areas. The learning outcomes for the xdMFA Thesis are the same as the program's overall learning outcomes.

Learners will be able to:

  • Develop and conduct in-depth research on human and system behavior for design innovation.
  • Analyze and visualize real and perceived factors at a systemic level.
  • Apply a wide range of theories and frameworks to experience-centered design processes.
  • Develop outcomes with stakeholders via engaging and empowering co-creative processes.
  • Create design prototypes and plans with a high degree of formal and functional detail.
  • Create culturally relevant design outcomes informed by research.
  • Report design analyses and recommendations effectively for a wide range of audiences.

Over the period of one year, MFA Candidates produce three key components of the Thesis:

  1. Conduct secondary and field research into a design-related phenomena/problem to define what will be "solved," what the ideal outcome will be, what needs to be created, and in what ways it should be created.
  2. Create a design outcome that will most effectively impact the problem.
  3. Test the design outcome with participants to learn how effective it was and what next steps should be.

The Thesis process spans one year of study, broken into two semesters:

Thesis Development

Identify a design-related phenomena/problem. Use secondary research of books, journals, films, and other materials to define the phenomena/problem. Use a visual-based method to map the phenomena/problem and its significance. Design a presentation and comprehensive report that articulates the phenomena/problem and how design can impact it.

Thesis Operation

Conduct primary research using interviews, observations, reviewing imagery and other media to learn about the phenomena/problem first-hand. Design and create/produce an outcome that will be tested to impact the phenomena/problem. Design a presentation and comprehensive report on findings and process.

Thesis Projects

MFA Candidates in Experience Design have explored a wide range of design-related topics over the years.


  • Maintaining Social Connectedness: Hanging out using Facebook Messenger | Paulina Zeng
  • Recreating Memories for Immigrated or Displaced People | Kansu Özden


  • New Retro: an Exploration of Modern Video Games with a Retro Aesthetic | Bryant Thomas
  • IRL Feminism: Bridging Physical and Digital Spaces to Empower Millennial Activists | Ali Place
  • Keep It Local: Music Streaming & Local Music Communities | Ringo Jones
  • Design in Adaptation to Droughts and Heat Waves Caused by Climate Change in Rice Farms in Lerida, Tolima, Colombia | Andrea Mateus Forero
  • Designing a Mobile Augmented Reality System to Facilitate Users’ Companionship Needs | Yi-Fan Chen


  • Mitigating Obstacles for Hearing Impaired Employees in Becoming Part of Warehouse Workforce Though Haptics and Vibro-tactile Technology | Yashodhan Mandke
  • Unique Emotional Attachment to Analog Books Over Digital Alternatives | Mark Cela

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