Design Management Masters Program at Kansas

Dear All,

Last January, 2008 The University of Kansas launched 2 professional graduate programs in Interaction Design and Design Management. The programs were a couple years in the making and are headed up by myself, Michael Eckersley, Richard Branham, and other strong contributors. More on us below. Now in only year two we have 24 active graduate students between the programs, many of them working professionals in the Kansas City area.

Both grad programs lead to a 31 credit hour MA degree. The KU Design Department also has a 60 credit MFA degree program. Sample course titles for Interaction Design include: Interaction Design; Design Scenarios & Simulations; Designing Business Services & Consumer Experiences; and, Advanced Human Factors in Design. Sample Design Management courses include: Design Management; Design Strategies & Methods; Strategic Design Innovation; and, Branding and Design. Most required and elective courses are taught evenings. Some courses are video conferenced between KU campuses in Kansas City and Lawrence.

The programs are well developed and successful. Faculty have years of industry, research and teaching experience. Below are some links for more information. Bottom of each web page is a downloadable pdf program description.

Interaction Design link:
Design management link:

I’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have at

Michael Eckersley

PS, The programs currently have five contributing faculty. Here are a few:

Richard Branham is Professor of Industrial Design at KU. He is currently working in the areas of cognitive human factors and interaction design strategies, methods and techniques, specializing in way-finding, navigation and use models. Branham has thirty-four years of professional design experience in developing interfaces between people and technology and twenty-five years of teaching and research experience. He holds BFA and MFA degrees from The University of Kansas and a MS degree from the Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). In the 1960’s, Branham founded the Information and Design Systems Division of Unimark International, one of the world’s largest and most distinguished design consultancies. In the 1970’s, Branham founded Design Planning Group in Chicago. Major clients over years have included included Carlton Centre, Johannesburg, Gillette Company, Boston, Marshall Field and Company, Chicago, J. C. Penney Company, New York, Volkswagen InterAmerica, Mexico City, and Westinghouse.

Michael Eckersley leads HumanCentered (, a team of affiliated social scientists, designers and planners. With advanced training in design, social science, Michael served as Design Strategy Director for Sybase in their online financial services business, and has led many strategic design innovation engagements to consumer product companies, fast food and healthcare facilities and systems, financial services and software companies. Clients include: Yum!brands; Black & Decker; GMAC; Coca-Cola; St John’s Mercy Health System; 3point5; Source/Inc.; Hakuhodo; Inland Revenue Service, New Zealand; Art Center College of Design; BIC; IHC.

Gregory Thomas teaches Branding and Design. Greg has had a distinguished professional career with Gregory Thomas Associates (GTA) Los Angeles. Formed more than 30 years ago, GTA was a studio specializing in brand design and marketing communications materials. The award-winning company produced corporate identity programs, advertising, packaging and digital media for clients around the world. GTA served as creative consultant to clients such as CBS, IBM, TRW, The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Seagram’s International, and to the countries and individual destinations of Australia, New Zealand and Austria. GTA has been honored with numerous international design awards. Mr. Thomas was an Adjunct Professor at the School of Fine Arts and the Annenberg School for
Communication at the University of Southern California. He was the Acting Chair of Graphic Design at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena for three years.
Mr. Thomas is a graduate in design from the Kansas City Art Institute (BFA), California Institute of the Arts (MFA) and Yale University (MFA[/b]

Michael Eckersley, PhD | Principal

Professor | Interaction Design, Design Management
University of Kansas

I’ve gotten some queries about MA programs at Kansas, and thought I would share some feedback…

KU’s approach to Interaction Design tends to be broader in scope than programs and interaction firms who focus almost exclusively on desktop, software or web-based applications. While we do spend plenty of time there, interaction design principles apply in all kinds of ways to products, services, systems, and environments that have rarely been the subject of an interaction design focus.

Our MA programs in Interaction Design and Design Management naturally reflect the expertise and interests of the faculty involved. Richard Branham and I have been involved in various forms of interaction design for many years. Our work spans industries from software to healthcare, financial services, fast food, environments, products, and services. We also have picked up considerable design management experience along the way at strategic, tactical, and operational levels. As such, while there are course requirements common to both MA programs, the programs are quite distinct in intent and focus.

It’s important to recognize that Interaction Design is a design discipline, whereas Design Management is a management discipline. Students doing the DM MA come from a variety of design disciplines with professional experience in interior design, visual communication, ID, or other design fields. Their focus is more business management oriented. Their Thesis, individual research, and electives are usually different in scope than the those students doing the IxD MA. Interaction Design students tend to be far less interested in business and management concerns, but focus on the IxD discipline and it’s interests, principles, methods, tools, and applications.

The growing impact of IxD has influenced Design Management generally, but they are not synonymous concerns by any means.

Hope this explains a bit. Feel free to add or follow up.