Masters Program for Design Research

I have a B.A. in Anthropology, and have become increasingly interested in the ethnographic applications in Design, particularly within emerging markets. The past few months I looked at several design masters programs, from product to interaction design to design strategies, and am having difficulty deciding on the best path. What design masters degree would best prepare a person for design research?

Interaction design interests me because I also spent some time on an archaeology dig, investigating past artifacts with human interaction and ergonomics. However, does the field of interaction design limit a designer to screen based products? Or is the field expanding?

Any information or advice would be greatly appreciated!

Hey, check out program offerings from Illinois Institute of Tech’s Institute of Design (MDes Program, MDes + MBA), Stanford D. School, Carnegie Mellon (two different kinds of programs) for solid user research/design thinking programs. From what I’ve heard, Georgia Tech’s Masters in ID program is also research centered, a lot of students follow that as a career path.

One possibility is our programme in London, in Materials.Anthropology.Design.

It’s a one-year taught programme, in anthropology and archaeology. It’s mainly based in anthropology however, with options in archaeology. On occasion, people take options in engineering or design, but it is mostly anthropology. UCL is especially known for material culture, so that’s the central part, and it’s what we’re set up to teach best, supervise research in, etc. Term 1 the core course emphasises material culture, with practicals on the anthropology of materials & making. term 2 is design anthropology, with practicals in design ethnography.

There are details on the departmental website:

Students do an individual dissertation, purely their own research, plus smaller group projects where 2-5 people worm with a design client. you can see some of the group projects at: Last year, we worked with IDEO London, the Bauhaus Foundation, and the Restart Project.

It’s also worth knowing that there are bursaries at UCL for EU and UK students, but the closing date is 30 April (I’ll probably do a separate post about that now).


For General Interest, there’s still time to apply for a funded place to study design anthropology, the anthropology of materials, and making and crafts, with us in London. The closing date for UCL’s Bursary Scheme for Masters Programmes is upcoming on 30 April:

Please circulate this, and let anyone know who may be interested in applying. The scheme is open to all EU students.

Details of the MA Materials.Anthropology.Design are at: Applications for the MA itself, but without funding, are open much later, into July.



Check out Arizona State’s Masters of Science in Design program. I’m in the Masters of industrial design program there and really like it. I’ve heard though that the MSD program is all based on design research.