Small, high-touch classes.
The high-caliber master of arts degree in sustainable design is pushing the sustainability envelope with its innovative design and rigorous course work. The MA program integrates the themes of systems thinking, life cycle analysis, and biomimicry—blending theory, practice, and leadership courses into holistic and hands-on training and experience.
Throughout this two-year program, you will:
renowned faculty Join a network of sustainability professionals
Learn to put sustainability theory into practice
Collaborate with fellow students and mentors
Explore innovative sustainable design techniques and processes
Become a creative leader
Complete a cutting-edge sustainability thesis project
This program culminates in a student-driven Graduate Sustainability Thesis Project in which you’ll conduct independent (yet mentored) research on a sustainability-focused project of your choice. Make this program your own by focusing your time and energy where your passions lie and with the support of your unique thesis committee.
Developed to Work around Your Schedule
MCAD’s sustainable design program was developed exclusively for busy working professionals and an online platform. MCAD has been leading online learning at art and design schools for nearly twenty years and was the first art and design school to bring sustainability-focused education online.
We are proud to be the only AICAD school to offer a fully online graduate degree program in sustainable design. MCAD’s multidisciplinary MA in sustainable design continues to be the first of its kind in the world.
Our program engages a global community of students and faculty who work together to develop design strategy, collaboration, leadership, and problem-solving skills that are then applied to solve humanity’s most pressing environmental and social sustainability challenges.
What Our Students Are Saying
Successful completion with a grade of C or above is required for all credits applied toward the MA. All coursework must be taken for credit and is designed to be completed in two years.
Financial aid, including grants, loans, scholarships, and work-study, is available for graduate students enrolled in at least six credits per semester.
Master of Arts in Sustainable Design
Introduction to Sustainable Design
Innovation Tools and Techniques
The Practice of Sustainable Design
Collaborative Product Design
Making the Business Case for Sustainability
Graduate Sustainability Thesis Project Part 1
Global Design Challenge
Graduate Sustainability Thesis Project Part 2
Final Thesis Review
SD 6500 Introduction to Sustainable Design 3
In this foundational course, students will be introduced to hands-on and holistic approaches to sustainability. This course will cover current sustainability frameworks, principles, and materials assessments, as well as the history and logic behind them, providing students with useful research tools to apply to the ever-changing demands of sustainable design, business, development, and policy-making.
SD 6510 Systems Thinking 3
We are transitioning from the age of design for the part to the age of design for the whole. This course provides students with the tools required to succeed in today's dynamic market and a world of uncertainty. Systems thinking, languages of design, and product life cycles are integrated and they form the solid foundation for innovative products. Actionable theory is absorbed through market specific projects.
SD 6600 Innovation Tools and Techniques 3
Innovation is applied creativity. Designers need to know personal practice, innovation techniques, and how to implement their ideas. This course teaches all three techniques through a combination of reflection, focused exercise, and the creation of plans. Each week, students learn one technique for idea generation along with one technique for sustainable innovation. Students will reflect on their personal practices (e.g., how they reflect sustainability, what their best practices are, and how they can improve) and will engage in on-going dialog with fellow students to learn and critique their practices. The course projects stress multiple approaches to design situations, focusing on the design customer and implementation of ideas.
SD 6750 Creative Leadership 3
Economic, environmental, and ethical crises present leaders with new and complex challenges. Effective, resilient, and agile leaders employ a diversity of skills, experience, and resources to respond to humanity's greatest challenges with creative, innovative, and humane solutions. Students will build their capacities to become creative leaders and to work constructively as part of dynamic and collaborative teams through the integration of an ecological perspective for their work, organizations, communities, and the planet.
SD 7020 Graduate Sustainability Thesis Project 6
The completion of a graduate project in the field of sustainable design and innovation. This project will be determined by the student and mentor in consultation with the sustainable design program office.
SD 7030 Global Design Challenge 3
This studio course will provide the foundation for a cohesive, high-quality, e-team learning experience that is grounded in positive collaborations and dynamic problem-solving opportunities. Through student-driven projects, participants will move from a design challenge to design concept. Students will work in small, collaborative, and interdisciplinary teams to arrive at novel, accessible, and affordable solutions that address current global human needs and environmental issues in the form of new products, processes, systems, or services.
SD 7530 Making the Business Case for Sustainability 3
How do market forces shape the way we live, work, and even play? Students will look at business through a designer's eye to understand the interplay between producers and consumers, governments and people, stockholders and stakeholders, man and the environment, and how all of these factors interconnect and ultimately direct how our products, processes, and systems are created. Students will gain an understanding of the implications of their decisions, how to identify risk areas, long-term thinking strategies, and best practices for sustainable business models through weekly exercises, special projects, and the creation of a business plan.
SD 7620 The Practice of Sustainable Design 3
How do we actively design to create truly sustainable results? Students will examine this question and apply leading-edge practice methods for innovative sustainable and regenerative design solutions. Recommended for novice and veteran designers and innovators alike, this course explores the theoretical frameworks, green standards, and practice techniques used by leading sustainable designers, thinkers, and architects. The design methods applied in this studio course fit any discipline at any scale, from the smallest object to the most complex system. Through studio projects and exercises, students will learn to integrate the theory of sustainable design frameworks into their practices (i.e., systems thinking, life cycle analysis, material health, green standards, eco-labels, supply chain topics, etc.).
SD 7630 Collaborative Product Design 3
How do we design real products for real companies, benefiting customers, the companies themselves, and the rest of the world? And how do we know they are better? This studio course provides tools for sustainable design innovation and metrics to measure success. Students will use creative and analytical skills, generating new ideas and 3D CAD renderings and evaluating designs with screening-level life-cycle assessments and two eco-labeling systems (Cradle to cradle and EPEAT). Green innovation tools taught will include systems thinking, energy effectiveness, lightweighting, design for lifetime (repair, recycling, etc.), material choice, biomimicry, and persuasive design. Some assignments will be individual and theoretical, but the bulk of the course will be spent working in groups, using tools such as message boards and screen-sharing video chats.
Choose 6 Credits from the Following 6 SD 6610 Biomimetic Design 3
(Tentative offer date: Summer 2015)
Students will learn how to abstract functional strategies from nature to apply to the process of innovative design. This project-oriented studio course will cover core biological principles, astound students with the wealth of design solutions available in nature, and provide numerous case studies of innovative designs inspired by natural models. Overall, this course provides powerful metaphors and methods for looking to nature as model, mentor, and measure in our designs.
SD 6700 Visual Communications for Sustainability 3
We are increasingly surrounded by data, and information is collected and categorized in the smallest of increments. Data on sustainability is no exception. How do we use and present data in a way that is relevant for consumers? In this course, students will learn about the growing field of information design and critically evaluate how it relates to communicating sustainability. Customized project-based assignments will take students deeper into real-life situations.
SD 6740 Design for Global Change 3
(Tentative offer date: Summer 2015)
Designers, brand leaders, and manufacturers can play a powerful role in effecting change on both local and global levels. Design roles shift when we view design as a tool or opportunity to enrich and add value to people's lives. Designers can use their communication skills and talents not only to create or sell products but to educate, engage, and inform society through design. Students will further explore both past and current discourses on design roles and responsibilities within the context of sustainability, and they will work together as a creative team to create and implement a project or campaign that raises awareness and inspires social, global, and environmental change.
SD 7010 Graduate Sustainability Practicum 3
(Offered every summer semester)
The professional practicum will provide an opportunity for students to gain practical experience in the evolving field of sustainable design and innovation. The practicum may be arranged by the director of career services, the sustainable design program office, or initiated by students, and all practicums must be pre-approved by the sustainable design program office. For a practicum to be approved, a mentor relationship and learning experience must exist beyond a simple employment opportunity. Three-credit professional practicums require working 135 hours toward the practicum project (can be accomplished remotely) and keeping a journal or blog to document the hours, activities, and learning process.
SD 6540 Nature's Design Rules for Sustainability 3
At a fundamental level, sustainability is working with nature by integrating our activities into natural cycles. In this course, students will learn how natural systems can inform our design and practice. Weekly assignments will cover the principles of design science, the geometry of nature, and the ways to put these principles to work.
SD 6560 Ethics-Based Marketing 3
From production methods, business practices, and stakeholder relationships to corporate giving and vendor associations, people are paying attention to who is serving their needs as much as what they are being sold. More and more, consumers are searching for ethical values in the products and services they are buying. In this course, students will discover opportunities for applying ideas based on corporate values as well as how to establish and profit from healthy and long-term stakeholder relationships.
SD 6710 Design for Community 3
Sustainability is the commonsense notion that long-term prosperity, social equity, and ecological health not only go together but also depend on one another. Making a sustainable way of life requires changes in the design of most everything. In this introduction to sustainability, students will look at how to do this within their businesses, considering energy and materials use, how our cities and buildings are constructed, and how we live day to day. Students will study sustainability frameworks and patterns in economics and habitation in preparation for critiquing and redesigning organizations and places in their own communities. Design projects, weekly online discussions, essay quizzes, and brief visual presentations make up the course assignments.
SD 6810 Packaging Sustainability 3
We handle packages every day and they account for the majority of our waste stream. Using the format of a product-repositioning study, students will examine the core ideas of consumer perception and market triggers, material selection, environmental impact, and long-term strategic thinking. By the end of this course, students will be able to maximize a package's appeal while minimizing environmental impact.