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Hybrid Lab
Design Research students have access to state-of-the-art facilities and equipment.
Nicole Feller-Johnson
2018 Dual Fashion/Design Research MS alumna Nicole Feller-Johnson debuts her collection of 3D printed knit dresses at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Russia. Nicole’s collection is the result of both her Fashion Design and Design Research Thesis which focused on advanced fabrication and knitting.
Design Futures
The Design Futures Lab, directed by Assistant Professor Nicole Koltick, leads graduate research groups in critical design practices and speculative proposals meant to stimulate debate on the potential implications of emerging technological and scientific developments within society.

Design Research Master’s Degree Program

What is Design Research?

The Drexel University Master of Science in Design Research (DSRE) is a two-year program that focuses on combining a transdisciplinary design approach with an intensive research process. This interdisciplinary Master’s program is ideal for design thinkers eager to create solutions for important real-world problems.

In this self-defined and flexible MS in Design Research program, students have the option to study full or part time, meaning that students can work a full-time job while pursuing their graduate degree. This program is unique in that it gives students the ability to chart their own customized pathways to consider multidisciplinary problems beyond the scope of traditional boundaries of individual design disciplines. Our flexible approach allows students to collaborate locally and regionally with research labs and organizations, such as the Department of Public Health, to build connections that will drive professional success.

The MS in Design Research program is part of the nationally ranked Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, housed in award-winning, technologically-enhanced facilities, and taught by faculty who have worked at the top of their fields. Situated in the Department of Architecture, Design & Urbanism, the program benefits from its associations with faculty and students in the Interior Architecture & Design and Urban Strategy graduate programs.

Why Study Design Research at Drexel Westphal?

We welcome both experienced designers and those with a design-based interest to pave their own customized path within our Design Research graduate program. All students are placed within the curriculum through conversations with our nationally and internationally recognized faculty and advisors who guide students based on their interests in design, technology, environment, human wellness and more.

“Design Research students have the opportunity to study alongside internationally recognized design researchers and artists. These include Genevieve Dion, founder and director of the Center for Functional Fabrics; Nicole Koltick, founder and director of the Design Futures Lab, recognized with an International award for their speculative design film; and Lewis Colburn, whose work has won national and international awards. Students typically work with these experts to develop intensive explorations that build knowledge in topics such as machine learning, disaster relief, biological speculation, and healthy materials.”
- D.S. Nicholas, Program Director, Design Research

This human-centered design master’s program empowers graduates to be leaders in the complex practice of design and approach real world problems with integrative and creative solutions.

“The Design Research program emboldens students to examine and adopt the perspectives of fellow creative critical thinkers, inside and outside of their cohort. Originally from a fashion design background, I came to embrace a research-driven approach to redesigning services as a result of the dialogue I shared with professors and classmates in public health, digital media, and urban strategy. The freedom to enrich my own understanding in these small ways enabled me to challenge conventional thinking and seek new ways in which I can inform both physical and digital experiences.”
– Thanh My Nguyen, ’18 Alumni, Design Research

Career paths for students in the Design Research program include:

  • Multi-Disciplinary Design Research Firms
  • Design Research Strategist
  • Design Analyst
  • Creative Place-Maker
  • Data Analyst
  • Service Design
  • Research Think Tanks
  • Social Practice and Innovation
  • Digital Firm Project Management Social Information Strategist
  • Design Research & Usability Expert Innovation Designer
  • Creative Design Director
  • Digital Design Leader
  • Environmental Design Consultant Product Development Leader
  • Work Place Strategist
  • Design Led Practices in Non-Design Industries

What Do You Learn in the MS in Design Research Program?

The curriculum, though self-directed, is grounded in research, studio class work, philosophy, theory, and iterative making. Through deep cross-collaboration, our students create cutting-edge solutions and speculative environments to study culture and human-centered design.

Topics explored include:

  • Experimental materials
  • The built environment for users with a variety of needs
  • Cultural and societal solutions for underserved populations
  • Biophilic design: connecting people and nature within the built environment
  • Design fiction and near-future speculation: critical exploration of possible design futures through the creation of designed artifacts

Students build skills and professional experiences while conducting research that drives new design in the 21st century job market, including:

  • Human-centered design research: focus groups, customized community engagements
  • Research and findings analysis
  • Research context and ethics: lineage and philosophy of design research, ethical approaches to design
  • Technology-driven modes of production: Students master technical approaches that allow them to create high-level fabricated prototypes.

By mastering the speculative and scholarly approach, students are prepared to present their research on major national and international platforms. Design Research students have presented at the following research conferences: Environmental Design Research Association, CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Architecture Research Centers Consortium, among others.

Design Research Master’s Program Resources & Facilities in Philadelphia

Located in Drexel’s world-class research environment, students within the Design Research degree program are encouraged to engage within the wider university and the city of Philadelphia.

Our Design Research partners and collaborators include:

Students in the Design Research graduate program have access to the Westphal College’s facilities that house state-of-the-art equipment and software, including:

  • Full wood shop with four axis CNC routers full bed sized
  • Hybrid Making lab with resin laser 3-d printers small bed CNC and hand tools, 3D printers and laser cutters
  • Dedicated design research lab with equipment including Ultimaker, Robo, and Makerbot 3D printers, filament and other supplies for design research student use.

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