Master of Design Futures

You’re already an experienced designer. Now it’s time to lead through design and use your creativity strategically.

The Master of Design Futures (MDF) is an accelerated post-professional program for experienced designers wanting to apply their skills to strategic and leadership roles.

This is a graduate education program for working professionals who want to learn about meaningful, potent and valuable domains for design practice, and to develop the capacity to articulate, frame and deliver the value that design brings to broader contexts of business, government and society.

MDF is currently fully online, with a strong sense of engagement, both synchronous and asynchronous. Participants are encouraged to move their ideas into the public as soon as they feel confident.

Design leadership is cultivated in the Future Design Leader course. The Program culminates in the Design Research Project. The participant designs their own project to demonstrate the knowledge accrued in the Program. This capstone course gives the opportunity to produce a re-positioning statement, making a claim to take their place in new design practices.

The Program is founded on the design principles of human centred design and design thinking, which then manifest as discrete practices: service design; strategic design; transdisciplinary design and transition design. Each of these share synergies in the methods and approaches they take; as well as maintain difference in scope, application and output.

As the name suggests, this practice is all about designing effective and satisfying services — transport, retail, health, business and government services to name a few.

It combines experience design, UX and often co-creative practices to bring knowledge and experience to the surface in order to design services that are relevant to the people most involved in the service. This includes the ‘user’ who access the service, as well as the ‘provider’ who supplies the service.

Collaborative workshops and interviews are used to gain the information and local knowledge. This is then processed through ‘customer journey maps’, which make the touch-points and pain points (each step of the journey, many of which are obstacles or challenges) visible; and ‘service blueprints’, which bring the backstage (provider) together with front-stage (user) together in a new suite of relationships.

Insights garnered through the process lead the design of new services or the redesign of existing services. These are tested iteratively through prototypes, constantly returning to the people implicated in the service for their advice and input.

Using similar tools and techniques to Service Design, Strategic Design has a broader remit. It engages with the world around a ‘thing’ or a ‘service’ and considers what limits or creates the conditions for design innovation.

Dan Hill calls the conditions that design resides within, the ‘dark matter’. This includes the codes that determine the development within a city, or the regulations that constrain innovation around production, through to the social and cultural conventions that hinder or allow new things to happen.

Strategic Design is concerned with the re-definition of the organisation, the city or the community it is designing with. As new designs require the redesign of the dark matter, they force far reaching changes in how the organisation, community or city operates, for example.

Interventions and prototypes are a part of the suite of tools used in Strategic Design. Small interventions can have large impact through a ripple effect, where one change produces multiple, small and big impacts. Prototypes are not limited to models of the new thing that is being designed, they instead incorporate other dimensions, such as time and place, through film, events and actions.

Leah Heiss exemplifies the practice of transdisciplinary design — the bringing together of practitioners from multiple disciplines to create something meaningful and of value to the end user. The technology for well being that Leah and her colleagues create is a perfect example of what is possible.

However it is not simply making a successful and useful artefact that results from transdisciplinary design. The other, and possibly more interesting outcome, is the transformation that it causes in the disciplines themselves.

For example, Leah works with medical practitioners, technologists, 3d model makers…and weavers. Moving between these actors would be difficult enough (carrying messages, transferring ideas and concepts), but to establish lines of communication is something else. Leah shows this to be possible by making the thought in each practice visible. The technology engineer understands how sensors transmit information along conduit lines, and the weaver knows how to arrange the warp with the weft.

As the participants find ways to communicate across their disciplines and gain a deeper understanding of the other’s work, they also find that their approach is transformed.

Transition Design is best described in their own words — from the Carnegie Mellon course brochure:

Transition Design acknowledges that we are living in ‘transitional times’. It takes as its central premise the need for societal transitions to more sustainable futures and argues that design has a key role to play in these transitions. It applies an understanding of the interconnectedness of social, economic, political and natural systems to address problems at all levels of spatiotemporal scale in ways that improve quality of life. Transition Design advocates the reconception of entire lifestyles, with the aim of making them more place-based, convivial and participatory and harmonizing them with the natural environment. Transition Design focuses on the need for ‘cosmopolitan localism’, (Manzini 2009; Sachs 1999) a lifestyle that is place-based and regional, yet global in its awareness and exchange of information and technology.

See also Transition Design Framework

Design is impacting on the way organisations and communities interact internally and externally, and how they perceive what they do. In this course we investigate how design also has something to offer future leadership models.

These types of leadership models are inclusive, networked and distributed, collaborative and often socially aware. The attributes of this leader are different to the command and control model.

In the course we use mindfulness and ethnography to ground the investigation into how leadership needs to adapt to the situation.

Lead, RMIT Master of Design Futures — emergent design practices & the impact of design in the world

Lead, RMIT Master of Design Futures — emergent design practices & the impact of design in the world