New approaches to the future of design

Today, artists and designers are pushing the boundaries of traditional disciplines. Their work requires interdisciplinary collaborations, the mastery of new technologies and intensive research, in order to unearth new solutions to practical and aesthetic problems.

This September, Drexel’s Westphal College of Media Arts and Design launched its innovative and interdisciplinary M.S. in Design Research, a two-year program that will provide the opportunity for students to pursue a customized course of study. The program draws upon Drexel’s faculty and resources across a wide spectrum of disciplines within the Westphal College and with many of the university’s other 13 schools and colleges. Students will take design beyond its traditional boundaries to discover solutions for 21st century problems through new research avenues.


The Master of Science in Design Research considers complex multidisciplinary problems beyond the scope of traditional boundaries within individual design disciplines. This ethical, human-centered and international perspective on 21st century design will enable students to explore and develop a critical understanding of design as theory, concept and practice, in service to current and future challenges. The 46-credit program offers two concentrated paths of study: Design and Technology or Environmental Design and Health.

“Design Research is an exciting field, with many possibilities and a range of practices, especially in Drexel’s dynamic urban environment,” said director of the new M.S. program and assistant professor in the Westphal College, Dee Nicholas. “The Design Research Symposium will highlight the diverse work of Drexel design researchers and their collaborators. Attendees will have the opportunity to examine the impact of this type of work on research in technology, health and the built environment, and consider where their own interests might fit into this exciting field.”

To learn more about Design Research, you can attend a free public symposium with Drexel faculty and researchers who are at the leading edge of design research on Friday, Oct. 14 – in the URBN Center at 3501 Market Street. To learn more about the symposium visit the event’s Facebook page.


Symposium schedule:

  • Introduction Lunch & Guest Speaker: 12:30-2 p.m. ‘Design Research for Wellbeing’
    • Featuring: Toby Israel author of “Some Place Like Home: Using Design Psychology to Create Ideal Places”; Jill Roberts, executive director of The Healthy Rowhouse Project; and moderated by Amy Carrol Scott, Dornsife School of Public Health
  • Breakout Sessions: 2-2:30 p.m. ‘Research in Design/Design in Research: a discussion of explorations, strategies and inquiry’
    • Featuring: Alphonso Mclendon, director of Drexel Design and Merchandising, Department of Design; Kara Lindstrom, enabler Drexel ExCITe Center; and Christina Grimes, health care planner ballinger
  • Panel Discussion: 3:30-5:30 p.m. Master of Science Design Research 2016 Theme Kickoff and Discussion: ‘Systems and Processes in Design Research’
    • Featuring: Debbie Philips, senior healthcare architect, Ballinger; Brian K. Smith, program director of creativity and innovation, Drexel School of Education; Kathi Martin, associate director of Graduate Fashion Design, Department of Design; Claire King, Design Research MS candidate; Shivanthi Anandan, assistant dean of Student Affairs, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Professional Studies at the College of Medicine; Moderated by professor Alan Greenberger, Department of Architecture + Interiors
  • Design Exhibit Reception: 5:30-7 p.m. Design Research Faculty Work on Display
    • Work by: ExCITe Center; Ballinger; Shima Seiki Haute Technology Labs; Digimuse; URBN Hybrid Lab; Brian K. Smith/School of Education; D.Lux Light Lab; Design Futures Lab; URBN STEAMlab
  • Movie Screening: 7-8 p.m. Design Futures Lab Movie Screening: Nurturing Emergent Synthetic Life (NESL)
    • Featuring: Nicole Koltick, director of Design Futures Lab, speaking on the work of the lab, and the nature of design research

Philadelphia is an urban laboratory and the only UNESCO World Heritage City in the United States. Under the tutelage of Program Director Dee Nicholas, the program is intended to offer those with a design background the opportunity to delve deeply into their own research and scholarship through a customizable curriculum and individualized attention that draws upon this College’s strengths in Architecture, Interior Design, Product Design, Fashion, Graphic Design, Digital Media, high-tech fabrication, and in collaborations across the University.

Westphal College is a leading Design and Applied Art School, ranked the fifth best applied art and design school in the nation by College Factual and with top ranked programs in Fashion, Interior Design and Architecture, Digital Media, and Product Design.

Additionally, Drexel is a Top 100 University with a comprehensive, experiential curriculum that offers collaborative projects, fieldwork and internships with some of Philadelphia’s leading design, technology, science and cultural institutions.

To register for the symposium, please contact Dee Nicholas at:

To learn more about the M.S. in Design Research or apply visit the program website.

Media interested in interviewing Dee Nicholas, should contact Emily Storz, news officer, at 215.895.2705 or

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