Schooled: Carnegie Mellon University’s Interaction Design Master of Design Program

Margaret Morrison Carnegie Hall, Carnegie Mellon University School of Design interaction design master's program

Margaret Morrison Carnegie Hall, home of the School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

Nestled in the heart of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University was formed in 1967 when the Carnegie Institute of Technology and the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research merged. US News and World Report most recently ranked Carnegie Mellon 23rd among national universities, and the school is home to acclaimed programs in drama, psychology, business, computer science and design, giving it a unique angle.

The Details

Carnegie Mellon University‘s 
Interaction Design Master of Design Program

  • Program type: graduate
  • Duration: 2 years
  • Program cost: $472 per unit; $17,000 per term for full-time students
  • Admissions: Prospective students must submit an application, a statement of intent, three letters of recommendation, transcripts, GRE scores and a portfolio. Carnegie Mellon strongly recommends applicants have at least two years of professional or teaching experience. 
  • Online learning options: none

“Any [interaction design] program that is situated on a university campus, as opposed to programs that are situated at art colleges or art and design colleges, is going to have access to interdisciplinary collaborations, courses and departments,” says Bruce Hanington, associate professor of the school of design and director of graduate studies.

The interaction design master’s program at Carnegie Mellon consists of a year of course work and a year of thesis work and interdisciplinary electives. 

“We’re also differentiated from some course-based programs because we do have the thesis year,” Hanington says. “This allows students to have an immersive experience, where they have a deep research and design investigation of a topic.”

All students are eligible for a graduate assitanceship, receiving a stipend toward tuition for about six hours of work per week. Students may be placed nearly anywhere in the department, working as a grader, researcher or even on the program’s website.

Program highlights 

The Carnegie Mellon program emphasizes communication theory, user research, client-based concept development and advanced topics in interaction design during the first year of study. Students complete a small group or individual thesis project during the second year, while taking elective courses in psychology, computer science, information management, typography and information design. Summer internships are encouraged. Download a sample curriculum and course descriptions here.

Noteworthy faculty

Jodi Forlizzi is an associate professor in the School of Design and the interdisciplinary Human-Computer Interaction Institute, which is dedicated to research and education in topics related to computer technology, human activity and society. Assistant professor Peter Scupelli honed his design skills as an architecture major at Universitá di Genova in Italy, going on to earn his master’s in interaction design at Carnegie Mellon and his Ph.D. at the Human-Computer Interaction Institute. Mark Baskinger, an international speaker and workshop leader, also conducts research with the Quality of Life Technology Engineering Research Center through Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

Noteworthy alumni

Carnegie Mellon has a long list of impressive alumni including artist and filmmaker Andy Warhol and Java programming language creator James Gosling. Graduates of the interaction design program have landed upper-level jobs at Google, Microsoft, Apple, Intel, Method, the Mayo Clinic and universities around the world. 

Schooled is a series of profiles of accredited higher-education programs for interactive design. See our full list of interaction design programs here.