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Interested in Innovative Design? 5 Graduate Degrees for an Aspiring Designer

By Lana Whitehead on February 14, 2018

Innovative Design Design

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Fire, the lightbulb, the internet, the iPhone. Throughout history, innovation has changed and surprised the world through beauty, ingenuity, and necessity. Innovation and design go hand in hand, anticipating a user’s needs and enhancing his or her experience. Innovation is not simply invention, but rather problem-solving for the purpose of improvement. Design is a multi-faceted and ever changing field. It is also primarily an empathetic field, directed by human-centered research methodologies.

The term innovative design is an umbrella concept. Because of this, there is not one set definition for innovative design, but instead recurring themes that give insight to the concept. Innovative design is simple and intuitive, yet groundbreaking and forward thinking — going past the limits of what is believed to be possible. It seamlessly fills a need that society does not yet know exists. It is ambitious, timeless, meaningful, and different, but not for the sake of being different.

5 Graduate Degrees That Can Kickstart Your Career in Design

At Kent State University we are committed to transforming lives and communities through innovative design. While innovative design can happen in many fields, we offer five graduate degrees specifically for aspiring designers and innovators. Here, we’ll break them down for you based on who should be interested and what you’ll be studying.

1. Architectural and Environmental Design

Who: Architecture requires skills in both technology and art. The program is best suited for individuals interested in pursuing a specialization in the built environment.

What: The Master of Science degree in Architecture and Environmental Design is a research-intensive program with a one-year full residency requirement. The curriculum includes research methods, theories of architecture, thesis research, thesis completion, and directed and free electives.

2. Landscape Architecture

Who: These degrees require skills in technology, design, concept planning, and a passion for ecology. The program is best suited for those who are passionate not only about design and innovation — but also restoration, ecology, and biodiversity.

What: The Master of Landscape Architecture I (MLA I) and II (MLA II) provides graduates with the requisite intellectual base for adapting to the design challenges facing landscape architecture today. The program emphasizes professional approaches highlighted by sustainable planning and design practices. The MLA I curriculum focuses on sustainable landscapes with a concentration in regional ecologic, economic, and social issues. The MLA II curriculum helps students to develop new knowledge through research and design, and provides professionals with the opportunity for specialization in their area of interest. 

3. Urban Design

Who: This degree requires skills in architecture and urban planning, although urban design is a distinct field. The program is best suited for individuals who desire to resolve complex social and physical issues with sustainable practices and responsive urban infrastructures.

What: The Master of Urban Design degree seeks to develop knowledgeable specialists who possess significant ability to identify opportunities in the urban environment, providing design solutions for encountered problems. The program focuses on the development and implementation of sustainable strategies in the search for solutions to the challenges of industrial and post industrial communities.

The curriculum includes studies of sustainable infrastructures that support sustainable ecological systems, the adaptation of traditional models of urbanism to changing conditions, and the future of urban economies as it relates to physical place-making.

4. Visual Communication Design

Who: This degree requires skills in visual arts, technology, and graphic design. The program is best suited for individuals who are interested in pursuing a profession in design, illustration, photography, or related fields.

What: The Master of Arts degree in Visual Communication Design is a research driven degree, offering individualized plans of study, opportunities for experiential learning, and is recommended for students with undergraduate degrees in design or related fields.

The curriculum aims to help students advance their studio skills in print design, illustration, web design, 3-D design, motion graphics, interactive design, corporate identity, information architecture, interaction design or information graphics. It also provides an understanding of basic skills and knowledge of design processes, principles, vocabulary and history.

5. Health Care Facilities Design

Who: This degree requires skills from the fields of architecture and interior design, and is best suited for individuals who want to use evidence-based research to create an environment that meets the needs of end users - patients, families and staff.

What: The Master of Health Care Design degree is an interdisciplinary, post-professional program for professionals with a degree in design. The program focuses on the design and performance of health care environments for professionals with a demonstrated level of competency in their respective fields.

The curriculum coursework includes healthcare background knowledge and theory, behavioral science, health science, ethical and cultural issues in health care, codes and regulatory requirements, study of existing and emerging technologies and evidence-based design procedures.

A Year of Innovation at Kent State University

Since our founding in 1910, Kent State University has taken seriously our commitment to addressing the needs of the communities we serve and to society as a whole. This year President Beverly Warren encouraged the university community to embrace a year of innovation.

“This is the start of an innovation era,” President Warren said. “This is where our future begins to define us. We are perfectly suited to be that unique university where everyone, in every facet of our communities, is an innovator – a designer – a boundary expander.” By acting with collective purpose and operating from an interdisciplinary mindset, we seek and embrace connections beyond disciplines and departments.

To that end, Kent State’s innovative design programs are spread across several schools: the College of Architecture and Environmental Design, the Fashion School, and the School of Visual Communication Design.

However, while spread across different schools, they fall under the umbrella of Innovative Design. These degrees foster a collaboration between the disciplines and aim to, “unleash the power of multidisciplinary action and collaboration,” themes that are at the heart of Kent State’s year of innovation.

Curious to learn more about career options for aspiring designers? Download our complete guide that discusses innovative design, what it means for your career, and why you should consider a graduate degree in one of these fast-growing fields.

The Ultimate Career Guide for Innovative Design
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Download the Guide


Lana Whitehead
Written by Lana Whitehead

Lana Whitehead is the Assistant Dean of Graduate Studies and the Director of Graduate Admission at Kent State University. Lana attended Northwestern University and enjoyed a consulting career in Chicago before becoming a stay-at-home mom of six children. After earning her master’s degree from Youngstown State University, Lana embarked on a career in higher education. Lana has held positions in academic support, advising, student services and enrollment management. In her free time, Lana enjoys landscaping, gardening and spending time with family.

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Lana Whitehead on February 14, 2018

Fire, the lightbulb, the internet, the iPhone. Throughout history, innovation has changed and surprised the world through beauty, ingenuity, and necessity. Innovation and design go hand in hand,...

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