A candidate who enters the program will be recommended for the Master in Design Studies degree upon satisfactory completion of 48 units of academic work. Each student is required to complete either a Qualifying Paper or participate in MDes Open Projects, conducting independent or collaborative research in their area. No more than 8 units from the total of 48 may be from independent study courses and no more than 16 units from non-GSD courses.

None of the required units may be fulfilled by courses credited toward another degree.

The Area Head must approve a student’s course of study and can make exceptions to the maximum number of units allowed through independent study or non-GSD courses.

Requirements are subject to change each academic year and the MDes Degree Requirements document in place at the time of matriculation is the official guideline for degree requirements. Requirements by Area of Concentration are available under each area's page.

Preparation for Admission

Applicants to the MDes program normally hold a professional degree in architecture, landscape architecture, or urban planning and design. Applicants with a degree in a related discipline such as engineering, geography, computer science, or industrial design also qualify for admission. The program seeks applicants who have demonstrated overall academic and/or professional achievement in the design fields and who have the potential for advanced work in the area selected for study.

Applicants must specify which of the offered eight areas of study they wish to pursue. Each area has specific course requirements and electives and is under the guidance of an area academic advisor. The specific course work is customized to each student’s qualifications and academic and professional objectives and is constructed by the individual student in consultation with his or her academic advisor.


Three terms of full-time study in residence is required for students entering into the program during the 2017-18 academic year. During their second semester, students may elect to complete the program in three semesters (culminating in a final Qualifying Paper), or to extend their research into a fourth semester by participating in Open Projects. Students pursuing a concurrent degree are able to complete the program in 2 semesters. Requirements should be discussed with the Area Head and Program Administrator.