Design in the future tense starts here.

Start here. Change everything.

In the creative economy of the 21st century, design increasingly plays a strategic role in communications––from its impact on local engagements to global change initiatives. Whether the outcome is a product, a service or a branded experience, the Strategic Communication Design graduate degree program focuses on the design of useful, desired and strategically impactful results shaped by the combined intelligence of design thinking and collective creativity.

Focused, immersive and transformative, in one year the Strategic Communication Design masters transforms students into design professionals who can hit the ground running.  Our studio-based learning model provides multiple opportunities for students to collaborate with industry partners in the design of innovative solutions to real-world problems.

The program is designed to match the pace of the globally connected creative economy. Adaptive and modular by design, the program’s structure encourages an unrelenting capacity to adapt as needed for different conceptions and expressions of design in a changing world. It is a model well suited to develop talent that can always be learning, adjusting and inventing to address the challenges of a world in permanent beta. 

Our learning environment is immersive, focused and agile. From design sprints to longer-form projects, students graduate with a multi-faceted design portfolio that showcases their ideas and ability to solve problems through the integration of design thinking and making.  Our studio-based curriculum delivers an educational experience that prepares graduates to join and lead in the design community at its highest levels.

Our curriculum structure consists of four ongoing dedicated design studios: Brand Design, Experience Design, Critical Making Studio, and RE: our studio dedicated to design-driven innovation. We also have BookLab, an innovative client-sponsored portfolio workshop. BookLab is taken throughout each of our three semesters and is mandatory for all students in the degree program. Students may take any combination of our four studios, along with the mandatory BookLab to reach the 36 credit-hour degree requirement. We also hold three, week-long design sprints sponsored by our industry partners that students must apply for and be accepted into. 

Successful graduates will have created a diverse body of work during their year in the program. This work will be organized into a professional portfolio that faculty, along with industry partners, will review prior to granting the master’s degree in design.

Course work for the master's degree will span fall and spring semesters and will also include Maymester and a summer semester that concludes by August 1.

Semester One
Semester One combines course work in the history and philosophy of design with practical introductions to the tools and processes that support the production of digital experiences. Coursework is supplemented by team-based design sprints and workshops in special topics. Core work in UX, design and code will be supplemented with coursework in media and technology topics.

Semester Two
Semester Two refines emerging skills in user experience design while also introducing critical perspectives to the digital communication professional. Students will continue to engage in design sprints and workshops. Coursework in media technology and strategy will provide depth and context around technology and business trends shaping the space.

This three-week semester is dedicated to three industry-sponsored design sprints. Students will work in collaboration with visiting industry professionals to solve a variety of design problems for clients. 

Semester Three
The third academic session is a focused, eight-week studio session in which students will expand and refine skills in design through labs, maker-based coursework and the completion of a professional design portfolio.

Students must successfully complete 36 credits, including all required courses. Attendance is mandatory for every scheduled class meeting, along with completion of every assignment on deadline. Students must participate actively in class discussions, collaborative projects and create an original body of work represented in their portfolios––which must pass a final critique. Graduation depends on a final approval of student’s portfolio by the critiquing board of professionals. Documentation of approval of final portfolio projects must be on file in the APRD department to be eligible for degree conferral.

  • Students must satisfactorily complete their degree within contiguous semesters one, two, Maymester and semester three, unless given an official extension by the dean of CMCI. 
  • Students are required to remain in good academic standing, per the requirements of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado. 

Please note: Requirements are subject to review and change by the executive director, when such change is warranted.

Fall Semester
APRD 5001, Brand Design 1
APRD 5002, Experience Design 1
APRD 5005, Critical Making Studio 1
APRD 5006, RE: Studio 1
APRD 5011, BookLab

Spring Semester
APRD 5003, Brand Design 2
APRD 5004, Experience Design 2
APRD 5007, Critical Making Studio 1
APRD 5008,  RE: Studio 2
APRD 5011, BookLab

APRD 5010, Design Sprints 1, 2, 3,

Summer Semester
APRD 5011, BookLab
APRD 5012, Advanced Projects Studio 

APRD 5001 & 5003
Brand Design Studios 1 & 2

These studios focus on concepts of branding and visual design, including tools and workflows, principles of aesthetics and branding, along with visual tone and brand identity––all of which contribute to a strong understanding and capability to design successful brands. 

APRD 5002 & 5004
Experience Design Studios 1 & 2

With a focus on deriving actionable insights and translating them into compelling design artifacts and experiences, topics in these studios can include responsive web design, mobile app design, UI patterns, research and prototyping relevant and necessary to designing branded experiences. 

APRD 5005 & 5007
Critical Making Studios 1 & 2

These studios leverage core concepts of critical making to bridge the gap between creative physical and conceptual exploration through hands-on productive activities that integrate digital technologies with human activities. In short, they break down the divide between thinking and making. The activities of the making studios typically include a variety of creative hacks of existing technologies to bridge physical and digital environments. 

APRD 5006 & 5008
RE: Studios 1 & 2

Dedicated to using the power of design to change the world, the RE: studios are future-focused on re-imagining and re-designing the world, especially regarding the human possibilities of emerging Interfaces. Design explorations and builds in these studios typically take students beyond the screen to explore the Web of Things, Voice, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Wearables, Enchanted Objects, Biological Interfaces and even No Interface.

APRD 5010
Design Sprints I, 2, & 3

The ability to move rapidly against a design problem is a critical skill in the creative environments of today. Design Sprints I will introduce students to the concept of the design sprint, a rapid process of ideation, concept development and prototyping. Students will work in teams to design against real-world problems for real-world clients. Concepts are developed along with client representatives and presented for review by the client, helping students develop communication and collaboration skills with industry professionals and project stakeholders. Clients have included Uber, Allstate Insurance, Microsoft, ESRI, among others.

APRD 5011

Booklab is a dedicated portfolio studio entirely focused on producing a professional portfolio. This immersive third-semester studio consists of several real-world projects from our industry partners that result in bookable work for our graduates as they head into the highly competitive creative economy.

APRD 5012
Advanced Projects Studio

Students will execute an advanced independent project executed under the direction of a faculty committee chosen from the four studios offered during semesters one and two. 

Applications are reviewed on a rolling admissions basis for the STCM masters. What this means is this: We evaluate applications as they are completed, which means acceptances are meted out on a first-come, first-served basis for each prospective student. 

Once an application is complete with all supporting documents, we review it through the online form and get back to you within three weeks from the completion of your application.

We will accept a maximum of 24 students into the program for the academic year 2017-2018.  Once we have accepted our maximum of 24 students, we will begin accepting applications for the academic year 2018-2019. The final calendar deadline for the 2017-2018 academic year is August 1, 2017.  

Applicants to the Strategic Communication Design master's degree program (STCM) are expected to hold a baccalaureate (bachelor’s) degree from an accredited college or university, and to have an undergraduate grade point average of at least 2.75.

How to Apply

Your application will be listed under Strategic Communication Design on the Graduate School site. The online Graduate School application is available here

Required forms that are linked to in the application, are as follows:

  • Personal Statement
    ​This is an essential part of your application. In a maximum of 1500 words, please supply long-form answers to the following questions:
    • What attracts you to the program at this time? What do you envision as the most compelling opportunities for you as a designer and also a future leader?
    • What particular experiences––personal or professional––have prepared you for work in design?
    • Why is interaction design important to you and how would you use it to change the world?
  • Three letters of recommendation
    These should come from professionals and/or professors. No personal recommendations please. 
  • Unofficial transcripts 
  • Writing Sample
    Submit a sample of your writing that you feel is exemplary and representative of your writing abilities.
  • Portfolio
    All applicants must also submit an online portfolio of relevant work by August 1, 2017. The portfolio should represent your competence in any studio-based field, e.g., graphic design, creative advertising, environmental design, film, fine arts, and so on. Applicants are encouraged also to include examples of passion projects (e.g. not executed for a client). that demonstrate their thinking and problem-solving approach. The portfolio is the single most important component in your application.
  • A nonrefundable application fee of $50 is also required.

The contact person/email for your application is: Matt Laszewski, Graduate Program Assistant. Feel free to email him