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. 




 The STCM is an immersive one-year masters degree program that evolves students into generative design professionals who understand the transformative value of an idea and how to turn it into reality through the power of design. It totals 36 credit hours and is one year in duration––from August to August.

 Focused, accelerated, and transformative, STCM is integrated with industry partners throughout all of our activities and offerings. Structured into four separate studios, students choose to major in one studio but are encouraged also to sample our full offering of studios to supplement and expand their primary design focus. In addition to their major studio, all students are required to enroll in RE:STUDIO,  which focuses on entrepreneurial design and product innovation. BookLab is also required of all students.



These studio courses 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 in successful brand design. 


Offered in the fall semester. 

APRD 5001, Brand Design 1 

APRD 5003, Brand Design 2


Offered in the spring semester. 

APRD 5013, Brand Design 3 

APRD 5015, Brand Design 4 



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


Offered in the fall semester 

APRD 5002, Experience Design 1 

APRD 5004, Experience Design 2 


Offered in the spring semester. 

APRD 5014, Experience Design 3 

APRD 5016, Experience Design 4



This group of studio courses leverages 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, ––including a variety of creative hacks of existing technologies to bridge physical and digital environments. 


Offered in the fall semester. 

APRD 5005, Critical Making 1 

APRD 5007, Critical Making 2 


Offered in the spring semester. 

APRD 5017, Critical Making 3 

APRD 5019, Critical Making Studio 4 


RE: ADVANCED PROJECTS STUDIO (required for all )

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 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 5006, RE: Studio 1

Offered in the fall semester. 


APRD 5008, RE: Studio 2 

Offered in the spring semester. 


APRD 5012, Advanced Projects Lab 

Offered in the June-July summer session. Students will produce a fully functional prototype by the end of the summer session.


DESIGN SPRINTS  (required for all students)

This series of design sprints result in an ability to move rapidly against a design problem––a critical skill in the creative environments of today. Students 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's innovation group, Arity, Microsoft, ESRI, among others. 


APRD 5010 Design Sprints I, 2, & 3 

Offered annually throughout the three-week dedicated Maymester. 


BookLab (required for all students)

 BookLab is focused on producing a finished professional portfolio. Fall and Spring semesters in BookLab consist of studio visits and guest speakers who show and tell what makes a top-level portfolio in different design areas. You’ll both see what great work looks like and learn how it came about––through process, methodology, and plain hard work and attention. The summers sessions of BookLab will consist of digging in for eight weeks and moving your work to another level, with the aid of professional critiques each and every week. Summer BookLab results in a juried professional review of each portfolio at the end of the summer session and prior to graduation. 


APRD 5011 BookLab

Offered in the Fall, Spring and summer semesters



Graduate students from across the CU Boulder campus can join us in our downtown-Boulder Studio to experience a unique approach to real-world problem-solving through the integration of collective creativity, technology, and design.

 What is CMCI STUDIO? We are a design collective of thinkers and doers. We innovate at the intersection of collective creativity, technology, and design.


Take One of Our Special Topics Courses

You don't have to be in our graduate program to take our special topics courses. we offer special topics courses open to all graduate students at CU Boulder throughout the calendar year. These vary in duration, from 1-3 credit hours––depending on the course topics––but they are all project-based studio courses that take place in our downtown studio.

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.

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 are currently accepting applications for the 2018-2019 academic year. We will continue to review applications on a rolling basis until the cohort is full.  The final calendar deadline for the 2018-2019 academic year is August 1, 2018.  

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, 2018. 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