KISD »Integrated Design Research« M.A. students pursue a transdisciplinary research approach that combines design issues with scientific methods. In line with their chosen thematic cluster, integrated design research projects are carried out that contribute to the study of design, its preconditions, contexts and effects from different perspectives.

The four semester program Master of Arts »Integrated Design Research« with its study courses »Integrated Design« and »European Design« focuses on research and development through and by design. Ultimate objective is the conception and establishment of a research practice specific to design, which continuously alternates between the following of rules and their transcension, in addition to analysis and synthesis. It facilitates gaining, documenting and refining knowledge through the design of artefacts, systems and processes. The practical design process by itself is in this sense not enough to be considered research. Rather the design has to be critically compared to other approaches, its relation to existing theories mapped and its position in discourse determined. Design is scientific research only if it promotes a fertile dialogue between theory and creative practice, generates new knowledge and communicates it comprehensibly. The Master’s thesis, being the key component of the course of study, focuses on a research through design approach of this kind within one of four Thematic Clusters: Material Systems & Lab Culture, Social & Public Innovation, Urban Intensities & Resources or Visual Cultures & Politics.

Master »Integrated Design Research« at a glance

Degree Master of Arts
Standard period of studies 4 semesters
Start of studies winter term
Courses of study  Integrated Design / European Design
Thematic Clusters  Material Systems & Lab Culture
Social & Public Innovation
Urban Intensities & Resources
Visual Cultures & Politics
Language English

Course of Study»Integrated Design«

The course of study »Integrated Design« places special attention on the exploration and framing of problems and corresponding requirements for action. Ethical, functional and aesthetic aspects are considered in the development of concepts, processes and products. To establish experimental ways of creating that which has not existed, concrete methods of design and research are identified, examined and developed in lab-like situations.

The course of study is characterized by an integrated, intercultural and interdisciplinary environment as well as research- and practice-oriented design processes. Self-determined acquisition of knowledge takes the place of instruction as students concern themselves with questions of the social, cultural and aesthetic potency of design as well as its theorization. Drafts and designs are discussed as practices generating knowledge and projecting the world with regard to their contextual, historical and social embeddedness, also taking into account possible interdependencies of these practices and their transcultural entanglements. Thereby productive as well as deconstructive perspectives on historical and current practices of design emerge.

Research through design is conducted not just for but also with society. Transdisciplinary projects provide students with the opportunity of developing and realizing research and designs jointly with non-academic research institutions or non-academic partners in the cultural, civic, urban or economic realm. Furthermore, there is the possibility of integrating inter- or transcultural approaches by choosing to do a Double Degree with one of two current international partner schools, extending studies by one semester.

Course of Study »European Design«

The course of study »European Design« addresses students having graduated at the MEDes program in our BA and proceed in the Master. For further information have a closer look at our page about the MEDes.

Graduates of the Master’s course “Integrated Design Research” demonstrate sophistication in both theory and design practice in the Thematic Cluster they choose to write their Master’s thesis in. They furthermore have a broad understanding of the theories, methods, principles and practices of the other three Thematic Clusters. The course of study enables students to work in a differentiated and design-specific scientific and creative manner, contributes to a deeper understanding of cultural and social phenomena and imparts advanced competencies in design research and knowledge transfer. The graduates’ work is research- oriented, theoretically and empirically well-founded, creative and experimental. They conceptualize and realize projects on their own and communicate design-specific scientific knowledge in a way that is also comprehensible to non-designers. They are able to familiarize themselves with complex design- and research-relevant topics and problems autonomously, effectively and in a self-organized manner. They are able to formulate their own research questions in one of the four Thematic Clusters and work on them employing advanced and specifically developed methods and modalities of research, analysis, evaluation and interpretation, as well as concept and draft.

KISD regards the systematic training and support of independent and self-responsible thinking and acting as its most urgent task and enables its students to set an individual thematic and/or methodical focus and develop personal profiles. Accordingly, the competencies listed below are not to be understood as a “catalog of criteria” to be fulfilled in its entirety by each individual but rather intend to systematically map the demands placed upon designers at different levels to provide the overview necessary for defining one’s own focal points.

Constructing Problems: Graduates are able to observe and analyze (everyday) phenomena, practices and interactions in their cultural, social, technical and discursive contexts. On this basis they define independent research questions and problems and integrate theories, concepts and methods of design as well as of related disciplines in addressing them. They systematically acquire knowledge on their subject of interest, conduct scientific research, compile and consider pertinent literature and collect, analyze and evaluate data to arrive at new independent and well-founded insights, positions and judgments. Outlining the state of research to date, they are able to locate and determine the research gap which they attempt to close with their theoretical, empirical and creative approaches.

Thinking Design: Graduates are able to describe, analyze and interpret design phenomena and processes from a perspective of cultural sciences and design sciences in order to develop new theories, concepts and methods of draft. They spotlight conditions under which processes of draft and production take place and stimulate a broader theoretical discussion about the cultural, social, political, technical, ecological and economic interrelations of design, articulating design objectives within a realm of possibilities and suggesting potentials for transformation. Graduates are furthermore able to link theory formation and design-relevant research by understanding design processes and artefacts as a means to generate new and different forms of knowledge. Configuring independent forms of research through design, they critically reflect on the How and What of design and visualize the non-visible, such as norms, values and presuppositions. They understand the process of design to be a process of transformation and awareness.

Designing Processes: Graduates are able to deal confidently with uncertainty and dynamically changing framework conditions in processes of draft and development. First by defining these processes and differentiating their stages and components, then by defining procedures, experimenting with media and materials, iteratively testing and evaluating their approaches and concepts, reflecting on intermediate results, adapting and further developing them, forming priorities despite missing information and making decisions- both independently and as part of a team.

Practicing Collaboration: Graduates understand design as a social practice based on collaboration with and participation of others in draft and development processes. They are able to lead intercultural as well as inter- and transdisciplinary teams by organizing team processes, reflecting and integrating the perspectives and thinking cultures present in these teams, enabling experiences and social interactions, facilitating processes of acquisition and negotiation and assuming responsibility towards the group. Through design, graduates are able to participate in the shaping of society, the digital transformation of the public sphere and to stimulate the interest of the community with their projects.

Developing Prototypes: Graduates are familiar with advanced practices and techniques of draft as well as analog and digital tools in accordance with their chosen thematic and methodical focus and can apply them in creative and unexpected manners. They are able to utilize prototypes as a means to generate knowledge by experimentally making use of tools of draft such as sketching, writing, modelling, mapping etc. and drawing attention to certain recurring patterns of thought and practice in design.

Creating Alternatives: Graduates are able to systematize draft processes by defining project- related criteria of form, function, material, medium, location, space and time as well as cultural, social, technical and economic contexts and framing objectives of sustainable development, diversity, integration and interculturality. They develop a variety of drafts taking into account criteria and objectives and use these drafts to make well-founded decisions in the development process to come to a programmatic result.

Translating Knowledge: Graduates are able to precisely describe, visualize and present design approaches, perspectives and solutions orally and in writing – including in a foreign language – by reflecting on culturally and socially shaped concepts of perception, thinking and designing and considering those concepts in their own work. They develop visual narrations which subvert traditional expectations and practices of perception in order to produce different standards of and visions for progress and improvement. They emphasize the contextuality of design and show how meaning may only be understood through the complex relation of images, sounds, texts and documents.

Having successfully completed the course of study, graduates are qualified to work in one of the following fields of action or a combination thereof:

Conceptual work and project conception in society, science and economy
Considering the growth of cultural and creative economies, there is a need for designers to develop a critical personality and distance with regard to the relation between design practices, society and economy. Integrated Design Research entails a responsibility to participate in the conception and design of social, scientific and economic processes, supervising them critically and giving impulses for development, without establishing or supporting hidden interests in control.

Interdisciplinary problem solving
In the course of study for their Master’s, students acquire the skills to concern themselves in both theory and practice with topics, contents and perspectives constitutive for society. They can furthermore critically apply them when dealing with interdisciplinary problems and processes of decision-making. The cross-disciplinary, project-focused structure of the course of study promotes the acquisition of competencies of independent and interdisciplinary work. Project tasks are individually formulated, transformed into concepts and artefacts and finally presented publicly. This also encourages improving one’s abilities in the areas of self-organization and entrepreneurship.

Development and innovation research
After their studies, graduates use their abilities in design and design research to initiate and realize social, cultural and scientific developments of public responsibility and thus advance public affairs and social innovations in an instigating and formative manner. In theory and research, they contribute to the scholarly discourse on the relation between design, society, culture, politics and economics. The course of study being research-oriented, graduates may further expand their theoretical scientific objectives by doing a Ph.D. or choose a career in research or the communication of research.

Intercultural and interdisciplinary communication
In a society shaped by increasing participation, graduates of the course of study participate not only in the generation of knowledge but also in the translation of subjects, contents and positions into audio-visual concepts, assuming responsibility for their communication. In this sense, they are qualified to work on topics of public affairs in terms of both content and methodology in an outstanding manner.

KISD »Integrated Design Research« M.A. students work on their own research throughout their studies. In the first two semesters, they pursue a transdisciplinary research approach that combines design issues with scientific methods. In line with their chosen thematic cluster, integrated design research projects are carried out that contribute to the study of design, its preconditions, contexts and effects from different perspectives. In the third semester, they approach two (possibly related) topics through observation, exploration, and experimental and practical design work in two Proposals. The fourth semester is a continuation of the work started in the Proposals and is dedicated to in-depth elaboration and the finalization of the M.A. Thesis.