Doctor of Philosophy in Design

The Ph.D. in Design at the Institute of Design is an exemplary program of coursework and academic research in an international environment for supporting top candidates in the field. We have an outstanding record of achievement by our alumni, many of whom are engaged at the highest levels of research and teaching. The Ph.D. leads to a dissertation that will extend the body of knowledge in design theory and process.


The Ph.D. candidate must have a master’s degree in an area relevant to design. The program requires a minimum of three years of study beyond the master’s degree. For the first four semesters, students must be enrolled in a minimum of 12 credit hours at the Institute of Design. Satisfactory reading knowledge of Chinese, German, French, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, or Spanish must be met before the student applies to take the comprehensive examination.


The program begins with three or four semesters primarily of coursework with some research credit hours, followed by a qualifying exam based on the courses. After passing the qualifying exam, the student continues to work on a research proposal that demonstrates sufficient understanding of the research area, a novel significant concept as a basis for Ph.D. research, and well-organized research methods and processes. A Ph.D. examination committee will then be formed to approve the proposal during the comprehensive exam. Upon completion of the dissertation, the Ph.D. candidate will present the research results to the examination committee for the degree to be granted by the university.


Total: 92 credit hours
Coursework: 44 credit hours (including maximum 32 credit hours transferrable from master’s program)
Language examination
Comprehensive examination
Dissertation research: 48 credit hours


48 credit hours
The research component starts small and grows as the student progresses through his or her candidacy. The dissertation created from this work is intended to create a substantial and original contribution to design knowledge. Typically, 12 credit hours are earned over the first three terms; the remainder is earned over, at minimum, three additional terms.


44 credit hours
Coursework includes credit hours transferable from the master’s program. The maximum credit hours transferrable is 32. Classes include full- or half-semester courses selected from the university’s course offerings to complement objectives of the student’s program. Most coursework credits are earned within the first three terms of enrollment.

Master's transfer coursework (32)
Maximum amount eligible for master's degree transfer is 32 credit hours32
Required Courses (12)
IDN 685Ph. D. Principles and Methods of Design Research1.5
IDN 687Ph. D. Philosophical Context of Design Research1.5
IDN 689Ph.D. Research Seminar (taken twice)6
PSYC 545Graduate Statistics I (or equivalent)3
Ph.D. Research (48)
IDN 691Ph. D. Research and Thesis48
Total Credit Hours92


All students must meet with their academic advisers at least once a semester during their program of study. Each meeting should be scheduled prior to course registration for the following semester. All incoming students are assigned an adviser at the time of admission. If the required advising meeting is not completed in a particular semester, an academic hold will be placed on the student's record preventing any course registration for the following semester. The hold cannot be removed until the student has completed the advising meeting. Please see the Ph.D. program director if with any questions or if your assigned adviser is not available.