Interaction Design story board

MDesInteraction Design

Make a positive impact with the most in-demand design toolkit in the world today: systems thinking, design process skills, and imaginative prototyping.


Imagine, prototype, and build the future

MDes in Interaction Design is a one-year, intensive STEM-designated program built to provide students with the tools to create better relationships among people, products, and environments worldwide. Interaction designers flourish in this complex intersection, using craft-based design skills, systems thinking, and human-centered technology to find creative solutions in the heart of San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Our intensive program prepares you to enter one of the most in-demand design fields in the world. You’ll learn to design for the environment, public health, transportation, education, and other major industries with wide-ranging impact.

Exteriors of SFMOMA and YBCA

View of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Study in the creative capital of Silicon Valley

You’ll be constantly inspired by our location in the San Francisco Bay Area, home to leading technology companies, animation and film studios, and groundbreaking art galleries. Graduates of our program have found great success in the many research-driven design practices in the Bay Area and beyond. We’re also in one of the best art and design schools in the world. With a community of fine artists, industrial designers, curators, writers, and other creative practitioners at your fingertips, you’ll find unique ways to make technology meaningful and delightful.

Studios + Shops

Go from concept to final product

Interaction Design Students access forward-facing technology to create socially impactful platforms

You’ll build upon foundational work in design principles, methods, and craft during a sequence of immersive studio courses. From information architecture and user interfaces to digital prototyping and experience design, you’ll do it all. We imagine future mobile experiences, social networks, and connected products. Recent student projects evolve beyond speculative design to realize full-scale solutions:

  • Wearable air quality monitor
  • Smart lock with facial recognition
  • Data visualization portal for municipal health trends
  • User interface for semi-autonomous vehicles
A collaboration between CCA Interaction Design and Architecture students and the African American Art and Culture Complex (AAACC) to co-design a parklet that facilitates social gathering and increases awareness of the AAACC.

Design for the greater good

At the heart of our program is a space we call the Social Lab. Each semester, you’ll have the chance to make a positive impact in the wider community. We partner with arts organizations, bookstores, educational nonprofits, and Bay Area neighborhoods to harness emerging design technologies for the greater good. A recent collaboration with the African American Art & Culture Complex (AAACC), for example, resulted in a beautiful parklet. Co-designed with CCA architecture students, the parklet celebrates and promotes the AAACC’s important mission and unique public programming.

Your IxD experience at CCA

  • Master digital prototyping tools
  • Explore hierarchy, layout, grid, line, shape, and typography
  • Create user scenarios, information flows, and wireframes
  • Apply systems thinking to real-world challenges
  • Collaborate with arts organizations and nonprofits
  • Utilize print, screen, mobile, web, and vehicle canvases
  • Experiment with auditory, tactile, and motion inputs
  • Study organizational systems and leadership skills
  • Design for systems, behavior, and interactive technology
  • Create performances, storyboards, and personas
  • Learn to pitch design and business concepts
  • Build small-scale responses, then at-scale solutions


Founders and craftspeople

Our faculty are all practicing designers with extensive industry connections. They work for Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, IDEO, and numerous design consultancies in the Bay Area. Their expertise in user experience design, user interfaces, interactive media, gaming, and service design—just to name a few fields—helps shape our intentional curriculum for future design leaders.

Photo of MDes Chair Josh Silverman.

Josh Silverman, Chair of MDes in Interaction Design

Chair Josh Silverman has created successful relationships through design for 25 years. He speaks and hosts workshops globally, teaches and guest critiques nationally, and is always connecting people and communities. Josh is preternaturally curious about patterns in decision making and the shapes of teams. He is driven daily by great pairings, trusting relationships, harmonious intersectionality, and long bike rides.


STEM-designated program

Our intensive one-year, three-semester program is STEM-designated. The coursework emphasizes craft, social impact, and leadership. You’ll learn to address critical, complex challenges through powerful design process skills and intuitive organizational systems. To get a feel for what awaits, view sample courses

MDes Interaction Design

Year 1: Fall Semester

IxD Studio: Foundations (section 01 or 02)
3 units
Communication by Design (section 01, 02, or 03)
3 units
IxD Studio: Design, People, and Society
3 units
IxD Studio: Prototyping
3 units

Year 1: Spring Semester

IxD Studio: Systems
3 units
IxD Studio: Form
3 units
Social Lab 1 (section 01, 02, or 03)
3 units
Elective (any Grad-wide elective)
3 units

Year 1: Summer Semester

IxD Studio: Story (section 01, 02, or 03)
3 units
Social Lab 2 (section 01, 02, or 03)
3 units
Leadership by Design (section 01, 02, or 03)
3 units
IxD Studio: Experience (section 01, 02, or 03)
3 units

Total 36 units


Make life-changing products and experiences

Our students’ talent for creative, human-centered design sets them up for success in a variety of professional fields. Hands-on experience in the Social Lab gives them the practical skills they need to leverage design for social impact. Our alumni develop augmented reality interfaces for surgeons, design semi-autonomous electric cars, and make apps that help people overcome addiction. Wherever they are in the world, they make an impact through elegant, ethical, and sustainable design practices.

Potential career paths

  • User experience designer
  • Interaction designer
  • Product designer
  • Visual designer
  • Organizational designer
  • Creative design lead
  • Social entrepreneur
  • Creative director

News + Events

What’s happening in the design community?

How to Apply

Gather your strongest work for your application

The MDes in Interaction Design is an intensive one-year, three-semester program. We welcome students of all ages and backgrounds who are collaborative systems thinkers and aspiring design leaders. Many of our applicants have 5–7 years of professional experience and are ready to take their careers in new directions. Placement in our program is based on the strength of personal essay responses, portfolio submissions, transcripts, and recommendation letters.

The MDes program develops craft, collaboration, and leadership skills through concentrated teamwork. Students spend a significant amount of time making, reading, writing, presenting, and working on interpersonal communication. We look for evidence of your capacity to engage fully with these requirements in your essays, resume, and recommendation letters.

Because the program’s primary emphasis is on design craft skills, we look for strong promise and design excellence in your portfolio. Portfolios don’t need to be in UX or IxD. In fact, a strong graphic or industrial design portfolio will be looked on more favorably than a weak UX portfolio. We also look for your aptitude in tackling complex social challenges and engaging with the community, perhaps through volunteer work in nonprofits or exploration of how design might better address critical social challenges.

Application fundamentals

You’ll need to submit three components that are common to all CCA graduate applications:

  • Resume/curriculum vitae
  • Two recommendation letters
  • Unofficial college transcripts

Program-specific requirements

In addition, you'll submit a portfolio and personal essay that are tailored to your specific degree. Expand the items below to view details.

MDes Interaction Design


You’ll need to submit a visual portfolio that represents your practice in any studio-based field. Architecture, film, graphic design, industrial design, sculpture, or a related discipline are all acceptable. NOTE: We want to see your design process, not merely the finished work. Along with the finished product, show us how you worked with process diagrams, in-field photography, and concept explorations.

Please include up to 25 still images, videos, time-based media, or interactive media. If you choose to submit video or time-based media, include a three-minute sample reel that’s clearly labeled with the title, date, running time, and brief description of the work(s).

Our admissions committee will review your portfolio on a computer, so please make sure it adheres to the following specifications:

  • Must be a SlideRoom submission
  • Maximum of 5 MB for each still image
  • Maximum of 60 MB for each video, time-based media, or interactive media

Once your portfolio has been submitted via SlideRoom, no further changes can be made.

Personal essay

You’ll need to answer five open-ended questions: one recorded in video form, and four in paragraph form (2,000 words maximum). Like your visual portfolio, your personal essay must be uploaded and submitted via SlideRoom.

Copy and answer these questions:

  1. What draws you to the field of interaction design and why do you think it’s important to study at this time? Please record your response to this question in a video (up to one minute in length). Feel free to be creative. Include the video link in the same document you upload with your answers to the following essay questions.
  2. The MDes program includes a focus on developing leadership skills. Describe a time when you exercised leadership in collaboration with others to create change. What did you learn about yourself as a leader in the process?
  3. What experiences have prepared you to co-design innovative solutions with community partners in our Social Lab? Provide an example of how you’ve collaborated in community engaged work (e.g., community-based coursework, volunteer experience, work with a nonprofit or NGO) and describe the outcomes of the engagement.
  4. What complex “wicked problem” inspires you to apply your design skills to find solutions? Describe why this social challenge is critical to explore and include what drives you to find a solution.
  5. Describe how you’ve applied a “designer’s mindset”—curiosity, reframing, iteration, learning from failure, radical collaboration, creative confidence—to moving through challenging situations that have stretched you to grow.

You must convert all your written responses into a single PDF document. Make sure your video link is included beneath essay question one.



We recommend a 13-inch MacBook Pro laptop. Please note that student discounts and payment plans are available from Apple’s Education online store (log in using your CCA student username and password). Additionally, you can go to any Apple retail store and present them with your CCA student ID card for a discount.


Adobe Creative Cloud is required for all students. This bundle includes software for illustration, image editing, interactive desktop and mobile prototyping, visual effects, and motion graphics.

The IxD master’s program interviews a small sample of applicants and may contact candidates on an individual basis.

Contact our program manager with questions

Nina Eve Zeininger

Program Manager for MBA in Design Strategy and MDes in Interaction Design

+1 415-551-9351

[email protected]

Join one of the most in-demand design fields

Apply now