Designers play a vital role in innovation. They turn emerging technologies into something that makes sense to the user and becomes part of everyday life. They also provide answers to the challenges raised by such advanced technology. They devise new usage scenarios, explore innovative forms of expression and ensure that novel ideas fit in with the users’ social and cultural environment. This challenge requires that the designer be able to conduct research within interdisciplinary teams, in partnership with scientific laboratories, companies and users.

Since 2014, the ECAL/University of Art and Design Lausanne and the EPFL/Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne have offered the opportunity to train for such challenges through the Master of Advanced Studies in Design Research for Digital Innovation. Only 3–5 candidates are admitted each year for this two-year course. Admission is linked to obtaining a paid assistant position at the EPFL+ECAL Lab, the unit which acts as a bridge across the two institutions. The curriculum includes advanced courses combining theory and practical projects in such areas as augmented reality, digital information and architecture, disruptive innovation and analysis of user experience. More importantly, it allows developing a major research project called upon to become an actual application.

Candidates have the benefit of the EPFL+ECAL Lab technical platform, as well as of support from the teams of experts located in the ECAL building. They are registered as EPFL students, giving them access to the infrastructure of a campus with more than 300 laboratories.



Qualification issued

Master of Advanced Studies in Design Research for Digital Innovation, EPFL & HES-SO

Yearly fees (materials included)

Fees detail


4 semesters



Useful links


Site internet



Learning Objectives

  • Develop a real project within the EPFL+ECAL Lab, often in collaboration with external partners and institutions.
  • Learn to provide answers to the challenges raised by advanced technology through the creation of new usage scenarios, exploration into forms of expression and most importantly, by ensuring that novel ideas fit in into the social and cultural environment of users.
  • Learn essential skills in User Research Methods, Academic Writing, Project Management and Project Funding.
  • Get deeper insights into specific topics and technologies such as AI, augmented reality and digital cultural heritage through workshops and guest lectures.
  • Develop personal ideas whilst working on innovative themes through Studio Projects.
  • Collaborate with an interdisciplinary team of designers, engineers and psychologists.
  • Define a personal critical perspective on design research through the regular seminar programme.


This section contains a selection of emblematic or recent projects related to the disciplines taught in the Master’s degree.

Recent projects

André Andrade – Poster World

Design Research for Digital Innovation (EPFL+ECAL Lab)

André Andrade – Poster World

by André Andrade

Poster World is a design research project in collaboration with the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich. Through the museum’s archives of posters, one of the most extensive and important in the world, the project offers a new way of engaging the public with digitised heritage. It materialises in an interactive installation and offers automated associations of posters by combining metadata with artificial intelligence. Key visual features are isolated and graphically illustrated to make the associations explicit. The project opens perspectives on how to represent digitised heritage and how to engage the public. In collaboration with: Computer Vision Laboratory (CVLab, EPFL), Digital Humanities Laboratory (DHLAB, EPFL)

Valentin Calame – Jean Starobinski. Relations critiques

Design Research for Digital Innovation (EPFL+ECAL Lab)

Valentin Calame – Jean Starobinski. Relations critiques

by Valentin Calame

Jean Starobinski. Relations critiques is a research project on the curation of digitised literary artefacts. Initiated by the Swiss National Library, it is structured around an online exhibition based on the archive of prominent critic Jean Starobinski. Through this project, I explored how to take advantage of emerging technologies to create alternative experiences for the public. Around concepts such as the “Aura” of digital artefacts, “Tangiality” and adaptive spaces, I was able to define parameters to increase cognitive gain, visitor engagement and emotional connection with digitised objects. The knowledge generated by this first exhibition will serve as a model for future iterations. In collaboration with: Swiss National Library (NL), Apptitude SA

Romain Talou – Future Heritage

Design Research for Digital Innovation (EPFL+ECAL Lab)

Romain Talou – Future Heritage

by Romain Talou

Future Heritage investigates how to make long-term, high-density information storage technologies more tangible. Working in the context of cultural heritage, the project allows institutions to keep their archives alive using DNA data storage for generations to come. Through a process of design research, the Future Heritage project explores how to make this synthetic DNA storage relevant for institutions today and far into the future. The resulting DNA storage object is designed to withstand environmental and societal changes over the next two thousand years. Using nano-engraving and a semiological approach, the object gives tangible hints and previews of the rich content that lies within it. In collaboration with: Claude Nobs Fondation, Swiss National Library (NL)

Hélène Portier – Temps Passé, Temps Réel

Design Research for Digital Innovation (EPFL+ECAL Lab)

Hélène Portier – Temps Passé, Temps Réel

by Hélène Portier

Bygone Times in Real Time is a design research project that explores new forms of engagement with various sources through an immersive installation. Using artificial intelligence, images posted on today’s social networks awaken two centuries of world heritage. Using such technologies to combine collections has opened up new challenges related to trust and credibility. Further experiments have been conducted in order to understand public perception and to define trust parameters related to content aggregation generated by artificial intelligence. Collaboration with RTS, Institut de recherche Idiap, Musée suisse de l'appareil photographique and Confrérie des Vignerons.

Yoann Douillet – Meditation Robotics

Design Research for Digital Innovation (EPFL+ECAL Lab)

Yoann Douillet – Meditation Robotics

by Yoann Douillet

Meditation Robotics is an EPFL+ECAL Lab research project in collaboration with EPFL’s Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience. It aims to assist meditation practices through multimodal sensorial support. It combines audio content with haptic inputs such as dynamic pressure, vibrations and temperature patterns.

Margaux Charvolin – Ming Shan Digital Experience

Design Research for Digital Innovation (EPFL+ECAL Lab)

Margaux Charvolin – Ming Shan Digital Experience

by Margaux Charvolin

Ming Shan Digital Experience is an immersive installation for Mind-Body-Spirit practitioners. In collaboration with the Ming Shan Taoist Centre, this research project brings together designers, data scientists and meditation experts to unite digital culture and traditional practices. The system makes use of physiological parameters in a biofeedback loop to generate an acoustic and visual landscape. The meditation environment is then generated by the inner state of all practitioners. The installation aims not only to facilitate individual practice, but also to strengthen shared meditation through collective feedback.


This section lists the detailed modules and courses for each semester of the programme.
Research Projects

Each MAS candidate works on a real project being developed by the lab, often in collaboration with external partners and clients. They drive the research project, but collaborate with other members of the lab during the process.


Workshops are organised at different points during the MAS to challenge candidates to deep-dive into a subject in a condensed time period. These often involve invited guests or take place at partner institutions abroad.

Studio Projects

The MAS involves 3 Studio Projects that last one semester each. These projects allow candidates to follow their own ideas and interests whilst working on a particular theme chosen by the Lab.

Advanced Academic Courses

The academic programme comprises core courses and options and thus adapts each year to the competences of the MAS candidates. An example of a selection of courses would be:

  • Introduction to Academic Tools
  • Innovation: From Disruption to Acceptance
  • Design methods: A Human-Centred Approach
  • User Research Methods: Prototyping
  • User Research Methods: Ergonomics Evaluation Methods
  • Digital Humanities
  • Project Valorization
  • Design Research Project Funding
  • Project Management



The unique design research and innovation skills obtained during the MAS DRDI set students up for future opportunities in design studios, PhD studies, university teaching or their own practice. Beyond this, the soft skills developed in writing, verbal presentation and research methods provide a solid basis for a range of careers.



Nicolas Henchoz


Marius Aeberli
Romain Collaud
Lara Défayes
Dieter Dietz
Cédric Duchêne
Béatrice Durandard
Rama Gheerawo
Emily Groves
Nicolas Henchoz
Frédéric Kaplan
Chris McGinley
Delphine Ribes
Alessandra Rovero Michel
Andreas Sonderegger
Andrea Schneider


Alain Bellet
Guillaume Bonnier
Daniele Catalanotto
Tommaso Colombo
Dieter Dietz
Frédéric Kaplan
Andreas Koller
Chris McGinley
Rudi Nieven
Susanne Schneider
Chi-Long Trieu
Ece Ozdil
Jean-Stéphane Szijarto
Ruben Valdez
Ron Wakkary
Pascal Wicht