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.
Master of Advanced Studies in Design Research for Digital Innovation, EPFL & HES-SO
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.
This section lists the detailed modules and courses for each semester of the programme.
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.
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
Design Research Project Funding
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.
Alessandra Rovero Michel