ArtCenter College of Design | Pasadena, California | Learn to Create. Influence Change.
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Innovation Systems Design

A dual MS/MBA degree offered by Art Center College of Design and the Drucker School of Management

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
— Peter F. Drucker


MS/MBA Innovation Systems Design

Responding to rapid technological change that accelerated the tectonic shifts and global competition in today’s marketplace, Art Center College of Design and Claremont Graduate University are offering a one-of-a-kind Dual MS/MBA Degree in Innovation Systems Design (ISD).

This program combines the Drucker School of Management’s strategy, leadership, and management acumen with the rigorous development of creative skills and design innovation methodology found in Art Center’s Graduate Industrial Design program to best prepare tomorrow’s innovation leaders.

Degree Structure

Design Thinking and Design Doing
The Innovation Systems Design program is a rigorous two-year, project-based education for those that see the value in applying design-thinking methodology to business culture in order to create a better future instead of just talking about it.

Students are immersed in a design culture for one year and then in a business culture the following year. Afterwards, each student is required to demonstrate their knowledge of the program’s methodologies in a thesis project directed toward an emergent topic of their choice.

Project-Based Learning
In every semester, students have the opportunity to creatively apply their newly acquired knowledge and skills through integrated project studios taught by working professionals as well as faculty from both institutions.

Application and Enrollment

Students can apply for the ISD program after enrollment in the Art Center Industrial Design program. Applications are not considered at the time of entry to Art Center, but will be reviewed after the students' second term of enrollment.


Q&A with Andy Ogden, Co-Executive Director

Q: What does Innovation Systems Design mean?

A: Innovation Systems Design is a combination of terms that describe what we do and what we teach. The word “Innovation” is understood from a business point of view in this case.  While designers and artists often use the word “innovation” to mean all kinds of things that are novel, in the business world, innovation means doing something new that (a) gets to market and (b) is successful in the market.

“Systems Design” refers to the design of new products or services including the larger systems of which they are a part. Today, if you innovate without the system view in mind, then you are likely to miss something important that could be very expensive. “Design” means both the creative act and the plans that drive change. And because things change rapidly, and most industries have lots of competition, these days the plan needs to include a strategy. It is not just about the next move. It is about thinking several moves ahead.

Q: What alerted you to the need for a dual degree program like this one?

A: Our goal has always been to prepare our graduates for professional fields so that they can have successful long-term careers. Since the advent of digital technologies, our world has been changing at an ever more rapid pace. As a result, companies need to reinvent their business models at an ever-increasing pace to remain competitive. They have need for a new type of creative professional that can help them define a successful future for their enterprise. With that in mind, we prepare our graduates to be able to take on the kinds of complex and unstructured problems that companies are likely to face. Our students learn to apply a broadly applicable methodology that illuminates important areas of opportunity that are focused on unmet human needs and aspirations. They learn how to create new value for those opportunities and to communicate their designs for a better future in the form of new business models.

Q: How will this program prepare students for roles as Strategic Innovators?

A: We designed our program by using the same methodologies that we teach.  We studied the needs of the people who will be our students and eventually our alumni as well as the needs of future industries. We imagined a program that would be built on our core strengths and provide valuable returns on the time and money students would invest in it. The result is a rigorous program that provides students with an immersive education in both design culture and business culture in 6 semesters.

In each semester, students take on and complete design projects that build their confidence through the practiced application of new skills and methods. After the second semester, the program focuses on strategic challenges and solutions. Students learn to create designs based on future scenarios and then create a strategic roadmap with steps that plan a path for the future they imagine, starting from the present.

We are confident that our target graduates are unique and in high demand in the job market and we could describe them as designers that can develop great business strategies or as MBA’s with portfolios.

Q: Can you describe whom you envision to be your prospective students?

A: Our prospective students typically have 3 or more years of working experience in the professional world after having completed their undergraduate degree studies. They are people with creative minds; designers and makers that didn’t necessarily take that path in their undergraduate studies. Sometimes they are individuals that are moving from a different area of professional focus or that want to advance their role in the same field. Often they describe having entered into a field because they wanted to be part of creating new things, but then found themselves working on only a part of the bigger idea and came to the realization that it was not satisfying to them.

ISD students want to be part of the beginning of things. They want to make the big idea happen. They are interested in making things better for others. They want to be at the front end, looking forward, doing the analysis of trends and figuring out what the strategy needs to be in order for everyone that is involved to win. 

Q: Can you talk about where Art Center and the Drucker School of Management intersect philosophically in terms of this curriculum?

A: Peter Drucker is considered by many in the business field to be the father of modern management. He was a visionary who anticipated the knowledge worker many years before that came to pass. He’s famous for saying, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”  The intersection of the philosophies of our two schools is probably best expressed in that axiom. So, what we see going forward is that, if you’re going to be able to create the future, you will need to have knowledge and understanding of business dynamics, an ability to think strategically, and you will need to know how to create with the skills and methods of a designer. We think that putting the two worlds together is the best way to be prepared to create a better future.

Both colleges and their extended networks of alumni radiate from the innovative culture of Southern California. Preparing for a creative role in the future, in a location that is recognized as one of the world’s centers for creative industries and as a gateway to the Pacific Rim, is a great advantage for our graduates.

Q&A with Anastasia Hanan, ISD Student

Q: What appealed to you about this program?

A: I think that we are on the verge of having our technologies evolve at a rate that will surpass our ability to see the big picture. We’re dealing with genetic modification and pervasive robotics among other technological developments, all of which could be very disruptive. In such a world, I think it’s important to have leadership in place that can really look at the ramifications and ethical implications. In the past, we’ve only been looking at short-term benefits and high returns. Moving forward, I think it’s really important for us to look into the future and evaluate long-term consequences. I would like to have an integral part in making those important decisions.

Q: What was it that clicked with you about these two disciplines?

A: I was following the conversations happening around product development, manufacturing and business when I came across Art Center’s Graduate Industrial Design program. I was hooked when I found out that the program is centered around helping enterprises meet human needs through design and technology. I love the thought of working in R&D and getting to be at the forefront of creating the future.

Q: What do you believe to be the most valuable aspect of the ISD program?

A: What makes this place special is the comprehensive nature of the entire program. We learn so many aspects to design – we’re doing research, we’re modeling, we’re drawing, and we’re creating businesses. We have to cover so many bases that the program teaches you to put on many hats without getting too stressed. I think that I now have the ability to quickly shift focuses without losing momentum.

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