Media Design Practices

Media Design Practices (MDP) is an interdisciplinary design MFA preparing designers for our new now.

Ours is a time of constant change: technological transformations, global inequity, and environmental uncertainty. This world demands new design practices. Designers today must be daring, critical, and engaged in their communities. Are you ready?

With a grounding in creative technology, experimental making, and social action, MDP graduates are unafraid to use design to question the present. Join our MFA program and get new skills — prototyping and research, futuring and fieldwork — to shape your design practice and envision new futures. 

Work closely with faculty known for cutting-edge research and multidisciplinary expertise. Investigate emerging media, develop new methodologies, engage with diverse cultures, and surprise yourself by making things the likes of which you have never seen before.

Join our alumni who go on to become design leaders in every conceivable field: major technology firms, innovative nonprofit organizations, and independent design practices.

Our approach to learning is project-based, meaning students engage in multi-layered challenges with hands-on design activity from the moment they arrive.

The projects are crafted by the program’s core faculty, informed by their own cutting-edge research and influenced by global events and recent developments in science and culture.

Students learn to shift modes quickly, whether they are working in the studio or doing fieldwork in an international locale. In a typical week, a student might move from building a working prototype — to meeting with a research scientist — to testing in a participant's home — to leading a community workshop — to salvaging electronics — to editing a short video.

Coursework is designed to expose students to a range of creative and technological practices and might include collaborative and day-long studio charrettes, experimental writing assignments, guest lectures, and critiques.

But the emphasis is always on design and supporting each student as they develop their own unique point-of-view. By the time they graduate, each student will have channeled their conviction, energy, and skills into a design practice uniquely suited to the challenges that lie ahead. Upon graduation, they join an extended network of industry contacts, potential collaborators, and fellow travellers.

MDP faculty harken from the fields of media design, anthropology, art, film, architecture, cultural theory, computer science, interaction design, product design, robotics, cultural analytics, and more.

Our core faculty are not only award-winning experts in their fields, they are innovative educators: they provide students with the right mix of structure and open-endedness to push their work in new directions.

Our adjunct faculty are drawn largely from Southern California’s exciting cultural and scientific communities. But we also have faculty from around the world who teach remotely or during intensive visits. The Wind Tunnel Graduate Center for Critical Practice brings a constant flow of leading thinkers into direct contact with students, from corporate trendsetters to art world outliers.

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Department Chair

Anne Burdick is a regular participant in the international dialogue regarding the future of graduate education and research in design. She designs experimental text projects in diverse media and participates in the nascent field of the Digital Humanities. BFA, MFA, graphic design, California Institute of the Arts. micromegameta.net

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Core Faculty

Dr. Elizabeth Chin is an anthropologist whose research interests include children and childhood; consumption; dance; race; urban geography; Haiti. She approaches these from an ecumenical theoretical perspective, grounded in political economy, critical theory and a good dose of literary, artistic and post modern influences. PhD, Anthropology, City University of New York; BFA, Drama and Anthropology, NYU. labofspeculativeethnology.tumblr.com

Sean Donahue is principal of Research-Centered Design, a Los Angeles-based design practice that explores how design can be utilized to make significant contributions to society. MFA, Media Design, Art Center College of Design; BA, Graphic Design, Indiana University of Pennsylvania.researchcentereddesign.com

Tim Durfee's interdisciplinary architecture studio is based in Los Angeles. He has won awards for architecture, exhibitions, media design, installation, furniture, and poetry. Current projects include a large suspended artwork for the Los Angeles Police Department, the forthcoming book Made Up: Design's Fictions, and a computer game / urban simulation with Ben Hooker examining a world with drones, self-driving cars, and moving houses. MArch, Yale University; BA, Literature, History, University of Rochester TimDurfee.com

Ben Hooker collaborates with architects, industrial designers and computer scientists working in the field of human-computer interaction and has a background in screen-based multimedia design. Hooker was formerly visiting faculty at Intel Research in Berkeley and taught at Central Saint Martins College and the Royal College of Art, London. MA, computer-related design, Royal College of Art; BS, electronic imaging and media communications, University of Bradford. benhooker.comhookerandkitchen.com

Phil van Allen is an interaction designer whose work ranges from the practical to the speculative. In his research, he is exploring animistic design as a new approach for interaction in the ecosystems created by the Internet of Things. He also is the creator of NTK (netlabtoolkit.org), an open source toolkit that makes designing and building working IoT projects simpler and faster. In addition to teaching, van Allen writes about interaction design and is a consultant for industry. In the past, he's been a recording engineer, software developer, entrepreneur, and researcher. BA, Experimental Psychology/Cognitive Science, University of California, Santa Cruz, philvanallen.com

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Advisors and Adjuncts

Tisa Bryant (MFA, Brown 2004) makes work that often traverses the boundaries of genre, culture and history. Unexplained Presence (Leon Works, 2007), her first full-length book, is a collection of original, hybrid essays that remix narratives from film, literature and visual arts and zoom in on the black presences operating within them. An excerpt from her novella, [the curator], was published by Belladonna Books in 2009, in a companion volume with writer Chris Kraus. She is also the author of the chapbook, Tzimmes (A+Bend Press, 2000), a prose poem collage of narratives including a Barbados genealogy, a Passover seder and a film by Yvonne Rainer. She is interested in archives, hybrid forms, mythologies, ethnicity and innovation, the interdependence of experimental and conventional fiction, cinematic novels and ekphrastic writing. Bryant’s writing has appeared in Evening Will Come, Mandorla, Mixed Blood, in the ‘zine, Universal Remote: Meditations on the Absence of Michael Jackson and in the catalogues and solo shows of visual artists Laylah Ali, Jaime Cortez, Wura-Natasha Ogunji and Cauleen Smith. She is co-editor, with Ernest Hardy, of War Diaries, an anthology of black gay male desire and survival, from AIDS Project Los Angeles, which was nominated Best LGBTQ anthology by the LAMBDA Literary Awards. She is also co-editor/publisher of the hardcover cross-referenced literary/arts series, The Encyclopedia Project, which recently released Encyclopedia Vol. 2 F-K.

Dr. Stuart Candy is an experiential futurist, educator, artist and designer whose practice aims to augment foresight capacity using diverse media, games and live interventions. His work has appeared in museums, festivals, conferences, and city streets, on the Discovery Channel, and in the pages of The Economist and Wired. He has spent over a decade leading the development of new thinking and methods in foresight, and bringing them to organisations, learners, and audiences around the world. He is co-creator of the award-winning imagination game The Thing From The Future, published by Situation Lab, a research unit that he co-directs with Professor Jeff Watson of the University of Southern California. Sitlab is dedicated to creating immersive and generative situations for the public good, for clients, and for kicks. futuryst.blogspot.com/

Elise Co is a media artist and founding partner of Aeolab, a design and technology consulting firm in Los Angeles. Co holds an M.S. in media arts and sciences and a B.S. in architecture from MIT. Previously, she taught courses in interaction design and physical computing at the Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst in Basel, Switzerland. Her work has been shown internationally, including at MoMA, SIGGRAPH and IMRF Tokyo. aeolab.com

Claire L Evans is a writer, musician, and artist working in Los Angeles. Her day job is as the singer and coauthor of the pop group YACHT. She is currently “futures editor” of Motherboard and editor of its sister science-fiction magazine, Terraform; she edits science fiction and publishes editorials about science, design, technology, and feminism. She is a contributor to Grantland, VICE, The Guardian, and uncube magazine, and her writing has been extensively anthologized. She is the co-author of New Art/Science Affinities, a book about contemporary artists working at the intersection of science and technology, and the author of High Frontiers, a collection of essays. clairelevans.com

Geoff Kaplan of General Working Group has produced projects for range of academic and cultural institutions. His work is included in San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art’s and MoMA’s permanent collections. He received his MFA from Cranbrook and teaches in the Graduate Program of Design at CCA and the Media Design Practices at Art Center. Geoff recently co-wrote, edited and designed Power of the People: The Graphic Design of Radical Press and the Rise of the Counter-Culture, 1964-1974 published by the University of Chicago Press. Currently Geoff is working on a new book titled A history of graphic design pedagogy after the Bauhaus to the internet. generalworkinggroup.com

Kathi Kitner is a senior research scientist with Intel Labs’ USA-based User Experience Innovations  (UXI) group and holds a PhD in cultural anthropology and Latin American Studies.  She brings strong expertise in the fields of sustainable development, ecological and human adaption, public policy and social impact evaluation to her current work on information communication technologies (ICTs) and social change.  She is currently researching the so-called Internet of Things (IoT) while moving through the intersections of class, gender, consumption, shifting world economies and technology adoption.

Norman Klein is a cultural critic, media historian and novelist. He is the author of The Vatican to Vegas: The History of Special Effects; The History of Forgetting: Los Angeles and the Erasure of Memory; and The Imaginary Twentieth Century, a science-fiction database novel and exhibition which ran at ZKM in Karlsruhe, Germany. Klein is a professor at CalArts, has taught as adjunct faculty at Art Center since 1982 and is now also a thesis advisor for the Media Design Program.imaginarytwentiethcentury.com

Jesse Kriss is a software developer and designer specializing in the areas of information visualization, human-computer interaction, web development, and collaborative systems. He has worked on a wide range of projects, from the web-based Many Eyes collaborative visualization platform to an art installation at the San Jose International Airport involving live fish and computer vision, to the technology team for the Obama reelection campaign. At NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Jesse contributes to the research and design process, advises on technical architecture for web platforms, and develops advanced user interfaces.

Michael Manalo is an Information Architect specializing in GIS-based intelligence and civic innovation for government and community outreach projects. Notable civic projects include: People St (peoplest.lacity.org) and LAB at DCA (dcaredesign.org/lab)- a city staff incubator for digital literacy and innovative practices. His work is recognized by American Planning Association, Southern California Association of Governments, ESRI, KCET, and Fast Company''s Innovation by Design Awards.      

Mike Milley is remorseless in his affinity for high-profile corporate design groups, having worked on advanced design teams at Nike and Philips. He's currently Global Lead of Socio-Cultural Research at Samsung Design, where he manages the Design Research and Strategy team. He is a graduate of Columbia University and Parsons School of Design.www.linkedin.com/pub/mike-milley

Chelina Odbert is Co-founder and Executive Director of Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI), a non-profit design practice that partners with low income communities to improve physical, economic, and social quality of life. Since 2006, she has worked with community members in the slum of Kibera, Nairobi to design and implement a network of "Productive Public Spaces" — transformed waste spaces that link physical upgrading to micro-enterprise and community development. Chelina has replicated the Productive Public Space process in Haiti, Ghana and the United States. She holds a BA from Claremont Mckenna College, where she graduated with magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa honors. She received her Master of Urban Planning from Harvard University.

Jenny Rodenhouse is an artist and interaction designer. Her work investigates the digitizing of natural environments, the merging of technology and the landscape, and the digital interface as humanity’s new natural habitat. Appropriating the 'test site' as a platform, she creates sites of experimentation to prototype alternates—the other possible realities and cultural choices we have as we develop our technological futures. Through her conceptual and applied design practice, she collaborates with companies, startups, computer scientists, designers, architects, and artists. jennyrodenhouse.com

Jennifer Rider focuses on the design of print and screen-based media for the arts and cultural sector. Her recent collaborations include exhibition catalogues and web sites for several Pacific Standard Time exhibitions, The Edible Schoolyard Project, LACMA and MoCA. Jennifer holds an MFA in Graphic Design from California Institute of the Arts and a Bachelor’s in Art from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Her work has received multiple awards and has been recognized by the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA). www.jenniferrider.com

Theo Triantafyllidis is an artist who was born in 1988. Theo Triantafyllidis has had several gallery and museum exhibitions, including at the NRW-Forum Kultur und Wirtschaft and at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art. There have been many articles about Theo Triantafyllidis, including 'Hot on Digital Art’s trail in Venice' written by Tina Sauerlaender for Arte Fuse in 2017. slimetech.org

Richard Wheeler is an artist, designer, and technologist. He has written on technology, security, and privacy for "The Daily Beast" and "Wired." And as a consultant he is a product adviser for early-stage investment technology companies, work ranges in scope from strategic guidance to founders and C-level management, to operational guidance on specific product development efforts, to hands-on development. He previously worked as a consultant to the Department of Defense and as an analyst with the United States Army. Prior to his work in defense Wheeler worked for over a decade in design, working in museums, publishing, and finally as a fashion designer for companies such as Ann Taylor and Calvin Klein. Wheeler holds an M.F.A. in Design Media Arts from UCLA, an M.A. in Security Studies from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, and a B.A. in Fine Art and History from Hunter College, CUNY. Surprisingly, he is not 80 years old.richardwheeler.com

Mimi Zeiger is editor and publisher of loud paper, a zine and blog dedicated to increasing the volume of architectural discourse. She is a founding member of #lgnlgn, a think tank on architecture and publishing. The group's work has been shown at Urban Design Week, the New Museum, Storefront for Art and Architecture, pinkcomma gallery, and the AA School. She holds a Master of Architecture degree from SCI-Arc and a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Cornell University. loudpapermag.com

We encourage applicants from diverse backgrounds and cultures. (We offer a 2-year and 3-year degree.) Our students come to us from the worlds of interaction design, product design, fine arts, film, liberal arts, computer science, architecture, engineering, and more.

Each MDP student maintains a website documenting their grad school experience. To find out what they are making, reading, discussing, and obsessing about, use the links below to take a look. You can also visit the student-curated MDP Gallery on Cargo Collective to see what the students appreciate most about one another’s work.

Lab+Field 2018
Kiana Bahramian (L)
Stephanie Cedeño (L)
Gordon Choi (L)
Elena Cullen (F)
Justine Esquivel (F)
Tiffany Henschel (F)
Xiaoxuan Liu (L)
Yaewon Kim (L)
Michael Miliano (L)
Bianca Nasser (F)
Claire le Nobel (L)
Godiva Reisenbichler (L)
Yidan (Naomi) Sui (L)
Nan Tsai (L)
Jason Wong (L)
Nicci Yin (L)
Hao Zhang (L)

Lab+Field 2019
Akash Dhiman (F)
Jessica Escobedo (L)
Eli Hong (L)
Yunying Huang (L)
Reina Imagawa (F)
Justeen Li  (L)
Hyejin Lim (L)
Kaixin Ling (L)
Zhuxin Lui (L)
Nidhi Singh (F)
Tianlu Tang (L)
Zifei Wang (L)
Lauren Williams (F)
So-Hee Woo (L)
Olivia Yang (F)

Lab+Field 2020
David Chan
Julia Echevarria
Karina Hernandez
Mengyuan Jin
Mina Lee
Matthew O’Rourke
Jom Sirimongkolkasem
Tongxin Sun
Qian Wan

Our graduates have the agility and skills to bring design to diverse situations, from scientific research labs to futurist think tanks, from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and nonprofits to leading corporations and design studios. Visit our Alumni site to learn more.

Here are a few of the titles that our alumni currently hold:

  • Associate Professor, Interaction Design
  • Blogger and Author
  • Community Design Liaison
  • Creative Director
  • Creative Technologist
  • Design Analyst
  • Design Director
  • Digital Creative Director
  • Entrepreneur and Inventor
  • Founder and Creative Director
  • Human-centered Design Researcher
  • Interaction and Visual Designer
  • Interaction Designer/Magician
  • Interactive Environments Lead
  • Media Artist
  • Non-traditional Creative
  • PhD Candidate
  • Professor, Multimedia Design
  • Senior Manager Brand Identity Strategy
  • Senior Researcher, User Experience
  • Senior UX Designer
  • UX Designer

Placement trends we have seen in recent years:

Communication technology research or innovation units: Samsung Research, Microsoft Research, HTC Magic Lab, Google Creative Lab, T-Mobile Innovation Lab, Yahoo! Research, Intel Research, IBM

Non-conventional contexts: Jet Propulsion Lab/NASA, United Nations, UNICEF's Tech4Dev, Inkling, Synn Labs, Kaiser Innovation Center, Bloomberg, Dahlberg, City of Los Angeles, ESRI

Independent practices and start-ups: design studios, entrepreneurial ventures, app development, residencies, film festivals, conferences, media art exhibitions, galleries and performances

Academia—teaching and PhDs: MIT, UCSD, UCLA, Parsons The New School for Design, Hongik University, Mingchuan University, SVA, BYU, ArtCenter College of Design, Iowa State University, Cal State Long Beach, Auckland University of Technology, Kaywon University, Santa Monica City College 

Innovation groups within advertising and media companies: Chiat/Day, Wieden+Kennedy, Crispin Porter Bogusky, Yu+Co, Artefact, Troika Design Group, McCann

Innovation groups within global consulting firms: Ernst & Young, Boston Consulting Group, McKinsey & Company, Price Waterhouse Cooper,

Design research, interaction, and UX design in major design firms: IDEO, Frog Design, Smart Design, Continuum, 8 Inc., 5D Worldbuilding

Are you ready to take the leap? If so, here's how to apply:

First: Choose a duration—2- or 3-year—based on your background.

The 2-year option is for experienced designers. We look for applicants with exceptional training and experience in design that is visual-, spatial-, systems- and/or interaction-oriented who can skillfully realize high-level design concepts.

The 3-year option is for burgeoning designers with more limited experience or formal education in design. 3-year students start their studies with a "Development Year," an immersive introduction to interdisciplinary design grounded in media and technology. We look for applicants from all domains and from a broad range of backgrounds, such as, for example, philosophy, engineering, or biology.

Second: Visit Art Center's website for complete application instructions, forms and tools, including the Media Design Practices Supplemental Application Form.

Apply Now.