The Master of Design program focuses on communication and participatory design that will show students how to help strengthen their community, the state of Arkansas and beyond through design.
“Everyone at the School of Art is proud to offer another extraordinary master’s program,” said Gerry Snyder, executive director of the School of Art. “This program will prepare students to advance their professional practice as culturally responsive designers and bring community-centered mindsets to leadership positions in any industry or sector.”
The program will accept students with diverse educational and professional experience, offering three-year and two-year degree plan options.
The three-year Master of Design plan is for applicants who do not hold a bachelor’s degree in graphic design or a similar field. This cohort of students will receive a foundational year of study preparing them to enter the standard two-year degree plan.
Thanks to a generous gift from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation, all graduate students accepted into the program will receive funding during their years of study.
“The Master of Design program hopes to welcome a diverse group of designers and students to the School of Art,” said Marty Maxwell Lane, director of the School of Art and associate professor of graphic design. “We believe designers have a unique opportunity to inspire meaningful change through design. The extraordinary faculty is dedicated to providing education, resources and design accountability to translate the concept of building a better world into action.”
Through applied and speculative studio-based work, the Master of Design program prepares students for emerging roles that the field can play in involving communities in participatory design processes that generate equitable and sustainable solutions to design problems.
The curriculum also addresses a research-led professional context increasingly defined by information, product and service ecologies in which digital technologies are primary means of delivery and venues for citizen and consumer experiences.
“Whether students are interested in design leadership positions in the industry, teaching in academia or doing community-centered design work, they will learn skills and strategies that prepare them to shape the future of the design discipline,” said Alison Place, graphic design program director and assistant professor.
Students will also have the opportunity to facilitate and participate in activities with the Design Clinic, a community space dedicated to outreach through design that supports advancing social justice causes catering to the nonprofit and entrepreneurial community in Northwest Arkansas and the surrounding region. The Design Clinic will be housed within the new Windgate Studio and Design Center, expected to open in spring 2023.
Bree McMahon, an assistant professor of graphic design, will lead the program as the director of graduate studies.
“This program will provide students with exciting opportunities and modes of learning that are unique to the region,” McMahon said. “We’re very eager to continue enriching the design community in Arkansas alongside amazing colleagues, collaborators and supporters. Students in the program will have experiences that prepare them for many design roles, especially those concerned with their communities. We look forward to seeing how their work will radiate through Northwest Arkansas and beyond.”
McMahon is a passionate educator, designer and mentor to students.
Alongside different collaborators, McMahon develops and facilitates workshops for design students that examine complex topics through dialogical project prompts that encourage critical perspective and learning. More recently, her research explores how design can address the complexities of the maternal healthcare system in Arkansas.
“Bree’s experience with students and her own research — exploring methods for disrupting traditional approaches to design pedagogy — bring important insights to the new Master of Design program,” said Christopher Schulte, assistant director of the School of Art and endowed professor of art education. “The interests and ethics that shape Bree’s practice as a designer will serve as a powerful resource for students, their work and the learning they experience as part of this new program.”
Applications for the new program are now being accepted for the 2022-23 academic year.
Individuals interested in applying are encouraged to register and attend an information session on Jan. 18, 2022, with the graphic design faculty. All applications are due by the March 15, 2022. For more information about the U of A Graduate School and Master of Design application process, please visit art.uark.edu.