Doctor of Design

A doctoral degree for practicing design professionals who want to build recognized expertise in a specific topic area and elevate their professional career to a new level.

Program Description

The DDes is intended for mid-career design professionals with at least five to seven years of professional experience and a desire to augment the expertise developed in their career through focused, applied research at the doctoral level.

Over the course of the degree, the DDes student develops and completes a work-integrated learning program centred around an applied creative design practice-based research project. Since the research question is based on the student’s work experience and expertise, the degree work starts with substantive tacit knowledge and professional-practice experience related to the inquiry. In situations where additional knowledge or expertise is required, the DDes student will work with their supervisor to include an appropriate informal (through a professional-based experience) or formal (such as a directed study course or online course) in their course of study.  

The DDes is an opportunity for mid-career professionals to explore their research question in an intense and rigorous practice-based project that is distinct from, but parallel to, their professional work. Students can continue to work full-time in their profession during the degree, working closely with their supervisory committee for feedback and mentorship.

Twice a year, all DDes students participate in a three-day research symposium to publicly present in-progress research and receive critical feedback from an expert panel of interdisciplinary academics and professionals, their supervisory committee, and fellow students. The format of the semi-annual symposia capitalizes on the well-recognized strength of studio pedagogy — the foundation of design education, particularly in first-professional degrees in architecture, planning, and landscape architecture. Replicating this model at the doctoral level fosters a rich and supportive interdisciplinary learning environment and research culture — familiar to students in the design disciplines.

In the fall term of the second year, students will normally complete their candidacy examination which is based on their research proposal, the work completed in the three required courses, and an evaluation of the progress to date on the research project. The candidacy examination is normally public and takes place during the fall research symposium. 

In addition to receiving feedback and mentorship on the research project at the symposia, students attend in-person classes for required courses, provide feedback on research presentations by their peers, and attend guest lectures and roundtable discussions with the panel of experts. 

Between symposia, students actively interact and receive guidance from their supervisory committee on an individual basis as they work through the degree.

After candidacy, students usually complete the research over an eighteen month period. During this time, they continue to publicly present at each semi-annual research symposia, receiving feedback on their work from the guest review panel of visiting experts, their supervisory committee, and their peers. Normally, students will defend their dissertation and mount a public exhibition of their work at a public defense during the spring research symposia in their third year.

Barry Wylant, Associate Professor, Graduate Program Director


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