Center for Social Design

MICA's Center for Social Design is dedicated to demonstrating and promoting the value of design in advancing equity and social justice, and to inspiring and preparing the next generation of creative changemakers.

The Center for Social Design is the culmination of a decade of pioneering and experimental work to define and demonstrate new models of social design* education and practice. 

Over ten years of collaboration with partners in the public and social sectors across Baltimore has reinforced our commitment to increasing the social literacy of designers so they have a better understanding of the issues of equity, power, race and privilege that exist at the heart of the social problems we aim to address.

Our work breaks down the walls between disciplines and enables truly interdisciplinary work to take place. We’re committed to expanding opportunities for all students at MICA to deepen their design literacy, focusing not just on formal design skills and disciplines such as graphic design or architecture, but learning new methods and processes for engaging people in making and doing. This is human-centered design*.

Practice-based Studios

Our award-winning Practice-based Studios bring students from a variety of disciplines together with outside partners from government, nonprofit and business sectors to identify opportunities, generate ideas, and make tools for positive social change. To date, we’ve brought together more than 500 students across 12 disciplines at MICA to collaborate with outside partners on more than 100 projects.

M.A. in Social Design 

The M.A. in Social Design (MASD) is an intensive, 1-year graduate program grounded in a philosophy of practice-based learning combining theory and praxis, both action and reflection. The first degree-bearing program of its kind, our curriculum introduces students to a broad theoretical framework for social design, exposes them to a variety of models for social impact, immerses them into the human-centered design process, and prepares them with a core set of skills necessary to pursue professional opportunities in the practice of social design.

Post-Graduate Associates

Our Post-Graduate Associate opportunities provide select MASD graduates with a 1-year, paid, Associate position in the Center for Social Design to continue to build their professional practice. Associates are embedded into funded projects with outside partners and serve as mentors to current MASD students.

Impact Initiatives

Our Impact Initiatives are long-term, funded, multi-year projects and initiatives designed to deepen our engagement with outside partners and our commitment to shifting the power structures and relationships that enable systemic injustice and inequity at a local, national and international level. 

* What is social design?

Social design is a creative practice dedicated to understanding social problems and supporting positive social change. Social design doesn't solve social problems. Social design creates opportunities that shift relationships between people and people, and people and institutions, to support positive social change.

* What is human-centered design?

Human-centered design (HCD) is a collaborative, creative process dedicated to understanding people’s needs and designing interventions that better serve people’s needs. HCD supplements and enhances existing research and views problems through the perspective of the people directly impacted. HCD is informed by qualitative insights and thrives as part of a multidisciplinary set of approaches, imagining new possibilities and what could be. HCD positions lived experience as expertise, involving people in every step of the design process, as co-creators and experts.