Chatham University

The Master of Arts (M.A.) and Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) in Interdisciplinary Design (ID) programs blend user-centered research with multimedia storytelling to create powerful interactive experiences.

The M.A. is a three semester, 30 credit hour program that can be completed in one year. Students who wish to earn the M.F.A. can continue for an additional year (36 credit hours).

Program Goals & Aims

Our programs drive students to embrace the changing role of today's designers and:

  • discover connections between end-user, designer, and design
  • develop specialized skills across media
  • deliver effective designs and other services

Integrated Media

Print Design

Print Design

Build brand experiences and identities and that evidence aesthetic and strategic understanding to allow work to move consistently across various print-based platforms.

Video/Motion Design

Video/Motion Design

Build effective motion aesthetics through narrative storylines, duration, tempo and montage. Create effective messages the through rhythmic relationships between frames, events, images, and sounds.

Interactive Design

Interactive Design

Build simple databases to construct dynamic customized user generated content. Gain experience with User Experience (UX), Interaction Design (IxD), Interface Design (ID) research and applications.

We borrow research methods from cognitive psychology; business and marketing; anthropology; information science; and communication. And we use research in all phases of design – from determining user needs to implementing solutions.

Our program recognizes the shifts in design education

The world no longer exclusively depends on printed materials; if anything, printed materials often serve as conduit to drive people to the web and mobile devices.

We are moving from broadcast one-way communication toward designing experiences which lead people into structured participation and digital engagement.

Contemporary design thinking and research methods work effectively across disciplines to shape our understanding of complex business, social and cultural issues.

Everyone is a creator/ maker. Since the world now has templates, designers have become the ones to build those structured experiences.

The above represent a shift from a focus on designing commercial goods to one on co-designing processes which focus on understanding problems and designing experiences and services.

Innovative Curriculum

A sample of our innovative courses includes:

Branded Environments
Integrates traditional branding (a hallmark of many undergraduate design programs) with an emphasis on spatial planning. Aims to orient students towards thinking within environments such as small scale retail spaces and/or exhibition design.

Information Design
Situates the growing importance of shaping relevant data to the needs of clients. Mapping serves as a tool toward researching complex problems, synthesizing findings, highlighting key insights, and revealing possible responses.

Green Graphic Design
Places design practices within the conversations of sustainability that help clients build visual strategies that meet the needs of sustainable communication.

View the whole curriculum.

On Chatham's Approach

  • "Because of the rapidly changing nature of these fields, responsiveness and adaptability are at least as important as any specific skills. The best thing we can do for out students is teach them to teach themselves, which is what they will need to do as the technology continues to evolve."

    – Prajna Parasher,
    Professor and Chair of Arts, Humanities, Design, and Communication; Program Director of Film and Digital Technology programs

Skills for the design field


Analytic discourse within class critiques culminates in the program wide "survey" experience that mirrors the world they will meet upon graduation. Chatham students receive faculty-led, department-wide critiques at the culmination of each semester, gaining valuable feedback from peer, faculty and professional artists and designers.


Technical Agility

Students move from foundations to mastery in an array of software and languages: Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Dreamweaver, After Effects); Final Cut Pro; HTML/CSS; JavaScript. Graduates will move across interfaces and understand the tools' strengths and limitations when considering platforms and devices utilized for integrated communications. A significant part of "mastery" in this field is recognition that change is rapid and innovation is the norm.

MA Thesis/MFA Thesis Experience

Students' theses bridge theory, historical frameworks, and research methods, drawing on other disciplines as appropriate. For example, cognitive psychology may be used to enrich a designer's understanding of emotional design used in interactive frameworks. Concurrently with producing stellar work, students are expected to use their theses to grapple with issues raised by critical theory.

A Thesis Advisor and advisory board work closely with each student to guide his or her research and to facilitate the free flow of ideas amongst departments and graduate students in other disciplines.


Video: Purchased Identities


Print Design: Brand Identity

Regional Internship Partners

Our students have held internships at companies including:

Buzz Studios
Schell Games
St. Lynn's Press
Maniac Magazine
Pittsburgh Magazine
Pittsburgh Post Gazette
Carnegie Museum of Art

Pittsburgh's Community of Design Professionals

Centrally located in the northeast, Pittsburgh is located a day's drive from a number of major cities including Chicago, Detroit, Washington DC and New York City.

Chatham University's MA/MFA program is located on the Shadyside campus, minutes from downtown Pittsburgh and within the heart of the design communities–East Liberty, Oakland, Lawrenceville, Southside–in close proximity to a network of design professionals.

Award-winning faculty are culled from industry with decades of professional design experience in publication, corporate communications, product and package advertising, media and interactive design studios.

Inspiration in the field