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Design for Health (MDes)

Responding to the complexity of health care through a comprehensive, academically-rich design approach. Empowering designers to create ethical, sustainable solutions to pressing challenges across the health sector.

Elevate Solution is an application designed to enhance communication between patient and healthcare professionals. Work by Kia Alavi.

Design for Health (MDes)

Designers affect the quality of life and well-being of individuals and entire populations through the designs they create. Today, some of the most exciting design work is being carried out in the broad and diverse field of health. 

OCAD University’s Master of Design (MDes) in Design for Health offers you a unique opportunity to create designed solutions to health challenges.

Nearly every aspect of health care needs design expertise. Here’s a sample:

  • Charting streamlined pathways for accessing treatments such as chemotherapy
  • Closing the gaps in hospital-based infection control
  • Consulting on health-promotion approaches to urban development
  • Enhancing patients’ and care providers’ management of chronic diseases
  • Expanding access to information and services across diverse communities

Problem Based Learning through Studio

The interdisciplinary Design for Health program has four main themes delivered primarily through studio-based learning with partnered projects:

  • Health context: Develop domain knowledge to health, healthcare delivery, communications, technology and innovation.
  • Research and application: Identify, design, conduct and apply qualitative, co-design, and evidence based techniques to health challenges.
  • Design and innovation: Create new, ethical, and sustainable solutions with health sector stakeholders, patients, and partners.
  • Proficiency and leadership within interdisciplinary collaborations: Be embedded in interdisciplinary teams of researchers, health-service providers and designers to develop design solutions and communicate outcomes.

Current and Future Needs in the Health Sector

Many issues are calling out for people with specialised design-for-health knowledge and skills. Some of the most urgent are:

  • Increases in chronic diseases
  • An aging population
  • Escalating costs and shrinking budgets
  • The emergence of new infections
  • Growing cultural diversity
  • Consumer demand for more involvement in care planning and delivery
  • A shift to multi-setting health-care delivery
  • The spread of digital technologies

Embedded in the Health Context

We are situated in downtown Toronto at the heart of Canada’s creative sector, and just a short walk from world-calibre hospitals and health-research institutes.

The MDes in Design for Health leverages our location in the heart of the medical sector of Toronto as well as our faculty members’ expertise and abundant collaborations and connections to offer you an unparalleled environment in which to expand your knowledge and experience.

For Designers and Health Sector Specialists

We developed the MDes in Design for Health primarily for people who already have educational and practical experience in an area of design but also for people in the health sector who are committed to design. Most students will hold an undergraduate degree in design or a related field, and some will have experience in health administration, patient advocacy, health services, or health technology. 

Design for Health Scholarships and Funding

We have many scholarships and funding opportunities available to students in the Design for Health program. We awarded over $60 000 in scholarships in 2016.

One of our scholarships is the AGEWELL award which is a collaboration between OCAD U and the AGEWELL Network on the topic of aging. For this scholarship there are special application requirements.

Program options

  • Full-time, 20 months (5 semesters)
  • Part-time, 32 months (8 semesters)

Special features

  • Faculty members who are directly engaged in health-design research and innovation
  • Small class sizes and close faculty and student collaborations
  • On-site studio learning with local partner organizations
  • Guest lectures by designers, scholars and industry experts
  • Optional internships with design/health-innovation companies
  • Elective and shared courses from other graduate programs at OCAD University and other post-secondary institutions
  • Connections – that support research and experiential learning – with leading health-care organizations in Toronto and elsewhere
  • Potential for support for the commercialization of ideas and products through the Imagination Catalyst, OCAD University’s entrepreneurial and commercialization hub


2016 - 2019 Program Overview

MDes Overview - Full-Time

MDes Overview - Part-Time

Program Course Offerings

For a complete list of courses for this program,
please see the applicable program guides:

View Program Guides

*Elective courses from an approved list or by permission of the Graduate Program Director.