Show/Hide Images

Design for Health (MDes)

North America’s only program that responds to the complexity of health care through a comprehensive, academically-rich design approach. Empowering designers to create ethical, sustainable solutions to pressing social, structural and technological challenges across the health sector.
Starting September 2016

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. This includes design to support critical advances in diagnosis, treatment, patient management, organizational flow, technology assessment, policy-making, communication and a host of other inter-related concerns.

OCAD University’s Master of Design (MDes) in Design for Health offers you a unique opportunity to become part of this vibrant area by enrolling in North America’s only program that responds to the complexity of health care through a comprehensive, knowledge-rich design approach.

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

Whatever direction you choose to take, the MDes in Design for Health program will empower you to create ethical, sustainable solutions to pressing social, structural and technological challenges across the health sector. 


Main program themes

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

  • Health context: Develop domain knowledge to public health, health sciences, communication and technology.
  • Research and application: Identify, design, conduct and apply research methodologies in health-care environments.
  • Design and innovation: Create new, ethical and sustainable solutions to solve health-sector problems.
  • 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.

Context and need

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


Why learn with OCAD University?

For over half a century, Canada’s pre-eminent university of art, design and new media has been a leader in the development of the country’s design capacity. In addition, 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 prime location as well as our faculty members’ expertise and abundant industry connections to offer you an unparalleled environment in which to expand your knowledge and career.

Prospective students

We developed the MDes in Design for Health primarily for people who already have educational and practical experience in an area of design. Most students will hold an undergraduate degree; however, in some cases people who lack a relevant undergraduate degree but who have experience in health administration, health services or technology – and who also have a deep interest in or familiarity with design innovation – will be admitted. 


Opportunities for graduates

Graduates of the Design for Health program will be ready to take on leadership roles in many health-related fields, including:

  • Environmental design
  • Technology, product and service design
  • Technology, product and service assessment
  • Media and communications
  • Policy-making and research

Potential employers include hospital-based innovation centres, health and medical-device manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, public health agencies, communications firms, advocacy organizations and governments. Graduates might also develop careers in private-sector industries such as health-care architectural design and health-services planning and delivery. The MDes in Design for Health is also excellent preparation for entrepreneurial careers, as well as for PhD-level studies in subjects such as health administration, public health, architecture and communications.

Program options

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

Some key features

  • Faculty members who are directly engaged in health-design research and innovation
  • Small class sizes and the ability to interact deeply with faculty and fellow students
  • 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

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