The master's program in strategic communication design (STCM) crosses traditional divides and champions the global value of innovation by design, pointing to a new way of working, seeing, making and thinking in the 21st century creative economy. It’s not only that the boundaries between design disciplines are blurring. So are the boundaries between design and everyday life––between work, play, social innovation, leadership and management, along with an increasing awareness, evolution and dedication to value-driven efforts through and by design.

Students work in an open studio environment in transdisciplinary teams, consider issues from multiple perspectives, learn from community and industry leaders, and emerge with a portfolio of work that showcases design as a process for transforming social relations and contemporary life through the design of innovative products and experiences.

The paths that students travel from start to finish of the STCM can vary, depending on individual interests and goals. We have a required core curriculum that all students in STCM take over three semesters. The core design curriculum functions as a through line, providing a common foundation for all students in the program. This common core curriculum is complemented by a variety of electives developed within our individual studios and select graduate courses offered throughout CU Boulder. Students can choose from a diverse range of elective courses that address their specific individual interests. This arrangement allows students to design an individual degree path buttressed by a solid foundational core.


Application Requirements

Applications are reviewed on a rolling admissions basis for the STCM master's. We evaluate applications as they are completed, and acceptances are meted out on a first-come, first-served basis for each prospective qualified student. We accept a maximum of 24 students for the program each calendar year.

Our students have a desire to become design-based leaders, thinkers and doers. The personal statement is an essential part of the student's application. In a maximum of 1,500 words, students should supply long- form answers to the following questions:

  • What attracts you to the program at this time? What do you envision as the most compelling opportunities for you as a designer and also a future leader who can lead by design.
  • What particular experiences––personal or professional––have prepared you for work in design?
  • Why is design important to you and how would you use it to change the world?

How to Apply

The application is listed under Strategic Communication Design on the Graduate School website.

Required materials, a list of which can also be found in the application, are as follows:

  • Three letters of recommendation: These should come from professionals and/or professors. No personal recommendations please.
  • Unofficial transcripts.
  • Writing sample: A sample of the student's writing that they feel is exemplary and representative of their writing abilities.
  • Portfolio: We will be happy to view a portfolio if provided, but submission of a portfolio is optional.
  • TOEFL score report: International applicants must have a TOEFL score of at least 600 (IBT 100).
  • Application fee: A nonrefundable application fee of $60 is also required ($80 for international).
  • We do not require STCM applicants to take the GRE.


For questions regarding the application, please contact executive director David Slayden ( to speak with you and discuss your ambitions and opportunities to be expected within the program.

Program Requirements

The STCM is a 39-hour professional masters degree program to be completed within a single calendar year—from August to August—over four semesters: Fall, Spring, Maymester and Summer Session D. We follow the CU Boulder calendar and, in doing so, are guided by a year-long arc from Foundations (fall semester) to Variations and Explorations (spring semester), to Solutions (Maymester and Summer Session D).

The master's degree is awarded for successful completion of 39 credits over four contiguo­­us semesters. Students must maintain a 3.0 cumulative grade point average and fulfill all requirements in a timely manner.

Plan of Study

Plan of Study Grid
Year One
Fall SemesterCredit Hours
CORE (required)  
APRD 5005 3
APRD 5006 Introduction to Designing for Entrepreneurism 3
APRD 6871 Special Topics 3
ELECTIVES (required)  
APRD 5002 Experience Design Foundations 3
 Credit Hours12
Spring Semester
Variations and Explorations  
CORE (required)  
APRD 5007 3
APRD 5008 Access to Tools for Entrepreneurism by Design 3
APRD 5017 3
APRD 6871 Special Topics 3
Foundations of Strategic Brand Design  
Toward a Unified Theory of Brand Equity  
Interaction Design and the Digital Delivery of Products and Services  
Advanced Tools of Interaction Design  
 Credit Hours15
CORE (required)  
APRD 5010 Design Sprint (Maymester) 3
APRD 6871 Special Topics 3
Designing for Branded Experiences  
Brand Design for Sustainable Futures  
Experience Design and Narratives of Interaction  
APRD 5019
Special Topics  
 Credit Hours12
 Total Credit Hours39