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Curriculum & Specializations

Information Design and Strategy

Information Design and Strategy Curriculum & Specializations

The Master of Science in Information Design & Strategy requires completion of 12 courses to obtain a degree. These requirements cover eight core courses, three elective courses corresponding to a declared specialization and a capstone project (498) or thesis (590). A specialization should be declared as part of the application process. Students who already have experience in one area of specialization may create a custom course of study by selecting any three elective courses. Current students should refer to curriculum requirements in place at time of entry into the program.

Degree Requirements

Curriculum Overview 

The Master's in Information Design and Strategy requires the completion of 12 courses. This covers eight core courses, three courses corresponding to a declared specialization track, one leadership course and a capstone (498) or thesis (590) project. Specializations allow students to tailor their studies to specific career goals. Current students should refer to curriculum requirements in place at time of entry into the program. 

Core courses (required):

IDS 401-DL User-Centered Design

The User-Centered Design course gives students hands-on experience with the latest design frameworks and methodologies that focus on the end user. Students will learn how a user focused design process can be used to solve the most challenging problems facing businesses and organizations today. Students will be introduced to the latest trends in design thinking, the importance of iterative design frameworks, researching user needs, prototyping, collaboration and critical feedback.

View IDS 401-DL Sections

IDS 403-DL Effective Communication

When we add ourselves to the professional world—as a writer, an artist, or a technician (or myriad other professions), we find ourselves deep in the culture of organizations. We have to learn how to communicate in these environments and with people who often communicate quite differently than we do. In order to be efficient in our communication, we must be aware of our own communication strengths and weaknesses. We consciously and unconsciously are determining the audience we are communicating with, in order to tailor our message for effectiveness. In this day and age, digital communication plays an important and necessary role, as well. In this course, we will review and evaluate the above ideas so that students will learn how to communicate their fundamental ideas productively—from developing to writing to delivering specifications, reports, and presentations. We will examine collaboration, rhetoric, and storytelling in a professional context to assist in meeting our course goals.

View IDS 403-DL Sections

IDS 405-DL User Research

Students will learn how to conduct quantitative and qualitative research of user behavior to inform the design, development, and ongoing maintenance of digital assets. The course will give students hands-on experience with the key tools of usability testing, including prototyping, interviewing, site surveys, and site analytics.

View IDS 405-DL Sections

IDS 407-DL Information and Content Strategy

This course will explore how to plan and consistently execute content that supports an organization’s goals. Students will learn how to develop a content strategy, conduct a qualitative content audit, develop controlled vocabularies and lexicons, and choose the right medium (text, image, video, social interaction) for their message.

View IDS 407-DL Sections

IDS 409 Data Management Principles

Database systems are at the core of modern information systems. In this course, students will explore the principles of data management and data extraction. Database design, modeling, and implementation concepts will be reviewed and discussed. Students will learn how the different forms of data such as structured data in SQL databases, and unstructured data in NoSQL database systems are stored and accessed. Students will also learn how to query a database and extract useful information to support the decision making process for information design and strategy. The course has hands-on modules that provide the students with SQL and NoSQL programming skills in order to extract and process data from a database engine and present the information in forms suitable for end-users.

View IDS 409-DL Sections

IDS 411-DL Information Design and Architecture

Students will explore how to effectively design, organize, retrieve, and use information. Our goal will be to create structures that support the organization’s content strategy and facilitate user understanding and navigation. Topics will include semantic analysis, content hierarchy, metadata, and search engine optimization. Students will also learn how to analyze, design, and implement service oriented architecture (SOA) solutions.

View IDS 411-DL Sections

IDS 413-DL Visual Communication

Digital media rely on imagery and layout to communicate important and complex messages to its users. In this course, students will learn how cognitive science, cartography, human-computer interactions, design, and typography affect the ways that we perceive and interpret visual messages. Students will also learn techniques for identifying good visual design.

View IDS 413-DL Sections

Leaders 481

The purpose of this course is to identify the fundamental leadership behaviors that enable people to excel in their careers, and to help students apply these behaviors to personal and professional success. The course builds from the basic premise that leadership is learned and looks at the theory and practice of leadership at the individual and organizational level. The course will explore definitions of leadership, the importance of leadership, leadership styles, the role of vision and integrity, the importance of giving and receiving feedback, how to lead change and solve problems, effective teamwork, and communication strategies. The culmination of the class will be a personal leadership development plan formulated by each student.

View LEADERS 481-DL Sections (online)                View LEADERS 481-0 Sections (on campus)

Data Science and Analytics Specialization 

The Data Science and Analytics specialization will give designers the tools they need to communicate complex data accurately and effectively. The courses in this specialization will enable students to work with data analysts within their organizations to translate data into images and stories that executives and customers can understand.

IDS 452-DL Intro to Data and Analytics

This course will introduce students to the appropriate uses of analytics and its limitations and define how to approach the various stakeholders within an organization with analytic information. Included will be a review of the ethical, regulatory, and compliance issues related to a given business problem and/or solution. Time will be spent interpreting performance-based organizational issues while concurrently identifying solutions for these same performance-based organizational issues. In addition, time will be spent identifying best practices to plan for engaging, implementing, and sustaining organizational change.

Prerequisites: Students should have a basic understanding of Microsoft Excel.


IDS 453-DL Techniques of Analytics

Students learn to apply statistical techniques to the processing and interpretation of data from various industries and disciplines. This course introduces statistical models as they are used in predictive analytics. It addresses issues of statistical model specification and model selection, as well as best practices in developing models for management.

View IDS 453-DL Sections

IDS 455-DL Data and Text Visualization

This course entails learning by doing—working with data and text, utilizing models of text and data, working within an open-source programming environment, and building interactive visualizations for the web. It reviews the psychology of human perception and cognition and best practices in visualization and web design. Assignments involve reviewing and developing interactive visualizations of text, time series, networks, and maps. This is a project-based course with individual and team assignments.

View IDS 455-DL Sections

Content Strategy Specialization 

Professional writers today must adapt content to multiple platforms and channels, but how do they do this while retaining the essential messages? The Content Strategy specialization will enable students to improve the impact of their writing and make full use of the expressive possibilities of digital media.

IDS 432-DL Advanced Writing Workshop

In this graduate advanced writing workshop, students of information design and strategy will explore the use of hybrid and technical craft in writing to communicate their sensory, emotional, and practical knowhow through the use of experimental creative writing assignments and information design writing projects that will prepare them for the marketplace. Students will also study comprehensive texts in hybrid writing and storytelling, and engage in collective discussions of weekly reading topics while producing assignments that evolve from visual and informational experiences which are related to the field. At its heart, this course requires readings, instructions, and practice that give graduate students insight into storytelling and technical writing methods to help awaken present-day content creation and management processes.

View IDS 432-DL Sections

IDS 433 Social Media and Content Curation

This course will help professional writers effectively implement a social media strategy. It provides a detailed overview of each of the major social networking websites and how consumers and businesses use them. Students will also learn how to effectively identify, select, and share the best and most relevant online content for their audience.

IDS 435-DL Persuasion

Acts of persuasion influence us in all aspects of our lives. This course will examine the different ways in which we observe and use persuasion in the communication we have with our families and friends, our workplace, and the general public. How effective are we? How are we affected by persuasion? We will explore how we use communication strategically to facilitate persuasion, both in thought and in action. We will look at the foundations and ethics of persuasion, including how we process persuasion, as well as how digital media affects the use of persuasion. In addition, we will explore various mediums and modes of persuasion through a variety of written and creative projects. The course will culminate in an overall assessment of how persuasion impacts us, as individuals and as a society, in a project that reflects influence in the workplace. Students should identify and apply their professional and personal life experiences to the course materials, as well as have a working understanding of communication and writing.

Learning Design Specialization 

Effective educators design new information in ways that people can engage with, understand, and use. The Learning Design specialization will help prepare educators, corporate training professionals, online learning designers, librarians, and museum professionals create meaningful and pedagogically sound digital learning experiences.

IDS 422-DL Introduction to Learning Theory

Effective instructional design begins with an understanding of the learning process. In this course, students will learn behaviorist, cognitive, constructivist, and social learning theories, and their relationship to instructional practices and course design. Factors that influence learning, such as learning styles, motivation, and engagement, are also explored.

View IDS 422-DL Sections

IDS 423-DL Instructional Design

Students learn the foundational principles and elements of instructional systems, from analysis through evaluation. They will explore commonly-used instructional design models and learn how to apply them in an education or training environment. Students will practice incorporating sound instructional strategies into the design and development of prototypes in real-world instructional settings.

IDS 425-DL Learning Environment Design

This course is an introduction to the ideas, principles, and techniques used in educational media or systems, focusing on both the theoretical and practical aspects of design. The process of design will be guided by various design frameworks, and informed by current research on the design and study of learning environments. Students will learn how to assess interactive learning models and solutions. They will also learn how various technologies can affect the behavioral, cognitive, and social dimensions of learning.

View IDS 425-DL Sections

Capstone or Thesis

As their final course, students take either the individual research project in an independent study format or the classroom final project class in which students integrate the knowledge they have gained in the core curriculum in a project presented by the instructor. In both cases students are guided by faculty in exploring the body of knowledge on information design and strategy while contributing research of practical value to the field. The capstone independent project and capstone class project count as one unit of credit.

Pre-requisite: Students may take one other course simultaneously with MSA 498. All other course requirements must have been completed prior to the commencement of this course.

View IDS 498-DL Sections

IDS 498-DL Capstone

The capstone project course is the culmination of the IDS program and demonstrates to faculty a student's mastery of the curriculum and core competencies in the information design and strategy field. Working individually, students complete a comprehensive project chosen in conjunction with their instructors. Students are individually assessed and graded throughout the duration of class. Students should retain all course material from previous classes in the program, including textbooks, to successfully complete assignments.

Students may choose this course or registration in the 590 individual thesis research to fulfill their capstone requirement.

 Students may take one other course simultaneously with IDS498-DL. All core course requirements must have been completed prior to the commencement of this course.

IDS 590-DL Thesis Research

This final project is meant to represent the culmination of students’ experience in the program and must demonstrate mastery of the curriculum and ability to conduct sustained independent research and analysis. The project may be applied or may be a traditional scholarly paper; in both cases a write-up following the paper’s program-specific guidelines is required. Students must submit a proposal and secure a first reader in order to register; for further details students are advised to review the student handbook and contact their academic adviser.

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