The Design Leadership program is the only program of its kind in the country. No other institution offers the opportunity  for students to simultaneously work to earn graduate degrees from both a major college of art and design  and a business school at a major research university.

Our students aspire to become transformative leaders who engage organizations through creative processes that result in innovative solutions to real-world challenges. The curriculum delivers the knowledge necessary to prepare students for leadership positions in the private, nonprofit, and public service sectors.

The program has a standard program and extended version for working professionals, which begins with a MICA-run, four-credit summer intensive (Foundations of Design Leadership) that provides the heterogeneous student cohort a basis of shared knowledge, skills, and nomenclature. In the fall, students enroll in classes available through JHU’s Carey Business School part-time MBA program and in MICA’s MA in Design Leadership curriculum.

MBA Course Descriptions                                 

(JHU Carey School of Business)

Accounting and Financial Reporting

This course emphasizes the vocabulary, methods, and processes by which business transactions are communicated. Topics include the accounting cycle; basic business transactions involving assets, liabilities, equity, account revenue, and expense; as well as preparation and understanding of financial statements, including balance sheets, statements of income, and cash flows.


This course provides students with the basic skills needed for effective negotiation of business relationships in healthcare and other settings. The first part of the course focuses on understanding and developing a systematic approach to preparing for, structuring, and negotiating key business relationships. The second part of the course helps participants develop basic process and conflict management skills needed for effective negotiation of business relationships in healthcare. The course also explores the ethics of negotiation.

Statistical Analysis

Students learn statistical techniques for further study in business, economics, and finance. The course covers sampling distributions, probability, hypothesis testing, regression and correlation, basic modeling, analysis of variance, and chi-square testing. The course emphasizes statistics to solve management problems. Case studies, spreadsheets, and SPSS computer software are used.

Business Communication

This course refines student’s skills in written and oral communication to internal and external audiences. Through analyses and practice of communication strategies adopted by successful business professionals, students learn to write clearly and concisely, make compelling oral presentations, construct effective arguments.

Corporate Finance

This course is designed to introduce students to the basic, yet fundamental, issues of modern finance. The goal of the course is to provide students with the basic tools needed to successfully complete more advanced finance courses. This course deals primarily with a firm’s investment and financing decisions and its interactions with the capital markets. Students develop the fundamental principles of financial valuation and analysis, which provide a solid foundation for all other finance courses. (Pre-requisite: 210.620 Accounting & Financial Reporting)

Marketing Management

This course covers principles of market-driven managerial decision making that determine competitiveness in dynamic consumer and organizational markets.  Particular areas of emphasis include industry analyses, dynamics of competition, market segmentation, target marketing, channels of distribution, and product and pricing decisions.  In-depth analytical skills are developed through case analyses, class discussions, role playing, and applied projects

Economics for Decision Making

This is a microeconomics course with emphasis on the application of economic principles and methodologies to managerial decision problems. Major topics include consumer choice and demand, production and costs, market structures and output/price decisions. (Pre-requisite: 510.601 Statistical Analysis)

Operations Management

How do organizations create value by turning resources into outputs? Management challenges require an analysis and examination of the processes and operations for performing work functions within the framework of time objectives, resource management, and organizational goals. Students examine the effect of communication on relationships between operations and other business functions, such as marketing, finance, accounting, human resources, and management. Students gain experience in applying tools that help maintain product quality and customer satisfaction. (Pre-requisite: 520.601 Decision Models)

The Firm and the Macroeconomy

This macroeconomic course emphasizes the role of governments and their effect on the global business environment. Major topics include economic growth, inflation, unemployment, exchange rates, fiscal and monetary policy, and international finance. The course provides students with the necessary theoretical frame-work relevant to helping them develop an economic perspective for analyzing real-world phenomena.

Information Systems

This course addresses how markets, market mechanisms, and channels of product and service delivery are impacted and often transformed by information and communication technologies. Students will learn how technology, brought together with people and processes into systems, contributes to leveraging the creation of business value. The course considers different elements of the information architecture of the corporation and its impact on the nature of the work and the structure of the corporation.

Decision Models

This course introduce s students to some of the decision-modeling techniques available for analyzing business problems. Topics covered include decision analysis, nonlinear optimization, linear optimization, integer optimization, and simulation. Students become familiar with identifying problems, formulating models, using spreadsheets to seek answers, and then interpreting the results. (Pre-requisite: 510.601 Statistical Analysis)


Through an in-depth study of portfolio theory and asset-pricing models, students acquire the analytical skills necessary to conduct valuations of equities, fixed-income securities, and alternative investments. This exploration leads to an understanding of the concept of portfolio management and the importance of diversification in controlling portfolio risk. (Pre-requisite: 231.620 Corporate Finance)

Business Leadership and Human Values

This course explores ethical leadership as a framework for enterprise value creation in a complex environment of competing economic and moral claims. Students examine the intrinsic ethical challenges of leadership and the concept of a moral compass as a foundation for responding effectively to the ethical challenges of corporate citizenship and value creation in a competitive global economy.

Business Law

A thorough working knowledge of the legal and regulatory environment in which businesses operate is essential for well-prepared business executives. This course provides an overview of the legal and regulatory environment affecting business in the United States and abroad. Topics include forms of business organization, contracts, torts and product liability, international business transactions, antitrust law, environmental law, securities regulation, ethics, and discrimination and employment issues. Students are expected to utilize electronic library and Internet resources to complete assignments

Leadership in Organizations

Although this course is called Leadership in Organizations, its goal is about more than understanding organizational actors’ behavior. Its goal is to help student learn how to leverage organizational behavior to enhance their ability to lead, now and in the future. Specifically, this course seeks to provide students with both the analytical frameworks and the practical experience necessary to better lead individuals and groups in organizations. The analytical frameworks will help students to understand leadership; ; the practical experience will help students put that understanding into action. The goal is to help students lead, even if they do not currently find themselves in a formal, leadership role. The practices that are discussed will promote effectiveness at any level. 

MA Course Descriptions                                 

(Maryland Institue College of Art)

DESLD 5000: Foundations of Design Leadership

A rapidly changing market place demands leaders who must be intellectually dexterous and possess a range of skills and knowledge reflecting a multitude of creative disciplines. Foundations of Design Leadership is a series of workshops that surveys the language, tools, principles, and theories of disciplines related to design leadership as they apply to the generation of innovative design solutions. Each workshop concentrates on distinct skills needed for the program and with an emphasis on the unique make of the student cohort.  Focus is on a synthesis of design, technology, and business goals through the development of basic knowledge related key topics including, statistics, accounting, presentation techniques, design aesthetics and practice, marketing, product development, user experience, and design thinking.  Students with varied backgrounds representing the fields of business, technology, and design, share their experience through seminars, lectures, and final project while gaining new knowledge about industries in which they have limited background. The goal of Foundations of Design Leadership is to establish a common set of knowledge among the programs diverse cohort.

DESLD 5510: Collaboration, Interdisciplinarity, and Multidisciplinarity

Central to this course is an acknowledgement of the intrinsic limitations of individuals and individual disciplines and the need for collaboration among and between disciplines. Students in Collaboration, Interdisciplinarity, and Multidisciplinarity explore the possibilities presented by design activity and perspectives that fall between multiple disciplines and those that are shared among disciplines. Focus is on the development of a shared base of knowledge, methodology, context, and language, and on creating systems of shared accountability and coordination. Projects are designed to provide students with the opportunity to share their knowledge and approaches to design solutions with their colleagues through small teams which create cooperative structures and processes that operate nimbly to assess the dimensions of a design problem, measure the resources represented by the group’s heterogeneity, and conceive pioneering design outcomes. 

DESLD 5560: Prototyping

Students in Prototyping assess scenarios and outcomes while illustrating and modeling outcomes and prototypes. Application research, system feasibility, risk assessment, product lifecycle management (PLM) design and styling to sales and marketing, and the use of visual analytics are all methodically employed as the class explores a variety of approaches including proof‐of‐principle, form study, user experience, visual, and functional prototyping. Additional emphasis is placed on design methods to combine, expand, and refine ideas, and the creation of multiple drafts while seeking feedback from diverse groups of people, including end users, clients, etc. Students have access to MICA’s prototyping resources and investigate commercial prototyping resources as well.

DESDL 5520: Creativity and Innovation

Catalyst to meet, interact and learn from a wide variety of creative entrepreneurs and design professionals.  Guest-presenters will discuss the risks, endured setbacks, and the rewards as independent business people in a variety of creative fields.  Conversations and class projects will focus on conceiving design solutions through analyzing fundamental assumptions, assessing intuition, and working through iterative sequences that generate unexpected outcomes. Students’ work will culminate in independent multimedia projects that blend research, documented interviews, and innovative design.

DESDL 5570: Sustainability and Social Responsiveness

Emphasis is on the way design impacts our world. Methods of design in Sustainability and Social Responsiveness include tangible projects centering on community focused collaboration, civic engagement, research focused on cultural, social, political and economic factors, advancement in public policy, changes in lifestyle habits, or mass awareness of important issues. Students also investigate design strategies that use low‐impact, non‐toxic, sustainably produced, or recycled materials. Design concepts that emphasize energy efficiency, durability, product longevity, reuse and recycling, carbon footprint and life‐cycle sensitivity, biomimicry, service substitution, and other such sustainable approaches are investigated.

DESLD 5530: Cultural Relevance and Awareness

Conventions of what makes a well-designed product vary greatly from group to group. In Cultural Relevance and Awareness assumptions about good design are contextualized from distinct cultural perspectives and the nature of “good design” is challenged. Students investigate principles of cultural variance, Universal Design, Cultural‐Historical Activity Theory(CHAT), as well as inclusive approaches to design that focus on design consumers of various ages, abilities, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. Rather than the promotion of design approaches that reflect cultural diversity via embellishment emphasis is on a more encompassing macro‐level of design that is more holistic and inclusive.  This class will not just be the “study of.”  We will balance thinking and making.

DESLD 5540: Forecasting and Realization

What problem are you solving? This is the first and most critical question entrepreneurs grapple with when designing a new product or service and one we will explore in depth in this eight week studio class. Emphasis is placed on identifying complex or ‘wicked’ problems and market opportunities through user research, rapid prototyping, and measurement.  Students engage in research focused on identifying market opportunities through a deep understanding the user and market maturity, which is the foundation for creating products and services that solve real problems and create long term impact. Led by continuous research cycles, students will test and prototype their designs, create a market entry strategy, and employ methods for testing their assumptions and insights.

DESLD 5550 & DESLD 5580: The Competitive Advantage I and II

The Competitive Advantage consists of two eight‐week ateliers scheduled sequentially during the final two academic terms of the program and designed to synthesize all the various concepts explored throughout the program. Projects in these courses are based on real world challenges or case studies. Students work in teams with diverse membership representing the diversity of the students’ academic and professional backgrounds to fully realize original solutions. Members of the program faculty evaluate team progress and project quality and innovation through regular presentations by student teams. Learning and project evaluation is enhanced through a program of visiting scholars engaging students in regular discussions of student progress through critiques and seminars. Critical themes for The Competitive Advantage are the overarching themes of the degree: the synthesis of the two or more contrasting concepts or all together new ideas, creativity/innovation, iterative processes, and tolerance for new ideas, rationality, praxis, research, intuition, collaboration, synthesis, and empathy.