Master of Design

Sept 2022 Entry
Programme code: 73035

Duration & Credit Requirement

Duration & Credit Requirement

Stream Code

IBD for Innovative Business Design (Full-time)
ISD for Intelligent Systems Design (Full-time)
SSD for Smart Service Design (Full-time)
TED for Transitional Environments Design (Full-time)

Mode of Study
Mixed Mode
Normal Duration

Innovative Business Design - 1 year (Full-time)
Intelligent Systems Design - 1 year (Full-time)
Smart Service Design - 1 year (Full-time)
Transitional Environments Design - 1 year (Full-time)

Credits Required for Graduation

36 for Innovative Business Design specialism
36 for Intelligent Systems Design specialism
36 for Smart Service Design specialism
36 for Transitional Environments Design specialism

Fund Type
Initial Registration Credits

4 for local students
10 for non-local students

Tuition Fee

HK$4,850 per credit for local students
HK$5,550 per credit for non-local students

Targeted Taught Postgraduate Programmes Fellowships Scheme
A total of 26 fellowships shall be awarded to local students. Please click here for details.

PolyU reserves the right to change or withdraw the fellowship at any time. In case of any dispute/disagreement, PolyU’s decision is final.

Programme Leader(s)

Prof. Stephen J. Wang

  • During the application period, the School reviews applications in several admissions rounds. Early Round: December 10, 2021; Round 1: January 21, 2022; Round 2: March 11, 2022; Round 3: April 30, 2022.

Aims & Characteristics

Aims & Characteristics

Programme Aims

The Master of Design Scheme contains four specialisms: Innovative Business Design (IBD), Intelligent Systems Design (ISD), Smart Service Design (SSD), and Transitional Environments Design (TED).  Hong Kong, a world-class city, offers an international environment that blends Eastern and Western influences.  Students study in English but explore the increasingly world-changing context of Chinese culture as they acquire interdisciplinary skills and cultural experiences that extend their creative, critical, and analytical thinking, and development across boundaries.  Exploring aspects of interdisciplinary design across specialisms in line with global trends is highly encouraged within the Scheme.  International and interdisciplinary faculty members prepare students to take charge of their future learning, and development in the nimble and quickly changing world of design.


Master of Design (Innovative Business Design) (IBD)

The Master of Design (Innovative Business Design) (IBD) is an interdisciplinary specialism based on a design-centred entrepreneurship approach.  Students apply integrative design thinking processes and methods to define business opportunities, configure resources, and manage projects with dynamic capabilities in an era of digital presumption and business uncertainty.


The aims of this specialism are:

  1. to foster transdisciplinary knowledge through systematic integration;
  2. to impart an understanding of the essentials of design, business, and technology;
  3. to provide practice-based research opportunities and integrative design thinking training;
  4. to incubate talents for the transformation of Hong Kong’s industries; and
  5. to identify opportunities and resources for improving lives and economies at the local, regional, and global levels.


Master of Design (Intelligent Systems Design) (ISD)

The Master of Design (Intelligent Systems Design) (ISD) is an emerging specialism with interdisciplinarity at its core, based on the integration of intelligent technologies, system theories, and innovation design approaches, pulling together professional knowledge in the areas of design and STEM. To achieve "industrial transformative innovation", ISD aims at bolstering the most cutting-edge and competitive industries, enabled by advanced technologies and processes such as AI, Industry 4.0, robotics, and AIoT (AI+IoT), through systemic design innovations.


The aims of this specialism are:

  1. to nurture creativity and design ability of the students by enabling them to embrace intelligent and systemic approaches;
  2. to develop students' awareness of present and emerging technologies in the innovation industry and advanced manufacturing (e.g. Industry 4.0) environment;
  3. to promote an understanding of supporting marketing and business practices; and
  4. to enhance the awareness of the impact of designed objects on human, social, environmental, and global domains through developing more responsible, transparent, and ethical design processes. 


A combination of theory, planning strategies, research, and technical skills provides the foundation for studio subjects that explore emerging aspects of user experience (UX) and interaction design, based on human needs and desires as well as technological development.


Master of Design (Smart Service Design) (SSD)

The Master of Design (Smart Service Design) (SSD) is an interdisciplinary specialism focusing on designing at the intersection of business, technology, and human ingenuity to create meaningful service interventions for broader societal and business challenges. This specialism expands the scope of design beyond the current commercialised and compartmentalised professional practices by orienting it towards the "socio-technical dimension of design" with a critical, systemic, and human-centred perspective within the context of service.


The specialism is designed to nurture students and develop their theoretical and practical knowledge of service design. SSD fosters the extension of students' abilities through a deep understanding of the technological, commercial, societal, and organisational contexts, presenting the transformation of design opportunities into new and sustainable service experiences.


The aims of this specialism are:

  1. to deepen the understanding of end-to-end service journeys and design service ecosystems across multiple services;
  2. to identify how the centrality of users' needs and interests of different groups of stakeholders in the human-centred design process is complemented in business and organisation in the broader service industry, and apply the same in practice;
  3. to develop and apply service design to a range of business, societal, and environmental challenges through studios, collaboration with stakeholders, partners, and experts across multiple disciplines, and using service design at a strategic, operational, and systems level; and
  4. to accelerate new service design practices and ways of systems thinking to advance skillsets and practices for service innovation.


Master of Design (Transitional Environments Design) (TED)

The Master of Design (Transitional Environments Design) (TED) is a specialism developed in response to the unprecedented rural and urban changes that have occurred during the last few decades in Hong Kong and Mainland China. TED aims to develop students’ intellectual and practical mastery of the analysis and design of diverse rural and urban environments in the region, with broader implications for global contexts. The approach of this specialism is based on an understanding of the socio-cultural dynamics of the regional context, transformed into new design strategies and design interventions.


Characteristics of Master of Design Scheme

The study pattern of the Master of Design Scheme has a relatively high level of flexibility. With a comparatively small number of compulsory subjects, the Scheme allows students from different specialisms to make different choices in their studies, from selecting elective subjects to planning their own capstone/final projects and changing their graduation award title*.


* Students who wish to change their graduation award title are required to seek academic advice from Specialism Leaders and go through selection interviews.


Master of Design (Innovative Business Design) (IBD)

In line with the Scheme's highly flexible curriculum, this specialism offers an additional way for students to customise their learning experience by choosing one of four progression pathways: the IBD core pathway, IBD+ISD pathway, IBD+SSD pathway, and IBD+TED pathway.


Students can also select a combination of subjects offered by the IBD and the other MDes specialisms, including Intelligent Systems Design (ISD), Smart Service Design (SSD), and Transitional Environment Design (TED), to prepare for their entrepreneurial projects.


Master of Design (Intelligent Systems Design) (ISD)

The Master of Design (Intelligent Systems Design) (ISD) is aimed at students who have a passion for people and technology, and are curious about the future, and keen to shape it through design. In principle, ISD is open to all talented students who can innovate masterfully within this broad spectrum; who have a global perspective; who are willing and able to identify “wicked” challenges; and who are eager to become the future agents of change. 


ISD students inherit the rich education and culture of ISD’s predecessor, MDes (Interaction Design), and benefit from specifically tailored technological learning environments supporting non-STEM background students. Those with a Bachelor’s degree in design (interaction, user experience, graphic communication, product or industrial), STEM, communication, or even psychology or anthropology may find ISD to be a stepping-stone for their professional development.


Master of Design (Smart Service Design) (SSD)

PolyU is the first university in Hong Kong that offers both bachelor's and master's degrees in service design education; in response to the rapidly increasing global demands of service. The focus of Smart Service Design is beyond the scope of user experience design, information design, product design, or any other single output of design application; rather, it focuses on a broad design spectrum that integrates design, business, technology, and human needs to create service solutions of tomorrow and bring new value to the service industry and society at large.


Through advanced service design methodologies, SSD offers a unique interdisciplinary educational environment that meets diverse learning needs and provides students with opportunities to reshape their own design practices. This specialism offers students to work and involve themselves in the creation of transformations and evaluations of service products and content across both digital and offline channels through lectures, studio learning, workshops and their industry research projects.


Our graduates will be equipped with the necessary professional skills to meet the demands of careers in the service industry. They will play different roles not only in conventional design-related professions, but also in management and strategy in various service sectors, such as consumer electronics, mobility, healthcare, tourism, and hospitality, finance, public service, and so on.


Master of Design (Transitional Environments Design) (TED)

The Transitional Environments Design (TED) specialism focuses on the contemporary Hong Kong/Chinese rural and urban experience in the context of the Greater Bay Area. It offers a unique postgraduate education in rural and urban space design. In line with the School's critical approach to environmental and ecological design, this tailormade specialism regards design as a holistic and systemic perspective on wicked and entangled global and local problems, following the Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations.

Recognition & Prospects

Recognition & Prospects

PolyU Design: Reputation Built Since 1964

PolyU Design has been an important and dynamic hub for design education in Hong Kong since 1964. Our long-standing heritage and dedication to providing innovative, flexible programmes have helped us achieve our position as one of the highest-ranked design schools in Asia (QS World University Rankings by Subject, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021); Business Insider’s World’s Best 25 Design School list, 2013). Our Master of Design (Design Strategies) programme has been rated as one of the World's 30 Best Design Thinking Programmes (BusinessWeek, 2009).


The School of Design is located in the Jockey Club Innovation Tower, a permanent architectural work designed for Hong Kong by Zaha Hadid, one of the most influential figures in the world of modern architecture. This stimulating architectural setting provides a high-level, well-equipped teaching and learning environment for students.


Career Prospects

MDes graduates are well equipped for professional success in their chosen fields. Whether working in house or for design firms, they excel in a wide range of design areas, such as product design, interaction design, spatial design, and branding. Some broaden their professional fields and take up roles in project management, consulting, research, and teaching. Others run their own design firms.


Industries that hire our graduates include fashion, retail, hospitality, financial services, healthcare, toys, consumer electronics, information technologies, advertising, research and development, higher education, and public services. Visit our website for a list of companies and organisations at which our full-time graduates have secured positions.


Non-local graduates (non-local students who have obtained an undergraduate or higher qualification in a full-time and locally accredited programme in Hong Kong) may apply to stay in/return to and work in Hong Kong under the “Immigration Arrangements for Non-local Graduates” (IANG) scheme. Successful IANG applicants may be granted 12 months’ leave to stay, limited only by time (without other conditions of stay), provided that normal immigration requirements are met, regardless of the term of employment.



Curriculum of Master of Design Scheme

The four specialisms within the Master of Design Scheme have a common curriculum, with a normal study duration of one academic year (three semesters, including the Summer Term). Students are required to attain a total of 36 credits from the below subject categories:

  • 6 credits in Common Compulsory subjects;
  • 15 credits in Specialism Compulsory subjects; and
  • 15 credits in Elective subjects.


In Semester 1, all specialisms begin with a Common Compulsory subject, Research and Analysis for Design, followed by elective subjects to enhance students’ individual profiles.


In Semester 2, students start focusing on their Studios and Lab Studies specialism subjects.


In Summer Term, all specialisms conclude with a Common Compulsory subject, Research and Academic Writing, together with a specialism Capstone Project or Industry Research Project, which synthesise students’ learning during the year.


Classes are normally held during the daytime on weekdays.  Please see below for the core areas of study in different specialisms.


Core Areas of Study by Individual Specialism

Master of Design (Innovative Business Design) (IBD)

In Semester 1, IBD students formulate a knowledge foundation in their focal domain, identify appropriate directions for their further development, and develop their skills in multidisciplinary collaboration. 


Semester 2 articulates the core knowledge of Innovate with Lifestyle and Culture and Design for Transformation with a holistic view of design’s value in the new business context created by human-centred design thinking and new technologies. 


The Summer Term is for self-reflection and career preparation. Every student must complete at least three projects by the end of this one-year programme: an interdisciplinary project, a theme-based project, and an entrepreneurial project.


Master of Design (Intelligent Systems Design) (ISD)

The Master of Design (Intelligent Systems Design) (ISD) comprises a series of intensively taught subjects that directly support the ISD Studios and Lab Studies specialism subjects. 

  • The ISD Studios subjects take various forms, from individual work to teamwork, and from self-initiated to externally sponsored projects. 
  • The Lab Studies subjects provide a unique platform for students to gain exposure to “real-world” research projects; to familiarise themselves with lab equipment (which is normally more research-oriented, technologically advanced and hands-on than classroom teaching materials); and to work with established and experienced researchers in the field.


In addition, a range of elective subjects is available to tailor the learning experience based on individual interests. Students are expected to be fully committed to their studies and to work well in a studio environment. 


The specialism concludes with an Industry Research Project that unites research, industry collaboration, social investigation, creative exploration, user understanding, and prototype testing to provide solutions.


Master of Design (Smart Service Design) (SSD)

The subjects in Semester 1 offer foundational knowledge of service design and advanced research skills through a combination of lectures, studios and multidisciplinary project collaboration.


In Semester 2, the subjects provide a sensitive and critical lens on the latest socio-technical developments that have an impact on the service economy. The Studios and Lab Studies subjects articulate diverse perspectives on service factors and service design approaches that students can use to evaluate, transform, and create future services in the service sector.


The Summer Term integrates knowledge, skills, and practice through either a self-directed or an industry-sponsored project in each student’s area of interest. A Capstone Project, which is a significant and integrative final service project, concludes the year by synthesising students’ learning in a real-world setting.


Master of Design (Transitional Environments Design) (TED)

The Master of Design (Transitional Environments Design) (TED) comprises a combination of intensively taught short courses that directly support workshop investigation.  The studios and workshops take various forms, from individual work to teamwork and from self-initiated to externally sponsored projects.  A range of elective subjects are available to enable students to tailor the experience to their individual interests. Students are expected to be fully committed to the programme and to work well in the studio environment.  The specialism concludes with a Capstone Project that unites research, creative exploration, user understanding and prototype testing to provide a solution.

Entrance Requirements

Entrance Requirements

Common admission requirements

A standard recruitment and intake procedure is conducted to help advise students on the appropriateness of particular specialisms to their personal and career development. Applicants for individual specialisms, however, must also undertake specialism-specific interviews and meet some specialism-specific requirements (see below). Applicants are required to indicate their choice of specialism upon application.


If you are not a native speaker of English, and your Bachelor's degree or equivalent qualification is awarded by institutions where the medium of instruction is not English, you are expected to fulfil the University's minimum English language requirement for admission purpose. Please refer to the "Admission Requirements" section for details. Applicants are normally also required to demonstrate oral competence in English by means of an interview.


Specialism-specific requirements

Master of Design (Innovative Business Design)

  • A Bachelor’s degree or equivalent in design, business, humanities, or a technological field is required, preferably along with two years of relevant professional experience. 
  • Candidates with other tertiary qualifications and substantial relevant professional experience will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  • Portfolios of professional work. Before submitting their portfolios, applicants should read “Additional Documents Required”, which includes Guidance Notes on Design Portfolios.


Master of Design (Intelligent Systems Design)

  • A Bachelor's degree or equivalent in design, STEM, or a related discipline, e.g. communication, psychology, or anthropology, is required. 
  • Candidates with other tertiary qualifications complemented by substantial relevant professional experience will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  • Portfolios of professional work. Before submitting their portfolios, applicants should read “Additional Documents Required”, which includes Guidance Notes on Design Portfolios.


Master of Design (Smart Service Design)

  • A Bachelor’s degree or equivalent in design, business, humanities, or a technological field is required. 
  • Candidates with other tertiary qualifications complemented by substantial relevant professional experience will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  • Portfolios of professional work. Before submitting their portfolios, applicants should read “Additional Documents Required”, which includes Guidance Notes on Design Portfolios.


Master of Design (Transitional Environments Design)

  • A Bachelor’s degree or equivalent in spatial design, architecture, landscape design, or urban and rural design, or in a related discipline is required. Candidates with a Bachelor’s degree or equivalent in a related discipline, e.g. environmental studies, ecology, or urban studies, will also be considered.
  • Candidates with other tertiary qualifications complemented by substantial relevant professional experience will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  • Portfolios of professional work. Before submitting their portfolios, applicants should read “Additional Documents Required”, which includes Guidance Notes on Design Portfolios.

Other Information

Other Information

Note to Applicants

  1. Before applying, read through the following sections on the School’s website:
    FAQ: admission process, portfolio submission and requirements
    Admission Events: meet our faculty and students
    Employers of MDes graduates: list of companies and organisations at which our full-time graduates have secured jobs
  2. Ideally, you should provide your IELTS or TOEFL report at the time when you submit your application. Otherwise, please indicate the date when your results will become available. Applications without a satisfactory English test score or availability date will not be reviewed. Please do not post your IELTS or TOEFL report to the School.
  3. If you are currently in your final year of study, you must provide a transcript showing your academic records up to your most recent semester. Certification of your GPA/average score is needed if this information is not shown on your transcript.
  4. Read the Academic Registry’s “Guide to Application Submission for Taught Postgraduate Programmes” and ensure that all relevant fields are filled out, even if you have already provided your CV. Failure to do so will cause your application to be considered an incomplete application. We encourage applicants to provide full details of their post-secondary qualifications and previous and/or current employment. This information and corresponding evidence submitted via eAdmission is used to assess whether an application meets the entrance requirements. Incomplete applications cannot be processed promptly.
  5. The number of admission places for each programme is limited; early applications are advantaged.
  6. The School reviews applications in several admissions rounds and makes decisions on a rolling basis from mid-February 2022.



For further information on applications and admissions, please contact:

Ms Stephanie Ho 
Tel: (852) 3400 3440


For academic matters, please contact the respective Specialism Leaders:

Innovative Business Design
Dr Sylvia Liu
Tel: (852) 2766 5447


Intelligent Systems Design
Prof. Stephen J. Wang
Tel: (852) 2766 5478


Smart Service Design
Dr Shera Park
Tel: (852) 2766 6846


Transitional Environments Design 
Prof. Laurent Gutierrez
Tel: (852) 2766 5502

Student Message

Student Message

No information is available at present.

Additional Documents Required

Additional Documents Required

Employer's Recommendation

Letters of Recommendation


Requirement and Format

Two letters of recommendation are required, preferably one related to academic qualifications and the other to work experience. If you are in your final year of study, you could consider asking your internship supervisor/team leader for a recommendation letter. In other cases, two academic recommendations are acceptable.

Recommendations should be provided on official letterheaded paper with the recommender’s name, affiliation, contact details and signature.

Note that certification of employment is not the same as a letter of recommendation. Recommendations written specifically for admission purposes are preferred over generic reference letters.



Letters of recommendation are to be uploaded to the corresponding sections on eAdmission.

Combine multiple PDFs of academic recommendations, transcripts and certificates from the same institution into one PDF document and upload the file according to the specific academic qualification in the “Post-secondary Qualification” section.

Work recommendations are to be uploaded according to the specific previous/current employment in the “Employment” section.

Personal Statement

A Personal Statement is similar to a cover letter for your application, addressed to the admission committee. The purpose of this page-long written statement is to convince the admission committee that you would be a good fit for the programme and contribute to the MDes community at large. You may provide an overview of your goals in applying, background, experience, research interests, career goals and aspirations.

Transcript / Certificate

Academic Transcripts and Certificates

Evidence of your academic qualifications, i.e., full official transcripts and explanatory notes (usually printed on the back of the transcripts), and degree certificates, including the accompanying graduation statement or diploma supplement (if applicable).

For holders of academic qualifications from Mainland China, the evidence must include your Academic Credential (毕业证书), Degree Certificate (学士学位证书), and GPA certification letter or average score and notes explaining the grading system(s) (课程绩点与等级换算关系表).

Documents not issued in English must be accompanied by certified, literal English translations. We must have your transcripts and certificates in both your native language and in English to evaluate your qualifications. We do not require applicants’ original documents at the application stage. Readable scans of original documents will suffice.


Design Portfolio

Guidance Notes

A portfolio is required for:

- all applicants to the Intelligent Systems Design (ISD), Smart Service Design (SSD), and Transitional Environments Design (TED) specialisms; and

- applicants to the Innovative Business Design (IBD) specialism with an academic qualification in the field of design.

In general, the content of your portfolio may include the most advanced design work you have done. We are interested in the process of concept development in self-initiated, experimental and commercial work. Samples of work should be accompanied by succinct descriptions where needed. Indicate your project references (name and organisation) whenever possible. State the project type, i.e. individual or group projects. For group projects, you must clearly specify your role in the creative process. The organisation and appearance of your portfolio should be of a professional standard.

Those with a non-design background may present design-related projects with clear research and design processes or other projects related to making, innovation or even invention. The portfolio may include concepts, idea sketches, plans, experiments, testing data, and processes related to the above. For group projects, please specify your contribution.


Format and Submission


- Via PolyU eAdmission – prepare your file in PDF format under 5 MB and upload to “Additional Document”. A maximum of one file is allowed.

- Via MDes submission platform – if your file is larger than 5 MB, you may submit it via the School’s MDes submission platform. Before we can set up your account on this platform, your application fee must have been settled and your payment status must have been updated to “paid”. This will allow your application to be released to the School of Design from the Academic Registry. After that, we can set up your account manually during office hours from Monday to Friday. Please do not submit your application until you have provided all relevant information and documents via eAdmission. After submission, applicants can only make limited amendments by themselves.


- Via MDes submission platform – indicate the Web address to view it in the “Personal Website” field. We expect to be able to view your portfolio online, i.e. without needing to download the file to a local computer.

Info Seminar

Info Seminar

No information is available at present.

Programme Leaflet

Programme Leaflet

Please click here to download.