IAAC - Institute for advanced architecture of Catalonia - Barcelona

Master in Design for Emergent Futures – MDEF

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Master in Design for Emergent Futures

Our Academic Committee is still reviewing applications. In the meantime, we will keep IAAC’s application process open until all Masters courses are full. If you would like to apply, please complete our online application form as soon as possible.


The Master in Design for Emergent Futures (MDEF) is organised by the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia and ELISAVA Barcelona School of Design and Engineering, in collaboration with the Fab Academy and Ideas for Change.

The aim of this master is to provide the strategic vision and tools for designers, sociologists, economists and computer scientists, to become agents of change in multiple professional environments. The programme focuses on the design of interventions in the form of products, platforms and deployments that aim to produce new emergent futures by previously analysing the current challenges in society and industry.

Students will be encouraged to work on multiple scales (from bits to geography) in order to design and test interventions in the real world. The theoretical and practical content in this programme proposes an exploratory journey to comprehend and critique the role of disruptive technologies – Digital Fabrication, the blockchain, Synthetic Biology, Artificial Intelligence, among others – in the transformation of the established order. At the same time, during the MDEF programme, students will develop a hybrid profile that mixes various sets of skills (technical and human) that will be applied in the implementation of projects.

Graduates of this Master programme will have a wide and informed vision of the impact of technology on businesses, education, society and culture and will be prototyping and testing some of these technologies in the studios (research, design and development). During the master, a series of potential collaborations with industry, government and other professional sectors will be encouraged in order to develop more impactful projects.

IAAC and Fab Lab Barcelona have collaborated with the following organisations: Nike, IKEA, Airbus, Festool, Ajuntamente de Barcelona, UN-Habitat and others. Ideas for Change has worked with city councils such as Bristol and Barcelona, grassroots organisations like Ouishare and KWMC, and corporate and cooperative clients ranging from Telefonica, ADEO Groupe, Accord, Seat, Air France and Everis, to Mondragon and AbacusELISAVA has collaborated with companies like Agbar, Cisco Systems, Hewlett Packard, DUPONT, SUEZ, SEAT, Yamaha among many others.


The MDEF programme is recommended for designers, sociologists, computer scientists, economists, anthropologists, technology entrepreneurs and changemakers who are looking to develop an interdisciplinary and hybrid career path to conceive and produce impactful ideas to transform the established order. This Master has a high component of hands-on learning and project-based learning where students will be requested to turn big ideas into design strategies, prototypes and interventions to be tested in the real world, focused on Barcelona but connected globally with other cities.

Why design emergent futures?

We live in a moment of rapid change where new economic, environmental and social paradigms are challenging the status quo of the 150-year-old industrial society. The biosphere, financial markets, family structures, business models in products, are being challenged in one of the most important transition periods of human history.

If the machine era aimed to shape the human habitat by creating interfaces with natural resources through science and technology, the ubiquitous nature of digital technologies will demand articulation and rapid synchronisation of systems at different scales, both biological and synthetic. At the same time, the emergence of new tools and technologies are demanding us to create different outputs from the ones we already know and to design possible futures for life on this planet.

While the industrial revolution produced innumerable benefits to society, we are now confronted with a plethora of complex and interconnected problems that challenge our productive model: Climate Change, Social Disenfranchisement, and the centralisation of weather and power. Cedric Price once asked: “Technology is the answer, but what is the question?” This is the moment for us to formulate the new questions for technology to redefine its role in society, to create promising and viable emergent futures for humanity to thrive, not just survive.

The ongoing transformations in this industry, under a new production paradigm, supported by advanced manufacturing, new forms of synthetic intelligence, new material science, or connected systems, open endless opportunities to recalibrate the negative effects of the human species activities on planet Earth. These emergency technologies (Digital Fabrication, Synthetic Biology, Artificial Intelligence, the Blockchain, the name a few) are already disrupting the established mechanisms under which our productive model operates, and are already producing massive cultural transformations in society.

The complexity of the current transition period usually leads to the creation of wicked problems or problems which don’t have solutions, which need to be addressed from a multidisciplinary and collaborative perspective. Our approach is not to look for moonshots, instead, we are proposing small-scale interventions to approach big challenges, in order to dissolve the wicked problems instead of solving them all with single solutions.

This is why we are establishing a strong collaboration between one of the world’s leading institutions in technology and experimentation like IAAC, with one of the best Design and Engineering schools in the world, together with the larger distributed educational programme and one of the emergent disruptive companies of Barcelona and Europe. The Master in Design for Emergent Futures embeds its philosophy and methodology in its own structure and mechanisms of function.

Master Diploma issued by:

Collaborator of IAAC


EDITION: 1st edition

DEGREE: Master in Design for Emergent Futures

DIRECTORS: Tomás Díez, Oscar Tomico


DURATION: 9 months from October 2019 to June 2020 – Full Time



Non EU 16.000 €

EU 12.800 € 

ADMISSION: Bachelor or higher degree in Industrial Design, Product Design, Urban Design, Graphic Design, Interaction Design, Computer Science, Engineering (Mechanical, Chemical, Product, Material), Sociology, Anthropology, Economy, and other related professions.