uw hcde graduate requirement

Last Updated on January 3, 2022

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About the Program

MS in HCDE is 31 semester hours graduate degree designed for students who want to pursue leadership roles in user experience research and design and /or explore, extend, and integrate theoretical and practical issues in design using human centered approach. The proposed program also addresses strong need in industry for highly qualified individuals who can research, identify, document and translate user requirements and needs, generate creative ideas, implement and evaluate the products or services in a scientific way.

The Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering (HCDE) offers seven different academic programs:

  • Bachelor of Science in Human Centered Design & Engineering (BS in HCDE)
  • Master of Science in Human Centered Design & Engineering (MS in HCDE)
  • Doctor of Philosophy
  • Interdisciplinary Master of Science in Technical Japanese
  • Certificate in Technical Writing and Editing
  • Certificate in User-Centered Design
  • Global Technology and Communication Management Option

These programs give students the opportunity to pursue areas of specialization, attend classes while working, or earn a degree in the evening. Since the Department of HCDE is part of the College of Engineering, students often start with a strong foundation in math and science which is increasingly important in industry. The department itself offers a wide range of courses, some required and some elective. Class sizes are small, so students get to work closely with faculty members and with other students.

Human Centered Design & Engineering enhances course offerings with carefully selected joint listings with other departments across campus, and offers students specialized learning-through-design projects and internships, in which students work with a client to design and deliver a product. HCDE also offers a directed research program in which students work in small teams side by side with faculty to do hands-on research and often publish the results.

The main topics that students learn about are hypermedia and multimedia, human-computer interaction, publications management, rhetoric of technical discourse, and online support systems. Also, students design, write, edit, and evaluate technical and scientific materials.

MS in HCDE is an interdisciplinary program offered by the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering in the College of Engineering and Computer Science with the participation of the Department of Behavioral Sciences in the College of Arts, Science and Letters at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

Human centered design related jobs are on the rise and appear under various titles, such as user experience designer, user interface designer, interaction designer, usability analyst, and product designer.

In the Department of Human Centered Design and Engineering (HCDE), students are designing the future by building innovative technologies and systems. Putting people first, HCDE students and faculty research, design, and engineer interactions between humans and technology. HCDE students and faculty focus on understanding human needs and interests as they design and build engineering solutions to the world’s problems.

HCDE faculty are award-winning and interdisciplinary, with graduate degrees in fields such as computer science, information studies, industrial engineering, design, education, English, linguistics, public policy, and technology and society studies.

HCDE prepares students for leadership roles in user interface design, user experience research and design, human-computer interaction, information and communication systems, computer-supported cooperative work, and related specializations, all from a human-centered perspective, internationally and globally. Whatever their professional direction, classes, directed research groups, and capstone projects, students develop portfolio quality products. HCDE graduates obtain jobs, primarily in the high-tech industry (e.g., Microsoft, Intel, Amazon, Facebook, T-Mobile, Google, Boeing), researching and designing user interfaces, websites, and other form factors to improve the user experience.

HCDE emphasizes student-centered, hands-on learning. Beyond taking traditional classroom courses, students join research groups and work side-by-side with top-ranked professors and graduate students to enhance the knowledge base of this dynamic field. The educational mission is supported by up-to-date facilities.

Introduction to Human-Centered Design for Engineers

The successful design and delivery of technology for good requires exploration of insights-driven solutions through iterative rounds of concepting, prototyping, and testing with key stakeholders. The barrier that may lie between well-intending engineers and sustainable solutions for underserved communities is usually not due to a lack of engineering analysis. Instead, the barrier can often be linked back to a flawed design approach that did not take into consideration key components to designing for and with people. Watch this webinar to delve deeper into the mindsets, methods, and practices of Human-Centered Design and leverage field-tested approaches to design towards sustainable results.

Degree Requirements

To graduate, students in the HCDE bachelor’s program must complete 180 credits of the following:

Students are encouraged to use UW’s MyPlan to plan their schedule. Current and prospective HCDE students may also run a DARS report through myUW to track their progress. 

HCDE Graduate Courses
2021–2022 Academic Year

Current and upcoming courses for students enrolled in Human Centered Design & Engineering undergraduate program are below.

Autumn 2021Winter 2022Spring 2022Summer 2021
HCDE 501 (2 sections)HCDE 501 (2 sections)HCDE 508HCDE 501
HCDE 508HCDE 503HCDE 511HCDE 515
HCDE 512HCDE 511HCDE 512HCDE 523
HCDE 516HCDE 516HCDE 515HCDE 598: Design for VR
HCDE 518HCDE 517HCDE 520HCDE 598: Adv. Physical Computing
HCDE 519HCDE 519HCDE 523 
HCDE 523HCDE 521HCDE 524 
HCDE 524HCDE 523HCDE 526 
HCDE 526HCDE 530HCDE 530 
HCDE 534HCDE 532HCDE 533 
HCDE 536HCDE 536HCDE 536 
HCDE 538HCDE 592HCDE 537 
HCDE 598: Misinformation (Research) HCDE 598 TBD 
HCDE 598: Service Design (Design or Strategy)   

Bachelor’s Degree Courses

Please view the UW Time Schedule for current course listings.

HCDE 210 Explorations in Human Centered Design (3)
Explores the core principles, methodologies, and applications of human centered design practice. Areas of investigation include user research, ideation, interaction design, visualization, prototyping, and usability.

HCDE 231 Introduction to Communication in HCDE (3)
Examines fundamentals of researching, writing, and presenting technical information for diverse audiences and purposes. Students learn to conduct secondary research; design and present information written and orally; revise for content, organization, and style; and work individually and collaboratively in teams. Assignments are framed around ethical and sustainable human-centered design practices. Prerequisite: English Composition Course.

HCDE 300 Foundations of Human Centered Design & Engineering (5)
Examines principles and practices of human centered design and engineering. Includes overview of conceptual problems in human centered design and engineering, issues related to communicating scientific and technical information to a variety of audiences, and human centered design approaches. Includes attention to social contexts and environments (legal, ethical, cultural).

HCDE 301 Advanced Communication in HCDE (5)
Reviews writing as an iterative process. Students learn to analyze purpose, use, and audience; write and design communications that meet the needs of stakeholders with differing priorities and cultures; work with different genres; understand the impact of writing style and the ethical implications of communication decisions in human-centered design. Prerequisite: HCDE 231 or ENGR 231.

HCDE 308 Visual Communication in Human Centered Design and Engineering (5)
Introduces principles of visual communication and design used in human centered design and engineering so that students gain a systematic understanding as they create visual communication components of print, interactive, and video media. Students develop this understanding through hands-on exercises, design critiques, discussions, lectures, and readings in a studio environment.

HCDE 310 Interactive Systems Design and Technology (5)
Provides opportunities to identify and build interactive systems to solve problems in human centered design and engineering. Students specify, design, build, and justify design solutions in terms of user experience and technical design choices. Prerequisite: either CSE 142 or CSE 160.

HCDE 313 Introduction to User Research (5)
Introduces user research methods, such as interviews, surveys, usability tests, content analysis, and focus groups. Reviews selecting an appropriate research method, how to conduct research and analyze results, conveying research data in the form of design requirements, and ethics.

HCDE 318 Introduction to User-Centered Design (5)
Explores the user-centered design paradigm from a broad perspective, with an emphasis on the importance of developing and applying design processes and strategies. Students learn to think like a user-centered designer and carry out activities that are key to user-centered design.

HCDE Brand

The brand guidelines for the Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering work to craft a unique identity for the department, while remaining cohesive within the larger University of Washington brand. 

The HCDE visual system uses signature UW elements, such as the signature purple, as well as the Encode Sans typeface. New color combinations, flexible layout options, and explorative visual elements including hand-drawn graphics and collage techniques, build a department-specific tone. 

Visual Identity


HCDE uses the official UW department signature logo, provided below in vertical and horizontal formats.


Keeping UW’s signature purple, while adding secondary colors orange and green creates a
palette that is bold, yet cohesive with the larger UW brand. Utilizing these secondary colors speaks to the interdisciplinary nature of HCDE, and celebrates the collaboration which occurs throughout its work.

To use this palette, begin with a neutral — either pure black of HCDE white, and layer in color to create focus. You can also take any of the 5 colors and create a monochromatic composition. 


Like color, HCDE’s typography remixes UW’s standards in order to maintain cohesion and
simultaneously carve out a tone specific to the department. Uni Sans is more often utilized within the HCDE identity than in the standard UW guidelines, due to its particularly tech-vibe. 


Hand-drawn graphics are a key visual element in HCDE’s identity. They derive from the department’s process-focused approach, and celebrate the organic, personal and non-linear aspects of problem-solving, ideating, and collaborating. 

These elements should be used strategically and logically—they should appear in places where they might actually be used if the viewer had the design in front of them to highlight key information; underlining important words, circling dates, and adding a human element to an otherwise sterile design.

Sample graphic elements are provided below, but individuals are encouraged to sketch their own elements to bring in the human element.

Master of Science in Human Centered Design and Engineering

The department offers a Master of Science in Human Centered Design and Engineering (MS HCDE) – an engineering degree. An evening program is offered through UW Educational Outreach, serving full time and part time students.

Upon completion of the HCDE MS degree, students assume leadership roles in human-centered design and engineering in academia, industry, government, and non-profits. HCDE MS graduates are able to:

  • Evaluate and understand human needs as a basis for designing and engineering new technologies.
  • Master conceptual frameworks that motivate interdisciplinary research and design in HCDE.
  • Select and critically evaluate user research methods for a variety of stakeholders and product contexts.
  • Create visual, interactive, experience, and systems designs and prototypes.
  • Translate organizational requirements into interface and product solutions, while accounting for all stakeholder perspectives and working ethically and collaboratively.
  • Communicate effectively in oral, written, and visual forms, while scaling communications to audience needs and sociotechnical contexts.

Admission Requirements

Faculty consider the following:

  1. Undergraduate GPA
  2. Undergraduate degree program and work experience
  3. TOEFL score (if applicable)
  4. Letters of recommendation
  5. Statement of goals and career objectives. A limited number of prerequisite undergraduate courses may be required.

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