The PhD programme in Design, Doctorate in Design, inaugurated in 2008 at the Politecnico di Milano, is run by the Design Department with the collaboration of the Department of Mechanics and the Department of Chemistry, Materials and Chemical Engineering “Giulio Natta”.
The programme aims to cultivate researcher-designers who will contribute original knowledge to the field of design by tackling the problems and identifying the potential of contemporary society. Their contribution may be brought to bear in:

  • creating designs, visions, and proposals (research through design);
  • developing tools and methods for putting these into practice (research for design);
  • critical analysis of design and its application domain (research on design).
Teaching Aims
Politecnico di Milano PhD programmes are designed to equip candidates with the researcher’s conceptual tools as they develop expertise on a specific research subject that is to be the context for a contribution to knowledge.
Candidates will be required to acquire the ability to:

  • solve problems in complex contexts by analysing them in depth, identifying an original solution, and evaluating its applicability to specific contexts.
  • present and debate their own research before the international scholarly community.
Training activities

To acquire the researcher’s conceptual tools, candidates will be required to complete a series of educational activities:

1. First of all, they must complete a series of specific, in-presence courses, some required and some elective (see course offerings).
2. Candidates are required to present two progress reports per year on their research before a board of Politecnico di Milano faculty members appointed by the Design PhD faculty.
3. They are also called upon to take part in conferences and publish research results in international journals.
4. Finally, candidates are invited to a fellowship at an international research centre (see overseas internship) to test their hypotheses, methodology, and results, as well as to consolidate the international network of relationships in which their scholarship is situated.

The doctoral dissertation (PhD thesis) must help increase knowledge in the candidate’s sub-discipline. The written work should shed light on how the research adds to what we know, starting from an in-depth analysis of the state of the art and describing the research method adopted. The advisor under whose guidance it is to be written will help the candidate define the methodological terms and the research content. The advisor need not be a faculty member and may be assisted by one or more secondary supervisors. At the beginning of the third year of studies, the Design PhD faculty assigns each candidate an external examiner, a dissertation discussant from outside the Politecnico di Milano faculty.

Professional Outcomes

The purpose of the design doctorate is to train a designer who knows how to conduct research and a researcher who uses design tools. Someone who has earned this PhD is to be an expert in knowledge management, in constructive interaction among the parties to a project, and in communicating ideas and concrete proposals. This combination of skills may apply to a variety of possible contexts for endeavour:

  • Organizations explicitly mandated to produce design research, such as universities and research centres;
  • Design studios and companies with high sensitivity to research and innovation;
  • Public sector and local development organizations, which are increasingly faced with complex design issues.
Steering committee and Administration

Steering committee:

  • Paola Bertola (Director)
  • Paolo Volont√® (Deputy director)
  • Alessandro Biamonti
  • Lucia Rampino
  • Raffaella Trocchianesi


  • Simona Murina