The Politecnico di Milano was among the first universities in Italy to start a PhD programme in the field of design in 1990. Based on this tradition, the PhD programme in Design was established in 2008, as the result of a process of substantial re‐thinking of the way design was taught at PhD level.

In its current configuration, the PhD programme in Design aims to develop professional skills to carry out high quality research in terms of design as a complete scientific field. In this respect, its main topics are: to reflect on the nature of design, with its aesthetic, formal, performance and meaning values, as well as its capability of being an agent of social change towards more sustainable systems; to strengthen the disciplinary core of design; to develop and share a common body of knowledge and methodologies, as well as a complete set of tools able to distinguish the designer from other researcher/professional figures involved in design activity.

The PhD programme in Design is structured into various research fields, which correspond to specific research teams within the Department of Design.

In order to coordinate research activity over a wide range of topics, teams cluster around three Sections, which are:

  • Design and Cultures
  • Products, Strategies and Services
  • Design for Environments, Landscape and Mobility

The PhD programme in Design carries out research on specific topics emerging from the research initiatives of all Departments.

Mission and Goals

The courses offered aim at training the candidates for the skills needed to carry out high-quality research for companies, universities, research centers and other institutions.
The scientific field is Industrial Design. Other fields partially covered are Science and Philosophy, Language Theory, Sociology of Cultural Processes and Communication, History of Art, Design, Science and Technology of Materials, Industrial Engineering, Operations Research, Computer Science.

The programme offers doctoral candidates the following opportunities:

  • to develop an original theme of research, becoming an effective member of a research team
  • to attend courses and seminars on design, on design research and on research in general, developing skills concerning the discipline of the design, and the profession of the researcher
  • to attend courses and seminars referred to a specific field of research, developing high-level specialist skills and acquiring knowledge and tools for the development of their own research theme
  • to be an active part of a teaching programme and, in this way, to understand the relationship between research and teaching, and to develop the ability to clearly and effectively present the contents of their own work
  • to develop expertise in an international research centre to verify the hypotheses, the methodologies and the results of their own work and to consolidate the network of international relationships within which it is situated


The achievement of the PhD qualification in Design requires a study and research activity equivalent to at least three years of full time study, research and development of PhD thesis. During this period, both educational and research activities are provided.

The programme develops design skills and analytical abilities, proposes various research methodologies and promotes a collaborative disposition.

At the beginning of the programme, candidates become effective members of a research team, within which they develop an original research topic (PhD thesis); this activity is the fundamental core of the learning process.

Parallel to this main activity, candidates are involved in several other educational processes, divided into training and specialist activities.

Training activities are those, such as courses and seminars, related to the discipline of design and research methodologies and practices, viewed in their entirety. Specifically: common activities are proposed to consolidate the cultural and operational background, which is common to all areas of design research.

Specialist activities are those educational activities specifically regarding the areas of research in which the PhD programme as well as the Departments are articulated.

Moreover, the activities of the PhD in Design include participation in projects taking place within the research team; participation in conferences (as listeners or speakers); writing of scientific papers; participation – as tutors – in teaching activities, from the viewpoint of an on‐going synergy between teaching and research activities.

Courses offered, Cycle XXXIII >>link