Austin Center for Design

Gain autonomy through design: make products & services that change the world!

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What is AC4D?

Austin Center for Design, an educational program in Austin, Texas, is a unique school intended to help you develop autonomy through design.

Interaction Design

We teach the practice and theory of interaction design—designing products, services, and interactions to change human behavior and improve the world.

Humanitarian Focus

Our emphasis is on addressing humanitarian problems. We focus on problems that matter, and students learn to recontextualize design in the space of large-scale "wicked problems."

Design Experts

Director Jon Kolko is recognized as a thought-leader in developing and advancing the role of interaction design in product development and social entrepreneurship. Our faculty are all world-class working practitioners.


An Affordable Program

Our program is affordable. We charge $15,000 for our one-year course, which runs 440 course hours. Compare this with other graduate programs that cost $60,000, $70,000, or even $80,000.

Small Classes

Our classes sizes are small—10 students a time—providing extensive face-time with professors and the opportunity to form lasting relationships with a growing support network.

A Supportive Community

We've developed a supportive, collaborative community of alumni to help current students succeed and to help one-another drive impact.


Explore our course

Our course offers a comprehensive study in interaction design and social entrepreneurship, and builds autonomy. Take a look at our one-year curriculum or explore student projects to see if AC4D is right for you.

Our value proposition

What you'll gain in our program

In a word, students who complete our program gain autonomy. This is a sense of entrepreneurial freedom—that your choices are not set or constrained, and that you have concrete skills to shape the world around you. These skills include qualitative research, synthesis and interpretation, sketching, the creation of storyboards and wireframes, entrepreneurial business modeling, service design blueprinting, and complex system diagramming. These skills represent the foundation of a career in product management, design strategy, interaction design, and social entrepreneurship.

More importantly, you'll gain an empathetic process and a unique, empathetic way of thinking about culture and technology. This process is broad, and can be used in corporate and consulting contexts, in startups or small businesses, and even in politics and government.

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Our participants

The types of people that join our program

Design is for everyone, and our students have a variety of backgrounds. Some of our students are already designers, but most aren't. Our typical applicants have experience in marketing, engineering, fine arts, finance, or the service industry. Our program teaches design fundamentals in addition to advanced topics, in a rigorous, intense environment. There is no expectation that our students enter the program as designers; we take care of teaching that.

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Check out our summer camp for teenagers!

Know a teenager interested in design, technology, or entrepreneurship? Check out our summer camp Make Something Great, where teenagers will experience our design process in a collaborative two-week intensive.

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Details In Brief

What you need to know about Austin Center for Design

Timeframe

AC4D is a 440 course-hour program that runs from late August through early May.

Applications

Applications are due by May 1st. Learn more.

Costs

Our one year program costs $15,000. The first payment of $7,500 is due in the summer, prior to classes beginning, and the second payment is in January (at the half-way point).

Difficulty

AC4D is extraordinarily intense, time consuming and difficult. We’ve structured the program to include as much content and rich experience as possible and it requires a strong, formal commitment from students.


Meet our students

Will Mederski

A twenty-seven year old photographer & recent transplant to austin from central ohio, Will Mederski lives a life by design. Whether it’s styling his breakfast to photo-worthy form or spending hours lying in the grass studying the structure and automation of insects, design is his daily habit. Taken from his studies of classical composition, he follows the school of motivic thorough-composition. Applied to everything from music & drama to transportation systems & civil engineering it means that...

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From our blog

I hear a lot that higher education is ready for disruption. But it’s overly simplistic to say “higher education is broken,” and the entire focus of most education startups seems to be on delivery platforms: ways to bring content to students. Online learning is, indeed, flawed. But there are a lot of other aspects to…

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Celine Thibault, Philip Koske, and I are winding down our 24 weeks together, here at AC4D.  We started out our research interested in understanding how teenagers’ mental health –specifically stress– impacted their daily lives.  We conducted contextual interviews with 15 teenagers, mostly in Austin.  The contextual inquiries involved meeting our participants where they were, in…

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