Graduate Catalog
Policies, Procedures, Academic Programs
Human Centered Design
Interdisciplinary Academic Programs
Department of Computer Science #0902 1118 VTKW II 2202 Kraft Dr. Blacksburg VA 24060
Knowledge Works II
Degree(s) Offered:
IGEP Degree in Human Centered Design
Minimum GPA: 3.0
Offered In:
Email Contact(s):
Web Resource(s):
Phone Number(s):
Application Deadlines:
Fall: Mar 12
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Knowledge Works II

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Program Director : Ivica Bukvic
Program Director : Donald McCrickard
Graduate Program Director(s) : Donald McCrickard, Ivica Bukvic
Associate Professors: Ivica Bukvic; Donald McCrickard; Matthew Wisnioski
Associate Professor of Practice: Steven Harrison

Human Centered Design Introduction

Design matters. The act of creating something new shows up in many human endeavors. It can be a solution to a mundane problem like holding sheets of paper together or something as complex as the formulation of new institutions. Human Centered Design (HCD) is an approach to design charged with understanding the needs, wants, and limitations of end-users. This is accomplished through methodologies and practices where these considerations are integrated at every stage of the design process. 

HCD creates novel learning and discovery opportunities that are needed to train the future professoriate, workforce, professionals and civic leaders. HCD can only be taught in a true interdisciplinary educational environment in which coursework and research embrace diversity, inclusiveness, educational breadth, and interdependence, while promoting a person-oriented, rather than a product-oriented, attitude towards education. 

HCD at VT provides access to both doctoral degree programs and a graduate certificate program in curricula that combine technical expertise with critical inquiry to develop reflective practitioners equipped to meet vital human needs.  The HCD/IGEP program is built around competencies in four core areas: (1) Interdisciplinary Research, (2) Design Studies, (3) Understanding People, and (4) Design Realization. 

Faculty currently associated with the HCD program are from these Colleges and Departments:

College of Architecture & Urban Studies

  • Industrial Design
  • School of Visual Art

College of Engineering

  • Computer Science
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Engineering Education
  • Industrial Systems Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering 

College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences

  • English
  • Human Development
  • Learning Sciences and Technology – School of Education
  • Science and Technology in Society
  • Music – School of Performing Arts
  • Theater and Cinema – School of Performing Arts

College of Natural Resources and Environment

  • Geography
  • Forest Resources

Institute: Institute for Creativity, Art, and Technology (ICAT)

For more information please contact Scott McCrickard ( or Ivica Bukvic (

Offered In ()

Degree Requirements

Minimum GPA: 3.0
Institution code: 5859
Testing Requirements:
    • Paper
      • 550.0
    • iBT
      • 80.0
  • GRE
    • General
      • Verbal :
      • Quantitative :
      • Analytical :

Graduate students affiliated with the HCD IGEP may pursue a PhD in one of the home departments of HCD-associated faculty or may elect to apply to the Graduate School's Individualized Interdisciplinary PhD (IPhD) degree program.  IPhD students are expected meet all requirements for doctoral study at Virginia Tech, but are able to craft a unique program of study, uniting multiple disciplines, advisors, and coursework to best satisfy their scholarly interests and career aspirations. 

Doctoral degrees require 90 credits of graduate course work and research beyond the bachelor’s degree. Graduate credits earned in pursuit of a master’s degree may be included in the doctoral plan of study if they meet the Graduate School’s transfer credit criteria and are approved by the student’s advisory committee. For example, students who earned a master’s degree at Virginia Tech (minimum of 30 credits) that included coursework and research relevant to their plans for the IPhD would complete another 60 credits for this doctorate. IPhD students who earned a master’s degree at another accredited university could transfer up to 50% of the required graded coursework to their IPhD plan of study (required graded coursework could range from 27 to 60 credits).  It is expected that IPhD students will be enrolled full time for the duration of their doctoral studies.  All students will complete a common core comprising three categories of courses:

  • (1)  Overview of interdisciplinary studies, (i.e., GRAD 5134, Topics in Interdisciplinary Studies),
  • (2)  Research Methods and Data Analysis and Interpretation, and
  • (3)  Scholarly and Professional Ethics.

In addition, all ID PhD students will complete graduate coursework in relevant disciplinary areas and research and dissertation credits:

  • (4) Disciplinary Studies – list the courses by academic area; total number of credits will vary.  The minimum number of graded course credits is 27. See graduate program website for current CORE Disciplinary Study approved cognate courses.
  • (5) Research and Dissertation - the minimum number of research and dissertation credits is 30.

Students’ IPhD proposals are developed in consultation with their major professor, advisory committee members, and the IPhD Program Director.  Proposals are reviewed and approved by the Commission on Graduate and Professional Studies and Policies (CGPSP).

The student’s advisory committee works with the student to design a plan of study, approves the plan of study, provides advice, conducts required examinations and regularly assesses the student’s progress and accomplishments. IPhD students must have an advisory committee of at least four faculty members representing at least two different disciplines. 

Facilities Introduction

Investigations in Human-Centered Design may take the form of creative production, hypothesis-driven research, or phenomenological enquiry. The field’s intrinsic interdisciplinarity draws on facilities from around Virginia Tech – from the studio labs of ICAT to the usability labs of CHCI.


CHCI: The Center for Human-Computer Interaction

The Center for Human-Computer Interaction provides access to a large and diverse set of facilities, software, and equipment. The infrastructure includes a large shared laboratory (the "Black Lab" in VT Knowledgeworks II), a usability lab (in McBryde Hall), Virtual Reality laboratory (the "Sandbox" in the Moss Art Center), secure data transcription and coding labs, several smaller laboratories or project rooms, and meeting rooms. The equipment inventory includes both large fixed assets, such as the Gigapixel Display and the Optitrack motion capture system, and a wide array of portable items such as tablets, cameras, and eye trackers that are available to students and faculty associated with the Center. The Center gratefully acknowledges the support of the National Science Foundation in acquiring this infrastructure.

Jointly with ICAT, the Center will be creating educational and community studio spaces in the Media Arts Building.


DAAS : Digital Arts and Animation Lab

The new Digital Arts and Animation Lab (DAAS) is centrally located in Blacksburg's downtown area. This facility provides students with the high-end tools used throughout industry in the production of digital film, web, and animation content. The lab contains 16 Mac Pro workstations with large 23-inch monitors and loaded with professional industry applications, like Final Cut Pro and Maya. The facility also has an additional small render farm of six 12-core Mac Pros and a state-of-the-art ABS Rapid Prototyper, used for outputting virtual models into Three-Dimensional forms for research and educational purposes.


DISIS: Digital Interactive Sound and Intermedia Studio

DISIS complements and recontextualizes the Virginia Tech music technology program by providing the rapidly growing Creative Technologies in Composition and Multimedia Art Design option. By coupling contemporary technology with traditional performance idioms, DISIS pursues a symbiosis of new forms of artistic expression with special focus on interactive multimedia art and scientific research of new multimedia technologies for the purpose of betterment of the overall quality of life.


ICAT: Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology

Located at the very crossroads of Virginia Tech and downtown Blacksburg, on the corner of Main Street and Alumni Mall, the Center for the Arts' facilities provide a community center in the grandest sense, a place where the arts are a catalyst for engagement, inspiration, and discovery. New facilities complement existing venues, and are located in close proximity to Henderson Hall, Theatre 101, Squires Student Center, the Armory Gallery, and the Lyric Theatre forming a prominent arts district. The center's 150,000-square-foot facility includes the four-story experimental "Cube" for performance, immersive environments, installation, and adjacent research studios. Prototyping and mulitmedia studios provide resources for material exploration and performance.

Jointly with the Center for HCI and the Creatitvity and Innovation SGA, the Institute will be creating educational and community studio spaces in the Media Arts Building.