We are living in a moment of rapid transition. From this moment on, we will need to design for a different world to what we have known. We need to incorporate new skills to work in a hyperlocal world that is hyper connected. The Master in Design for Emergent Futures is a journey into designing for complexity, uncertainty and possibility. The futures we want tomorrow are enabled by the actions we take today. 

The Master in Design for Emergent Futures (MDEF) is organised by the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia and Elisava Barcelona School of Design and Engineering, in collaboration with the Fab Academy. The practical content of the Master is developed by Fab Lab Barcelona, the research and innovation centre at IAAC.

It is a multidisciplinary design course which focuses on turning ideas into actions to transform the state of society. Our method is to propose small-scale interventions to approach large-scale challenges in order to dissolve wicked problems instead of solving them with single moonshot solutions. On analysis of the current global state of affairs and societal challenges, students will be encouraged to produce platforms, products and deployments for new emergent futures.

MDEF 01 + MDEF 02 (second year of the MDEF program)
Edition 3rd edition 1st edition
Credits 75 ECTS 120 ECTS
Direction Tomás Díez & Oscar Tomico Tomás Díez & Oscar Tomico
Duration 09 Months
From October 2022 to June 2023 // Immersive and full time
09 + 09 months (18 months)
From October 2022 to June 2024 // Immersive and full time
Language English English
Tuition Fees Non-EU: 16.000 €
EU: 12.800 €
Non-EU: 30.400€
EU: 24.350€
Admission Bachelor or higher degree in Industrial Design,
Product Design, Urban Design, Graphic Design, Interaction
Design, Computer Science, Engineering (Mechanical,
Chemical, Product, Material), Sociology, Anthropology,
Economy, and other related professions
Bachelor or higher degree in Industrial Design,
Product Design, Urban Design, Graphic Design, Interaction
Design, Computer Science, Engineering (Mechanical,
Chemical, Product, Material), Sociology, Anthropology,
Economy, and other related professions



MDEF is both a theoretical and practical Master. It evolves the practice of design beyond objects, aesthetics, form finding and pure speculation through a unique hands-on-learning approach. Our method uses practical design processes to investigate complex systemic problems and proposes city-scale interventions to approach large-scale challenges. 

The master has four pillars: Exploration, Instrumentation, Reflection and Application. These provide a structure for students’ own personal and professional exploration and build the strategic vision and flexible skill set to design in uncertain times.

Students develop their technical capabilities through the global Fab Academy program. This program equips students with working knowledge across the multiple disciplines of a Fab Lab from coding to digital fabrication. By the end of the Master students will be competent in a range of maker skills which they can apply to their final projects. At the same time, MDEF asks students to critically engage with the fields of speculation and foresight studies; they assess the role of disruptive technologies such as digital fabrication, blockchain, synthetic biology, Artificial Intelligence in the current transformation of society. Critically analysing our today helps students design for the futures that are emerging. 

The practical and theoretical aspects of the Master are combined to develop a portfolio of strategies, reflections and prototypes as well as a final project. Investigation is situated in Barcelona city, where students can collaborate with local stakeholders to apply their knowledge to human centered needs. The final project is a ‘design intervention’, that is, a solution or response in the form of a product, platform or deployment. Working on hyperlocal interventions gives students a tangible design output that responds to a trend that is emerging at a global level and the potential impact of technology in business, education, society and culture. 

Previous graduates of MDEF have proceeded to work in the subjects in which they specialised during the master. Specialist subjects ranged greatly – from understanding democratic governance and trust; questioning our food systems and how they will look in the future; new material development through synthetic biology; training fungi to consume chemical composites amongst many other varied topics facilitated by the unique environment created by the Master and Faculty.

The Master in Design for Emergent Futures approach has been developed out of the Exploring Emergent Futures platform at the Royal College of Art, London, a program developed by James Tooze and Tomas Diez since 2015. MDEF is dedicated to scaling up the impact of maker practices and reimaging how design can be central to enacting a paradigm shift towards preferred plural futures.

Student Projects


The Master aims to connect students to a vast global network of like-minded collaborators and professional opportunities. Students are encouraged to collaborate with industry, government and other professional sectors to develop more impactful projects. MDEF has collaborated with industry leaders such as Jordi Closa, director of Maker Lab Group at Adidas; Nina Gualinga, Amazonian Activist and recipient of the WWF International President’s Youth Award; Axel Meyer, Head of Design at Nokia Technologies; Nacho Martín, Design Director at FJORD; Nadya Peek Assistant professor of Human Centered Design & Engineering at University of Washington and previously MIT Media Lab. Small class sizes and course structure allows students to learn from and interact directly with course collaborators. MDEF also focuses on opportunities to collaborate with leaders in the local community, specifically in the ‘maker district’ of Barcelona in which IAAC is situated: the [email protected] Innovation District of Poblenou. The local innovation ecosystem provides students with opportunities for internships. Students have previously taken internships at Hangar, Alpha Telefonica and Fab City Hub

Graduates can continue their research agenda within more traditional academic institutions, in the format of academic masters or PhDs. MDEF Alumni are currently undertaking research as part of European Research consortiums and at Universities globally. Alumni have also developed independent practices and start ups and are recognised thought leaders speaking at conferences including TechFestival Copenhagen, Dutch Design Week, Sfera Institute’s Bio-Urbanism, EAT festival at Biotopia and the international annual FabX Conference.


Candidates for this Master’s Degree are professionals coming from Industrial Design, Product Design, Urban Design, Communication, Graphic Design, Interaction Design, Computer Science, Engineering (Mechanical, Chemical, Product, Material), Sociology, UX/UI Design, Multimedia Design, Arts, Anthropology, Economy, and other related professions. 

MDEF program is suitable for creative students who wish to study an innovative Master in Barcelona, in a dynamic international environment. It is for individuals who want to transform society and themselves.



The Master in Design for Emergent Futures is organized into three terms: Oct-Dec, Jan-Mar, Apr-Jun. Each term includes design studios, seminars and expert masterclasses. A research trip is also offered by the master, previous trips have been to Shenzhen, China and Cuba.

Design Studio sessions are central to the program. They focus on real world experimentation and socio-technical development. During the year, students develop technical, aesthetic and conceptual skills by working on real-life scenarios. Design studios encourage students to be creative and innovative. 

Seminars delve into specific domains of knowledge and are delivered by relevant expert practitioners and scholars. Throughout the academic year, international experts from the fields of design and emergent technologies, including speculative futures, futurology and speculative design, contribute to the program as guest lecturers.

Fab Academy is a distributed educational model directed by Neil Gershenfeld of MIT’s Center For Bits and Atoms and based on MIT’s rapid prototyping course, MAS 863: How to Make (Almost) Anything. The program provides advanced digital fabrication instruction for students through an unique, hands-on curriculum and access to technological tools and resources.

The program has four conceptual pillars:

Students learn a modular set of maker skills and tools and how these can be used in the design process to translate their ideas into prototypes and prototypes into products. Skills include coding, digital fabrication, hardware design, synthetic biology, and computational thinking.

Students are exposed to a set of technologies and sociocultural phenomena that have the capacity to disrupt our present understanding of society, industry and the economy. 

Students are supported through individual and group reflection sessions to develop their own identity and skill set, knowledge and attitude as designers. 

Students create design responses to explore their curiosities through innovation. They are encouraged to be creative and follow a culture of making where prototyping acts as a generator of knowledge and experimentation is crucial for problem solving.


The second academic year of the MDEF allows students to deepen their training and further develop the final Thesis Project presented at the end of the first academic year. It also allows students to continue their research and innovation agendas using a multiscalar, experimental and realistic approach, and turning the final projects developed in the first year of the program into living platforms for academic research, business development or direct impact on open source communities.

The Thesis Project design workshop is the backbone of the MDEF02 program. That is why we have three types of Thesis Project, related to each quarter of the program, and each with its specific objectives. 

Implementation: The first Thesis Project design workshop is focused on reinforcing the implementation of the projects that have been developed in the first year of the program. To achieve this objective, tutorials will be carried out with the directors of the master’s degree, directors of the study workshop, and invited experts. The tutorials will be focused on reinforcing the ability to articulate innovation projects in the real world, and on being able to incorporate the knowledge acquired during the program.

Validation: This design workshop is focused on developing a series of strategies during the implementation of the final master’s project for its economic, environmental, social, and communicative assessment. Through an iterative design process, and applying impact measurement methodologies, the student will be able to collect and analyze evidence that allows strategic decision-making within the different aspects of the final master’s project.

Dissemination: The third design workshop is focused on developing the communication and dissemination actions of the final master’s project. Within these strategies, dissemination in the academic field is contemplated, as well as communication strategies related to traditional and innovative media, both in the digital field, such as print or performative.

At the end of the second year we hope that the students have developed their projects within the
framework of the following guidelines:

Academic orientation
CTS credits and continuation of the academic career through other Master or Doctorate programs.

Business Orientation
Development of a business structure around a product or service.

Collective Orientation
Implementation of an accessible technological development for open source communities.

Hybrid Profile
MDEF is built on an understanding of individual learning and personal development. Faculty aim to create a structured learning environment for students to apply their own interests and personalities to project-based learning. The Master favours collaboration and ‘human’ skills such as leadership, stakeholder management and teamwork. It is a safe space for students to explore their beliefs and craft their own ‘hybrid profile’ that mixes various sets of technical and human skills and prepares them to be resilient and agile designers to lead the new normal.


The program will offer four positions yearly with a duration of 9 months for participants to work on a top research project at Fab Lab Barcelona and Elisava.

Participants will become full juniors researchers at the hosting institution, working hand in hand with project teams. Each participant will have a research mentor that will define the specific tasks and objectives and will guide them during the whole program.



Tomas Diez, Director – Design Studio leader – Urban Design and Digital Fabrication

Tomas Diez is a Venezuela-born Urbanist who specialises in Digital Fabrication and its implications for the future of cities. He is the director of Fab Lab Barcelona at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, the Fab Academy global coordinator and the European project manager of the Fab Foundation.

He holds a bachelor degree in Urban planning and Sociology from the University Simon Bolivar (Caracas – Venezuela), a Diploma in Social Work at the University of Havana (Cuba), a Master in Advanced Architecture by IAAC, and a Diploma on Digital Fabrication in a pilot programme on the class “How to Make Almost Anything”, offered by MIT centre for Bits and Atoms in 2008 as the year zero of the Fab Academy. He works as a close collaborator in the development of the Fab Lab Network together with MIT and the Fab Foundation.

He is a tutor in Design at the Royal College of Arts in London; Co-founder of the Smart Citizen project and StudioP52, both in Barcelona, and has been the co-chair of the FAB10 Barcelona, the 10th international Fab Lab conference and annual meeting hosted by IAAC in 2014. Tomas has been appointed by The Guardian and Nesta as one of the top 10 digital social innovators to watch in 2013 and has been awarded the Catalan ICT association as the entrepreneur of the year in 2014-15. His research interests relate to the use of digital fabrication tools to transform the reality, and how the use of new technologies can change the way people consume, produce and relate to each other in cities.

Dr. Oscar Tomico, Co-director – Design Studio leader – Design Engineering and Integrated Products

Oscar Tomico holds an MSc degree in Industrial Engineering from Polytechnic University of Catalonia (Spain) and a PhD from the same institution, awarded in 2007 with Cum Laude. During his research into Innovation Processes in Product Design, he investigated subjective experience-gathering techniques based on constructivist psychology. After finishing his PhD he worked as a consultant for Telefonica R&D (Barcelona). Tomico joined Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) in 2007 as Assistant Professor. He has been a guest researcher and lecturer at AUT Creative technologies (New Zealand), at TaiwanTech (Taiwan), Swedish School of Textiles (Sweden), Institute of Advanced Architecture (Spain), University of Tsukuba, Aalto (Finland) to name a few. During his sabbatical in 2015 he worked as a consultant for the functional textiles department at EURECAT (Spain). He recently (2017) became the head of the Industrial Design Bachelor’s degree program at ELISAVA University School of Design and Engineering of Barcelona.

Mariana Quintero: Media Arts, Media Studies, Digital Literacy & Embodied Cognition

Kate Armstrong: Strategic Design and Communication (Distributed Design at Fab Lab BCN)

Guillem Camprodon: Computer Science, Tools and Platforms (Sense Making at Fab Lab BCN)

Victor Barberán: Computer Science, Tools and Platforms (Sense Making at Fab Lab BCN)

Oscar Gonzalez: Computer Science, Tools and Platforms (Sense Making at Fab Lab BCN)

Anastasia Pistofidou: Materials and Embedded Technologies (Materials and Textiles at Fab Lab BCN)

Jonathan Minchin: Design and Sustainability (Ecological Interactions at Fab Lab BCN)

Dr. Nuria Conde Pueyo: Synthetic and Computational Biology (Universitat Pompeu Fabra at PRBB)

Lucas Peña: Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning BCN)

Santi Fuentemilla: Digital Fabrication (Future Learning at Fab Lab BCN)

Xavier Domínguez: Digital Fabrication (Future Learning at Fab Lab BCN)

Eduardo Chamorro: Digital Fabrication (Future Learning at Fab Lab BCN)

Thomas Duggan: Materials and generative design (Thomas Duggan Studio

Dr. Mara Balestrini: New business models, user engagement, HCI (Ideas for Change

Jose Luis de Vicente: Digital Culture, Innovation and New Media Art (Sonar+D, Future Everything

Mercé Rua, Markel Cormenzana:Transition Design (Holon

Andrés Colmenares:Speculative Research, Internet Post-technological Future (IAM

Carlos B. Steinblock: Blockchain & Cryptocurrencies (BTC-Guardian

Jordi Riulas: Blockchain (CELL.market

Dr. Ariel Guersenzvaig Design Research and Ethics (Elisava)

Dr. Ron Wakkary, Dr. Kristina Andersen, Angella Mackey: Interaction Design, Industrial Design, Wearables, Fashion, Media Art and Design Research (Eindhoven University of Technology)

Special Faculty and Advisors:

Neil Gershenfeld: MIT – Center for Bits and Atoms

Indy Johar: Dark Matter Labs

Daniel Charny: From Now On, Kingston University 

James Tooze University of Brighton 

Liz Corbin: Metabolic

Primavera de Filippi CRNS – France 

Ernesto Oroza

Heather Corcoran Kickstarter 

Dr. Mette Bak Andersen: KEA – Material Design Lab

Saúl Baeza: DOES Work – Elisava

Dr. Laura Clèries : Elisava Research

Pol Trias: Domestic Data Streamers

Sara González de Ubieta: deubieta.com