University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

The Berkeley Master of Design (MDes) is a three-semester, professional graduate degree that prepares students to work in creative and technical roles for designing products, services and environments enabled by emerging technologies. The MDes is jointly offered by the College of Engineering (COE) and the College of Environmental Design (CED); this collaboration is reflected in the interdisciplinarity of the program’s faculty, student body, curriculum, and pedagogical approaches.
The program's interdisciplinary curriculum connects technical rigor, design theory, and social practice and prepares students for a broad range of creative and technical roles for designing innovative products, services, and environments. Graduates leave the program as engaged and responsive social practitioners, with a deep understanding of the foundations of design and emerging technology and an informed awareness of people, contextual needs and societal impacts.

Housed at the Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation, the MDes provides a dynamic, hands-on curriculum that uniquely equips students to develop a critical perspective and navigate a range of technical languages and design methodologies. Studio-based coursework integrates programming, human-centered design process, and communication with hardware and software development. Exploratory project briefs encourage students to use design process to identify new problem spaces and to explore ideas through co-creative processes, iteration, and prototyping. A set of theory courses help shape students' critical lens on design through analysis and discussion of the implications of practice within an evolving environmental and socio-technology landscape. Students further deepen their knowledge through technical electives and offerings in social practice or entrepreneurship relevant to their personal interests and career goals. The MDes students' studies culminate in a Thesis Studio where they work in teams and bring their distinct perspectives to bear on applied projects. 

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The MDes is designed for early to mid-career professionals with an interest in pursuing graduate work at the intersections of design and technology. MDes students come from diverse academic and professional backgrounds, and are motivated by the opportunity to immerse themselves in a vibrant, creative, interdisciplinary, and impact-driven design community.

Strong applicants will be able to articulate and demonstrate their interest in design as a creative, goal-oriented activity that contributes to the emergence of innovative, socially impactful new technologies and environments. Possible areas of relevant prior experience include, but are not limited to, academic, professional, or personal work in technology, social or environmental policy, entrepreneurship, and/or community engagement. Strong applicants will also be able to articulate and demonstrate their interest in working with diverse communities and learning from different disciplinary/personal backgrounds and perspectives.

All applicants must have requisite technical preparation, for example a technical degree, coursework, and/or certificate, or equivalent professional experience, because MDes students are expected to be capable of independently learning new software tools and programming languages, and to quickly deploy these tools and skills in courses and projects. Applicants without clear technical preparation from their academic or professional background should, at a minimum, develop intermediate programming experience prior to the start of the program, and have sufficient knowledge of some technical subject area at the level required to pass a technical elective.

Application Criteria

For detailed information about the MDes program’s application criteria, process and timeline, visit the MDes Apply page.

Graduate Division Admissions

Applying for Graduate Admission

Thank you for considering UC Berkeley for graduate study! UC Berkeley offers more than 120 graduate programs representing the breadth and depth of interdisciplinary scholarship. The Graduate Division hosts a complete list of graduate academic programs, departments, degrees offered, and application deadlines can be found on the Graduate Division website.

Prospective students must submit an online application to be considered for admission, in addition to any supplemental materials specific to the program for which they are applying. The online application and steps to take to apply can be found on the Graduate Division website.

Admission Requirements

The minimum graduate admission requirements are:

  1. A bachelor’s degree or recognized equivalent from an accredited institution;

  2. A satisfactory scholastic average, usually a minimum grade-point average (GPA) of 3.0 (B) on a 4.0 scale; and

  3. Enough undergraduate training to do graduate work in your chosen field.

For a list of requirements to complete your graduate application, please see the Graduate Division’s Admissions Requirements page. It is also important to check with the program or department of interest, as they may have additional requirements specific to their program of study and degree. Department contact information can be found here.

Where to apply?

Visit the Berkeley Graduate Division application page.

Master's Degree Requirements

The Master of Design (MDes) program requires eight core courses and four electives (see below) for a minimum of 39 credits for the degree. 

Required Courses

DES INV 200Design Frameworks: History & Methods3
DES INV 201Debates in Design3
DES INV 202Technology Design Foundations4
DES INV 210Studio Foundations3
DES INV 211Designing Emerging Technologies I5
DES INV 213Thesis Studio6
DES INV 218Thesis Seminar1
DES INV 219Capstone Portfolio2

Elective Courses

The MDes requires four electives, which must include at least one technical elective, one entrepreneurship or social practice elective from the approved lists of courses, shown below. The final two electives may be either additional electives from the approved list (technical, social practice, or entrepreneurship) or another 3 or 4 unit upper division or graduate level course offered at UC Berkeley, subject to enrollment availability. Students may submit petitions for new elective courses to the MDes Education Committee. 

Approved Technical Electives
ARCH 249Special Topics in the Physical Environment in Buildings1-4
ARCH 252Form and Structure3
ARCH 259Special Topics in Building Structures1-4
ARCH 269Special Topics in Construction and Materials (Indoor Microbiome, Detoxification, and Artificial Intelligence and Matter; Plant Fibers and Design: Origins and Future; Timber Frame and Mass Timber Construction )1-4
ART 172Advanced Digital Media: Computer Graphics Studio4
ART 173Electro-Crafting4
CIV ENG 190Special Topics in Civil and Environmental Engineering1-4
COMPSCI 161Computer Security4
COMPSCI 169AIntroduction to Software Engineering4
COMPSCI 188Introduction to Artificial Intelligence4
COMPSCI 194Special Topics (Data Engineering)1-4
COMPSCI 184Foundations of Computer Graphics4
or COMPSCI 284A Foundations of Computer Graphics
COMPSCI 188Introduction to Artificial Intelligence4
COMPSCI 260AUser Interface Design and Development4
COMPSCI 260BHuman-Computer Interaction Research3
COMPSCI 284AFoundations of Computer Graphics4
COMPSCI 287HAlgorithmic Human-Robot Interaction4
COMPSCI 289AIntroduction to Machine Learning4
COMPSCI 294Special Topics (Intro to Computer Vision and Computational Photography)1-4
COMPSCI 297Field Studies in Computer Science ( Immersive Computing and Virtual Reality)12.0
COMPSCI C200APrinciples and Techniques of Data Science4
COMPSCI C249AIntroduction to Embedded Systems4
CY PLAN 257Data Science for Human Mobility and Socio-technical Systems4
DATASCI 207Applied Machine Learning3
DATA C200Principles and Techniques of Data Science4
ENGIN 150Basic Modeling and Simulation Tools for Industrial Research Applications4
INFO 247Information Visualization and Presentation4
INFO 251Applied Machine Learning4
INFO 253AFront-End Web Architecture3
INFO 253BBack-End Web Architecture3
INFO C262Theory and Practice of Tangible User Interfaces4
INFO 271BQuantitative Research Methods for Information Systems and Management3
INTEGBI/BIO ENG/MEC ENG C217Biomimetic Engineering -- Engineering from Biology3
MAT SCI 200ASurvey of Materials Science4
MEC ENG 236UDynamics and Control of Autonomous Flight3
MEC ENG 270Advanced Augmentation of Human Dexterity4
MEC ENG 280AIntroduction to the Finite Element Method3
MEC ENG 292CAdvanced Special Topics in Design1-4
MEC ENG C178Designing for the Human Body4
MEC ENG C201Modeling and Simulation of Advanced Manufacturing Processes3
MUSIC 158ASound and Music Computing with CNMAT Technologies4
MUSIC 159Computer Programming for Music Applications4
NWMEDIA 190Special Topics in New Media (Advanced Digital Animation)1-4
NWMEDIA C203Critical Making4
NWMEDIA/INFO C262Theory and Practice of Tangible User Interfaces4
Approved Entrepreneurship Electives
ENGIN 183Special Topics in Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship1-4
ENGIN 183CChallenge Lab4
ENGIN 183DProduct Management3
ENGIN 183ETechnology Entrepreneurship3
ENGIN 283Special Topics in Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship1-4
Approved Social Practice Electives
ARCH 209Special Topics in Architectural Design (Virtual Reality: Theory and Representation; Special Topics in Architectural Design: Housing as Design Generator; Contradictions in Disaster and Resilience)3
ARCH 239Special Topics in Architecture Design Theory and Criticism (Design Dispossession and Dissent)1-4
ARCH 279Special Topics in the History of Architecture (Design Radicals)1-4
ART 160Special Topics in Visual Studies (Social Practices; Making and Exhibiting Art in Pandemic Times)4
ART 163Social Practice: Critical Site and Context4
CY PLAN 190Advanced Topics in Urban Studies (Ghosts and Visions)1-4
CY PLAN 205Introduction to Planning and Environmental Law3
CY PLAN 207Land and Housing Market Economics3
CY PLAN 216Active Transportation3
CY PLAN 255Urban Informatics and Visualization3
CY PLAN 257Data Science for Human Mobility and Socio-technical Systems4
CY PLAN C213Transportation and Land Use Planning3
CY PLAN C217Transportation Policy and Planning3
CY PLAN C251Environmental Planning and Regulation3
LD ARCH C231Environmental Planning and Regulation3
NWMEDIA 151ACTransforming Tech: Issues and Interventions in STEM and Silicon Valley4
NWMEDIA 200History and Theory of New Media4
NWMEDIA 201Questioning New Media3
NWMEDIA 204Critical Practices: People, Places, Participation4
NWMEDIA 205Locative Media4
NWMEDIA 290Special Topics in New Media (Locative Media)1-4
NWMEDIA C166Critical Practices: People, Places, Participation4
NWMEDIA C265Interface Aesthetics3
SOCIOL 127Development and Globalization4
Approved Design Electives (may be taken as free/open elective)
ARCH 209Special Topics in Architectural Design (Architecture and Landscape)1-4
ARCH 229Special Topics in Digital Design Theories and Methods1-4
ARCH 269Special Topics in Construction and Materials (Constructing Interior Objects)1-4
INFO 213Introduction to User Experience Design4
INFO 214User Experience Research3
INFO 215Product Design Studio3
INFO 283Information and Communications Technology for Development3

Professional Development Activities

The MDes prepares students to work in creative and technical roles designing products, services, experiences, and environments. The diversity of the MDes student body is mirrored in the exciting and varied professional roles that graduates step into beyond the program. Alongside that tremendous richness in career trajectories, MDes students and graduates are all connected by a deep desire to design with humans and the planet at the center of their work, and a passion for leveraging technology to improve lives. 

The MDes equips students not just for the jobs of today, but also careers of the future. As the world sees rapid change enabled by emerging technologies, our graduates are expected to work in an ever-expanding set of roles at the intersection of design, technology, and social impact.

An important avenue for professional development in the MDes program is students’ participation in Design@Large during the summer between their second and third semesters. Design@Large is a professional development experience that empowers all MDes students to explore potential career directions and gain important professional skills while they are pursuing the degree. Students identify and engage in an immersive experience outside of an MDes course or studio and apply what they have learned in a broader context, whether that is through an internship, academic research, an independent project, a new start-up, or working in the public sector. For more information and to see examples of students’ experiences, please visit the MDes program’s dedicated Design@Large page.

The MDes has a Career Development team that is committed to supporting the professional development of students in the program. The career support that is provided to MDes students and alumni include: one-on-one unlimited career coaching sessions, rich offering of design industry engagements, dedicated mentors, career development workshops, Slack access for life and professional development funding.

The MDes is designated as a STEM program and its graduates are eligible for STEM-OPT.


Related Courses

Contact Information

Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation

Jacobs Hall

2530 Ridge Road

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Faculty Director

Kyle Steinfeld, Associate Professor, Architecture

Director of Academic Affairs

Amy Dinh

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