Overview

The Master of Design (MDes) degree program is a three-semester, professional graduate degree in design that integrates human-centered design with a sophisticated understanding of technology to prepare students to excel in creative practices today and design the thoughtful technologies of tomorrow. Jointly offered by the College of Engineering and the College of Environmental Design, 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.

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 debate-focused seminars help shape students' critical lens on design through analysis and discussion of the ethical, ecological, and societal 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 interests and career goals. Their studies culminate in a Design Studio where they work in teams and bring their distinct perspectives to bear on applied projects.
With support from MDes Career Services, students enhance their academic preparation through Design@Large -- an opportunity outside of an MDes course or studio where they apply what they have learned in a professional context, typically in the summer between their second and third semesters (see Professional Development Activities).

The Master of Design (MDes) is designed for early to mid-career professionals with an interest in pursuing graduate work at the intersection of design and technology, with applications that might include artistic production, technological innovations, product or communication design, and design experiences or interventions, etc. Competitive applicants have some prior technical preparation and an interest in design as a creative, goal-oriented activity that can contribute to the emergence of innovative new technologies and environments.

Application Criteria

The following are required for admission to the Berkeley MDes program. The following includes the University's general graduate admission requirements:

  • Online Application
  • Application Fee
  • University Transcripts
  • Curriculum Vitae (CV) or Resume, showing relevant work and/or research experience
  • Two Essays (personal statement and statement of purpose)
  • Three Letters of Recommendation
  • Project portfolio, showing previous design work
  • English Language Proficiency Requirement (if required)
  • The GRE Exam is not required.

In addition, students may be invited for an interview, either in-person or remote, and should be prepared to explain their qualifications, motivations to apply to the program, and goals for the program.

Portfolio Requirements

All applicants are required to submit a portfolio that demonstrates their creative and technical proficiency. Depending on your individual practice, this may include examples of visual design work, software systems, interactive electronics, videos, paintings, 3D models, ceramics, performances, musical compositions, social practices, or many other types of creative or technical pursuits.
Your portfolio should be legible to a general audience of designers, and should not only present representations of final outcomes/designs in their intended contexts, but also accounts of your design process, and samples of early design iterations. Portfolios are expected to include both images and supporting text and should convey the context from which the project arose and the lens through which to understand and critique the work. Collaborative work is encouraged, but please credit all authors and highlight your specific contribution. Similarly, academic, professional, and personal work are all welcome, but please differentiate these distinct types of work.

In our experience, strong portfolios often opt to describe a limited selection of projects in depth, rather than account for a large breadth of projects superficially. We suggest highlighting between 3-5 of your most compelling exemplars of creative work. The most important role of a portfolio is to clearly communicate your skills, experience, and perspective. Your portfolio must include your name and contact information and be submitted as a stand-alone PDF formatted document. You may submit your portfolio of up to 20 pages maximum and 20MB total PDF file size. Portfolios that are submitted in excess of this page and size restriction will not be reviewed by the admissions committee. Any URLs or links to outside materials within your portfolio or elsewhere in your application will not be reviewed. You may optionally include up to two minutes of additional time-based media (audio/video).

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. A complete list of graduate academic 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 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.