Student working on a design task.

The new Master of Design program will train students in emerging technologies and design.

College of Engineering and College of Environmental Design launch new Master of Design program

The University of California, Berkeley, is launching an innovative advanced degree in design for emerging technologies. The new Master of Design (MDes) program is a three-semester degree offered jointly by the College of Engineering and the College of Environmental Design. The College of Engineering's Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation will play a key role in developing and delivering the core curriculum for this new program.

Because today’s most pressing societal challenges cut across disciplinary boundaries, thoughtful new approaches and design toolkits are needed to prepare students for creative technical roles. The Berkeley Master of Design program will focus on training students to support and lead projects, designs and services enabled by new technologies.

“This new degree program will educate designers with a deep understanding of the foundations of emerging technologies as well as their social implications, a perspective urgently needed today,” said Bjoern Hartmann, faculty director of the Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation and associate professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences. “Our students will understand the details that make something work as well as the broader context that makes something matter.”

Demand for employees trained in emerging technology and design has grown by 250% in the past 10 years, according to market research conducted by New Academic Ventures at Berkeley. The program will focus on equipping students to fill these roles, and to develop as engaged and responsive social practitioners as they connect technical rigor, design theory and social practice. Over three semesters, students will develop core skills in design process, prototyping and communication, as well as a critical lens on technology and design through a sequence of debate-focused seminars.

“The breadth of world-class expertise at UC Berkeley enables us to offer an exceptionally strong graduate program in design,” said Tsu-Jae King Liu, dean of the College of Engineering. “Through a customized set of new courses and access to a wide range of specialty curriculum within the colleges of engineering and environmental design, students in this program will not only gain technical knowledge and skills in design but also develop a deep understanding of societal impact and responsibility.”

At a time in which emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and smart cities and infrastructure are raising both exciting possibilities and deep anxieties and ethical questions, there is a need for designers who can navigate this landscape and apply new technologies with a nuanced understanding of contextual needs and impacts.

Jennifer Wolch, dean of the College of Environmental Design, believes UC Berkeley is uniquely suited to train students in responsible design and social practice. “This degree will provide students with expertise in the development of new technologies through a unique design studio-based pedagogy. Students can explore how such technologies can serve social purposes and support interventions to enhance urban life,” she shared.

Led by Hartmann, Eric Paulos, Nicholas de Monchaux and Kyle Steinfeld, the MDes faculty includes experts in artificial intelligence, robotics, human-computer interaction, unmanned autonomous vehicles, the Internet of Things, smart home systems, digital fabrication, wearable computing, and virtual and augmented reality.

The UC Berkeley Master of Design program will begin accepting applicants for the inaugural 2020 cohort in fall of 2019. Interested applicants should fill out this form to stay informed about news and deadlines.

Applicants to the MDes program must have an undergraduate degree. Strong candidates will have an interest and prior experience in human-centered design of technologies and/or environments.

All applicants should have intermediate programming experience or complete recommended programming courses prior to the start of the program. While post-baccalaureate work experience is not required for this program, prospective students are encouraged to have 1-3 years of work experience before applying. Outstanding undergraduates with professional experience, such as internships, will also be considered.

To learn more about the Berkeley MDes program, visit design.berkeley.edu.


Topics: Berkeley Engineering in the News, Design, Devices & inventions, Education & outreach, Students