The 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 design, and design interventions in cities.
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.
Applicants to the MDes program must have an undergraduate degree at a minimum. 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. Strong candidates will have an interest and prior experience in human-centered design of technologies and/or environments. Preparation can be a degree in an engineering discipline, business, or a design field such as architecture, landscape architecture, art practice, interaction or user experience design, theatre performance and dance, graphic design or information design.
All applicants must have requisite technical preparation, for example a technical minor or certificate, or equivalent professional experience. All students in the MDes are expected to independently learn 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 take one course from the list of technical electives.
Outstanding undergraduates with professional experience, such as internships, may also be considered. Desirable but non-required qualifications include experience in technology, entrepreneurship, social or environmental policy, and/or community engagement.
As with all approved graduate-level programs at UC Berkeley, applicants are held to rigorous academic criteria in order to be admitted to this program. A bachelor’s degree, or recognized equivalent, from an accredited institution is required. For additional information on basic qualifications for admission to UC Berkeley graduate programs for both domestic and international applicants, please visit the Graduate Division website.
How to Apply
The application for admission to the Berkeley MDes program for the 2023-24 academic year is now closed. Admissions information for joining the MDes cohort that starts fall 2024 will be published by late summer 2023; the application will be due in early January 2024.
In the interim, please join our mailing list to be alerted of special programs and application information. You can prepare in advance by reviewing the MDes Application Criteria below as well as the Berkeley Graduate Admission “Applying for Graduate Admission” site.
- Online Application
- Application Fee
- Undergraduate Degree & Transcripts
- Curriculum Vitae (CV) or Resume, showing relevant work and/or research experience
- Two Essays (Personal Statement and Statement of Purpose, see guidelines below)
- Three Letters of Recommendation
- Project portfolio, showing previous design work (see requirements below)
- Evidence of English Language Proficiency (if required)
- The GRE Exam is not required.
In addition, students may be invited for an interview and should be prepared to explain their qualifications, motivations to apply to the program, and goals for the program.
Please also review the Berkeley Graduate Division Admissions requirements and criteria for more information.
Project Portfolio Requirements
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 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 portfolio and selection of projects should showcase your technical skills, disciplinary strengths, and clearly communicate your experience and perspective. As a program open to a broad range of disciplinary practitioners we encourage you to highlight your technical work as well as any design experience within your portfolio.
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 as a single PDF file. 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 may not be reviewed. You may optionally include up to two minutes of additional time-based media (audio/video) which you might use to offer a slide deck presentation of work with narration, or a recording of an interactive piece.
Statement of Purpose
The Statement of Purpose should describe your relevant academic and professional experience and accomplishments, your future professional goals once the degree is acquired, and why you are drawn to the MDes program and believe it would be a good fit for you and your goals.
The focus should be on your preparation, experience, and aims. The most successful statements are 1–2 pages in length and focus on your strengths, experiences, and synergies with the program. It should provide the admissions committee with evidence and justification for admitting those applicants who are qualified and well-suited for the MDes program and cohort. While you are not required to directly answer this question, a good starting point for approaching your statement of purpose is to ask yourself – “How does the Berkeley MDes bolster your future?”
For additional guidance, please see Berkeley Graduate Division’s Statement of Purpose guide.
Personal History Essay
The Personal History essay provides an opportunity for the admissions committee to get to know you better on a personal level, and content should not duplicate what has been shared in the Statement of Purpose.
In addition to describing how your personal background and experiences have influenced your decision to pursue graduate studies, you may also include any relevant information on the following topics:
- Defining experiences or challenges that have contributed to your development, your values, etc.
- How you have overcome barriers to access higher education
- How you have come to understand the barriers faced by others
- Your academic service to advance equitable access to high education for women, racial minorities, and individuals from other groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education
- Your research focusing on underserved populations or related issues of inequality
- Your leadership among such groups
For additional guidance, please review the Graduate Division’s Personal Statement Guide.