Program Design

Quick Guide


The MDes program at UC Berkeley is a studio-based, on campus program. Over three semesters and one summer, you will complete a total of eight required core courses and four electives.

In the summer between the first and second years of the program, you are expected to engage in an experience, such as an internship, international design study, or community service, outside of the classroom and apply what you have learned in the studio in a broader context. This professional development requirement is called Design@Large.

In the final semester, you will develop and present a thesis project that represents the culmination of your intellectual journey in the program.

Required Courses

Elective Courses

The MDes requires four electives: one technical elective and at least one entrepreneurship or social practice elective from the approved lists of courses. Find a sample list of approved electives here; enrolled students have access to a comprehensive approved electives list, which changes each semester based on scheduling and as new electives are approved.

The final two electives may be either additional electives from the approved list (technical, social practice, or entrepreneurship) or any 3 or 4 unit upper division or graduate level course offered at UC Berkeley, subject to enrollment availability.


Students are expected to engage in an experience outside of the MDes courses and studio and apply what they have learned about design and technology in a broader context through their Design@Large. The experience takes place in the summer between the MDes Spring and Fall semesters. The Design@Large degree requirement is uniquely defined by each student’s own interests and career goals. Visit the Design@Large page for examples of past Design@Large activities.


Each student is required to complete a thesis project and accompanying written document in order to complete their MDes degree. Each thesis proposal sets up an important question for design, and the completed project provides an answer to that question. The thesis is motivated by a specific disciplinary lineage, a socio-cultural investigation, and a technical exploration. The thesis is a formal, archival, intellectually rigorous, written text that captures and reflects the individual effort, contribution, and perspective of the final studio project, along with the technical and cultural details thereof.

Visit our Student Works page to see examples of prior students’ thesis projects.

Sample Student Study Plan (MDes2025 Cohort)

Fall Spring
Year One
  • DES INV 200: Design Frameworks
  • 3 units
  • DES INV 202: Technology Design Foundations
  • 4 units
  • DES INV 210: Studio Foundations
  • 3 units
  • Elective
  • 3 units
  • Total: 13 units
  • DES INV 201: Debates in Design
  • 3 units
  • DES INV 211: Designing Emerging Technologies
  • 5 units
  • Capstone Portfolio
  • 2 units
  • Elective
  • 3 units
  • Total: 13 units
Year Two
  • DES INV 213: Thesis Studio
  • 6 units
  • Elective
  • 3 units
  • Elective
  • 3 units
  • Total: 12 units