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Design Graduate Specialization

Graduate Student Specialization in Human-centered Design

The Graduate Specialization in Design is like a minor in design at the graduate level. It is something that can be added on to approved programs, which currently include both master and PhD Programs in Computer Science and Public Health and the Cognitive Science PhD Program.   The program was specifically designed to be easy to do and fit into these current programs. Receiving a specialization in design requires students take 17 credits overall, with up to 16 of these credits coming from their home program requirement/elective course options.  Thus, it is easy for master and PhD students from Computer Science, Public Health, or Cognitive Science to not only complete their core program, but also receive specialized training in Design.

Programs that offer the Design Graduate Specialization

Note: We plan to expand the number of programs that can take part in the graduate specialization. If you are a graduate student or faculty member at UCSD who is interested in your program incorporating the specialization in design, please contact Dr. Eric Hekler, Design Specialization Director (

There are many likely benefits to the specialization in design including:

    • It will be listed on your graduate degree. Thus, it will be a mark of distinction that could help you stand out compared to others, which could help you be more competitive for jobs that appreciate design methods. 
    • The specialization will expose you to a wide breadth of design approaches.  Through the program, you will be required to take one 4-unit course, DSGN 201 together with other students from the program. This class will give you an opportunity to collaborate with other students from across the University. Further, the class includes lectures from core Design Lab faculty members from across a wide range of disciplines, such as computer science/human-computer interaction, public health, cognitive science, speculative design, communications, business, electrical engineering, urban studies and planning, etc.  Thus, you will be exposed to a wide range of approaches to engage in design. 
    • The specialization will support depth in design relevant to your home discipline.  Up to 3 of your 4-unit courses will come directly from your home program and be relevant to design. This allows you to develop some degree of depth in terms of the practice of design as it is conducted in your home discipline.
    • You will have explicit training in power, privilege, and ethical responses. A core requirement of the program is that all students take a course that explicitly discusses issues of power, privilege, and ethical responses to them.  This requirement is meant to support your development in working through and managing the complexities in effectively supporting values such as diversity, equity, and inclusion in your work.  This type of training is valuable both in terms of effective citizenship and will also likely be highly attractive to employers.
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