Written by Jessica Gourdon, Educpros.fr correspondant in New York. Translated by Nina Fink.  Cover photo © Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation.

Stanford’s d.school has built a strong international reputation for itself over the last few years. This past fall, the other star school of the Bay Area made its own design school debut. UC Berkeley’s Jacobs Institute for Design has already set itself apart thanks to its engineering focus.

0_jacobs_institute_headerUC Berkeley opened the Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation in a big, new building at the start of the 2015 school year. Like the d.school, the institute offers access to all majors. It functions as a hub where students, professors and specialists can partner on projects and attend conferences and workshops. The goal of this interdisciplinary center is to train creative, innovative, entrepreneurial students who can think outside the box.


Like the d.school, the institute gives design pride of place. Its guiding principles are learning by doing, prototyping early and often, integrating user feedback and working across disciplines. It prioritizes the technical side of design even more than the d.school does. As part of the Berkeley School of Engineering, the institute favors that field over the social sciences.

Programs and Operations Director Emily Rice explains, “We take object prototyping and fabrication one step farther than Stanford. Our founder, Paul Jacobs, feels that technical skills are not enough. With the group project focus in the institute’s classes, we can help students marry art and engineering and incorporate design issues from day one.”

Jacobs Institute for Design innovation UC Berkeley

The 22 classes range from design methodology to prototyping and fabrication, sketching and visual communication and product management. // © Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation


The Jacobs Institute, which welcomed 1,200 students in its first semester, is the fruit of substantial investments. The building alone cost $25 million. Paul Jacobs, Executive Chairman of telecommunications giant Qualcomm and UC Berkeley IT graduate, gave $20 million to found the institute from his private foundation.

Inside the facility, fab labs can be found on all four floors. They are dedicated to methods such as digital fabrication, video and photo work, laser construction, 3D printing, woodwork and metalwork. Coursework sits at the intersection of design, technology and business. The 22 classes range from design methodology to prototyping and fabrication, sketching and visual communication and product management.

At the end of the semester, students present their creations at a design showcase. A select few projects then go on display. Undoubtedly the exhibit contains the seeds of future commercial success.

Originally published on Educpros.fr

PRIME visited the Jacobs Center for Design Innovation during the Immersion Program organized with Educpros for a group of French Higher Education Professionals in the Fall of 2015.