Newswise — What do classes in costume design, product development, solar powered vehicles and needfinding in the wild all have in common? All four courses -- along with dozens of others across departments and disciplines on campus -- will be offered to UC Berkeley undergraduate students as part of a new certificate program that introduces design thinking as the critical and creative means to innovate, imagine and advance a globally just future.

The newly launched Berkeley Certificate in Design Innovation (BCDI) assumes that innovation does not come from just one area of study, but requires the integration of many modes of technology, knowledge and thought. The cross-disciplinary, cross-departmental partnership between the College of Environmental Design, the College of Engineering, the Haas School of Business and the College of Letters and Science’s Arts and Humanities Division hopes to guide undergraduate students across UC Berkeley’s campus to the critical need for design thinking, regardless of their major.

“A majority of the design problems we have today are complex and multidisciplinary. To be able to understand and unwind them before you start to solve them requires iterative, problem-defining thinking,” explained Renee Chow, Professor of Architecture and Urban Design, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies and BCDI academic advisor. “I think all majors at UC Berkeley will be interested in being able to think in that particular way. It’s a skill everyone should have.”

BCDI provides students with the critical mindset, collaborative problem-defining skills and technical proficiency to innovate broadly through hands-on, project-based learning and interdisciplinary team work, placing an emphasis on coursework outside of a student’s home college or school. Consisting of four courses -- one foundation, two design skill, and one advanced design class -- the Certificate is meant to offer students a variety of points of entry into design.

“As business becomes increasingly complex, students will need to tackle, in many cases, the complete redesign of our lives as we know them today. Their skill set needing to draw upon multiple design perspectives will be increasingly important,” explained Sara Beckman, Ph.D, Earl F. Cheit Faculty Fellow, Lecturer and Haas BCDI academic advisor. From Haas’ perspective, encouraging business-related majors to explore topics outside of their realm, such as lighting and sound design or landscape architecture, can reinforce the concepts taught in their own studies, according to Dr. Beckman.

“This new certificate draws on UC Berkeley’s deep history and expertise in design across campus – providing a mechanism for students to engage with a uniquely Berkeley interdisciplinary design experience,” commented Associate Professor of Computer Science and BCDI advisor Eric Paulos. “I can’t wait to see what this cross pollination of design methods, materials, tools and most of all people will bring to not just UC Berkeley but to our communities – from the local to the global.”

For students pursuing degrees that are not design oriented, such as CED’s Sustainable Environmental Design and Urban Studies majors, the Certificate is an essential way for them to compliment their current studies while getting hands-on experience. “Many of the students that come to UC Berkeley are interested in design but don’t know where to begin, and this Certificate gives them an opportunity to be vested in one major but still experiment with their design abilities in other realms,” said Professor Chow.

Prospective students can begin taking courses for the Certificate as soon as this summer, beginning with one of BCDI’s Design Foundations courses. Professor Chow hopes that the new Certificate will encourage students to push outside of the boundaries of their majors by experimenting with design thinking.

“The most exciting part of this new Certificate is for students who have majors that are not design oriented, but recognize that they have design abilities and want to develop them,” she said. “For them to be able to take these courses and have them recognized will be very rewarding.”

BCDI will be hosting an open house event on Friday, April 21 at noon at Jacobs Hall for prospective students to learn more about the Certificate, meet faculty members involved, and hear from guest speakers and UC Berkeley alumni. The Certificate’s current course listings can be found here