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The Department of Design|at UC Davis
Overview

The Department of Design
at UC Davis

Since 1936 a commitment to the wellbeing of all has guided Design at UC Davis, the only comprehensive academic design department in the University of California system. We pursue creative, flexible, research-driven graduate (MFA) and undergraduate (BA) programs emphasizing responsibility and delight in society and environment. We believe design should be open and relevant to all Californians, and to those beyond our borders, mindful of the world we are making when we design. 

Since 1936 a commitment to the wellbeing of all has guided Design at UC Davis, the only comprehensive academic design department in the University of California system. We pursue creative, flexible, research-driven graduate (MFA) and undergraduate (BA) programs emphasizing responsibility and delight in society and environment. We believe design should be open and relevant to all Californians, and to those beyond our borders, mindful of the world we are making when we design. 

Our longstanding strengths in design history and theory, visual communication, exhibition design, interiors, textiles, fashion and lighting have been expanded by teaching and research in industrial design, digital fabrication and prototyping, computational design (data and code-driven interactivity, generative design, social media, smart objects and wearables, intelligent environments, augmented and virtual reality), biodesign, public engagement and placemaking, disaster response, and more. Interdisciplinary collaboration with the humanities, engineering, and the sciences allows us to contribute to complex global problem-solving. 

We make by hand, by machine, and digitally. We have had computer labs since the 1980s, a textile printer since 2005, and our Makerspace opened in 2021 to allow students to test and prototype their ideas. Our renowned California Lighting and Technology Center opened in 2003 to improve the quality of light we live by while reducing the burden on consumers and the environment.

From its inception, our curriculum has nurtured an inclusive curiosity about design beyond Eurocentrism and patriarchy. The majority of our first faculty were women. The first item in our Design Museum Collection was a traditional costume from the Highlands of Peru; in the 1990s, the department taught traditional African building techniques. Sustainability has long been core to our research and teaching, and decoloniality is re-shaping our understandings of design. The Alberini Family Speaker Series invites leaders in diverse and emerging areas of design to share their work with us and with the public at large.

Originally part of the Home Economics Major, the Design Program became its own entity in the mid-1960s as part of the Applied Behavioral Sciences Department, growing into one of the largest majors at Davis. It combined with Landscape Architecture as the Department of Environmental Design in 1982, and became its own Department in 2012. Its Graduate Program launched in the 1990s, initially in Textile Arts and Costume, and now recruits a broad array of students on the basis of their own research programs. The department is uniquely positioned to draw on expertise from across a leading public research university, and has been part of both the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences and the College of Letters & Science, where it is today.

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