Unite strategic design, organizational management, generative leadership, and innovative technology for total value creation.
The MBA in Design Strategy is more than a program. We’re a movement of future-focused designers, business strategists, educators, and engineers who want to frame the world in entirely new ways. We believe deeply in the value of design-based perspectives in business and that human-centric design is the future.
We're one of the few business schools in the country to implement a data science and artificial intelligence thread throughout our curriculum, not just as standalone courses. And we’re uniquely positioned within one of the best art school environments that also happens to be within a global center of entrepreneurial activity. Students capitalize on the creative energy and business acumen of our vibrant community to build their skill sets and networks.
Our two-year, low-residency approach
The MBA in Design Strategy is a full-time program that takes two years (four semesters) to complete. We follow a low-residency schedule. Classes meet only once per month, rather than weekly, from Thursday to Sunday. This makes it possible for students to either continue their existing jobs or complete internships during the fall, spring, and summer.
“The DMBA does a really great job at combining both qualitative and quantitative courses. I’m not only learning about the logistics in business and administration, but also learning how to become a more thoughtful human being.”
MBA in Design Strategy 2017
Many of our students want to move vertically into management-oriented roles and others want to leverage strategic design capabilities that can span industries in really interesting ways. We have the resources to match and amplify your ambitions. In addition to dedicated studio space for heads-down work, MBA students have access to model-making, rapid prototyping, and media studios for the range of real-world projects they take on for clients in key courses: Market Insight Studio, Business Models and Stakeholders, and Operations and Systems.
Core DMBA pillars
- Customer-centered research
- Ideation, prototyping, and iteration
- Business model design
- Design thinking
- Behavioral psychology
- Management science
- Experiential learning
- Ethical, sustainable technology
Cutting-edge studio and lab resources
Our faculty work with students to redefine what design at CCA means. Their expertise intersects broad fields of practice, including industrial design, corporate finance, global branding, experience strategy, emerging technologies, and more. Together, students and faculty take advantage of the spaces between disciplines, problem-solving in ways that may be unconventional and unexpected. They push design thinking frameworks to drive and accelerate transformative outcomes.
Chair Sara Fenske Bahat joined CCA’s DMBA community in 2010 through the fellows program, has taught managerial economics to first-year DMBA students since 2014, and was appointed chair of the program in 2020. Outside of the college, she advises startups at the intersection of finance and community, is vice chair of the Eastern Neighborhoods Citizen Advisory Commission, serves on the executive committee of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and much more.
This two-year, low-residency program is focused on the intersection of technology, business, and design, providing you with a strong network and deep industry ties through which to learn and thrive. From creating value beyond the monetary to innovating at the nexus of business, technology, fine arts, and design, the MBA in Design Strategy program will accelerate your career trajectory and catalyze holistic and sustainable growth in your organizations. To get a feel for what awaits, view sample courses.
For those with a desire to push their design skill further, our dual degree with MFA in Design is a great option. This three-year degree incorporates courses from both programs and is perfect for students interested in hybrid design practices. Learn more
Our MBA students are part of a growing community of thought leaders, innovators, and creators who are transforming human-centric organizations. They can be found all over the world, making an impact at Fortune 500 companies, startups, financial institutions, nonprofits, and well-known tech companies, such as Adobe, Apple, Facebook, Google, and IBM. Graduates also make significant waves at renowned agencies, like IDEO and fuseproject, where they’re at the forefront of emerging AV, AR, and AR/VR technologies.
Potential careers paths
- Design strategist
- Business designer
- Product marketing manager
- UX strategist
- Product manager
- Business consultant
- Content strategist
- Brand strategist
- Design and innovation lead
- Customer experience designer
- Agency founders
“I wanted a practical way to bridge the gap between the designers and corporate counterparts of the business world, and other programs seemed focused on either one or the other, but rarely both.”
MBA in Design Strategy 2017
As a low-residency graduate program for early- to mid-career professionals, the MBA in Design Strategy is intended for those who have a bachelor’s degree and at least three years of post-degree professional experience—and many of our students have far more than that. Ours is a rigorous and accredited graduate program, taught at an advanced level.
Students come from all over the world, and every continent, with an annual international student body of approximately 30%. Our student body veers from the usual makeup of MBA students, as is only to be expected given the degree to which the program differs from the norm. Only slightly more than half of our students come from design backgrounds. The rest come from business, NGOs, education, and, increasingly, engineering. Read our FAQ to get a high-level overview.
Start your application
You’ll apply to CCA and submit all required application materials via SlideRoom. Afterward, you may be contacted for an interview with a faculty member as part of the application process. Being selected for an interview doesn’t indicate applicant status or increase or decrease an applicant’s chances of being admitted into their desired graduate program. Interviews are conducted at the program’s discretion and are used to gain more insight into an application.
DMBA application requirements
- Application and $70 nonrefundable application fee
To be completed and submitted on SlideRoom.
- LinkedIn profile link
We use LinkedIn instead of a PDF resume or CV to understand your educational and professional background and relevant experiences and activities, including community work. You’ll be asked to provide your profile link in SlideRoom as part of your application.
- Two recommendation letters
You’ll request two letters of recommendation from academic or professional sources in SlideRoom by entering the contact information for your recommenders/references. They will then receive an automated email from SlideRoom with instructions for uploading their letter of recommendation.
- Unofficial college transcripts
You are required to provide your complete undergraduate academic history. Students who have already taken graduate courses are encouraged to submit those transcripts, too. For international applicants, all transcripts must be in English or accompanied by a certified English translation.
Please provide an unofficial transcript from the college where you will receive or have received your bachelor’s degree, as well as unofficial transcripts for all other undergraduate coursework. Unofficial transcripts will be used for review purposes.
Once you have been admitted and enrolled, all students will need to submit official, sealed transcripts showing the completion of a bachelor’s degree to our graduate admissions office by August 1 of the fall semester they begin enrollment at CCA.
- Proof of English proficiency (international applicants only)
Review and plan to meet our English proficiency requirements for graduate students.
- Personal essay
Answer four open-ended questions. We encourage you to use mediums that feel expressive to you (such as slides, video, infographics, etc.), but require at least two of these to be submitted in written format. Aim for 500 to 1,000 words per question for written answers:
- The DMBA is demanding in terms of balancing traditional and creative methods of analysis and problem-solving. What draws you to pursuing an MBA, and specifically this MBA, at this time?
- We talk a lot about optimism and the view that any system can be designed to be better. Tell us about a system that you’d like to design to be better and how you might start doing that.
- A big theme in our program is collaboration. Tell us about the best and worst teams you’ve ever been on and what you look for in teammates.
- Tell us about a leader you respect and why. How much do you know about what made them the leader they are today?
Portfolio submissions are optional for DMBA applicants. If you choose to submit a portfolio, consider how your portfolio complements your admissions essay. Works included should be relevant to your other application materials and should visually explain your approach. We encourage you to communicate in the manner that feels most expressive to you.
The portfolio can include up to 10 items. Technical specs are as follows:
- Images (up to 5 MB each)
- Videos (up to 250 MB each)
- Audio (up to 30 MB each)
- PDFs (up to 10 MB each)
- Models (Sketchfab)
Contact our program chair with questions
Join us. Design the future of business.